Operation Hardcore

Review by Courtney

Developed and Published by Cosmocat

Available on Switch, Steam, and the developer’s website

$12.99 on Switch, $4.99 on Steam, $4.99 on Dev Website

Released on October 16th 2016 for PC, and June 8th 2018 for Switch

Operation Hardcore follows the story of a character that sets out to do something about the current alien invasion the world is suffering from. It can be played alone, or with local co-op. The game is a relatively simple side scrolling platformer with various upgrades and weapons.

The game has a bit of a B movie humor style, with the cut scenes saying things like your character set out with only the essentials, and showing a bottle of whiskey on a table. It’s got a pretty cute pixel style, and the controls feel fairly smooth on the switch.

I think this game would be something fun to play with friends, but I don’t know how much enjoyment a solo player would get out of it. For the price, it’s ok. But this feels like a game I’ve played before. We’ve all played the side scrolling shooters with upgrades. And while, objectively, there’s nothing wrong with the game, there isn’t much that really drew me in either. The one major upside is definitely the humor, which the game has plenty of.

Personally, if you’re looking to buy this game for your switch, I would recommend waiting for a sale. The game can also be bought directly through the developer’s website or on steam for $5. As of writing this article, until November 2nd, the game is actually $1.24 on steam for sale. I think that’s a great grab for something to play around with friends.

Overall, this game is just fine. Nothing terrible, nothing stunning. I had fun with my son, but we weren’t super compelled to 100% anything.

For these reasons, my rating is 5/10.

Neighbors Back From Hell

Review by Courtney

Developed by Farbworks, THQ Nordic

Published by HandyGames

Available on Xbox, Steam and Switch and PS4 for 14.99

Released October 8th 2020

Neighbors Back From Hell is a remastered compilation of the both the original Neighbors From Hell and the sequel. There is four seasons with with a total of 25 levels, or episodes as they are called. With many pranks to pull off against the neighbor in a sort of slapstick comedy way.

The gameplay itself starts off fairly simple, with the pranks being things like tossing soap on the floor for the neighbor to slip in, or plugging his toilet. The later levels become more complex, adding more mechanics like a parrot that will alert of your presence.

With a push of a button you can toggle back and forth between your character and checking to see where the neighbor is so you avoid getting caught. Each level you have three lives, with the neighbor beating you up if he catches you.

The game is pretty simple fun, and figuring out some of the pranks and what would happen is a nice little puzzle. The graphics have a really nice nostalgia appeal to them.

That being said, I do have a couple of complaints. One thing I really wished for throughout playing was some sort of skip or fast forward button. When the neighbor catches you, you have to watch a little cutscene where he beats you up. This gets pretty old after about the third time it happens. I feel like it would really benefit from either shortening the animation, or making it skippable. There was also a lot just dead time in the game waiting for certain pranks to come to fruition while I say, waited for the neighbor to come to the bathroom. A fast forward button would be a nice asset. But this being a remastered version of an older game, I understand if that’s not possible. I also noticed a lot of the pranks are just repeats and you can do the same prank over and over. It would be fun if there was a little more variety.

Overall, I think this is a decent little fun puzzle with plenty of nostalgia, especially if you enjoyed the games before the remaster. For these reasons, my rating is a 6/10.

Space Crew

Review by Courtney

Developed by Runner Duck

Published by Curve Digital

Available on Steam, Xbox, PS4, Switch for $19.99

Released on October 15th 2020

Space Crew is a strategic space combat game in which you take control of a crew and helm the ship on missions to explore outer space. You control the action, from telling your crew where to shoot and putting out any fires that may start on board when under attack.

The game itself is a bit of an homage to star trek, with the starting uniforms looking awfully familiar. But I wouldn’t get too attached to your crewmates, as many of them sadly will be lost in battle through out the missions.

