Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

There’s never been a more likeable, bow-toting redhead – including Disney’s “Brave”.

Game Name: Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
Developer: Guerilla Games (Killzone series, Shellshock: Nam ’67…. Is that it?!)
Platform: PS4, Microsoft Windows (reviewed on PS4)
Categories: Native American vibe, Apocalypse, Open World, Robot Utopia, Bandits, Corrupted Lands, Feuding Tribes, Fetch Quests, Light Conversation, Arena Challenges, Too Many Collectibles, Combat Centric, Elemental Attacks, Traps/Bombs, Bows/Arrows, Great and Complementary Arsenal, Weapon Upgrades, Animal and Bot Hunting, Gathering/Crafting, Material Hording, Limited/Quick Skill Progression, Shallow Armor Options, Memorable/Impactful Story, Convincing and Gorgeous World, Heavy Exploration, Uncanny Valley, Beautiful Score and Sound Effects, AAA Title but Inspired and Heartfelt

May Appeal To: survivalists, hunters, crafters, map sweepers, bow and arrow fans, sparkle-eyed believers in our ability to shape the future…. but also post-apocalypse nuts (sorry, judging holistically, it’s a positive reboot on humanity).
May Repulse: haters of the open-world formula or anything that isn’t Assassin’s Creed, the bloodthirsty, cinema-skippers, item collecting-shunners, those that blame the combat system instead of practicing, and anyone who is vehemently opposed to reading data logs.

Comparable To: the frenzied bot-exploding action of Binary Domain, the fluid terrain mobility and tribal weapons of Monster Hunter World, broad story concepts of Fallout 4, some Last of Us crafting, Mass Effect’s penchant for in-world wikis and NPC interactions, a heavy dose of cliff scaling from Prince of Persia (2008) or Uncharted’s environmental set pieces, and a heapin’ helpin’ of the detective modes from Arkham Asylum or Witcher 3. (This is a game well-versed in its ancestry.) And yeah, there’s influence from Assassin’s Creed in the form of stealth takedowns, elevated viewpoints, and a tendency for techno-overlay glimpsed through the old Animus imagery.

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Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

The crater extends into that space?! Grrr. You’re going to make me cancel the selection, manually move my units, and build halfway off the foundation aren’t you? -_-

Game Name: Dune II : The Building of a Dynasty (1992)
Developer: Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer, Emperor: Battle for Dune)
Platform: Amiga, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis  (reviewed on Sega Genesis emulation)
Categories: Old School, Real Time Strategy, Back to Basics, Challenging, Base Building, Research, Fog of War, Resource Harvesting, Turrets/Walls, Protracted Blob Warfare, Superweapons, Poor UI, Tedious Unit Selection, Infantry, Tanks/Vehicles, Iconic Audio and Visual Design, Level Codes, Multiple Factions, Multiple Campaigns,
Worm Sign the likes of which even God Has Never Seen

May Appeal To: cavemen who haven’t upgraded their computers in a looong time or had their head stuck in the sand about how cool the franchise is.
May Repulse: gamers with strategy game options and experience. Anyone that cringes at the idea of selecting units without a bounding box or is decidedly opposed to the deliberate, sluggish pacing of the original movie are forewarned to steer clear of Dune II.

Comparable To: other Westwood products, which was par-for-the-course in the ’90s. Command & Conquer/Red Alert followers will slip into the familiar routine immediately though this game throws curveballs in the form of hostile environmental factors like sandworms, spiceblows, and degraded building health (similar to the harmful Tiberium fields and visceroids in Tiberian Sun). Warcraft, similarly, had unwieldy unit selection and an unmanageable scale of battle during its worst moments. Despite all the cool stuff in Dune II, Dune 2000 ultimately bested it across the board with a modernization of identical concepts into a slick, memorable (and controllable) experience. Fast forward a few hardware generations of improvements and you might have Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, which is essentially this classic game mainlining horse steroids.

