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Back 4 Blood | Aarcadee Cabinet

This game brought me right back to the golden shower days of gaming, when Gaben himself would pour golden streams of gaming goodness upon us all.

I mean, um.. what?

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Game Reviews

Speed Limit Review

(Speed Limit: Arcade Edition is available for Playstation 4/5, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One/X/S)

REVIEW KEY PROVIDED BY DEVS

When I hear the words “Speed Limit”, it becomes very difficult to not want to drop everything at that exact moment, book it to the nearest sources of movies in my vicinity, and request an immediate showing of the 1994 box-office hit, “Speed”. One could potentially think then, using the combined powers of deduction and assumption, that I would thoroughly enjoy a fast-paced, high-octane indie game with an ever-shifting set of genres working alongside one another.

That’s what one could potentially think, right? What if I told you that that theory was instead quickly thrown out the window shortly after my first experience with Speed Limit? Here’s my review.

The opening moments of Speed Limit reminded me of the classic flash games of yesteryear. Where you’re given minimal context to anything at all, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of a plot-free semi-truck barreling right at you. Upon start-up, we’re greeted by a scene of a train ride, with our main character just being a train passenger, passengering about. Moments later, some disheveled, shady as heck looking dude makes their way onto the frame… before keeling over dead. They drop a gun into your lap as they slowly become “aliven’t”, and now you’re the most wanted criminal to ever exist. Better get to running.

What follows is an hour long journey through a variety of different gameplay styles, accompanied by a constant climb in both speed and difficulty. While the game starts you off on foot, pushing you through train-car after train-car at an infuriatingly slow pace (seriously, this guy moves at a snail’s pace), the speed picks up considerably every few minutes. You’ll go from running around in the comfort of your Shoe-baru’s (ha ha) to driving a convertible, to piloting a helicopter, to manning a fighter jet, etc etc. It only keeps going from there.

Now, I’ll be honest with you: On paper, all of this stuff sounds really, really cool. I can’t think of anyone who would argue otherwise. (Maybe an old person, but they’re old so their opinions don’t matter.) Upon execution however, I think a few major missteps were taken, and the end result suffers greatly because of it.

Speed Limit‘s first short-coming became apparent almost immediately after start-up. The second after we’re shown the plot set-up and assume control of the protagonist, it becomes rather obvious that our character moves at an infuriatingly slow speed. Now, maybe this is simply a design choice. It could feel painfully slow as a way to further drive home that feeling of the metaphorical speedometer constantly climbing during one’s playthrough. Sadly, I don’t think it actually works all too well within the confines of the game.

If that wasn’t enough to get me feeling like this wasn’t a good start to the experience, Speed Limit‘s controls in it’s opening moments certainly did the trick. Testing the game on both keyboard/mouse and an Xbox One controller, I found the controls to be pretty hit or miss. I struggled to clear the first area simply because my character would begin to look up while I pressed right for him to go forward. This is an issue because having the character look upward slows him down to an even slower pace than he was already going, making you a near effortless target to take out.

That frustration is taken to an even higher level upon reaching the second phase of the first area. After a short period of running from train-car to train-car, we’re moved to the top of the train where we now have to contend with killer platforms (in addition to the enemies who were already shooting at us). Navigating this area was a nightmare, as the game repeatedly refused to take my inputs into account, smashing me into walls or causing an untimely make-out session with a barrage of bullets.

To top off this cake of conundrums, we have my final gripe with Speed Limit: it’s cameras. Some of the camera positioning in this game is… fine, even great at times. But that’s only sometimes. Outside of those moments, the camera is the worst thing about this game. Having to redo sections of a game due to control issues is something I can tolerate, to an extent. I cannot, however, tolerate a camera that’s been set-up to make me fail.

The first time this becomes apparent is during a chase scene across a waterway, with arches you have to fly through to avoid colliding and, you know, dying. The space you have to clear is pretty small, and you have to be nearly pixel perfect with your movements in order to avoid scraping the walls of the arches. I love pixel perfect movements in games, but only when I can see them. If I can’t see what I’m doing, and have to rely solely on assumptions and luck, that’s a bad thing in my opinion.

