Odallus almost won me over, with its choice of keeping an old metroidvania clunky gameplay feeling, but smoothed with intelligent design choices. If you like the genre, you will find a lot to love in Odallus.
I am writing this review after my latest attempt at clearing level 5 (out of 6) in Riddled Corpses Ex after a good dozen of hours of gameplay. I made it. I barely made it, and that’s just because I miracoulously found a safe spot while avoiding the boss’ bullet patterns when every hope was lost.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is a beautiful digital storybook. It tells the story of a wolf who deals with the consequences of her actions. She blinds a friendly prince with a swing of paw, and she spend the rest of the game trying to make it right, causing even more trouble in the process.
As you begin a new game in Magic Scroll Tactics you are immediately thrown into the fight without lenghty tutorials or logorroic dialogs. There are cutscenes with the supercute characters but they are never long and you’ll spend 99% of the time busy battling.
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.
The first thing that catches your eye when looking at Magic Scroll Tactics is that it looks like your typical isometric japanese strategy game, but with a 2d side perspective. This might be worring regarding the movement and tactical options available. I was a bit skeptical myself about it but the cute characters obviously won me over. I am glad they did. Magic Scroll Tactics bidimension approach works well with a few tricks that keep it a valid turn strategy game but also give it a unique feeling. Altitude advantage plays of course a big role in the fighting economy, with attacks being more effective from above, so you want to get the higher ground as soon as possible. Another interesting trick is that you can move into an ally occupied space, pushing the unit that occupy that tile backward and all the other ones consequently. This is effective in stepping forward after another unit has attacked, thus protecting it from enemy retaliation. Sometimes the maps do not feel as vertically developed as they should be, resulting in situations where the skirmish between the factions become a matter of switching your front characters in order to attack, like in some sort of Pokemon battles. This sensation is enhanced by the fact that, unlike opponents, your units alway start lined up politely on the left side of the screen. Another aspect I liked is that your troops start the battle without mp and gain some each turn, making it necessary to build up some power before starting to unleash powerful spells on the battleground.
In Magic Scroll Tactics you play as Nash, a summoner person which is a versatile fighter, capable of melee, ranged, magic attacks and a bit of herbalism. Other than her, you are pretty much free to assemble your team of magical creatures. You have your typical selection of classes including mages, clerics, fighters and archers and a not so typical range of races to choose from such as wolfs, salamander, mermaids, harpys and frogs, each with their own perks and weaknesses, an unusual selection which I found quite refreshing. Each character can be further personalised with equipments and via skill tree. The customisation options are quite interesting, and will allow you to create a party that suits your own playstyle.
I really enjoyed the fact that as you begin a new game you are immediately thrown into the action without lenghty tutorials or logorroic dialogs. There are cutscenes with the supercute characters but they are never long and you’ll spend 99% of the time busy battling. You won’t be left in the blind because important information is always displayed clearly on screen when necessary. Interface is great and easy to navigate, if not particularly eye-catching.
I have not completed the game yet, but at 12 hours I feel that the ending credits are not too far (my characters are about level 70 already) so I guess it can be completed in less than 20 hours. So far the game entertained me well, with battle becoming more and more challenging. Enemies are tough and hit hard, and the are some difficulty swings here and there but should you require to grind a bit of gold or experience you can go back and do some free battles, maybe using the autobattle feature to make the process painless. Watching the cpu play with your team is interesting to understand the mechanics, and sometimes I feel it is smarter than me ( but I am better at exploiting cheap tactics). You can also expect your fair share of plot twists and wee surprises along the way that will keep you engaged. Really, I am having a lot of genuine fun with it.
I had the feeling that some of the ideas could be implemented further, but overall Magic Scroll Tactics is a very solid tactics rpg worth every minute spent with it. Magical.
The maybe evil Labiworks company is polluting the environment with their reckless excavations and we don’t like it, so it’s up to IFCATS ( or so I called my own character) to make things right hanging around with a stick to bash enemiesbwith and some consumale fireworks to be used as ranged weapon. You start in your bedroom and walk out the house trough a hole in the garage walls to explore the nearby lands.
