Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Review


I have to give Nintendo props for finally adding some full free games to their menu. Now, it’s not quite the same as with Sony or Microsoft where they give you a slew of games that stay completely free every month. This one was time limited so it was only free for a week or so but it’s nice to have this. It also adds a level of urgency since you have to try to clear the game in that time. It was awful close but I did manage to clear this game right at the very end of the trial period so I have to admit that I felt pretty clutch at that point. Crash Team Racing is a lot more difficult than you would expect so you definitely don’t want to underestimate it.

The game’s story involves an alien showing up on the planet and deciding that he will destroy everything. He will give the heroes a chance though. they must all compete in a bunch of races and once we have determined who the strongest racer in the world is, then the villain will fight that guy. It’s a fairly basic story that’s just so we can have some context for the races. You can tell that it wasn’t exactly top priority to have a big involved story or anything like that. I do appreciate the game giving us several cutscenes though because it does make the story feel more authentic. Each world has 4-5 races that you have to conquer before fighting the boss of the world.

The gameplay is that of a 3D racer and of course the objective is to get to the finish line first. As you drive through the maps there are items you can grab which will help you in this endeavor. Most of the items you should recognize from Mario Kart like the Paratroopa, Green Shell, etc. They are all slightly altered of course so it’s not literally the same weapons but they have the same effects. The main difference here that makes the game more difficult than your average racer is how the boost system works. In order to attain your boost you have to intentionally drift while on the map. Keep on drifting in order to boost as well as increase your base speed. So for example, if you are just driving straight in a normal way then you will be moving fairly slow. If you keep on drifting over and over as you race then your overall speed will be greatly improved. So the more you master drifting the better.

In fact, winning the game would be 100% impossible based on my experience without drifting. Even with it some races would take me over 20 attempts to conquer. I can only imagine what the game would be like on hard mode. I was impressed with the difficulty setting although at the same time it does feel like the A.I. tends to cheat at times as their cars are naturally faster. I do understand programming a racing game like this is no small feat though as you would have to either have the A.I. be too weak or too strong. I suspect it’s not a super adaptive learning process here as that would be a lot of work for a racing title.

The graphics look very good. It’s definitely a very modern game with all the trimmings. The character designs are on point and the level backdrops are all different and have a striking look to them. We also have a hub world which is a nice idea although it could have been handled a little better. You have to manually drive to each world and there are no real big checkpoints so expect a good amount of driving between worlds. It’s a super small thing to note but one of those times where a fast teleport system would have been a good quality of life upgrade.

As for the soundtrack, that part is fairly forgettable. All of the tunes are super standard to the point where they could pretty much be free domain music in a racing game. Part of this is due to the fact that most racing games do have good soundtracks though so the bar is already high. To be standard for a racing game isn’t a bad thing but I do feel like they could have added an extra tune or two that you could really sink your teeth into. Now that would have been really good.

There’s a good amount of replay value although it could definitely be in an annoying way. There are tons of characters to unlock here. The way to buy them is to use your coins at the pit shop but only a few characters are displayed a day. It’s not like the classic shops where everyone is always there to be purchased. So you may have the coins but it could take a while to get everyone. I am impressed with the scale of content though. It may not be easy to get them but there is so much to buy. I’m not even familiar with half of the Crash characters in this game, they just squeezed everyone in here. Between doing all of that and trying to unlock the secret ending there is a whole lot to keep on doing here. Naturally the online multiplayer is a factor as well.

Ultimately what holds the game back when compared to the other big racing games like Mario Kart and the Sonic ones is that the gameplay being so heavily reliant on the constant boosting can hurt. You don’t want to always have to be turning at every moment and that’s what this mechanic forces you to do. It’s a lot less peaceful than the game could be and between that with all of the items it feels like you aren’t getting to actually “race” for a good chunk of each level. This is still a good game, but I could have done without the boost mechanic.

Overall, it’s clear that a good amount of effort was put into this game. It’s nice that we have a real story and the amount of characters in the game is crazy. The gameplay may not have been my favorite but it’s still a racing title and the kind of game which will be amplified when you play with others. If you’re looking for a good racing game to check out then I would recommend buying Crash. It’s not exactly my top recommendation in the genre though so if you want an even grander title then I would recommend Mario Kart. Of course…I have yet to buy the latest game in that series myself but it’s on the list.

Overall 7/10

Blaster Master Zero 2 Review


After playing through the first Blaster Master I knew that it was definitely time to dive into the sequel right away. Blaster Master 2 definitely ups the stakes with more of a detailed story and more areas to explore. Rather than be stuck on one planet you can now travel across the universe. With the graphics and soundtrack being on point there is absolutely a lot to enjoy here. You just can’t go wrong with this classic gameplay.

The game starts with Jason and Eve attempting to find a cure for her mutant corruption. The first game ended with her deciding to destroy herself to prevent the spread while Jason was unaware but there was a true ending so I suppose in that version he was able to save her in time and this is continuing off of that. Due to this illness, Eve is unable to leave the ship so Jason has to explore on his own. He is determined to heal her and then they can destroy the mutant plague once and for all. Many planets have been affected already though and there’s a mysterious fighter who keeps getting in Jason’s way.