This isn’t the only time the camera is an issue either. A later section in the game asks you to control a fighter jet, which I thought would be freaking awesome! It wasn’t. It was nausea-inducing. It’s use of a tunnel-like rotating camera set-up brought upon immediate motion sickness. Bad enough to get me to “nope” the heck out of the game and look away from my monitor. That rarely ever happens.

I went back to revisit Speed Limit a few days after my initial experience, to see if these issues still persisted or if I was being a bit overly-critical in my analysis of the game. The issues still persisted, and they were even harder to overlook on my second playthrough. Maybe it was because I had tried the “normal” difficulty instead of “easy” like I did the first time, but my patience for Speed Limit‘s short-comings was practically non-existent. Which sucks because I love the premise of the game, and was really hoping to enjoy the experience. The pixel art graphics are full of character and charm. The soundtrack had me tapping my foot along to it the entire time. So…

One could potentially think then, using the combined powers of deduction and assumption, that as a fan of both arcade games and genre bending works of programming, I would recommend Speed Limit as a product. However, contrary to potential belief, this is one I cannot suggest based off of my personal experience. As much as it pains me to do this (as it always does), I’ll be giving Speed Limit a verdict of DEFINITELY NOT WORTH ANY PRICE.

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Game Reviews

Two Cent Review: Carto

Video review can be found here.

(Carto is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Xbox One.)

I find maps to be one of the most boring things on the planet known as Earth (as well as other subsequent planets with civilizations that also utilize the power of “maps”). I understand the practicality behind them, and you won’t catch me doubting their importance any time soon. Still, stating my appreciation for maps isn’t suddenly going to lift them from the trenches of boredom. They’ll remain down there forever, sloshing around in the grimy boredom sludge as it bubbles and broils deep within a metaphorical well. Nothing could possibly ever make maps remotely interesting in my eyes. Nothing, except for a video game with a primary mechanic focused mainly on all things “mappy”.

Here’s my two cents on “Carto”.

Story

The premise in Carto is fairly straightforward. There isn’t much room for ambiguity here, on account of the fact that this tale is practically a children’s bedtime story come to life. You take on the role of an adorable cartographer in the making named Carto, as she travels from land to land, searching for her grandmother. Why is she searching for ol’ gamgam? Because Carto has this power that allows her to rotate pieces of the land around her by moving pieces on this map jigsaw puzzle thing, which inadvertently leads to her and her gammy getting caught up in a thunderstorm and subsequently separated from one another. Look, I know it doesn’t make much sense, alright? I get that. It doesn’t help that major story moments are shown through still images either. But at the same time, the game isn’t a non-fiction piece, and it still conveyed it’s messages well enough for me to understand, even if the on-screen action is lacking.

That isn’t to say the entire game is devoid of dialogue though. It’s honestly quite the opposite. This game has a fairly decent roster of side-characters for you to talk to, learn about the world from, and even adventure with. The writing that brings these characters to life is consistently light-hearted, while managing to maintain a strong focus on family, culture, and tradition. It was something I was quite appreciative of, as the light-heartedness reaches beyond the dialogue. It’s found throughout the game and the game’s world. There are no combat sequences in Carto. There is no primary antagonist to contend with. No darkness to banish or end of the world to stop. Personally, I haven’t had such a laid back experience since I played Animal Crossing: New Horizons when that came out. Go at your own pace, combat-free titles aren’t something we see very often in modern day gaming, so I found it to be a refreshing change of pace. 

I didn’t watch the credits roll on Carto at the end of my roughly 5 hour playthrough and immediately reflect on my past life choices or the greater impact of culture and tradition on the societies that form and surround themselves with them. What I did feel, however, was a fairly decent sense of accomplishment for completing what turned out to be a rather challenging puzzle game.

