Sunday, July 26, 2020

"We Should Talk" Review

"We Should Talk" is a dialogue tree game that you can knock out in 15 minutes. Then you'll find yourself diving back in to replay it again and again, choosing different paths to see where you wind up.

The premise: You're a woman whose relationship with your girlfriend is on the rocks, and you find yourself at your favorite bar to mull things over. You respond to texts from her as you run into friends and strangers, making choices that could destroy or firm up your romance.

As you make your choices, you shape your character's motivation, goals, background and hangups. You base your responses on mix-and-match sentence fragments that determine your tone and delivery.

Developer Insatiable Cycle added an impressive amount of depth to the short-form premise, providing reason to come back again and again. There truly is no wrong way to play it. You can be callous and indifferent, soothing and loving, or -- like most people -- a complex, ever-shifting mishmash of inconsistency.

It's a hectic and comical joy to juggle exes, friends with benefits and creeps as you work out your home life. The levels of intelligence and heart make the writing sing with authenticity.

While the game may seem slim and inconsequential, it's a refreshing chance of pace to those who are looking for something fresh and intellectual. The psychological net the game casts dwarfs most other narratives in terms of scope, providing a fascinating dive into the motivations and demeanor in the dating scene.

Publisher provided review code.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

"Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire" Review

Bullet hell shooter fans are accustomed to guiding ships through torrents of twisted metal through space. With "Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire," developer Alpha System shakes up the formula by swapping out ships for buxom bodies.

A vertical-scrolling shooter, the premise casts five high-powered sisters as they compete for the hand of the angel Yashin. 

Multipliers and power-ups abound, with endless chances to up your scores and unleash screen-melting waves of firepower upon your enemies.

While the gameplay is on the slim side, and the visuals pander to base tastes, "Sisters Royale" adds enough twists to the genre to become relevant.

Publisher provided review code.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

BOOK REPORT: "The Man Who Was Thursday"

The Man Who Was Thursday: A NightmareThe Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A surreal journey into the realm of the absurd, Chesterton's novel is filled with compelling dialogue, intriguing twists and thought-provoking themes.

A gathering of European anarchists who seemingly scheme to tear society asunder -- with each of the leaders assuming a day of the week as a moniker -- evolves into a mishmash of distrust, backstabbing and subterfuge. All the while, parallel developments call the entire premise into question,

While some of the ideas seem less than fully developed, I appreciated the craftsmanship it took to build the rickety path.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Rez Plz" Review

As the old saying goes, wizard brothers who slay together stay together.

The puzzle platformer "Rez Plz" centers around a pair of codependent heroes who help each other solve environmental puzzles, take down tricky enemies and work their way through levels pulsing with whimsical designs.

Seemingly built from the ground up for co-op, the gameplay thrives on cooperation and communication. Much is lost in the translation to single-player, which forces you to switch characters often, stalling your momentum whenever it begins to ramp up.

Developer Long Neck Games makes regular, grizzly deaths a part of the dynamic, since the characters are blessed with the oft-used ability to resurrect one another.

As you roll through the game and you gather new powers, the tedium dies off and the puzzles grow more complex.

The comedic throughline is how ineffective the brothers are at wielding those powers. The lighthearted demeanor helps explain away what could be perceived as design flaws, but also make the characters more endearing and their cause more noble.

While there may not be enduring appeal to keep you coming back, the draw of taking on the game with a friend would make the experience far more worthwhile. The magic, it seems, comes mostly in the company "Rez Plz" draws.

Publisher provided review code.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

"Ultracore" Review

The run-and-gun side-scroller "Ultracore" is an adoring throwback to 1990s arcade shooters. With inventive weaponry, vintage cheesiness and a throbbing soundtrack, the game transports you to a bygone era.

You'll need to rely on your "Contra"-style trigger finger to blast, leap and swing your way past throngs of strategically-place menaces. The feeling of power at your fingertips is palpable, but death is always the pixel of a misjudged hit box away from breathing down your neck.

Developer Strictly Limited Games has the Metroidvania formula down, crafting sprawling maps that stretch in all directions, with an emphasis on verticality.

Hidden loot and secret avenues abound, giving you plenty of reason to scour suspicious nooks and crannies to unlock the goods.

A game meant to be powered through, then replayed ad nauseam to re-experience or track down bits of 90s flair you may have missed the first time, "Ultracore" is a welcome blast from the past that ratchets up your adrenaline and never lets its flashy momentum die down.

Publisher provided review code.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Book Report: "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World"

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern WorldGenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jack Weatherford takes a fresh, sympathetic look at the greatest conqueror the world has ever known. His history argues that Genghis Khan's ruthless takeover of Eurasia planted the seeds for the interconnected global culture that began.

By preserving culture and promoting commerce, the Mongol Empire broke down barriers and set the stage for the global melting pot.

While not completely convincing, there are so many engaging details and such satisfying storytelling in vignettes that the book is captivating even when its reach exceeds its grasp.

Blending independent research along with the watershed translations of Khan's own Secret History, which is still being translated, broken down and debated, what emerges is as complete a portrait of the historical figure and his mentality and methods than could ever before have been crafted.

The Jonathan Davis narration drives the Audible version to greater heights. His enthusiasm for the material bleeds through in his storytelling.

Khan emerges as a clever tactician and man far ahead of his time, driven by ego but satiated by a yearning for justice and fairness. The book's most valuable purpose is to shed the centuries of systemic racism that have belittled and minimized the empire set in motion by Khan and his descendants. The book is a conqueror of hearts and minds in the manner of its subject.

Publisher provided review copy.

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