The gameplay is pretty similar to the first game. You pilot the tank and fly through the levels as you blast through any opponent in your way. You can also get out of the tank and go through dungeons as the pilot which takes more of an overhead approach to the shooting gameplay. As a tank you have a whole lot of defense so as long as you play things out carefully you should be able to take your opponents down. There is a greater emphasis on switching weapons to combat the bosses so some weapons are better for some occasions.

Your main blaster is always handy though so I definitely recommend it. As the pilot I like his L8 and homing variations as well but for most of the bosses I would just stick to the standard gun. It does a whole lot of damage. One thing that’s important is to really learn the boss attack patterns. Towards the end there is a big boss rush like a Mega Man game where you have to take down multiple bosses without gaining any health. That was pretty tough and definitely took me a few shots to get through.

Pure gameplay-wise I would say the game is a little weaker than the first one. It’s only really noticeable in the tank where it’s harder to hit enemies with how fast it moves. That said, it’s a very small difference. Also, it’s worth noting that this game is considerably harder than the first one so you need to take that into account as well. It’s definitely not exactly going to be a walk in the park that’s for sure. I would recommend at least grabbing some of the optional upgrades and power ups since they make a difference in a pinch. Without the extra health I would have certainly lost more fights since a lot of bosses literally came down to my final health point which was pretty intense.

For the story you should definitely be engaged from the start. The fact that we’re expanding the lore with other mech pilots running around was pretty neat. We run into 4 of them. 3 who are allies on different planets and then one who is out to murder us. The whole time I was expecting a plot twist that this guy was from the future where things didn’t work out for the lead. The game doesn’t go in that direction but I still like the theory and it hasn’t been ruled out so that’s my head canon for now. It explains why he really can’t stand Jason and keeps on trying to destroy him. Makes for a lot of great dialogue and boss fights too of course.

As good as Jason and Eve are doing in their campaign though, it does feel like they’re outmatched at the moment. For every villain they take down more show up. Even some bosses from the first game have returned along with the same name so I assume the mutants revived them? This game has a few bosses who are recycled so I won’t count the second versions of them but at least for the initial ones it does seem like they are back from the grave. With the heroes being away from Earth for so long as well you know that the main planet won’t be doing so well either. Hopefully if we get a third game they get some backup because otherwise they may be doomed.

The graphics are really solid. The sprites all look very good and we get more illustrations here for the story. Jason’s outfit is like something out of Kamen Rider or Power Rangers and he’s even got a cool cape. The main rival/villain also has a pretty great design as well. You’re always in store for something visually cool as you go through the levels so that’s certainly a credit to how solid the game is. For the soundtrack, it’s definitely got a nice Mega Man vibe going. All of the tunes were solid and definitely kept up the solid sci-fi themes.

The game took me around 6 hours to conquer. Outside of that there is a lot of replay value here as you try to assemble all of the maps, weapons, and bonus items. Then you can go back to conquer the true final boss and along the way collect the rest of the PS4 trophies. I imagine that this should extend you to at least 10 hours of play time by the time this is all over. You’re definitely getting good value for your dollar here.

Overall, Blaster Master Zero 2 is a great follow up to the first game. The ending is also pretty surprising although of course there is a true ending so you can always play through some more to get that as the more satisfying climax. It depends on what kind of ending you’re looking for of course. The sheer suddenness of this one was pretty intense though and you can also see how it would work as a real ending because there are still some glimmer of hope here. This would definitely make for a great anime someday. Well, I definitely recommend playing through this game, you don’t want to miss out on the hype.

Overall 7/10

Garou: Mark of the Wolves Review


The Fatal Fury series has always been a lot of fun and I remember playing through the collections not too long ago back on the PS2. Well, Garou takes an interesting turn here as the main character is Rock Howard, son of the infamous Geese Howard from the OG games. He doesn’t want to go down that same dark path but is there any way for him to actually avoid it?

As with most street fighter type games there isn’t one singular story mode here but an individual arcade mode for each character. It’s been a while since I got to do this so I went in and beat the Arcade mode with all characters so I could get a good sense of the full story. After all, each character has a different route and you find out a lot more about them this way. In some sense I like to imagine that all of the stories happened back to back but of course some are accurate and some would not be based on how their endings go. Personally as the main character I feel like Rock’s story had to happen and by extension then Terry’s does as well and then the rest would be suspect.

One thing you’ll notice right away is that the dialogue here is absolutely great. The characters have a lot of fun with what is going on here. Cain’s right hand man actually sympathizes with a lot of the heroes as they go up against him. He tends to adapt his personality to who he is fighting as well. Sometimes he will be talking a really good game as a dark overlord and other times he’s very casual and just seems to be here for fun. Cain is much more of a consistent villain through and through who has a fun time seeing through people using his fists. One of his best moments is when you play in his story mode so he confronts the fake Cain at the end. The fact that the game acknowledges the characters meeting their shadow doppelganger at the end is great.

The meta aspect of this helps to really push Garou’s arcade mode to be one of the more memorable ones that I’ve played in a long while so going through all of the stories was fun. Naturally some of the other characters aren’t quite as memorable but at least the big guys like Terry, Rock, Cain, and the others are all a blast to play through. The villains tend to have the best movesets but you definitely can’t go wrong with Terry’s classic blows and shockwaves. He’s a good character to start off with.