The missions vary from retrieving cargo to simply trying to kill every enemy you see, with various upgrades for your crew and ship becoming available. The gameplay itself is fairly simple, having you select different crew and directing them where to go. The game also allows you to either slow down or speed up time depending on whether or not there are enemies nearby.

Personally, these kind of games are a bit overwhelming to me. I struggle to find a rhythm to keep my poor crew from all dropping dead. But there is still a definite charm to the game, from the art style to the sound effects. I’m somewhat familiar with the previous title, Bomber Crew, and always thought that game was very cute as well.

If you enjoy strategy and management, and you’re interested in space I think this game will definitely appeal to you.

One of my only serious complaints is that the controls, especially with a controller can be a bit difficult. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it does feel a bit counterintuitive at times.

Other than that, I think this game is pretty fun. And I’m certain a lot of people will get enjoyment out of it. For these reasons, my rating is a 6/10.

Going Under

Review by Courtney

Developed by Agrro Crab

Published by Team17 Digital

Available for $19.99 on Steam, Xbox, Switch and PS4

Released September 24th 2020

Going Under is a satirical dungeon crawler about failed tech start up companies.

The game begins with you playing as a young woman interning at a meal replacement company. You are told to go into the basement and solve the goblin issue below. The game relies a lot on millennial humor and sarcasm, and most of it lands pretty successfully humor wise. It’s jokes you’ve heard before, but they still manage to be fairly entertaining.

The gameplay itself is mostly straightforward, with similarities to other roguelikes. Each level provides a challenge, with skills and tasks to complete to unlock new things. The controls are smooth, and the game play is fun. Have you played things similar before? Yes. I would say there isn’t too much that really stands out as unique or spectacular about Going Under. The story is funny, the gameplay is fun, and the graphics are interesting and well done.

That is not to say that I don’t recommend the game. I think many people would find it quite fun. It plays well, and even has its own customizable difficulty settings. I fiddled around with the game with and without these assistances, and I think their addition is great. It allows people… like myself… that aren’t so fantastic at roguelikes still enjoy the story.

Overall, I think this game is a definite winner. It’s not knocking anything out of the park, but it is doing the roguelike genre well. For these reasons, my rating is 7/10.

GORSD

Review by Courtney

Developed and Published by Springloaded

Available on Xbox, PC, PS4, and Switch for 16.99

Released on September 18th 2020

GORSD is an arena battle game with with lots of intense speed and tactics. In a universe with difficult challenges created by an unknown power, your character sets forth to solve the mystery.

When first beginning to play GORSD, one may be a bit… baffled. The unique art style, and mysterious story certainly left me immediately intrigued. You begin as a small octopus looking creature that… well, births out from an eyeball of sorts. You wander about a bit looking for more answers. And soon realize that you’re in sort of an overworld for level selection. The real gameplay revolves around little battle arenas. In the single player mode, the enemies are NPCs, obviously. But the game does offer up to 4 player couch co-op.

The style of arena themselves vary. There is eight different modes set across seventy different maps. The single player campaign is only about seven hours total, but with plenty of couch co-op to play, this isn’t a bad thing. The basic concept mostly revolves around trying to fill in the level with your character’s color, and killing the other players who are trying to also fill it in before you. There is a good bit of strategy involved, and honestly, I wasn’t particularly good at it. My son beat me every level we played.

But to me, the most interesting thing about GORSD is the mystery. Solving the story behind the different deities presented to your character, and what exactly your character is doing is pretty fun. There’s nothing I love more than some unique lore.

Overall, I found GORSD a pretty fascinating game. Challenging, punishing, but so intriguing you find yourself not wanting to give up just yet, even with the massive defeat screen taunting you at each failure.

I can’t really say that I have many true complaints about this game. It’s…. vague, and extremely hard. And at times so frustrating I almost gave up. But, I think that’s the idea.

At 16.99, and with the amount of levels and replayability with different friends, this game is honestly worth checking out. And I am extremely intrigued to see what these developers might make in the future. For these reasons, my rating is a 8/10.