Gameplay

Now let’s talk about gameplay, because it is, without a doubt, the central focus of Carto. As I mentioned in my introduction to this review, Carto’s primary game mechanic is it’s map. Or maps, I guess I should say, since Carto will take you through a variety of levels neatly disguised as different locales. We’ll touch more on these locales once we reach the “presentation” section of the review (that’s the next section coming up), but for now, let’s talk about the map itself. 

See, this map is a special map. It’s a supah dupah vernacular spectacular bad bitch map. It’s a “sell your gold laced glass eye and your hair follicles for good measure” type of map. This map is going to not only allow you to rotate pieces of it like a jigsaw puzzle whenever you want, it’s going to allow you to do so much more. It’s going to allow you to help worms eat dirt, organize a library that may or may not contain the knowledge of everything that has happened and/or will happen, cook a live bird through the power of volcanic ventilation, play Tetris with glaciers, and much more. To say that Carto’s use of it’s primary mechanic is imaginative and consistently enjoyable would be an understatement. This game is practically the Mario Odyssey of maps. (I never thought I’d see the day where I’d say that in a review.)

That isn’t to say the games puzzles are all enjoyable or of consistent quality, either. There were sadly a few obstacles I came across in my journey that brought my progression to a halt and required the use of a guide. I’m happy to inform you that this only happened twice throughout my playthrough, though in a 5 or 6 hour game, having two roadblocks impede progression can feel rather substantial. It didn’t ruin my experience with Carto or anything of that degree, but I did still find it to be worth noting anyway. 

When you aren’t playing Beyblades with map pieces, the only other thing you’ll really spend your time doing is conversing with people. Talking with everyone in any given level is oftentimes vital to progression, as well reminding you where to go if you ever forget your current objective. If you aren’t one to enjoy text-based games devoid of any voice overs, with a focus on world building and character relationships, Carto may not be for you. If you are into those things however, Carto may be worth adding to your video game wishlist, as it supplies dialogue in droves. Not at the level of say, Disco Elysium or Pillars of Eternity, but still enough to where you’ll easily spend a few hours in this game solely on reading. 

Carto sports a unique mechanic that helps it stand out from the crowd of generic, by-the-numbers video games constantly fighting one another for a chance to suck your wallet dry like a mosquito buzzing around in the middle of the Everglades during summertime. It’s a mechanic that’s utilized in enjoyable and creative ways, oftentimes leaving me excited to know what gimmick would come in to play next. However, if Carto were any longer in it’s runtime than what it actually is, I think I would start seeing diminishing returns on my experience to time invested ratio. I also think that while the story-telling and world-building are nice touches, I could have done with a little bit less of it. Dialogue is fine and all, but it’s not something I really expect to see in a puzzle game. So, my patience with conversations tends to be a bit shorter in those situations. 

Still an enjoyable experience from a gameplay standpoint.

I think that’s a great way to summarize Carto as a complete package: enjoyable. The story-telling is enjoyable for what it is, the gameplay is enjoyable despite its flaws, and…

Presentation

The presentation is absolutely adorable, from it’s hand-painted aesthetic down to the design of Carto herself. This game absolutely nails the feeling of visuals reminiscent of a children’s bedtime story, with its centralized color palettes brimming with vibrancy and it’s textured surfaces that help the environments “pop” ever so slightly. Though I was initially worried about a potential lack of environmental variety, I was happy to have those doubts quickly squashed upon visiting my third or fourth locale. Carto starts in somewhat monotonous woodlands but eventually gives way to underground tunnels, deserts, tundras and more. I enjoyed the variety of places Carto journeys through during her quest to find her grandmother, which is a sentiment I initially didn’t think I’d walk away with. 

There isn’t too much to comment on in regards to the games music and sound. While Carto does have a simple, unobtrusive soundtrack, I couldn’t help but occasionally feel annoyed by it. Namely in the moments where I was stuck, but also in moments containing puzzles with more complex solutions. Hearing a few tracks for longer than I would have liked didn’t sit well with me, but aside from this happening on a few occasions, the soundtrack is serviceable, if a bit forgettable.