It’s also interesting seeing an older Terry who’s effectively retired and now just likes a good game of pickup Basketball. He’s really got his life in order at this point which is nice to see. It’s not like you can stay in the ring forever right? Eventually you age out and so Terry quickly found his new life’s purpose just the way you would have hoped that he could have. Based on the ending to the game though there’s probably going to be some drama between Terry and Rock since it looks like Rock is making the same mistakes again.

The average arcade mode will take you anywhere between 15-25 minutes to complete based of course on the match settings you used. For the first story I played it straight with 3 rounds of 60 seconds but for the rest I did 1 round to speed it up. Completing the game with all of the characters should take you around 3 hours I’d say. Then you can get some extra replay value by trying to grab all of the PS4 trophies here. An extra mode that’s around is Survival so you can test your skills against waves of opponents. It goes without saying that this will not be an easy endeavor because there are definitely a lot of these guys just waiting to knock you out. There’s also limitless replay value with the versus mode as well which is always a perk of being a fighting game. The fun just never needs to end since each match is different.

The gameplay is of course that of a 2D fighter. You use punches, kicks, grabs, and the occasional energy move in order to chip away at your opponent’s life bar. The characters don’t move very fast on the ground so you are really going to need to learn what your character’s safe moves are and attack accordingly. Take measure of your opponent and then go in with your own moves. Patience will definitely serve you well in this game. If you are looking to cheese the opponent though, then I recommend characters with long reach like using Cain’s claw type energy attacks.

Graphically the game has aged well. The characters all look to be on point and the illustrations are solid as well. The game has a bunch of catchy themes within it so the whole package works well. The only odd thing visually is that not all of the characters fit on the character screen so if you keep scrolling right to the point where you can’t see anything, you’ll see two extra characters. These are the two main villains so maybe it’s actually a little secret on the game’s part that you can play as them. It’s pretty neat as a surprise of course but I feel like once you find them then maybe the roster screen should expand or something. I’d never seen this done before though so that was interesting.

Overall, Garou is definitely a solid fighting game that I would recommend checking out. It gives you a look at what the Fatal Fury characters are doing now which is nice to see. It’s definitely a series that could have a lot of future potential with spinoffs and sequels down the line. There’s no need for it to really end which is key. The gameplay is all on point so it’s a game that will hold up even in the modern era. The A.I. is also impressively good at dealing with projectile spam in this game. You can’t fly through arcade mode with little energy blasts or grabs like in most games. You’ll need to string some real hits along so playing this game should help with your fundamentals.

Overall 7/10

Blaster Master Zero Review


I remember playing Blaster Master recently thanks to the Nintendo Switch Online game selection. It’s a pretty classic game with a fun dynamic between switching from the pilot controls and over to the tank. Well, Zero is a modern take on this while keeping the core gameplay intact. It definitely works out quite well and it’s why I say a lot of these old NES and SNES titles have a lot of potential with modern reboots. If you just bring them up to date with the graphics, soundtrack, and all of that then you will be in a good position. I’m ready to play the sequel to this later today.

The game starts with Jason working on his machines when he meets a frog named Fred. The frog is pretty interesting but then he falls into a portal so Jason jumps after him. He’s now in an odd world where everything just looks foreign. Fortunately there is a tank lying around and it has sensors which can detect Fred. Jason is determined to find this guy but it does mean that he is going to have to do a lot of legwork in order to find him. He’ll have to traverse across the entire planet to locate this guy and the sensors keep picking up a lot of false readings as well. When he runs into a lady named Eve who is in a rough state Jason knows that things are about to get complicated.

For the gameplay we have two main styles here. When you’re in the Tank you progress as a 2D shooter/platformer where you look around the area and use the maps to get to the next world. You’ll come across caves and caverns along the way. At these points you exit the tank and as the pilot head through these labyrinths. The gameplay style changes a bit at this point as it becomes more of an overhead shooter. Think of the original Legend of Zelda and it’s sort of like that only you have a gun here as well as your sub weapon. From all of the sub weapons I got the most out of the grenades to be sure, but once you unlock the tank weapon that is incredibly handy to have at the ready. It would have certainly been a lot more difficult without it. You can only use the tank once but it can even take the final boss down to half his health so it’s a must have.

You can actually miss out on some power ups if you skip dungeons so watch out for that. In particular in World 3 you’re supposed to get a light bomb of sorts which lets you see through the pitch black dungeons. It’s not easy to complete these with no light although if you missed it, it’s not the end of the world. You can still complete the dungeons, it’ll just be a little trickier. If you manage not to get hit much and store up a lot of weapon power then as the human fighter you can use different guns. You lose them when you get hit so keep that in mind.

There’s a lot of solid platforming going on here and a healthy amount of save points and health items so you can confidently challenge the unknown and go as hard as you can. The main thing to watch out for is the minions. If you shoot one make sure you keep going until you destroy it because otherwise it is definitely about to become a big handful and you will have a hard time dealing with it.

The game looks very good graphically. It’s definitely got a nice Mega Man vibe to it with all of the sci-fi backgrounds and the energy attacks in general. Then you’ve also got a solid soundtrack here including a classic Warning message that pops up before bosses like something in Mega Man as well. There are also illustrations that appear from time to time so you can really see how the characters look outside of their sprites and the overall world landscape. You can see how an anime would work out quite nicely with this concept since there’s a lot to explore.

