Tag Archives: Xbox One

Jotun

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-1Games that throw huge bosses at players just feel epic. They instantly illicit a, “Yikes!” as battle begins. From there things evolve. First one runs around desperately trying not to get killed. The monstrosity in front of them is probably blasting stuff, smashing things, and barely giving players a moment to catch their breath. There’s a lot going on and there’s just this massive creature there that would like nothing better than put an end to players’ adventures.

Then something happens. Players start to figure out the patterns. At first one starts to discover the best way to dodge incoming attacks. Then openings to counterattack become noticeable. Suddenly, the player lands a blow on the boss. From there, momentum slowly begins to shift. Then, finally, after a pitched battle, the player emerges victories.

Of course this is simplifying things just slightly. It’s highly likely that players died several times and had to redo the battle. However, at some point they figured out what to do, and executed it reasonably well. Then they found their on screen alter ego standing over the corpse of a once terrifying boss. With that, a tremendous sense of satisfaction washes over the player, only to be yanked away as the process repeats on the next boss. That’s okay, though, because eventually the game will be completed, all the bosses dead, and those who finished this will be able to enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Even if one doesn’t finish the game, they’ll likely have the good sense to point at it and tell friends, “The fights in that game are epic!”

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-2Jotun is one such game that deserves these accolades. The game follows the story of a recently deceased viking woman named Thora. Her death was less than glorious and as a result she has to prove her mettle to the gods. Doing so will ensure her a place in Valhalla. The gods are fine with this, so they issue her a challenge. If she is able to defeat a number of Jotun, giants of viking mythology, they will grant her a place in paradise.

From there, players venture forth exploring a number of different worlds. The game is structured as half boss fights and half exploration / puzzle solving. First one must explore a couple of areas in the domain of a given Jotun. Here Thora will look for runes that open up the sealed door to the giant of that realm. She’ll also occasionally find fruit that will increase her health pool, as well as alters to various viking gods. When she comes across these alters, she is granted new abilities, which are quite helpful. The exploration and puzzle solving usually have little to no combat. It’s more about figuring out how to get all of the runes and power ups in the area. It makes for a slower pace, but is a nice counter balance to the extremely busy boss fights.

Meanwhile, fighting the actual Jotun is as epic and exciting as the little story at the start of this article implies. Seeing as the game is presented from an isometric view, it’s all about dashing in, getting in a few swings and getting out after. There will also be specific mechanics to engage in, but never get caught out. Doing so will likely result in a very large foot coming down on Thora’s head, or some other unpleasantly over-sized outcome that will take off a ton of health.

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-3These beings are giants after all, and the game really emphasizes it. When Thora engages one of these creatures, the camera pans out until she’s just a tiny little person on the screen. Often she barely comes up to the ankle of a Jotun. Seeing this is imposing enough as it is, but then the giant starts attacking.

From here it’s all about learning patterns, battle phases, and figuring out how and when to attack. Each boss will have multiple phases, so there’s a lot to sort out, but it’s very satisfying when one does. Battles are tough but fair. If a player dies, it’s clear it was because of something they did or didn’t do. Maybe they didn’t see an add. Perhaps they got greedy and tried to get in one too many swings with Thora’s ax when it was obvious the Jotun was about to attack. Another possibility is that one neglected to look for alters of the gods and / or fruit to make Thora stronger, and are now at a disadvantage in the fight.

The game is such, that it pretty much bombards players with opportunities for self-reflection when things go wrong. If a player dies a few times on a particular Jotun, the best thing to do is pay a little more attention in the fight. Make sure there isn’t anything that one is missing. Most players will have a eureka moment where they figure out what they need to do. Not long after that, the boss is usually dead, with the player sitting triumphantly in front of their monitor.

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-4With regards to graphics and music, they both add so much to the experience. Visually everything has been hand drawn frame-by-frame. The art style is reminiscent of cartoons from the 1970s with bold colors and just enough detail to add personality to the Jotun. They’re usually angry, or at least thoroughly annoyed that a mere human would have the nerve to poke them in the toe with her ax. Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack is fantastic. It’s all orchestral pieces with a mix of softer tunes for exploration areas. Here, it runs the gamut from the serene to the foreboding. When a boss fight commences, players are greeted with a cacophonous explosion of instruments that instantly signal that shit just got real.

