Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Boxing Champs" Review


Boxing games, be them arcade-style or serious sims, are rare to the point of near-extinction these days. With the "Fight Night" and "Punch-Out" series having gone on indefinite hiatus for nearly a decade, there was a massive opening for a new contender.

"Boxing Champs" takes advantage of the opportunity with a flurry of jabs and uppercuts. With far more in common with "Punch-Out" than "Fight Night," its cartoonish characters take big swings, bite the canvas hard and get back up with a "Rocky"-style gusto.

Despite the exaggerated animations, rapidfire punches, counterpunches and blocks, there is quite a bit of strategy nad technical mastery at play. With multiple, simultaneous control options available, you can adapt your technique to whatever feels right to your style.

Outrageous character models, names and mannerisms draw joyous inspiration from the likes of Glass Joe and Piston Honda. You'll need to adjust your playstyle to the various exaggerated techniques of your opponents, turning each match into a pseudo puzzle.

Australian dev Raz Games sweetens the deal with dozens of customization options, an extensive career mode and a swift tempo, thanks to three-round bouts.

Couch multiplayer comes day one, with online multiplier promised in a future update. While I'm never a fan of a game releasing without its full intended feature set, there is plenty to sink your gloves into before the update comes along.

"Boxing Champs" may not make people forget about either "Punch-Out" or "Fight Night," but until Nintendo or EA find the ability to pull their franchises off the canvas, "Boxing Champs" gets to raise its gloves in undisputed triumph.


Publisher provided review code.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Citizens of Space" Review


"Citizens of Space" is a game for control freaks. Built to give you a grand sense of power and command -- all while maintaining an easygoing sense of humor -- as you flex your muscles in strength, creativity and ingenuity.

Developer Eden Industries follows up the acclaimed "Citizens of Earth" (2015) with a bigger, bolder follow-up that expands on the concepts of the original while embracing new frontiers.

You hop from one planet to the next, engaging in satisfying combat while keeping your charges happy. The larger metagame builds as you advance, making you feel like you're a master of your destiny.

Earth has gone missing, and it's up to you and your ragtag group of minions to track down the pieces and reassemble them, uncovering the mystery of why it went missing to begin with.

There are 40 characters to choose from, and you can mix and match your party to suit your preferences. Micromanaging isn't as much of a factor as it was in the first game, with preset tendencies freeing you up to focus on the big picture.

While some may crave may miss the depth and intensive involvement of "Citzens of Earth," the new effort should manage to please most fans while drawing in a new audience, helping the series forge ahead. "Citizens of Space" seems to be a launchpad to bold new frontiers.
Publisher provided review code.

PHIL ON FILM: What's leaving Netflix in July 2019



Click here for the article.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Super Neptunia RPG" Review


The Gamindustri Goddesses are some of the goofiest and most sensationalist heroines in gaming. Their bubbly and indefatigable personalities are the hook for every "Super Neptunia" game. Coupled with subversive writing, it's the draw of the personas that pull gamers through the slower "Neptunia" moments.

Filled with self-aware references and ruthless mockery of online culture, gaming tropes and over-the-top sexuality, "Super Neptunia RPG" does the series proud by stretching it out into a new genre.

A hand-drawn 2D style gives the game a throwback feel, and side-scrolling dungeons recall the likes of Metroidvania and "Zelda II: The Adventure of Link." The turn-based battle system, meanwhile, follow the "Persona" template.

Seeking to discover why the world had warped from three dimensions to two, you set out on a quest to ferret out the manipulative forces behind the reality shift. As the story advances, a meta debate begins to emerge -- whether 2D or 3D gaming is superior.

While developer Artisan Studios seems to be taking the path of least resistance in order to adapt the Neptunia scheme to the RPG format, the results are more than enough satisfying to hook longtime fans, while converting newer followers to the cult.

"Super Neptunia RPG" thrives as well in the new format as it did in previous iterations. With ethereal visuals, skilled writing and the prototypical Neptunia vibe, there is plenty here to adore.
Publisher provided review code.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

"Radiation City" Review


A smaller-scale "Fallout," "Radiation City" lets you run free through a wasteland ravaged by nuclear waste. You start out weak and hapless, scavenging for whatever resources you can muster while scampering away from mutated beasts.

As you gradually build up your clout, the game opens up along with your growing confidence. Any initial concerns about muddy visuals and clunky gameplay fall to the wayside as you find yourself sucked into the distinctive rhythms and tones of the dilapidated playground.

Set in the town of Pripyat 40 years after the Chernobyl disaster, "Radiation City" is Atypical Games' follow-up to "Radiation Island," which was released on iOS in 2015 and came out on Switch last year.

Two years after it released on iOS, the game feels somewhat underpowered on the Switch. You get out of the game what you get into it, and the more you can commit to the setting and atmosphere the more urgency you will find in the emergent moments.

You may find yourself slogging along through a mundane trek to your next objective, when suddenly you shift into an impromptu chase, hustling away with your life on the line. There are moments of subtle humor and relief that emerge for the taking, and whether or not you seize them or overlook them is up to you.

While somewhat slow and stodgy for some tastes, "Radiation City" is an acquired taste that opens up more with the freedom of the Switch than it possibly could on a phone or tablet. Thought-provoking and intimate, the game gives you something to chew on during its slow moments, while jolting you with sudden, unexpected bursts of action. The grim setting tends to yield strange joys.

Publisher provided review code.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Book Report: “The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness”


The rise of James Monroe from farmer to leader of a fledgling empire paralleled that of his country. His risk-taking, ability to undergo hardship in pursuit of bold visions was fueled by that of the country, and also inspired those he governed to reach and achieve.

The most interesting parts of the book dive deeper into the textbook thesis, finding nuggets that color Madison’s quirks and shortcomings. Hot-tempered and egotistical times, he generated such a rivalry with Alexander Hamilton that it nearly came to a duel, spared only by the intercession of Hamilton’s future Murderer, Aaron Burr, of all people.

He also suffered major falling outs with mentors Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that drove him to near disgrace and left him out of politics for interminable stretches.

A slave owner who arguably laid the groundwork for abolition by standing fast against the demands of southern industrial giants who sought to spread their inhuman ways westward, Madison rose from heroism during the Revolutionary War to orchestrate the Louisiana purchase and hold European forces in check with a mixture of diplomacy, intimidation, cooperation, and when it came to it, dogged, ruthless war.

The narration in the Audible version is somewhat stiff and dry, but expressive enough to expand beyond the realm of bland historical narration. The production value is spare and limited, but takes nothing away from the author’s gripping narrative.


Monroe was not only the last of his kind - the line remaining giant to have stood tall against the British in the 1770s and 80s — but in many ways the first of his kind. Not only a second, universally beloved Washington, but a precursor to bold, enterprising heads of state who eagerly and casually took their seat at the table at the head of the free world. America still operates under the Monroe playbook.