Sound effects are also fairly generic, with nothing really standing out here, either. The key difference between the sound effects and the soundtrack of Carto being that the former didn’t ever annoy me during my time with the game. As was the case with the soundtrack, sound effects here are serviceable, but they aren’t anything to write home about.

Like the other components we’ve previously discussed, the presentation in Carto is enjoyable, save for a few short-lived occasions. It may not personally be my cup of hot lava, but it works decently within the confines of Carto, which is sometimes all you can ask for when it comes to presentation in video games.

Verdict

Carto is an enjoyable game for both map-lovers and map-deniers alike. Though it’s gameplay may suffer from a lack of variety, and it’s story and presentation leave something to be desired, there are still plenty of things here deserving of your time. There are just the right amount of puzzle mechanics to warrant playing Carto, while an endearing art style helps give reason for enjoying this game passively, be it with a friend or via your favorite content creator. It may not be perfect, but it is perfectly deserving of a verdict of “Definitely Worth Sale Price”.

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Game Reviews

Two Cent Video Review: World of Final Fantasy

(World of Final Fantasy is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One)

This week, I take a look at a game that celebrates my favorite video game series of all time. World of Final Fantasy is the accumulation of all the things that make Final Fantasy what it is today. It’s a mix of Final Fantasy meets Pokemon, and it’s finally here for PC. So, is this game worth full price?

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Game Reviews

Two Cent Video Review: Skylar & Plux (Adventure on Clover Island)

(Skylar and Plux is available for PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, and Xbox One.)

3D platformers are one of my favorite genres in all of the kingdom of gaming. Ratchet and Clank, Jakk and Daxter, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Croc, Ty, the list goes on and on. Sadly though, this games seemed to vanish completely for a good ten years or so. Luckily, we’ve seen a bit of a resurgence in 3D platformers in 2017, and for the most part, they’ve been decent. Is Skylar and Plux, a modern day 3D platformer inspired by the games mentioned above, worth your time? Yeah, I guess so. Here’s my Two Cents!

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Game Reviews

Two Cent Video Review: Resident Evil 7 (Biohazard)

(Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Windows.)

While I was down in my basement looking for wires to connect my old timey radio to my modern day sound system, I stumbled upon this old review and thought it’d be nice to put it on display in the aarcadee arcade. So here it is. A look at one of the, in my opinion, best horror games of 2017. But though it may be good enough to contend for the title of best horror game of this year, is it good enough to buy at full price? Probably. Here’s my two cents.

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Game Reviews

Two Cent Video Review: Little Nightmares

(Little Nightmares is available for Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and Stadia.)

To start the spooky season off right, I thought I’d review only horror games for the rest of the month. The first game I looked was Little Nightmares. A game I was interested in based off of looks alone. It looked like a unique twist on the Limbo formula, with a little bit of horror and spooks mixed in. So how did it fare?

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Game Reviews

Two Cent Review: Cuphead

Video review can be found here.

(Cuphead is available for PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Windows & Mac.)

Imagine an alternate universe, where 1930’s Disney cartoons have access to a time machine. They take that time machine, climb aboard, and head for the 80′s. The 1980′s. Upon arrival, they meet this cool video game named Contra. Contra, Steamboat Willie and friends quickly become best pals and decide to do acid one day together. In their LSD soaked haze, they end up sleeping together and have such an odd looking baby by the end of this completely realistic scenario that everyone who sees it cant help but be intrigued. That baby would be Cuphead. A game about two anthropomorphic cups named Cuphead and Mugman. The two walking, talking, living, breathing ceramic coffee containers end up signing a contract with the devil (not like in a record contract sort of way, but more of like a “sell your soul” kind of way). In the contract, they agree that in exchange for keeping their souls, Cupdude and Mugman must collect the souls of others who have made a similar deal with the devil and didn’t pay up.