Paradise Killer

Review by Courtney

Developed by Kaizen Game Works

Published by Fellow Traveller

Released September 4th 2020

Available on Steam and Nintendo Switch for $19.99

Paradise Killer is a surreal, vaporwave detective game that takes place in a world outside reality. You play as Lady Love Dies, a woman that has been in exile until she is summoned to solve a terrible crime. You can interrogate various characters around the island, and examine scenes for clues. There’s also a handful of side quests, and tons of collectibles.

But where Paradise Killer truly shines for me is the world building and the overall aesthetic. The game really nails its vaporwave imagery, and the lore is beyond fascinating to me. I was super excited each time I found a new collectible, or even just a statue with a plaque on it that had a bit more information about the island. When I saw at one point in the game there was a library, I was beyond excited to be able to read the books. I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t!

Every character you meet is intriguing, and finding more info to ask them new questions certainly can be fun. I loved the way all of them looked, and I really loved the little description given by Lady Love Dies’ computer, Starlight when you first meet someone. I think Crimson Acid might’ve been my most favorite.

The game allows for open world exploration, and there is various fast travel points through out the relatively large map. Advancing the case and having those little aha! moments when you solved a clue was really satisfying at times.

The music for the game is absolutely fantastic, and I really appreciate that you can control what songs play with Starlight. It was also really fun to collect more songs though out the map, and I felt like it really added a lot to the atmosphere.

I have a few minimal complaints that keep this game from being absolute 10/10 for me. One, despite being open world, the game does feel a bit too linear at times. The map is also rather empty, though I do understand that that actually is a plot point. The island should be empty, its talked about quite frequently. But some areas just felt so… lifeless. Again, one could argue that’s intentional I suppose.

However, I rarely find a game where the world and the lore draws me in so intensely and immediately. I really did just want to know more, constantly. Paradise Killer is unique. As someone that generally doesn’t play many detective style games, I found myself having a blast.

For these reasons, my rating is a 9/10.

Caretaker

Review by Courtney

Developed by Baris Tarimcioglu

Published by PulseTenseGames

Available on Steam, PS4, Xbox and Switch for $7.99

Released in 2019 for other platforms, released July 16th 2020 for Switch

Caretaker is a first person horror game in which you play a journalist investigating a story about a local caretaker that has went mad and killed his coworkers. The unfortunate thing is, if you took away the paragraph of text that is shown at the start of the game, you’d never know that.

I’m always excited to play new horror games, and I went into Caretaker very hopeful. Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of horror games that have just missed the mark. And despite all my praying, I think Caretaker is one of those.

That is not to say there is no redeeming qualities. I do think the game has some potential. And I hate to bash anything made by one person. It’s certainly a challenge to make a game alone, and horror, in my opinion is one of the most difficult genres to land successfully. I think Caretaker kind of plays more like a tech demo than a fully realized game. There is some interesting scenery, and the gameplay isn’t atrocious. The stealth moments can be fun and tense at times. And the enemy design is really interesting.

But the game is just bogged down by some major issues I just couldn’t overlook.

The game itself is maybe only about an hour or two long, depending on if you want to count restarting because you’ve died. And the caretaker doesn’t even show up until about halfway through the game. When he does show up, it is a bit startling, but the novelty of him wears off due to how many times you’ll end up dying to him. The problem in any horror game is the more times you have to interact with a scary thing, the less scary it becomes. Making it so the caretaker essentially traps you with one hit, and your character’s feet suddenly become cement blocks while he slowly beats you to death over and over just… doesn’t work for me. I think an easy way to improve this would be to make it so he chases you down a hallway after you pick up the item you need to proceed, and then close the door and he’s gone until you open the next door. The stealth elements seem like a great idea, and they were tense at times, but they also ended up being frustrating and unscary.