People in the mood for some epic battles against giant bosses mixed with a nice serving of viking mythology would do well to take a look at Jotun. The battles really are fantastic. Even the exploration can be fun, not to mention relaxing. Meanwhile, the game looks and sounds amazing. All in all, it’s definitely worth a play.

Jotun is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG. It is also out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Switch.

Axiom Verge

axiom-verge-gameplay-screenshot-1When playing a metroidvania game, it can be fun trying to figure out how much either Metroid or Castlevania influenced it. In the case of Axiom Verge, that is easy to see. The game is very clearly a love letter to classic Metroid games. From its aesthetic to gameplay, it is a well put together homage to the classic Nintendo series.

The game follows a scientist named Trace who is caught in a lab accident that renders him unconscious. When he comes to, he finds himself on a strange new world with no idea how he got there. Before long, he meets an AI and agrees to help it defeat a mad scientist that is up to no good. After this, the plot thickens quite a bit as Trace recovers some of the memories that he lost due to the accident.

Right from the get go, players can see parallels with the early 8-bit Metroids. Graphically, Axiom Verge went for the same sort of simplified pixel graphics. The detail is greater than that found in classic NES games, but doesn’t quite take things to a fidelity on par with the 16-bit era. Some of the monsters have a similar feel to those found in Nintendo’s classic series as well. That being said, the environments in the game are dripping personality. It’s really exciting venturing to new areas, as it’s hard not to be curious what they’ll be like.

axiom-verge-gameplay-screenshot-2The game’s bosses are also a sight to behold. They’re imposing figures that fill up much of the screen. This is something that was common during the 8 and 16-bit eras, but largely went away for a very long time. It’s nice to see this sort of thing come back in Axiom Verge. Boss fights should be epic, larger than life battles. That’s exactly what we get here.

As one explores the world of Axiom Verge, it’s easy to see that it is a very large place with lots to explore. There are plenty of branching paths and tucked away places beckoning at the player. It’s easy to start thinking about what they may hold. Will there be a new gadget? Maybe a boss is down that path?

Of course, often times it will not be possible to venture down those roads immediately. There will be some sort of barrier blocking it, or it will be a jump too high, or the path will be too tiny for Trace. These are all instances where one is quickly reminded that they are indeed playing a Metroidvania and will need to discover a key item in order to go down that road. Nevertheless, there are constant hints of new opportunities to explore that will entice the player onward.

While doing this, it becomes apparent that the game is a bit more combat-oriented than others in the genre. It has a bit more of a run-and-gun feel to it. There are a lot of enemies that would like nothing better than take down Trace. As such, he’ll be spending a lot of time blasting these things to pieces. He has a decent-sized rifle to start, and gains new types of shots as one progresses. From there it’s up to players to swap out weapon types as situations dictate.

axiom-verge-gameplay-screenshot-3Then there are the gadgets that give Trace new abilities. There are a bunch of these, such as a lab coat that allows Trace to pass through solid objects, as well as a nifty grappling hook. One particularly fun piece of kit that he gets is a little remote controlled drone. It’s a tiny robot that walks on four legs and has a laser for fighting enemies.

This little guy is used to enter areas too small for Trace. These can be simple corridors with a switch on the other side to open a door. Other times, it could lead to a series of rooms crawling with enemies ready to attack the drone. Usually, in this situation, there is some useful item at the end of all this. If the drone is destroyed, it de-materializes and players return to Trace. This doesn’t mean that the drone is gone forever, though. It can be redeployed, but players need to start all over again in the area they are trying to explore with it.

The game provides a good challenge. Players need to figure out where to go next, remembering old areas that may later be explorable. The sheer number of enemies and obstacles necessitate one being on their toes if they don’t want to get killed. Meanwhile, boss fights are extremely exciting not just because these things are so big, but they also have some interesting patterns for players to figure out.

With all of the Metroidvania games to come along in recent years, there is a lot to choose from currently. One needn’t fear choice paralysis, however. Axiom Verge is an excellent place to start when delving into these games. It’s easily one of the best of the bunch. The game offers tons of exploration coupled with fast-paced action. It has an interesting story with some nice twists. It’s graphics and sound are a nice homage to early Metroid games and other titles of the 8 and 16-bit era. The game just does so many things so very well. People interested in delving into the genre for a bit should seriously consider picking up Axiom Verge.