This game is firetruckin’, fingersuckin’, fistfuckin’ fantastic to look at. The A E S T H E T I C of it is so eye catching, so mystifying, you can’t help but look on in awe, and wonder “how does something like this exist? How have we not seen this sooner?”. The visuals invoked one of my favorite feelings a person who feels can feel: Nostalgia! It’s happy. It’s joyful. It’s warm and vibrant. It’s violent as hell and I didn’t realize until reviewing this game how graphic cartoons from that era actually were. Some of this shit is straight up nightmare fuel. Everything here is hand drawn, and you can tell that some serious TLC went into the art of this game. It certainly shows. Now lets talk about the music and sound for a second. Do you like brass? Huh? You like brass? You like jazz?! Well get ready for some bombastic brass blown by barotone boys. This game’s soundtrack is like a California hillside in the middle of August: Lit. Every track is bouncy, full of BRASS, energetic and fits the level associated it. Even going as far as to giving each individual boss it’s own epic showdown track. I like that shit. I love that shit! And I think you will as well. The sound here is somewhat harder to critique, however. I’m not sure if I like it all that much. I think I do, but the game weaves the sound effects in and out so well that sometimes they almost seem to disappear into the background music entirely. But I think that’s what they were going for, honestly. The game has this mono sound to it, remenicent of how games on the Gameboy sounded. It certainly fits the style of the game, and adds furthermore to the A E S T H E T I C that Cuphead practically oozes. All together the music and sound effects all come together quite nicely, and even though it may sound odd at times, it fits the game well. Therefore I’d have to say that the presentation here as a whole is pretty top notch. We’re talking about some hella primo stuff here. Careful: It’s Hot!

Cuphead is primarily a boss rush game, bit it has a few gun and run levels sprinkled throughout as well. There’s a central overworld you explore, which opens up more to the player as the stages presented are completed. This game is hard, too. Like Kakuna spamming Harden hard. We’re talking some grade A level diamonds hard. It took me upwards of an hour and a half to complete just one boss fight. Not all of them took me that long, but all of them did leave me with a feeling of tremendous accomplishment upon completion. And that, to me at least, is worth the patience and concentration that some of these levels require. You also have the option of playing with one or two players. I live alone in a hut far off the coast of Madagascar though, so I had nobody to co-op with. Therefore I won’t be commenting on that topic. The gameplay is smooth. It’s slick, and responsive. Some platformers perform like a rental car that’s been around more than your local corner prostitute. Others perform like a sweet, sexy new ride you just purchased off the lot. Cuphead falls into the latter here, most definitely. The controls are simple enough, although they’re layed out somewhat uncomfortably on the controller. You have a button to shoot, a button to dodge, a button for your super ability, and a button to jump. Both movement and aiming are bound to the left stick, which for me, took a bit of getting used to. Once I got it down though, the game played very well. I was able to react in time to most attacks, and the ones I couldn’t avoid were usually followed up by me realizing how easily that damage could have been prevented. The game allows for a bit of customization as well, which becomes practically essential once you reach the later stages. You can equip a primary attack, a secondary, as well as a charm that allows for things like instant parrying or momentary invincibility when dashing. This adds a nice layer of depth to the game that isn’t overly complex or gimmicky.

I love this game. Everything about it to me is what I never knew I wanted in a game. Since it was announced at E3 a few years ago, I’ve had my eye on it. And so have thousands of other people. Now that it’s finally out, I’m more than happy to say it was worth the wait. The guys, gals, and any fourth demensional beings that worked on this game should give themselves a pat on the back. What they have created is something quite close to a masterpiece. It’s rare that I play a game that makes me want to revisit it after completion. There’s something about the setting, the warm, nostalgic vibe it gives off, and the retro gameplay found in Cuphead that envokes the feeling of childhood in me. I’ve more than enjoyed my time with it, and I’m going to keep enjoying it after this review. There’s a good chuck of content to eat through, and it’s all more than reasonably priced at a mere $20. 

Would I recommend it? Would I recommend Cuphead? Oh most certainly. I’d even go so far as to say it’s: Definitely worth full price.