Thursday, July 29, 2021

"Roundguard" Review

Mixing chance and skill is an enthralling and often frustrating combination. "Roundguard" handles the formula with ease and skill, making average players feel as though they're better than they really are, while sobering better players with the harsh reality of bad bounces.

The Wonderbelly Games team punches up the screen with an entertaining array of sound and color. 

Proudly following the "Plinko"-style path set by "Peggle" in 2007, the game tasks you to defend the kingdom by choosing from a roster of combatants, each bestowed with a special move that lets you manipulate your tumbling ball and its targets.

Strategy comes into play when you decide when to deploy your power-ups and when it's best to keep them in your back pocket. Because instant death always lurks around the corner, it's up to you to weigh your fate and decide when to play boldly or conservatively.

While a medieval reskin of "Peggle" may well have been enough to win me over, the intricacies and story additions wielded "Roundguard" lifted it above my expectations, providing moments of exuberance along with an "I'll get 'em next time" feeling of flustered determination. 

Consider the "Peggle" formula perfected.

Publisher provided review code.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"The Forgotten City" Review

Riding a wave of hype surrounding time loop games such as "Returnal" and "Deathloop," "The Forgotten City" takes the concept and lifts it to a higher level of intellectual profundity.

Since the days of "The Majora's Mask," developers have toyed with the concept of avoiding imminent destruction with the right moves. "The Forgotten City" injects some current-gen pizzazz into the formula, presenting a dizzying array of choices that make failing the loop -- and following the permutations of the strange aberrations the failure can generate -- nearly as satisfying as completing it.

The dev team at Modern Storyteller proves to be profoundly literate, injecting sophisticated moral and ethical philosophizing. This is a deep, robust game in which story matters every bit as much as gameplay.

Set 2,000 years in the past, you find yourself in a doomed Roman city. Negotiating the local political scene and various levels of the social strata, you unravel a mystery strand by strand, gradually working your way to the "Groundhog Day"-style epiphany.

The sense of freedom and permutations of the story are entrancing, making "The Forgotten City" seem like a living, breathing world that is quickly swirling the drain.

In a sense, just about all video games are time loops, in which you can seize a modicum of control that life doesn't give you, letting you use your experience, knowledge and reflexes to right previous wrongs and succeed where you once failed. "The Forgotten City" is a time loop upon the time loop concept itself, shining a light on what can be done with the genre.

Publisher provided review code.

PHIL ON FILM: 5 Shows to Binge in August 2021

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PHIL ON FILM: "Jungle Cruise" review

 For my full review, click here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"Observer: System Redux" Review

Cyberpunk sleuths have plenty to savor in "Observer: System Redux," an amped-up version of a 2017 release.

Set in 2084, the dark, twisting psychological horror adventure always keeps you off guard. Thanks to a thought-provoking script, entrancing visuals and clever gameplay mechanics, the game captures the tone of a page-turning thriller novel

You play as a detective who hacks inside peoples' brains in order to investigate crimes.

A dystopian nightmare emerges, with a cavernous realm of secrets, lies and backstabbing emerging around the deadly conspiracy. You put your own neck on the line as you sink deeper into the investigation.

While the stealth continues to be weak -- although the segments are uniformly streamlined and overall improved in this new-gen upgrade -- the puzzle elements are superb. 

The devs at Bloober Team are clearly well-versed in the annals of cyberpunk history, making clever references and poignant observations as they unravel their fascinating tale.

A powerfully told, intricately woven deep dive into the recesses of the human condition and its corruptive qualities relating to artificial intelligence, "Observer: System Redux" continues to cast its spell on the current generation of consoles.

Publisher provided review code.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Book Report: "Fosse"


FosseFosse by Sam Wasson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sam Wasson's intelligent, insightful biography is as captivating as the miniseries it inspired.

A probing look inside the mind and life of a tortured creative genius, "Fosse" manages to look up and down at the trend-setting choreographer, film director and promotional mastermind.

Eloquent prose digs into the interactions and intricacies that made the man. Fosse was a walking trainwreck who womanized, abused drugs and drink and -- most of all -- himself as he incessently strove to max out his creative capabilities and manifest his visions into being.

As wretched as a person as Fosse was at times, he also harbored a kind heart that drew friends and admirers into his orbit.

Ever plagued with self doubt and loathing, it seemed Fosse never had the capability of enjoying his dizzying success. Perhaps it was that inability to appreciate that kept him ever reach, ever stumbling, ever falling and ever rising.

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Monday, July 05, 2021

"Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground" Review

The first venture into the strategy real for the dark fantasy spinoff of "Warhammer Age of Sigmar," "Storm Ground" is a rough-hewn experience with its share of exuberant highs as well as stagnant lows.

After the novelty of getting to play "Warhammer" on the Switch wears off, you're left with a clunky, scaled-down version of a middling PC release.

"Warhammer" superfans will no doubt relish the lore and world-building that comes in the story -- at least if they can stomach the mediocre writing and long-winded exposition.

Choosing from among three factions, you guide your forces through the gritty, unforgiving campaign, which provides ample replayability opportunities that let you view the conflict from varied perspectives. Whether you will have the patience to replay the story again is questionable.

The dev team at Gasket Games was creeping on the verge of a breakthrough to let the might of the brand be known on the underexplored territory of the Switch, but instead came up with a moribund spinoff that seems with more in common with a mobile snack than a full-fledged feast.

Publisher provided review code.