Now this is a nice touch
Levels are composed by an open outdoor hub where you look for levers to open the gate for a dungeon. You also collect coins that can be used to purchase items to help you along the way. Once the short dungeon featuring a simple series of rooms, enemies, chests and maybe an hazard is completed, a branching path takes to the next level with a similar scructure.
ok I guess I’ll poo in the shower then
A core gameplay elements is recruiting new friends along the journey, winning them through succesful dialogs. Other than each coming with their unique attack and energy bar that is depleted with use, they are all visually impared in some way, like your granpa wearing broken specs, and this work both as adding flavour and as encouragement to switch back to the main protagonist to continue the exploration.
the world seen through granpa’s eyes
While technically it is possible to beat the game with your main character, recruting friends is a lifesaver, as using them prevent you from losing your precious hearts.
If you die, you start over from your bedroom. But worry not! With the experience gained you will unlock new feats such as more hearts, shortcuts and so on. There is also a random element in generating the enemies and items layout that helps keeping things freshy when inevitably you’ll find yourself exploring the areas again. It plays like a roguelite, but somehow this progress through failure mechanic seems pasted onto the game via overlay to make it last longer rather than fully implemented.
All the gameplay elements (exploration, collection, combat) contribute to make the advenure engaging, but individually they lack the depth to stand out from mediocrity.
What keeps the game together is the joyful atmosphere, the wacky and bouncy characters with hilarious dialogs that tell a funny story that it’s worth listening to, and all the tiny details like the animated intro that make it stand out. I also have a personal taste for bidimension sprites in 3d enviroments, and Away blend them wonderfully. The whole game conveys the love of creators for anime and comics. Really it is way more fun playing it than reading me describing it, and I want to spoil as little as possible.
Away is very short and I completed it in 3 hours or something. The gameplay elements that would have suffered if the game dragged itself for too long, work well on this distance. I think that Away: Journey to the unexpected should be seen as an interactice novel where the narrarite is sustained through proper gameplay instead of laser game choices, and that’s praiseworthy. I enjoyed this short adventure and it made me smile
Google knows you, and my browser has been filled lately with advertisement for Nippon Marathon. What Google doesn’t know is that I purchased the game on day one and I am loving it.
I mentioned the advert because the game is marketed as “Takeshi castle meets Micromachines” which is somewhat true, but with the huge difference that Nippon Marathon is much more fun than Micro Machine. That’s because the learning curve in Nippon Marathon is practically zero, and you don’t need to be any good to obtain great amounts of fun playing it.
In Nippon Marathon you impersonate an idiot of your choice, running with other 3 wacky characters such as a dog herectus, a man dressed as a lobster or the self-explaing Handsome Hazuki. Moving and jumping around is way easier than driving a tiny car over a fast course, so it’s quite easy for anyone to have a chance, making it a great multiplayer game suitable for families, girlfriends and your inept friends.
Each course is filled with crazy obstacles such as salmon, salary men and dogs especially, which eventually will make you fall and be left behind. When this happens, the referee whistle will eliminate you and once a section is won by somebody, all the characters will line up again ready to sprint from the last checkpoint.
In order to win, it is more imporant to survive than winning the section. If you place fourth in a section you will lose two stars (starts get you winning points at the end of the race) while if you win you only gain one. This works well because it turns every round in an exhilarating run for survival, throwing watermelons and eating bananas in the process. You also get bonus points for things like being the most smelly, but I’ll leave this to you to discover. Each bit of Nippon Marathon, from the menu to the credits roll, is filled with crazy Japanese humour and will make you happy.
Despite having only 5 different courses, the game has a good amount of content. There are collectibles that unlock pages in a completely useless but hilarious travel guide and two minigames: a bowling played on shopping cart and L.O.B.S.T.E.R, a proper Takeshi Castle depiction where you compete one player at a time to get as far as possible on the obstacle course.
The story mode is fun as well and tells a story that will make you laugh. However I need to warn that story sections can be quite lengthy compared to the short running sections and the dialogs cannot be skipped or fast forwarded. It is worth reading it for a good laugh, so my recommendation saving it for later and come back to it with the right relaxed mindset of reading a visual novel, after you satiated yourself running half and full marathons, to enjoy the game at its best.
Nippon Marathon is one of the best games I played last year and it’s going to stay installed on my Switch forever.
Let’s get rid of the pricing controversy straight away. Dragon: Marked for Death has been released in two editions, each containing 2 out of 4 playable characters, and they come at less than 15 quid each. Both editions feature the same game, the only difference being the characters available. If you like the game, you can then buy the other 2 characters for the same price. Or you can get the physical edition with all the characters for 30 quid. It’s basic math really, and if you fail to understand this you’d better of playing, I don’t know, Monopoly with your gran that lets you win. Personally, I enjoyed being able to access the game for a fraction, and it’s quite clever to introduce more players to a game that lives and die for multiplayer.