Another big problem I had is how much just down time the game has. The map is pretty massive, and many of the areas are just… empty. You can collect different collectibles, but it’s hard to even see what they are. The first half of the game also has zero scary things happening. I think there’s two jumpscares that can happen if you pick up an item, but if you just leave it sit, the only scary thing in the whole game is the caretaker chasing you, and some blood on the walls.

I think this developer has some potential, and I would love to see more from them in the future, I’ve seen many indie horror devs grow and change over time into something great. The best example I can think of is the Timore dev.

Caretaker is a game that absolutely had potential. But I can’t say that I recommend it outside of maybe trying to get some Xbox achievements.

For these reasons, my rating is a 3/10.

Giraffe and Annika

Review by Courtney

Developed by atelier mimina

Published by PLAYISM

Available on Steam, Xbox, PS4 and Switch

19.99 on Steam, 29.99 on Consoles

In this action adventure title, you take control of Annika, a cat eared little girl trying to get her memories back whilst exploring a beautiful mysterious world. With mechanics such as platforming, rhythm mini games, and dungeon exploring, the game certainly has a lot of variety. There’s a ton of charm and cute humor every where you look, and Annika is a fun and likable protagonist. The game itself is at times so pretty to look at, and I occasionally did just stop and go Ooooh! when out adventuring.

But for me, the problems of this game were really in equal measure to all the positives. And there’s plenty of both, in my opinion.

The most glaring issue Giraffe and Annika seems to suffer from is indecision. It really feels like the developers wanted to make like four different games. Because of this, none of the features really shine. Everything is at best, pretty decent, and at worse, pretty bad. The strongest point for Giraffe and Annika is just the cute story. There isn’t much to it, but the characters, the world, everything is just pleasantly cute. There really isn’t much depth to the lore, or deep knowledge to be had. But its cute. It also at times, sometimes manages to look rather ugly. I remember one instance where the mother rabbit came out of her house to speak to me, and I actually jumped because her face looked so distorted and weird at first. It’s so funny because later I took a screenshot of her and the father rabbit because they looked so cute. It’s like sometimes the game just…. slips into uncanny valley territory. I don’t know what it is.

The entire game is just… half good half bad, and its a weird experience.

The rhythm mini games in the dungeons are pretty fun, but there’s just not many of them. The second one in particular with the giant crab was super adorable. But because its just shoved in with the other aspects of the game, they never really feel like a huge mechanic.

The platforming is probably the worst part of the game. I nearly quit a few times just due to the physics and controls being just. Bad. The other unfortunate mechanic is swimming. Neither of them felt fun to me, and provided me with more frustration.

I almost think what the game needs is just… less. Remove the platforming, simplify the swimming, make the game more about the story and the world. Then I think it would be a perfect game to reccomend to people who want to try some different games and haven’t played many. Or maybe younger kids. But with the platforming, I think that would frustrate or chase newer players away.

I really appreciate all of the collectibles around the map, and even though the idea of it unlocking art made by fans (maybe kickstarter backers… I’m not sure?) is cute, I kinda wish it had unlocked more lore and world building. Maybe add the art to the museum as you collect lore bits?

I feel like this review is mostly me complaining. So I should clarify. This game actually is pretty fun! I mostly liked my experience with it. Annika is so cute, and the cat puns are purrfect.

This really does seem like an ambitious project, and I am truly excited to see where the developer goes next.

For these reasons, my rating is 6/10.

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

Review by Courtney

Developed by Ovid Works

Published by All in! Games

Release date 8/12/2020

Available on Steam, Xbox for $24.99

Metamorphosis is a platforming puzzler based on various works by Franz Kakfa, mostly The Metamorphosis and The Trial. The game is a surreal, absurd story in which the main character awakens and realizes he has become an insect. He has to traverse many areas and solve some puzzles to hopefully return to his former self.

