Wednesday, September 09, 2020

"Street Power Soccer" Review

It's been 13 years since "Mario Strikers Charged" released, and since then the world of arcade soccer has been desperately trying to play catch-up.

"Street Power Soccer" tries to set up the reins of the likes of "FIFA Street" and "Rocket League." It succeeds to a degree, providing a rapid-flowing game of sprinting, passing and striking, but its gameplay is too thin to give you reason to return day after day.

The silly character models -- complete with a creator -- joins with the six game modes to flesh things out. Online multiplayer is also there, and can freshen things up provided you can find an opponent.

While cage battles and freestyle can be amusing, it's the story mode that rises to the top as the main draw.

Powers and specials provide some zip to the gameplay, making for wildly imbalanced pyrotechnics and rubber banding AI that make no lead safe.

A solid soundtrack from the likes of DJ Snake, Snap the Black Eyed Peas peppers the soundtrack, helping to make up for bland, generic visuals.

While there's nothing here to seize your attention away from the likes of FIFA or PES, there is plenty here to distract an arcade-minded soccer fan who's waiting for Bowser and Mario to take to the pitch once again.

Publisher provided review code.

Monday, September 07, 2020

"Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time" Review

Samurai Jack is back, unflappable demeanor and katana at the ready. The video game venture is no typical cartoon adaptation flop, and overcomes some rough moments to provide a generally enjoyable hack-and-slash spree.

Available on all platforms, including mobile, the game pays tribute to the beloved Adult Swim series, which wrapped up its final season after a lengthy hiatus in 2017.

From the looks to sounds and rhythm of the writing, the game registers a thoroughly authentic feel. Head writer Derek Bachman penned the script, which weaves throughout the show's continuity and ties in with the 2017 finale.

As much as fans will appreciate the game's canonical value, though, it's the action and combat on which the game will either live or die. The results there are only so-so, with a retro, PlayStation-era 3D feel that doesn't always keep up with the flow of the battlefield.

For non-fans, "Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time" will feel like little more than a stylish beat-em-up. Those who grew up with the hero will see things differently, though, and it's these fans for whom the game was truly made, and it serves them with honor.

Publisher provided review code.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

"Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2" Review

It's been a rough rail slide for the "Tony Hawk" series for the last 15 years, with a succession of releases ranging from mediocre to awful slowing to a trickle.

It was fair to assume that "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2" would be more of the same, but the wholesale remake -- which far surpasses the spirited but bland 2012 "Pro Skater HD" -- may be just what the series needs to kickflip its way back to relevance.

Originally released in 1999 and 2000, the wacky, arcade-style trick sims rode the rise of Mountain Dew-fueled extreme sports as they crested. Even players who hardly cared about skate culture could feel like superheroes as they chained together absurd sequences of impossible athletic prowess. It was like handing fingerpaint to a kindergartener.

The new game delivers the same freeing feel, and comes at the right time because there simply isn't anything out there like old school Tony Hawk anymore.

Credit developer Vicarious Visions for being unafraid to reinvent the wheel, while making sure it still spins.

The gameplay holds up surprisingly well. Vicarious Visions holds true to the original vision and feel, while not holding back on updating the visuals, menus and ease of use to make the game seem organic and new. There is plenty of nostalgia and fan service at play here, but players who come into the game cold might not even recognize that it's a throwback.

While there's no telling whether Activision Blizzard manages to parlay the brilliant reinvention of its series into the steady release of annual updates it once merited, what we have here is something special. Lighting once again has been caught in a bottle, and the Birdman soars once again.

Publisher provided review code.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

"NBA 2K21" Review

While it's a bit jarring to leap into next season's NBA sim while the current season is still playing out, there's no denying the superpowers of Visual Concepts.

"NBA 2K21" is forced into an awkward situation not only by the pandemic, but because we're a couple months away from embarking on the next console generation. The current entry will likely be outclassed by the upgraded version on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

Still, there is too much to appreciate in "2K21" to deny. 

Cover athlete Damian Lillard's fingerprints are all over the game, from the initial 2KTV episode starring role to the improved passing and fast break animations. There's a concerted effort at play to make the game unfold more naturally rather than the traditionally choppy style of video game hoops.

As silky smooth as Lillard's pull-up jumper, the presentation and ambiance sell the gameplay as a vision of the NBA at its best. It's both nostalgic and optimistically forward-thinking to see games played at home arenas filled with rabid fans once again. How long it takes real life to follow the example of the sim after the 2020-21 basketball season begins remains to be seen.

The ego-stroking fantasy of MyPlayer continues to evolve, with your created up-and-comer dealing with the trappings of fame and fortune, as well as social media and side career distractions, as you work on your game and carve out your place in the league.

While the endless stream of nagging microtransactions is never going away, their presence are welcomely subdued, providing quiet, if persistent reminders that you can pay to speed up your progress. Still, it's far more satisfying to put in the actual work on the practice court and in game and see your dedication pay off steadily. If you're looking to get off to a faster start, you may as well spring for the Mamba Forever edition, which pays tribute to Kobe Bryant and comes preloaded with loads of virtual currency, cards and perks.

Like a low second-round draft pick or free agent signee, "NBA 2K21" has the potential to slip through the cracks due to circumstances. If you're still all in on "NBA 2K20," there isn't a heck of a lot of impetus to upgrade before the draft and free agency rejiggers the rosters to resemble next year's season.

But this is no G-League might-have-been. If you call its number off the bench, it will doubtlessly light up the scoreboard.

Publisher provided review code.

Friday, September 04, 2020

"The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters" Review

A chilling jaunt into the realm of Korean horror, "The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters" ratchets up the sense of dread and anticipation as you elude an indomitable stalker.

Running from the formidably demonic Dark Song, a force of grim terror that seems to serve as a metaphor for regret and lingering angst, you play as troubled high school student Mina Park. 

To survive, you slink around your school and the outskirts, meeting odd characters who can either help or thwart you along the way.

Playing at times with the feel of a visual novel, you overcome occasional gameplay obstacles to stick with the tense, evolving storylines. While puzzles tend to trap you in bottlenecks at times to stall the momentum, the pacing is strong enough to keep you coming back for more.

Light RPG elements, including crafting, as well as some touches of hidden picture point-and-click games make appearances, combining for a hybrid experience that feels nothing like the norm.

While "The Coma 2" may be too esoteric for some tastes, developer Devespresso Games thrives on offbeat creativity to channel its dark vision to light. This strange descent into an otherworldly horrorscape is worth a look for those yearning to be shaken out of their comfort zones.

Publisher provided review code.