Axiom Verge is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam, as well as PlayStation 4, XboxOne, and Switch.

Pig Eat Ball

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-1There will be one big challenge in this write up of Pig Eat Ball. Can words adequately convey what the game is? Or will the the images in this article better explain what the game is all about? So, here we go.

Let’s begin with story. That’s as good a place as any to start. Players take control of a space pig named Bow. Her father is the king of the space station that she lives on and feels Bow is at the age where she aught to marry. With that he has begun a competition for the eligible bachelors of the space station. Whoever wins will get to marry Bow. Of course, Bow is none too pleased about this. So, she decides to enter the contest herself in disguise. Her hope is that if she wins she’ll be able to get out of her situation.

With that, players embark on a journey through the various sectors of the space station. Here they’ll find the different stages scattered about, easily identifiable by large space clams. Bow must complete the challenges that they set out for her. When she successfully does this, they will give her a pearl.

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-2Many of the tasks given to Bow will involve collecting tennis balls. She gathers these by wandering around, sucking them up, and storing them in her belly. The difficulty here is that these make her fat. She’s already quite plump, but after gobbling up a few of these balls, she’ll become too big to get through narrow passages. If players want to slim her down to get through, they’ll need to make use of the barf button.

Yes, there’s a barf button. It’s actually extremely important. Using it will cause Bow to vomit up whatever tennis balls she has consumed, blasting them out in a spray of green slime. It makes a huge mess, but that’s just the way things go. Once she’s walked through the narrow area, she can suck up the balls again. However, it’s better to wait a few seconds for the vomit to drip off of them. If players rush and wind up making Bow consume three vomit-drenched balls, she’ll feel sick and throw up again. So, patience is key here.

Throwing up isn’t just useful for getting through tight spots. It’s also a weapon. The stages often have enemies that want to do harm to Bow. These aren’t exactly the safest places in the world. Luckily, she can barf on them. This will usually hold them in place or slow them down for a while as they are covered in goopy green bile. So, as one can see, vomit is a multi-purpose tool on Bow’s path to victory.

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-4Stages feel like something right out of an 80s or 90s arcade game in terms of layout. There will be all sorts of obstacles in the way of Bow and the tennis balls that she needs to collect. There are the aforementioned narrow spots. There’s enemies lurking about. There are one-way paths. There are spiky things that you don’t want to come into contact with. The game also has a number of areas where Bow can use her suction to attract a ball, but needs to lead it through a puzzle-like labyrinth in order to actually get to it. Some stages go for something completely different too. For instance, there’s a sandwich making level. Another is themed around bowling. There are also boss stages with giant, over-the-top enemies to defeat. These things are even more over-the-top than whatever players have experienced up to that point. That’s really saying something.

The game also makes references to several classic arcade games with its level design. Players will likely spot the obvious ones right away like Pac Man and Q-Bert. Others may take a little while to recognize depending on how knowledgeable one is about these games.

Stages also award players on how well they are completed. As such, there is plenty of motivation to replay them and trying to get a first place gold medal in every challenge. Each stage has clever, efficient ways to complete them. It’s actually quite satisfying figuring these out.

If players tire of playing the stages already present in Pig Eat Ball, there’s even a level editor. With that people can create their own stages, or just play levels created by the community. This opens the door to a bottomless pit of stages to keep people busy.

The game even supports a party mode for four-player local multiplayer. With that, the door is open to rigorous vomiting with friends. In a virtual setting anyway. The logistics for real life group vomiting would probably be a nightmare.

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-4Pig Eat Ball‘s aesthetic really helps to cement the zaniness of the game. This is seen first and foremost in the character design. Right from the opening scene, players are introduced to Bow’s father. He has a cake for a head and a personality not all that dissimilar to the King of All Cosmos. It certainly sets the tone for the game. Players are later introduced to the king’s guards. These guys also have cakes for heads. There are the peculiar-looking clams, too. It would also seem that there are a number of mischievous pill bugs with a penchant for tennis milling around the station. On top of this, the color scheme and level of detail in the visuals helps everything really pop off the screen. It’s very similar to the bright colors so common in classic arcade games.

Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack is lighthearted and upbeat. It has a lot of memorable tunes and they’re easy to get stuck in one’s head. They all do a lot to bring that arcade game feel to the forefront.

It can be very hard to make a video game that is meant to come off as weird and over the top, but also not seem contrived. Pig Eat Ball does this very well. It’s visual style and characters are endearing, while gameplay is entertaining, silly, requires some thought, and is just an overall good time. People looking for something well off the beaten path would do well to try this game out. It’s easily one of the most unusual, yet enjoyable titles to come along in a very long time.

Pig Eat Ball is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and Itch.io, as well as  PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Way of the Passive Fist

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-1Beat ’em ups are a genre of game that really took off about 30 years ago. Games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom, and scores of others were being devoured by people who couldn’t get enough of punching and kicking baddies in the face. Then the genre fell off the face of the earth for a while. In recent years, these games have enjoyed a bit of a return to glory. All sorts of passion projects have come along reminding people how fun it is to clobber virtual street thugs.

As entertaining as all of this is, Way of the Passive Fist takes a very different approach. Here, players don’t punch and kick their way to victory. Instead they block and and dodge attacks until enemies become exhausted. When this happens, a simple poke is all that’s needed to defeat them. The game very much takes a “the best offense is a good defense” approach to how it plays.

The game takes place on the planet Zircon V. It attracted a lot of ambitious colonists eager to strike it rich mining up all of the planet’s valuable resources. However, there were some who warned that the planet was too close to the sun. As such, they feared that this would create incredibly harsh conditions on the planet. Upon arriving, colonists were greeted with the hard truth that Zircon V is a desolate wasteland and living there will be tough.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-2Amidst all of this, the player takes control of a legendary hermit known as the Wanderer. He’s been living by himself in a remote part of the planet and is known for his unusual defensive fighting style. Only now has he emerged to fight the various raiders and other troublemakers of the planet in an attempt to make Zircon V a slightly less terrible place to live.

The art style in Way of the Passive Fist is somewhat reminiscent of cartoons from the 70s and 80s. Character designs have a fairly Mad Max-like look to them. Meanwhile, levels themselves are varied ranging from deserts to mines to exotic jungles among other locales. The sprite work in the game is quite nice, and it manages to set itself apart from other games that use a pixelated presentation. The soundtrack is also very well done with much of the music being guitar-driven. Listening to the music, it feels just like something one would hear from an arcade beat ‘em up circa 1990.

Actual combat is the meat of the game, though, and as was mentioned earlier, it is very unique. While standard beat ‘em ups commonly have crowds of enemies swarm players, this isn’t the case in Way of the Passive Fist. Doing so would break the game. Instead enemies will take turns trying to attack the Wanderer. With that, they’ll give audio and visual cues that they are about to attack, then players need to block and dodge appropriately. As the game progresses, these enemies get smarter and will try to fake out the player. This usually happens with an audio cue, but a delayed attack. So, players need to watch out for this. As attacks are avoided, a stamina bar above enemies’ heads is depleted. Once it is empty, they are exhausted and all the player need do is poke them once to defeat them.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-3Even though players largely deal with enemies one at a time, they need to keep an eye out for ranged attacks and environmental hazards. These can still happen, and may require dashing away in order to avoid being hit by something, breaking a parry chain. These chains are important because they build meter. As the meter fills, increasingly powerful special attacks become available. With them comes a risk-reward system as players need to decide when best to utilize these attacks. These attacks are also necessary for inflicting damage on bosses, so building and maintaining parry chains is very important.

At its core, the game has a 10 chapter story mode. However, there are also additional chapters that are unlocked after completing the main game. Completing the initial game also unlocks a roguelite mode. There players take on all manner of additional battles, surviving as best they can.

As unusual as Way of the Passive Fist might sound, the game is a ton of fun. It takes some getting used to blocking and dodging attacks. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to the cues and adjusting as enemies try to confuse the player. Once the player gets a handle on this, blocking and dodging one’s way to victory is quite enjoyable, not to mention a humorous change of pace from basically every other beat ‘em up on the market.

Way of the Passive Fist is available for Xbox One, PS4, as well as PC.