The game combines fun platforming with puzzle solving throughout. The main character, Gregor, may have to do such things as leap inside an alarm clock to try and wake his sleeping friend. The controls felt quite nice, and I didn’t feel like there was any struggles to figure out how to achieve the platforming. The puzzles are pretty clever, and I enjoyed that they weren’t always super straightforward. I really did have to think about it at times.

If you do not enjoy surreal or absurdist things, or are not at all familiar with Kafka’s work, I think it is definitely possible you won’t like this game. When researching, I saw more than a few people complain about the dialogue being weird, or the story not making much sense. I would argue that that makes the game quite accurate to its source material. But I also understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

However, I do admit I have a few complaints about the game. The main issue being a problem with the Xbox One edition. The framerate, at times, is utterly atrocious. To the point of me struggling to even complete the game. It also hard crashed my xbox twice. It is in desperate need of an optimization patch. There was times I had to pause and give myself a few minutes before continuing because the choppiness honestly made me feel seasick. This is a huge bummer to me, because I really was enjoying the game. I would love to see an optimization patch at some point, and I think it would really benefit the game overall.

The other complaint I have is a much smaller one. I do feel the price may be a bit steep for the length of the game. With a full completion taking maybe four hours, and some finishing it faster, I don’t know if I would buy it at the price it is currently at. I definitely wouldn’t if they don’t fix the framerate issues. I will say the game does have pretty fantastic graphics, smooth controls, and a witty, interesting plot. Maybe I’m just being a bit cheap.

This is a game that I think is absolutely close to amazing. It just feels a little bit unfinished. For these reasons, my rating is 6/10. But… if that optimization patch ever comes… I’ll definitely bump the score up.

The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines

Review by Courtney

Developed by tinyDino Games

Published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild

Released August 13th 2020

Available on Xbox One, Steam, and Nintendo Switch for $14.99

The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines is a fantasy twin stick shooter that features the ability to stop time. You play as Gregor, a new member of the Eternal Fellowship. Unfortunately, just as you are beginning to learn your new abilities, disaster strikes, and the capital city Tamaris is destroyed. Gregor sets out to find out who is responsible and help any way he can.

The Ambassador offers fifty five levels with different environments, enemies, and challenges. The combat is a challenging mix of strategy and intense action with the mix of different weapons and using the time stopping ability to dodge attacks. There is a wide variety of different equipment from armor to trinkets designed to give you different buffs and abilities.

Considering just how many twin stick shooters there are out there, I really feel like they have to do something unique to stand out. I’ve played quite a few over the last couple years. And most of them are just… okay. It’s not my favorite genre to begin with, and a lot of them rely on the same tropes and style. How many zombies taking over the city while the badass 80’s style protagonist mows them down have I seen over the years? A lot. So the idea of a fantasy twin stick shooter caught my eye a bit. Something a bit different at least.

When I first loaded the game up, the main menu was instantly appealing to me. I really enjoy the overall style and sound design of the game. I appreciate the things like the different weapon animations, and the unique enemy attacks. There’s a lot of care put into this game, and you really get the impression it’s a labor of love. tinyDino and the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild are a small team, and I think its pretty apparent they poured their heart into this game.

The story is well written, humorous at times, and feels well fleshed out. There’s various hidden lore books throughout the levels, and the fact that there actually is a story and lore is fantastic. Too many games of this genre tend to rely on the action and just don’t do much story wise. Even if the gameplay isn’t a style I gravitate towards, the story kept me intrigued.

All in all, I don’t have much to say in the negative about this game. I think it’s pretty difficult, even on the assisted mode, but I feel like that’s completely ok if that’s how they want the game to be. If you want a challenge, I think you’ll be satisfied with it. The length of the game for the price seems pretty fair, but I will say there isn’t much of a reason to replay once you’ve finished. However, there is a horde mode that unlocks once you’re done with the campaign. Which is a nice touch.

Overall, I think this is a pretty stand out title in the genre, and I think a lot of people will really enjoy it. For these reasons, my rating is 9/10.