The game has a bit of a cliffhanger ending although it’s also the kind of climax where a sequel isn’t really needed. It depends on how you interpret the ending. There’s also a True Ending which can be unlocked and a sequel that was already created so there’s a lot of ways to take it. Of course you all know my position on this is that everything should get sequels and keep the franchise going while you can. There’s a lot the sequel can dive into so I look forward to seeing what the plot is.

The game took me around 5 hours to conquer. If you intend to grab all of the power ups and beat all of the dungeons I’m thinking you could probably boost the time to around 8-10 hours. Some more replay value can also be found by trying to get the Platinum Trophy in this game. I got quite a few of the trophies in this title but definitely not all of them. That would take more effort to be sure.

For the characters we’ve really got 3 main ones. Two if you don’t count Fred since he’s more a part of the story than actually being a character especially since he’s gone most of the time. Jason is a solid lead. He’s pretty determined to follow Fred and is also quick to help Eve out. He’s your classic protagonist who is always willing to do the right thing and takes the whole portal situation in stride. I liked his focused nature here. Then you have Eve who is a solid heroine. Certainly a very secretive one and there are a lot of moments where the game shows her as being a little shady or at least cryptic to an extent. I can see the sequel delving more into her character. Eve’s certainly a solid assist character though and it does make a difference having someone with you when you’re isolated in a strange planet with tons of creatures out to get you.

Overall, Blaster Master Zero is definitely a solid game and one that I would recommend. There’s a lot of action going on here and various worlds to explore. It’s the kind of game that rewards searching quite a lot as well as the more power ups you get, the easier it is to move around and fight. Minions which took a lot of hits to beat early on could be taken down in a single blast by the end of the game. I certainly made my tank nice and overpowered so it was tough to beat although I had a little more trouble as the human form. If you’re looking for a modern shooter title to check out, this is definitely the one to get.

Overall 7/10

Knack II Review


It’s been a very long time since I played the original Knack. It was a fun game but not exactly anything to write home about. Well, it was only a matter of time before I would eventually head out to get the sequel. Knack II certainly improves upon the first one. Elements like the gameplay are quite similar but more streamlined. Graphically the game has improved as well and I would say that the story is better as well. With all areas of the game improving, it’s no surprise that the sequel manages to hold your attention the whole time.

The game starts off with Knack and Lucas being under attack by a bunch of robots. Knack manages to take most of them down but just when he is about to be destroyed we cut away to a few months earlier. Knack and Lucas were having fun exploring with Uncle Ryder when all of a sudden a lot of robots start to come back to life. These robots used to belong to the goblins back during the Crystal Wars but for some reason they are active again. Lucas will need to team up with some scientists as well as the government leader Xander in order to stop these guys. One of the head monks is a girl named Aya and she is always ready to help Lucas and friends. They’ve got a pretty good system set up here but will they really be able to conquer an entire army? One thing’s for sure, they’re going to need Knack to bring his A game.

The plot is fairly basic of course with robots ready to take over the planet. You can probably predict all of the twists and turns that will commence fairly early on into the game. One thing the title does effectively though is the various time skips that happen during the game. The characters will be in a jam one minute and the next 4 months have passed. The villain definitely got a whole lot done in that time so the heroes really cut it close. I wasn’t able to buy into the origin of the Crystal Wars though. I’m not really bale to buy that a bunch of humans with swords were able to take on an army of giant robots. That’s just hard to buy.

It’s a fairly minor plot point though I suppose. Some of the characters here do not look great this time around though. First lets take the main scientist Vargas. For some reason here he just does not trust Lucas in the slightest and it ends up forming quite the rift between them. You get the feeling that if he had been at least a little supportive then things would have played out differently. I don’t really get why everyone was telling Lucas he needed to get serious and accusing him of being distracted by Ava. The game never showed for a moment that he wasn’t serious.

I wouldn’t say Lucas looked great either though. He definitely gets very emotional during the game and makes some questionable decisions like deciding to hand the orb away. He’s also very slow on the uptake during someone’s speech later on. It has to be completely spelled out for him to understand what’s happening. That’s definitely not the ideal hero that you’ll have been looking for. Knack is okay but he still doesn’t have a whole lot of character. He follows orders and is a nice guy. That’s about it. I like his confidence but you just get the feeling that he is as unoriginal as they come. If he had more character moments that would be good.

Ava is a solid new character at least although she definitely makes the wrong decisions a whole lot. She ends up seeming a bit naïve with how she didn’t realize what was going on until the very end. I dare that during one of the multi month time skips there would have been a lot of red flags everywhere. Meanwhile Xander’s okay if not just a bit generic. He doesn’t have any of the witty dialogue you need his character to have in order to stand out so that was unfortunate. He’s a big improvement over the goblins from the first game though.

