Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Frost" Review

Dressed with minimalistic monochrome backgrounds, "Frost" is a card deck management game meant for methodical, cerebral gaming sessions that provide a break from action-oriented fare.

Without a compelling story backing up the organizing, "Frost" would amount to a stolid game of solitaire. But the writers came to play, crafting a saga of a lonely struggle against the elements.

With the frost ever nipping at your extremities, you lead a group of nomads through a trek in an arduous tundra. Wolves and cannibals stalk you as you struggle in an "Oregon Trail"-like voyage of attrition, maximizing minimal resources to stave off hunger and fatigue.

You feel a little something like Jon Snow leading the Wildlings on an ill-advised march north of the wall.

"Frost" may leave you feeling as lonely and resourceless as your characters, but it does manage to fulfill you with a robust challenge and compelling endgame. The icy "Frost" is a chill way to stave off summer heat on the Switch.
Publisher provided review code.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Report: "The Shining"

The Shining (The Shining, #1)The Shining by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first three quarters of this book are jaw-dropping. The final quarter is a silly, bizarre rush job. King seemed to focus so much on crafting his characters and setup, conjuring gorgeously poetic writing that tore into the souls of his tortured characters, that he had nothing left in the tank to fashion an endgame.

Taken as a whole, the book is better than the movie in most ways, but falls short of the cinematic adaptation in the categories of narrative cohesion, terrifyingly haunting payoffs and iconic moments. The ball-bouncing twins and "Here's Johnny" Kool-Aid Man moment were all Kubrick.

King is always revered as a storyteller, but rarely praised for his poetic eloquence. The majority of this book is a collection of moving and exasperating short stories that build his characters and their quandaries in an inspired manner. He searches out themes of alcoholism, abuse and pre-middle age ennui that cut to the marrow.

The demons King builds up inside of Jack Torrance are meant to blow their tops as much as the heavy-handed metaphor of the boiler that festers in the bowels of the Overlook Hotel. The transformation from troubled recovering alcoholic and professional failure to sadistic madman, though, could have been more convincing -- or at least less jarring and forced.

The showdown with the possessed hedge animals is head-scratchingly absurd, and the final battle is like something out of a sloppy 1980s video game. When the Overlook takes its inevitable fall, it does so just as King has decimated the glorious story he set up. "The Shining" is a brush with greatness that self-sabotages when it might have soared.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

"Runbow" Switch Review

One of the few indie bright spots on the oft-neglected Wii U was the 2015 sensation "Runbow," a party-friendly platformer that tasked players to time jumps to shifting color palettes that made platforms disappear and reappear.

An upgraded version hit the 3DS, and now the game continues its natural path along the Nintendo pipeline, popping up on the Switch -- as well as the PS4 -- in what could be called its definitive form.

Although its base campaign is solid, multiplayer is where the game truly takes flight. Jockeying for vanishing platforms and anticipating when and where they will rematerialize in order to get the drop on as many as seven other local opponents is unending fun.

With hundreds of levels to romp around in, "Runbow" provides a staggering level of content to romp through. The bright, frenetic backgrounds are a joy to traverse, providing a strong sense of reward for creative solutions you conjure on the fly.

Longtime Nintendo fans may already own the game on one of its previous platforms, but those who have put the dated systems to rest will feel the urge to plunge in once more, grabbing the game in its finest form to date to taste the "Runbow" once again.

Publisher provided review code.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

"Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy" Switch Review

For the last decade, Crash Bandicoot had devolved into the Pauly Shore of gaming icons, having lost his relevancy and become more of a historical curiosity than an enduring gaming icon.

That all changed last year with the release of "Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy," which remade the three original PlayStation games from the ground up, using the original assets as guidelines rather than porting them over.

After a year of PlayStation 4 exclusivity, the trilogy has dropped on the Xbox One and the Switch. The latter is perhaps the most inspired landing space for the compilation, because the game seems naturally broken up into bite-sized missions geared to be played on the go.

The games retain the feel and hints of the looks of the originals, but are more user-friendly and evolved than their ancient counterparts, which were burdened with interminable load times and a haphazard save system.

The remade trilogy plays more smoothly and faster than ever before, with the spirit of the originals remaining intact. The jumps, collectibles and combat all combine to make as appealing a package as ever.

While "Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy" may pave the way for the hero's re-emergence on the gaming scene in the form of a true sequel, it also hails as a love letter to the franchise's past, and a more innocent, unassuming time for the platformer genre. Playing the old games in new form feels like looking at a rose-colored rear-view mirror.
Publisher provided review code.

Monday, July 02, 2018

"The Crew 2" Review

Whether by land, air or sea, "The Crew 2" is filled with ways for you to seek racing and trick-executing thrills as you seek to amass followers and rise to fame.

The motif has you as a fledgling multidisciplinary racer who takes part on a reality show. With fans gawking at your every move, the setup feels like a benevolent version of the all-consuming social network that enslaves the populace in Ubisoft's "Watch Dogs" series.

With four years to refine and add on to concepts from the original, the dev team at Ivory Tower has taken intensive care to fill in the holes left by the 2014 original, which tended to devolve into progress bottlenecks, with little inducement to return other than a compulsive completionism.

With loads of unlockable courses, boats and aircraft models to unlock, there's always a reason to plunge back into the fray. Everything you do on the track contributes to your ongoing quest to tack onto your fame.

The visuals, sound and presentation get ample upgrades, making it even tougher to go back to the original. If you were a fan of "The Crew," you'll find the sequel superior in just about every way.

If you tried "The Crew" and lost interest, you'll find the newer game much tougher to peel away from and all but impossible to trade in. A vibrant, vital effort that fulfills your racing needs on several fronts, "The Crew 2: is an all-around impressive effort that makes you feel the thrills and speeds it seeks to simulate.
Publisher provided review code.

"No Heroes Here" Review

The Brazilian indie dynamo "No Heroes Here" may sound like a sequel to "No More Heroes," but it's nothing of the sort.

A tower defense hybrid set inside a 2D castle, you scramble to plug the caps, fortify defenses and distribute blockades in order to keep marauding enemies at bay.

Either solo or with as many as three friends in co-op, you venture into the playfield and set out to stave off all comers. With 54 castles distributed among nine kingdoms, there are plenty of adjustments you'll need to make to maintain your defenses.

There's a normal mode to get you acquainted with the game's functions and challenges, as well as a Nightmare mode that throws everything the game's got at you, forcing you to put everything you've used into action in order to survive the onslaught.

With ample balance and an intriguing slate of skills to learn, execute, refine and master, "No Heroes Here" loads you up with heavy, rewarding challenges that prove soccer and coffee aren't Brazil's only imports to reckon with.
Publisher provided review code.