Without further ceremony, let me introduce the four classes available.
THE DRAGON: MARKED FOR DEATH CHARACTER HOROSCOPE
Oh if you want some proper description, just watch the game trailer as they are showcased and explained quite well. Forgot to mention earlier.
I want to praise the artistic aspect of the game. Being initially devised as a PSP title, the game retains gracefully animated and pixelated characters, steering clearly away from modern high resolution and puppet animation nonsense. It’s a nice throwback and it looks great. I expecially enjoyed than you can zoom into the screen for even more pixel glorification.
Dragon: Marked for Death plays like an action platformer where you jump and gun through the levels to complete a quest. Both platforming and action are calibrated towards speed and fun, so the levels tend to be vast and filled with enemy, but without particularly deadly sections of platforming or bottomless pits. While the character plays like Megaman, the game plays like Phantasy Star Online. Dragon: Marked for Death is tailored to be a pick up and play multiplayer experience, but that doesn’t mean it is not enjoyable solo. There is a somewhat steep difficulty spike after the tutorial, which means that the first missions can be tough and slow-paced playing alone, with the risk of discouraging new players. You’ll probably have to play the first missions a couple of times, but after a few level ups and a couple of weapon drops later, the games balances itself pretty well, and from then on it is perfectly playable solo. There are also small differences to ease single player like when you access the inventory the game pauses, which obviously doesn’t happen in multiplayer.
Some people have been complaining that there are no checkpoints. I am not exactly sure what these people are looking for, but you have a number of revives per missions, which decrease your final score each time you use one, and if you use them all, you fail the quest. This is quite normal for this kind of games, and actually encourages you to play properly. So yeah, snowflakes.
The level up system is quite simple, you gain points to distribute and new weapons will change the appearance of your sprite, but you will not gain new skills or powers along the journey. You have a backpack where you can stock items you will be able in mission, and this is quite fun because it is limited to 8 items or something, so it’s up to you whether to fill it with herbs, antidotes or lamps to light up dark areas. You can also carry two weapons which becomes interesting later in the game when you start collecting weapons with different properties. The whole nature of level up and obtaining new items is grindy, and you need to accept the concept of playing missions several times which is part of the mmo philosophy, but the game keeps things engaging with good amount of content, and while it requires some dedication to get the best out of it, it doesn’t require stupid amounts of time or farming put into it.
Quests partaken are quite diverse, with a variety of enemies, bosses, platforming layouts and hazards. You could be climbing a tower where strong winds affect your movements, falling into poison pools, or bumping into enemies on slippery icy platforms and the likes. There are escort, defense, exploration, hunting and collecting missions so there is a good variety
At the time I am writing the community is alive but it is not as numerous as I would like it to be, hence limiting the quests available when you venture online. I am based in the UK, and I usually find hard to find quests using the “same region matching”. Luckily worldwide matchmaking works quite well excluding some small hiccups, so I am able to play a number of quest with people all around the world (mostly Japanese). However this is still limiting, because most of them browse for their region games when joining, thus making it harder for me to fill a room I am hosting myself. Other small nuisances come from a confusing lobby interface that hides quest descriptions under a submenu, doesn’t let you look at other people’s inventory and, while possible, it is not very intuitive that you can change the quest after choosing “Depart”. The whole multiplayer experience is based around instanced quests where you can chat with other players, but there is no hub to hang around with other people, trade or anything like that. There is a log in the options which feature a chat but it’s empty at the moment and it looks like a refuse that has just been left there.
Aside this issues, I am having a lot of fun in multiplayer, people are nice (probably because their interaction is limited), and quests can be played at various difficulty settings, meaning you will always find something to enjoy, even if it could mean playing a quest several times (this is common with MMOs though).
Considering the niche nature of the game, and the aggressive price tag, if you are thinking about giving it a try, I’d suggest to do so now to maximise your chances to enjoy the multiplayer action while the community is alive. I feel this is not a game you’ll play for a year, but if you are looking for a bite-sized action multiplayer title to enjoy with friends or some unknown folks online, Dragon: Marked for Death is perfect.
The game has received a bit of undeserved bashing online from people that failed to understand the game genre, so I hope I explained it a bit better, and if you like the genre, give it a try.