As for the gameplay, Knack II is your classic 3D action game. You can rush in and mess enemies up with hand to hand combat as well as your other tools. During the course of the game you learn new moves like a boomerang, the ability to pull opponents to you, and things like that. Once you unlock the boomerang I recommend using it as often as possible. It’s definitely got to be the most useful ability in the game and it’ll never steer you wrong. There’s actually a decent amount of strategy to this combat style as you can’t just run in trying to punch everyone. That’ll end up with you being defeated very quickly most times. Learn to use your boosts to dodge a lot and you’ll be fine. There are also upgrades you can unlock to strengthen Knack using EXP from enemies and you also have a lot of quick time events to master as well. There’s just a good amount of depth to the title so you’ll be in good shape for taking on the enemies. Make sure you always stop to open the crates for bolts since improving your size is incredibly handy and makes all of the combat moments a lot easier.

Unsurprisingly the graphics in the game are pretty good. This definitely looks like a modern game with a lot of great visuals throughout. Whether it’s the characters themselves or some backdrops Knack II does not pull any punches here. The soundtrack isn’t as impressive though. None of the tunes ended up sticking out. It’s unfortunate because an action game like this should have a lot of great rock themes or something but this title avoided those. Well, that’s something it can shoot for in the third game.

The main story took me a little under 9 hours. For replay value I suppose you can play through hard mode in order to get the rest of the collectibles as well as aim for the Platinum Trophy. That should take some time to be sure. I saw you also get to unlock Colosseum mode at the end so that should be a fun mode. Sounds like it would have a lot of battles at the very least. Right now the game tends to go for cheap so now’s a great time to take the plunge and go all in.

Overall, Knack II is a pretty fun game. I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a solid action game to play through. It’s definitely not going to win any big awards for its character or story but the gameplay is strong which is definitely important. You won’t grow bored during the game and the trial and error tends to be enjoyable since each section is quick so you never have to replay a whole lot. I’d be game for a third Knack game coming out someday although it looks like the odds of that happening are not great.

Overall 7/10

Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review


Sackboy has returned for a new adventure! It feels like not so long ago when I had just completed the first Little Big Planet and now we’re once again caught up with the series. The first game was not very good in my eyes. It really didn’t have a lot of interesting level designs and the plot was pretty much nonexistent. Then the second game came out and had a really great plot. The third followed that up with more villains and another good adventure. So the series really rebounded from the first adventure and the latest one continues that. The series is certainly in good standing now.

The game starts with Sackboy trying to enjoy his day when the planet is attacked by an evil mastermind named Vex. He manages to suck up just about every Sack creature on the planet except for Sackboy. He decides to let Sackboy live just so he can rub the whole thing in his face. Well, Sackboy is determined not to let this stand. He will visit each of the planets and eventually liberate his people by collecting the various Dream Orbs. Vex doesn’t intend to make this easy though.

The gameplay is your classic platformer type adventure. There is less of an emphasis on puzzle elements this time around. You don’t have to conjure up objects with Sackboy’s magical menu or anything like that. This is more of a straightforward adventure where you run and jump around obstacles to get to the end. Then you deal with the boss battles that usually appear twice a world. Vex has a lot of pretty fun bosses to be sure. What I like about his battles if you have a good amount of obstacles but not a lot of waiting. He goes through his motions pretty quickly so you either win or lose right away but you don’t have to wait a bunch. That’s always the sign of a well designed boss battle if you ask me.

The graphics are definitely quite nice as you would expect. The game definitely has a lot of great looking environments to be sure. The costumes are also back so you can dress up Sackboy in a lot of different looks and gear. I gave him a sci-fi warrior look of sorts which was fun since it came with the official helmet and even an energy blade to run around with. The cutscenes keep the enhancements you’ve made so that it also pretty cool. It adds a little extra immersion. Then you’ve got the soundtrack which is fun enough. I wouldn’t say Sackboy tends to stand out with that kind of thing but the music is all pretty pleasant and definitely fits in with the level’s theme.

Next up is the replay value aspect and this game has quite a lot of that. I guess I’d say that the length of the campaign is probably around 7 hours. I can’t say that I was really keeping track though. After the main campaign then you’ve got a good amount of replay value here with the extra world that you unlock in the end. Getting there will require you to grab a lot of orbs. Then you’ve got the knightly trials which are a lot of extra levels as well. Speaking of orbs, some can only be grabbed from the multiplayer levels so you’ll need to either plug in a second controller and control them both or head online for some help here.

I’d imagine that grabbing all of the orbs and getting all of the trophies will definitely take you a good amount of time. I’d be surprised if you can do all of that in under 15 hours or anything like that. While you are forced to collect a lot of orbs in order to complete the game which I always tend to find fishy, at least there are enough extra levels around where you shouldn’t have to replay any of the old levels at all. That’s one thing I was a little worried about near the end so I was glad that was the case. Collectathons aren’t really my thing initially but they make for great post game content. Some of the orbs are also quite hidden as I was actively looking for all of them and still missed some when going through the levels.

Sackboy doesn’t really talk sort of like Mario and other protagonists so I wouldn’t say he has a lot of character but he’s a solid lead nonetheless. He may get nervous and even go to the verge of tears at times but he always stands again. There is also a mentor type character who shows up at times but we don’t get to learn a whole lot about her. Part of me suspects that she is hiding some things and would play a big role in a future title but perhaps that isn’t the role they are going with her. Either way it’ll definitely be interesting to see how that all plays out someday.

The game has fun experimenting with some alternate gameplay styles as well. As you progress through the game you’ll get hoverboots, a grapple hook, and other such items. Using them is a nice break from the usual gameplay. In particular you can get hooked on the hoverboots since it’s a lot of fun to fly around everywhere. Hard to go back to walking after that but the gameplay is very smooth so you’ll adjust quick enough.

