Luftrausers

Simple concept: win the war by throwing a lone zombie daredevil pilot with a vision disorder headlong into a grid of enemy tracer fire. Brilliant!

Game Name: Luftrausers (2014)
Developer: Vlambeer (Nuclear Throne, Ridiculous Fishing, Yeti Hunter)
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, Vita, Android (reviewed on Vita)
Categories: Shoot ’em Up, Bullet Hell, Inertia Physics, 2D Looping Scroller, MonoChrome, Minimalist, Unlockables, Crazy Plane Combinations, Short Sessions, WWII Propoganda Newsreel, Chinese Shadow Puppetry Visuals, Looping Audio, Repetition, Impossible Mode, Indie Production Values, Addictive

May Appeal To: would-be ace pilots, the deaf, gamers on the go, and the twitchy.
May Repulse: actual WWII pilots, the colorblind, depth divers, and the sluggish.

Comparable To: a fast paced R-Type, a less demanding Stardust, or an immensely simplistic Enter The Gungeon. This game has the looping battle arena of Odin Sphere, the anachronistic experimental tech of the classic 194X series, and the general layout/feel of a beefed up Asteroids with gravitational pull. Continue reading

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Sweep the leg. No mercy!

Game Name: Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (original 2007, re-master 2016)
Developer: Vanillaware (Dragon’s Crown, Grim Grimoire, Muramasa Rebirth)
Platform: PS2 (original), PS3, PS4, Vita, (reviewed on Vita)
Categories: Sidescrolling Reflex-Based Combat, Top-Tier Art Execution, 2D Exploration, Map Node Dungeons, Focused Combat Skill Progression, MOB Juggling/Crowd Control, Challenging Bosses, Casually Epic Story, Multiple Vantage Points, Extensive Voice-over Dialogue, Immersive and Engaging World, Extreme Inventory Management, Masterful Port

May Appeal To: button mashers, RPG addicts, art critics, Vanillaware fanbois, nostalgics, completionists, and introspectively deliberate story appreciators.
May Repulse: women’s liberation advocates, stat-crunchers, and brevity seekers.

Comparable To: the sultry hand-drawn visuals of Dragon’s Crown but minimal sexualized characters and situations. Odin Sphere: Lift-raiser has the sounds and story-telling mechanics of Grim Grimoire and bears similarities to Darkest Dungeon’s navigation. I’m not crazy, but the battle mini-map plays out like classic Defender and you slurp life essences out of the air like Soul Reaver. Continue reading

Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge

I don’t…. I mean….. How is…. Alright fine, whatever.

Game Name: Wizardy VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (1990)
Developer: Sir-Tech (Jagged Alliance 2, Wizardry 8, Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs)
Platform: AmigaOS, MS-DOS, SNES, Mac OS, NEC PC-9801 and FM Towns according to Wikipedia, whatever those are (reviewed on PC via DOSBox)
Categories: 1st Person Dungeon Crawler, Custom 6 Person Humanoid Team, Old Skool Fantasy RPG, Movement Grid, Turn-Based Battles, Vendors/NPCs, Deep Spell System, Sprawling Labyrinthine Locales, Dialogue via Word Parser, Traps and Loot, Punishing Difficulty, Archaic Presentation, DIY Mapping, DIY Quest Notes/Tracking, DIY Item Juggling and Stat Cataloguing, Multiple Classes, Multiple Endings (sort of)

May Appeal To: senior citizens, codgers, curators, dinosaurs, dotards, fogeys, fossils, geezers, grandfathers, greybeards, old timers, patriarchs, and those with an unusually severe computer budget. I’m kidding around but this game is really showing its age.
The cartography is quaint and amusing while epic completionists looking to export their party across the Dark Savant trilogy will want to start here.
May Repulse: anyone with eyeballs, ear holes, or sensibilities. Wizardry 6 lacks post-90s conventions and by no means should be played on its own without ulterior motive.

Comparable To: the overall feel of Wizardry 7, Bard’s Tale, and The Dark Spire. Wizardry: Tales of the Forsaken Land, Strange Journey, and the Etrian Odyssey series are all superior versions of the same style of grid-based first-person dungeon crawling. Wizardry 8 and Legend of Grimrock take obvious cues from Wizardry 6 though have splintered off in considerably different directions. I couldn’t help but think of King’s Field and Shadow Tower as being inspired by this game despite a lack of similarities. Continue reading

Into the Breach

Metal Geeeear?!

Game Name: Into the Breach (2018)
Developer: Subset Games (FTL – Faster Than Light)
Platform: PC, MAC, Linux, Nintendo Switch (reviewed on PC)
Categories: High Concept Puzzler, Turn-Based, Tactical Positioning, Tile Defense, Mechs and Tanks vs Bugs, Environmental Hazards, Squad Management/Design, Pilot Growth, Roster Quirks and Complementing Abilities, Rogue-Like Sessions, Multiple Difficulties, Pixel Art, Isometric, Time Travel, Parallel Universes, Addictive, Replayable

May Appeal To: brains, masterminds, mech jockeys, players on the go, Rogue-like session divers, time attackers, completionists, and “God damn time traveling robots”.
May Repulse: those expecting something akin to a Godzilla or Pacific Rim type brawl, or anyone with hopes for nuts-and-bolts mech customization with RPG-like progression.

Comparable To: Starship Troopers’ bug variety and collateral warfare, I suppose. You’ve got all sorts of conceptual influences across the various sci-fi strata though the only real video game ancestor I can name is Advanced Wars. Even then, only the grid-based tactics and overall unit design is similar, with Into the Breach retaining little resemblance to a classic TBS focused on a single battle. Record of Agarest War also has elements where team members’ relative positions provide a tactical advantage. Continue reading

Vagrant Story

Can someone get him a damn comb?

Game Name: Vagrant Story (2000)
Developer: Square Enix (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts)
Platform: PS1, Vita (reviewed on Vita)
Categories: Grand Cinematography, Interesting Characters, Attractive Artstyle, Labyrinthine and Mysterious Dungeon, Intricately Gritty Story, Real Time RPG, Pausable Battles, Isometric, Weapon/Armor Melding, Equipment Affinity, Cube Puzzles, Halberds, Dragons, ye Olde English, High Fantasy, Dark Magic, Risk/Reward, Chained Combos, Powerful Growth and Progression, Item Management, Ambitious, Formidable

May Appeal To: Ivalice completionists, Akihiko Yoshida fans, dungeon divers, monster slayers, weapon crafters, game design students, dialogue skeptics, Archers, Berserkers, Black/White/Red Mages, Chemists, Dark Knights, Mage Knights, Dragoons, Fighters, Gamblers, Monks, Paladins, plain ol’ Warriors, and spatial puzzle Wizards.
May Repulse: puzzle haters, challenge shirkers, Squeenix detractors, the disorganized, the immethodical, people prone to getting lost, and fashion critics of ass-less chaps.

Comparable To: Parasite Eve + Fullmetal Alchemist + Disgaea in a blender. It has combat from the first, the second’s setting, and visual/gameplay elements from the third. Newer Fallout players will draw correlations to the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, specifically that you freeze time and target an enemy’s unlucky body part. The map draws parallels with a horizontally-oriented MetroidVania; the character design is distinct to Square’s Final Fantasy XII or Tactics Ogre; and Shadow Hearts Covenant’s timing and puzzles are in the forefront of my mind once more. Diablo II’s gradual -and irreversible- leveling system as well as Monster Hunter’s focus on personal knowledge and equipment affinity vs numerical player levels are both relevant. Continue reading