Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"The King's Bird" Review

Momentum is life's great X-factor, capable of amplifying success by multiplying exertion. Like Mario with an invincibility star, there is no limit to what can be accomplished when everything is going in the right direction.

The physics-based flight adventure the "The King's Bird" is all about manipulating, exploiting and preserving momentum as you soar throughout its levels. Using a mixture of on-the-fly acrobatics, lift, drag and drifting.

After the game released in August on PC, it now takes flight on the Switch, bringing with it developer Serenity Forge's ethereal level design and visual conceptualization. The freeing, spiritually uplifting tone goes a long way, helping you to overlook some of the game's flaws. "The King's Bird," even at its slowest and most frustrating, is always a joy to play.

Obstacle placement seems geared to make you pull your hair out or slam your controller in frustration. Sometimes your success hinges less on skill or mastery and more on blind chance. The myriad variables at play often make it feel as though you're trying to will the wind in a different direction. If you're playing in portable mode on a bumpy commute, forget about precision.

Despite its setbacks, "The King's Bird" excels on its chosen artistic level. Like an arthouse indie flick that has everyone talking, it feels as though it accepts you into an exclusive club -- one with the shared pleasure of feeling the virtual wind in your hair as you dive, loop and glide while striving for elusive thrills.
Publisher provided review code.

"Defense Grid 2" Review

A robust, sci-fi take on the tower defense formula, "Defense Grid 2" packs challenging, multi-layered gameplay into a tight package. Hidden Path Entertainment's rapid-flowing gameplay keeps things fluid and invigorating, and a solid menu interface keeps things accessible.

The Switch port of the 2014 console game, "Defense Grid 2" takes advantage of the console's handheld mode to provide an impressive on-the-go experience. Whether you take the game with you or play on your couch, "Defense Grid 2" is an engrossing experience that encourages you to keep tinkering and refining your setup.

With robust online multiplayer supplementing a rock-solid campaign, the game offers an intense and distinct experience every time you fire it up. There are 21 maps on which to slug it out.

The music adapts to the scenario with a procedural adjustment, providing a backdrop of fascinating tunes to amplify your trials, triumphs and defeats. Not only does each battle play out differently, it also carries a distinct sound.

An addictive and refined experience, "Defense Grid 2" is an RTS extravaganza that boasts loads of reasons to keep coming back. You'll find yourself defenseless to its onslaught.
Publisher provided review code.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince" Review

"The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince" has such a weird premise that it seems like it was taken from one of those bizarre, morbid ancient fairy tales that had to be whitewashed for modern consumption.

A wolf with a crush on a prince she blinds on accident. Then she gives up her singing voice in exchange for the ability to transform and spirits him off on a quest to restore his vision.

Whimsical and often brutal storytelling melds with a gorgeously eclectic visual style to create an otherworldly adventure that seems at once timeless and innovative.

While the gameplay is outpaced by the story, developer Nippon Ichi Software is no slouch in that department. Some obtuse puzzles tend to make the going rough in patches. But the key is that the reward loop stays compelling/

The writing is strong enough to pull you through the choppier parts, convincing you to keep plugging through when things slow down and the frustrations mount.

One of the more masterful touches are collectible petals that fill in the backstory, gradually piecing together a grand-scale tale of love, loss, regret and hope. "The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince" sticks with you, lingering like a memory carved into your spirit.

Publisher provided review code.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

"Etrian Odyssey Nexus" Review

The 3DS ain't dead yet. Thanks to the determined efforts of Atlus, Nintendo's warhorse handheld gets yet another top-shelf RPG. Teeming with fan service, rich dialogue and robust collection, customization and combat content,

"Etrian Odyssey Nexus" feels like a grand sendoff for the system that proves the 3DS will continue to merit a spot in gamers' pockets for months -- if not years -- to come.

A royal decree sets a heroic party in motion to a mysterious floating city. As the intrigue deepens and stakes rise, you're tasked to build up a party of protagonists that span the entire series.

What might have come off as a perfunctory, quick-and-dirty best-of album instead emerges as a grand finale that manages to tie together the grand saga, rendering previous entries as preambles for the main event.

"Etrian Odyssey" games have always made expert use of the system's two screens, maximizing menu interfaces while providing as much real estate as possible to the visuals, and the latest entry continues to excel in that category. A complex game becomes manageable in bite-sized chunks thanks to a pragmatic design that always makes the tasks needed for efficient, optimized progression.

Bolstered by a story that packs as much range, emotion and humor as the best moments of past "Etrian Odyssey" titles, "Nexus" provides a convincing reason for lapsed 3DS gamers to dust off their old devices, charge them up again and head off on one last, grand ride into the sunset.
Publisher provided review code.

"Tangledeep" Review

A throwback dungeon crawler that harkens to the Super Nintendo days, "Tangledeep" is a light, accessible RPG that also manages to conjure significant depth.

Boasting more than 100 hours of gameplay, the game is a collector's delight, with dozens of monsters to defeat, tame and recruit to your party. You can also plant magical trees and tinker with equipment and enhancements to amplify your play style preferences. There are also skills to mix and match.

A whimsical, high-fantasy visual and sound design makes you feel as though you're playing a lost classic from years gone by. Gorgeous 16-bit pixel art and chiptunes suck you back in to the early 90s.

Several months after "Tangledeep" was released on PC, it comes to Switch with Pro Controller support, a boosted user interface, new monsters and a new Riverstone Walkway area, adding considerably to the already rich slate of content at the ready.

With adjustable difficulty levels that make the game as accessible or harsh as you like, the game can be a brutal roguelike or free and easy, story-focused run through.

If you have a taste for the classics of yesteryear, you'll want to get yourself tangled up in this.

Publisher provided review code.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Stage Review: "Something Rotten"

As I laughed and tapped my feet through the ludicrously brilliant "Something Rotten," my mind couldn't help but drift toward wondering how William Shakespeare would have felt if he had the opportunity to watch his life's work be relentlessly mocked.

I want to believe he would have hated it. The musical had me buying into its take that Shakespeare was an egotistical blowhard who scavenged, pilfered as much material as he could, made it a point to be his own biggest fan, reveling in his own celebrity. I want to believe that he would have scuttled "Something Rotten" the way he did "Omelette: The Musical."

Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell's masterwork is a blistering satire of Shakespeare, with just the right amount of love and appreciation to authenticate the scholarship behind the bawdy jokes.

The only drawback to the ridiculously inventive, stunningly choreographed and deliciously poison-penned musical is the difficulty of competing against itself.

The first act is almost too wonderful for the show's own good. With a relentless procession of blisteringly brilliant numbers such as "Welcome to the Renaissance," "God, I Hate Shakespeare," "The Black Death" and a tap-rap battle, it's impossible for the second act to hold serve.

A capable touring cast, led by Matthew Baker as Shakespeare, Matthew Michael Janisse as disgruntled stage producer Nick Bottom, Greg Kalafatas as Nostradamus's hapless nephew and especially Jennifer Elizabeth Smith, who is a Kristen Chenoweth-level revelation as Portia, the spunky, Puritan star-crossed lvoer of Nick's nebbish writer brother, Nigel (Richard Sitaletta).

With an oeuvre of Shakespeare's work, as well as popular Broadway hits to draw from, satirize, plagiarize and glorify, "Something Rotten" feels like a cherry-picked bouquet of incredibly entertaining references. A treasure from start to finish, "Something Rotten" is an essential watch for anyone with an interest in musical theater, Shakespeare or laughter. Watch it, then bring a friend and see it again.

The Broadway in Tucson production of "Something Rotten" is playing at Centennial Hall through Sunday. Purchase tickets here.