Overall, A Big Adventure is definitely a solid title and a good way to continue with the Little Big Planet series. Vex is a really solid villain so I’d definitely be down to see him return someday. His abilities are really creative and that makes him a pretty dangerous opponent to go against. Sackboy does seem outmatched the whole time but he never gives up which is important. The game also has a scene after the credits so you’ll want to stick around to see that. It ends things off on a pretty hype note although I’m not sure if that would be for the sequel or if the post game content covers that. Either way I’d definitely recommend checking this title out.

Overall 7/10

Super Valis IV Review


With this title out of the way I’ll have played all of the new additions to the SNES online service. Super Valis IV is definitely a good way to end off though. It’s a pretty fun platformer with a solid plot and good all around gameplay. It’s a title you’ll enjoy playing through and it’s also got a good amount of difficulty. The final boss for example has a health bar so large you’ll think the game has glitched out on you.

You play as a warrior who is fighting to save her planet. To do so she will have to go through several realms and fight all manner of creatures from demons to skeletons and other such creatures. Each land is guarded by another powerful fighter but she won’t let anything stop her from reaching the the red moon. The game is fairly linear although some levels have a few different paths you can take which can turn you around in a circle. It’s hard to say how you should know where to go, just make sure to always keep going right whenever possible and you should be fine.

For the combat you have a blade that you can fight with as well as an energy blast that you can spam. It’s quite handy in some boss fights like against one guy who has a pet leopard. If you go to the very edge of the right side screen, he cannot hurt you. The only thing to watch out for is the occasional fireball which you can just jump over anyway. Outside of that you’ll pretty much be all set. The other bosses don’t have such easy counter measures though so you’ll have to learn them as you go. The toughest one to deal with is probably the guy who can make clones of himself. It’s extremely hard to react to his attacks because of how fast he is and the amount of raw power. Just touching the guy will deal you a bucket of damage.

The final boss is easier to dodge but the tough part with him is the large health bar as I mentioned. For the first dozen or so attacks you won’t even see the health bar go down because it spills over the meter so much. Eventually once it starts to go down then you’ll see that you have a lot more hope in store for you. You can also grab different power ups throughout the level that will help you when you’re in a pinch. I highly recommend using these items as long as possible. At the very least the transformation is a must have as it temporarily makes you completely invincible. No attack will be able to break through the barrier. For offense it’ll just depend on how much you like the item. I admit that the normal blaster and sword are so good that you may not need anything else.

Graphically the game definitely holds up really nicely as well. The character illustrations are solid and the fact that we got both an opening and an ending is really good if you ask me. It means that you actually feel like you’re making a lot of progress through each level. The character designs are also excellent. The bosses all look really unique and you can tell that none of the designs were just slapped together. A good amount of work went into them. The soundtrack is more on the forgettable side but still pretty solid throughout. I don’t expect you will have any complaints as you go through the game.

There isn’t really any replay value though. Once you beat the game there is nothing left to do. The credits roll and then you can play through the game again if you like. The actual game is about an hour long give or take. So this is a short one but at least it’s free with the online service so that helps. I don’t ask for much more of the SNES era. Just having a story and smooth gameplay already makes it fairly high end. It’s a nice way to pass some time and hopefully someday we can get a proper reimagining of this title.

Overall, Super Valis IV is a pretty solid platformer. It’s a simple game with proper execution and an engaging story. You really can’t turn down such an adventure. I definitely recommend playing through it if you have the Switch and a little time. There’s so much they could do with the concept if they were to keep going with the series. I look forward to the SNES Online adding in some more games at some point. Right now it’s definitely been updating at a rather slow pace so I’m hoping that can change soon. If we are going to add more consoles soon then why drag out the releases right? Well, when we do get some new games I’ll be sure to start them right away.

Overall 7/10

Defender Review


Defender is a game I’ve had on the shelf for a very long time. It’s a game that is also extremely difficult and the developers did not pull any punches with the game. I had it frozen on the backlog for a long time but with the numbers continuing to drop it was time to put this one back into play. Currently we are down to 35 games left so that’s pretty good. Defender is a good title and far better than something like Battlestar Galactica. Now that’s a game that could use a bunch of work.

The general plot is that the aliens have taken over Earth as well as the entire solar system. The humans have been forced to move out of the system entirely to regroup which has not made them very happy campers. Well, we’ve now got a good amount of ships and mechs at our disposal so it’s time to reclaim our planets. The game has you go from world to world as you exterminate the aliens with Earth naturally being the big prize at the end. It hasn’t been easy but now it’s the humans’ turn for a counter attack. It’s a pretty nice plot and I like the idea of the humans having to invade Earth since it has already been taken over.

There are some cutscenes here and there which get pretty emotional. For example there was a mechanic just minding his own business and suddenly an alien appears and takes him away. The graphics hold up really well for both the cinematics and the gameplay. At most it can be a little hard to follow along with what is going on at times but I’d guess that is a little unavoidable with how many enemies are running around at all times. If you want the skies to be cleared then you’ll have to do it yourself.

The soundtrack is okay. It’s not particularly memorable but works well enough with the the levels. It’s a fitting ost which is all that you can ask for. In terms of length I wouldn’t call the story all that long but the difficulty should help to extend that quite a bit. I would estimate the game is maybe around 5-6 hours long. It can also be longer if you do the bonus levels. See, each world has 2-3 levels but you’re always able to just go to the next one after beating the first mission. The others are totally optional but note that if you skip to the next planet then there is no way to go back so that’s definitely something to keep in mind. You have to be absolutely sure of yourself when making the decision.

For the gameplay, this is a 3D shooter. You pilot your ship around the surface of the planet as you blow up all of the enemy fighters and installations. The actual goal of the level will vary heavily so always pay attention to the objectives which are shown at the beginning of the level and also explained through the dialogue. For example, one mission may have you simply blow up all of the fighters while another one may have you protecting a base until everyone is able to be evacuated. With the title of the game you won’t be surprised to hear that quite a few of the levels are protection missions like that.

In general protection missions never tend to be my favorite ones. Your ally’s health goes down so quickly and it’s hard to protect everyone. One level I really had some issues with was where you had to protect a series of satellites from robotic suicide bombers. That one was really tough in part because the level was so big and aside from the bombers you had to worry about the rest of the crew as well. Definitely puts you in a tough spot.

Fortunately you have more than one ship to choose as an option. Each ship has a different array of weapons. Personally I used the second ship for almost the whole game and then used the second to last ship for the final few levels. The reason I switched was because the new ship has an laser which has no limits for ammo. You can just keep on using it although you do need to let it recharge for a few seconds here and there. Each ship can be updated by using your points which can improve all of the weapons on board and even add another life to your ship. I would say that the extra life should be your lowest priority since most of the levels have a strict time limit anyway which ends up being more important than having another life which you may not need.

Overall, Defender is a pretty decent game. It’s a basic sci-fi shooter game where you’re blasting away at aliens. You can’t really go wrong there right? I would say that one area which would improve the game though would be a way to play old levels and earn some more money. Much like Armored Core 2 you could be in a tough spot if you spend your money on the wrong ship and have none left for the final level. It’s why I stuck with one of the default ships for almost the whole game just in case. Last thing you want it to be trapped without money in a level that’s just too difficult to conquer. If you see this game in stories somewhere somehow, then I would say to pick it up. It’s old school but has aged pretty well. The plot’s fun and the gameplay is pretty smooth which is really all that you need in the end.

Overall 7/10

Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup Review


Quidditch was a lot of fun to play through in the first Harry Potter game so it was fun to see it make a return here. I definitely missed it when the latter games were cutting it out. Of course with a whole game built around this concept that means that you really need to have tight gameplay. Fortunately it is quite good and a lot of fun. I just think the game should have had a bit more of an ending to be honest.

When the game starts you are told to pick a team. I naturally went with Griffindor because you just can’t go wrong with that group right? The first few levels are about taking down all of the other schools. Then you can enter the World Cup where you have to go up against the other countries. Once you’ve done that then you’re done. The game loops for extra matches and you work on getting the rest of the cards. I ended up with 33/104 so I suppose that’s not too bad. It would be nice if the game could save your spot in a tournament though. While you can save your title at almost any time, it always takes you back to the menu when you boot it up again to start a tournament from scratch.

I should quickly talk about the gameplay since Quidditch is a pretty unique sport. So the goal of the game is to pass the ball to your teammates to earn points or to shoot the ball through one of the 3 hoops. Each time you do so you get 10 points. Once the meter is fully charged an event will start where you and the opponent try to grab the Quidditch ball. Whoever grabs it first gets 150 points and then the battle ends. So this keeps the hoops points from being meaningless or anything like that but at the same time the points don’t matter much. I was beating an opponent by around 400 before I realized this match wasn’t ending. That’s why scoring shouldn’t be your top concern. It doesn’t build the meter much at all.

The best way to win a match is to use combo passes. Hold down the L button and keep on passing the ball around. This will build the meter very quickly and the more meter you have, the more time you have to boost your broom in the final chase. Be careful about turning the ball over though as that will negate any meter build up you had amassed from the current combo. Clearly there are a lot of variables to consider here and you really want to try and take them all into account. Of course if you want to be really safe you can still score around 200 points so that way even if the other team grabs the Quidditch you would end up winning. You should always be able to grab the Quidditch first though, at least I found that part to be pretty easy.

You also have some special abilities but they aren’t all that necessary. Often times I found it easier to just do a basic tackle with A to knock the ball away then to get into the fancy stuff. For example, if you press B you get a mini cutscene where you take the ball away. Y allows you to gain a quick boost that lets you go forward and there’s X which lets you fire off one of the balls to hit the opponent with. I don’t mind the abilities but in a way they have 0 impact on the game. Whether you use them or ignore them they will not affect the entire match at all in which case I wonder why they are even around. You’ve also got the final smash attacks for a team which give you instant goals but it takes a while to build up enough energy for this. I got to see the computers use it a few times but I never had enough energy for it unfortunately.

The graphics are pretty decent. I wouldn’t say they are anything special but the character designs are on point and the whole thing looks pretty nice. The only time you may have some trouble is with navigating the turns during the final chase but that’s not really a graphics thing so much as it’s just about the gameplay. On the whole I would say the gameplay is pretty legit but those turns are just rough. I wouldn’t say any of the game’s tunes really stood out though.

In terms of length this game will probably last you around 2 hours to beat every opponent I suppose. Outside of that the only replay value is in collecting all of the cards by completing specific challenges. It’s a reasonable incentive to at least add a bit more punch to the usual gameplay but I’m not really sure if that would really be enough to get you back to play a bunch of extra matches once you’ve already won. I feel like it would be a hard sell at least.

So the game is pretty fun but I do have to emphasize that it is just very short. You need to make sure that you pick it up at a good price or you may end up with a few regrets there. There is multiplayer mode as well though which should also increase the replay value. As long as you find the gameplay fun then I suppose that’s really the most important thing here.

Overall, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup is a pretty fun spinoff. It’s nice that this sport got an entire video game to itself even though the sport itself does not yet exist. It just makes for a very original game. A bit of a story mode would have been nice but I suppose it’s not something that would have been expected. Hopefully the new PS5 Harry Potter game coming out will include some Quidditch gameplay as well. I look forward to seeing how it looks with the modern technology backing it up.

Overall 7/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Review


We continue our Harry Potter marathon with the next game in the series. Chamber of Secrets really takes a lot of what made the first game good and then improves on them. So that’s exactly what you could have hoped for from a sequel. There aren’t any really weak parts to the game although at the same time I wouldn’t say it’s great or anything like that. It’s just a fun follow up to the original. The hub world isn’t quite as large as the first game but is still quite large.

The game starts with Harry having a good time in town as he gets some shopping done before heading back to Hogwarts. As much as things change they also stay the same. Draco Malfoy and the gang keep picking on the weaker mages. The stakes are a little higher this time around as a fabled Chamber of Secrets is somewhere in the school. Harry needs to track it down because in the meantime a monster is on the loose and it may end up murdering a bunch of the students if it isn’t taken care of and fast. Harry will need all of his skills if he is to take this guy down.

It’s a pretty solid story here. The Potter games have been consistent with giving a lot of cutscenes throughout. Just from the games I can quickly remember how much fun Snape is. He certainly gets a bad rap but at least the guy is always around unlike Dumbledore who vanishes when things get tough. The whole twist about Tom Riddle is pretty interesting and he makes for a pretty great character. The guy’s just a lot of fun. Meanwhile Harry and the crew are pretty solid although Ron never tends to grow on me as much as the other two. He needs a little more skill to back up his confidence.

Gameplay-wise this one is pretty basic. You have a few different spells at your disposal and use them in order to take the opponents down or to solve various puzzles. The spells are largely the same as in the first game. You are still only able to equip two at once so get ready to have to pause the game a lot. The save feature is also still manual so just try to remember to save every now and again or you may have to replay large chunks of the game. It’s pretty impressive just how similar to the first game this one is. Even the menus all look very similar. Same with the levels but that makes sense since it is still the same school.

The graphics aren’t bad and look pretty similar to the first game. I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one was better. Th soundtrack is also decent. None of the tunes will stand out in particular but I wouldn’t say they hold the game back either. They have just the right amount of pep to add to the fights. I feel like that describes the game pretty well as a whole. It’s a very standard game that feels like you’re picking up right where the first game left off. There are some improvements like labels on the map so you know where you’re going and the controls themselves are a lot smoother. Those are the two main improvements here and I would have to say that they are fairly key.

The gameplay one alone is really nice to have. In the first game it wasn’t uncommon for you to just fall off of a box or something because the character refused to move in the right direction. That should not happen here. The game isn’t all that long though. You should have it conquered within around 6-7 hours I’d say. Of course if you aim to grab all of the cards then that will probably take you a little longer. There are a bunch of them scattered all throughout the place. The toughest part is that you have no way of knowing which ones you have already collected which naturally makes things pretty tough. Still, it would definitely add a few hours to your overall play time.

Chamber of Secrets does end up hitting you with an extremely easy final boss though. The way to beat it is pretty simple, you just dodge the attacks by moving side to side for a bit, knock it with your main weapon and you’re good to go. Rinse and repeat around 6 times until you claim victory. The main thing that makes this fight pretty easy is just the fact that the way to dodge the boss’ attacks is simply to move from side to side. You don’t even need a true strategy to beat him, that’s really what is pretty crazy about all of this.

The game is fairly light with bosses though. Another fight has you go up against a giant spider but it’s not so much a direct boss as it’s more about you running around to burn all the webbing. That allows you to gain the upper hand and escape. It’s a pretty nice level set up I’d say. The game stays quick paced at all times except for when you have to find some potion ingredients for Professor Snape. That’s when things can get a little tedious as you figure out how to do this. In the third game you would eventually be given pillars of light so you can see the ingredients once you’re within range but there’s nothing like that for this game.

Overall, The Chamber of Secrets is a pretty fun follow up to the first game. It’s been pretty nice to see the old Harry Potter adventures in video game format. You can’t help but feel that the points system is pretty rigged though. No matter what you do you always end up in first place when it comes to total points. That doesn’t seem totally fair or balanced if you think about it. You feel bad for the other groups because it feels like Dumbledore is determined to pick Griffindor no matter what. I suppose our class is the best one though. If you want to play a fun little game on the GCube then this is a good one to check out.

Overall 7/10