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Top Gear

Top Gear

Wielding the bare essentials with finesse, Top Gear pushes your needle to the limit.

Game Name: Top Gear (1992)
Developer: Gremlin Graphics (Guantlet, Hero Quest, Jungle Strike)
Platform: Super Nintendo (reviewed on SNES emulation)
Categories: Heart Throttling, Adrenaline Pumping Racing. Blinding Speed, Epilepsy Warning, Consistent Framerate, Always Split Screen, 2 Players, 4 Cars, Fuel Tracking, Manual/Automatic Transmission, Excellent Tunes, Level Passcodes, Slight Control Lag, Variable Difficulty, AI Loser Assist, No Damage, Nitro Boosts, Photo Finishes, “Realism”

May Appeal To: bots, artificial constructs, video game endurance champions, people with naturally moist eyes, and those with minimal thumb latency.
May Repulse: the tired, lethargic, and any who haven’t cast off the human need to blink.

Comparable To: Super Mario Kart but with less personality or replayability; this game has a fantastic sense of speed like in F-Zero but the tracks feel narrow and more difficult to navigate; Stunt Race FX had worse framerate and was incredibly difficult to control. Cruis’n USA’s topography and locales come to mind despite the tone being completely different. Continue reading

Contra

Contra

Vertical tanks, levitating rocks, and football players on a waterfall? Contra – confirmed.

Game Name: Contra (1988)
Developer: Konami (Gyrus, Gradius, Castlevania)
Platform: Arcade, NES, MSX2  (reviewed on NES emulation)
Categories: NES Classic, Run ‘n Gun, Side Scrolling, Some 3D Levels, Bullet Hell, Environmental Traps, Platforming, Power-Ups, Mega Bosses, Predator/Rambo Inspired, Geiger Aliens, Cyber Baddies, Slappin’ Tunes, Colorful Artstyle, Speedrun Worthy, Multiplayer, Shamlessly Shallow, Konami Code, Addictive, Easier Than its Reputation….
and the Notorious Spreadgun!

May Appeal To: headbangers, power trippers, jungle commandos, button mashers, and bandana-ed Stallone/Schwarzenegger heavy weapon dudes.
May Repulse: thoughtful, cautious, and slow-responding people who lack a friend to pick up the second controller.

Comparable To: a more forgiving and mobile Rush’n Attack, better art direction and music than Super Contra, more straightforward and action-packed than Contra Force, more stable than Ikari Warriors, less frustrating and better hit detection than TMNT, easier than Ninja Gaiden or Empire Strikes back, and Contra is the grandpappy of Metal Slug. Continue reading

Lambrecht Shakedown, 3039

  • Draconis Combine vs 12th Star Guard Mercs (Lyran employ)
  • Company vs Company, balanced by BV2
  • Mode of Play: Human vs Human, Human vs “AI”, Human vs Self
  • Special Rules: Chaos Campaign – Succession Wars
    (free download at store.catalystgamelabs.com)

Lambrecht Shakedown, 3039
Scenario Details
Planet Name – Lambrecht
Jump Point Distance – 7 days
Moons – None (asteroid ring)
Surface Gravity – 1.03
Atmo Pressure – Standard (Tainted)
Equatorial Temperature – 33*C
Surface Water – 82%
Highest Native Life – Reptiles
Capital – Middle Park
Population – 1,589,000,000

Lambrecht was seen as an ideal colonization target. It possessed a biosphere compatible with Terran life, water, and extensive metal ores both in the planet’s surface and in the remains of a moon lazily orbiting the sphere. Unknown to the colonists, however, was the relationship Lambrecht had to its sun. The massive G6 star’s gravity frequently surged over the world in “tides” causing earthquakes that prevented the local inhabitants from constructing large settlements and quickly destroyed any building over a few stories tall. These earthquakes are generally at the lower end of the scale but still disrupt daily life.

Being outside the buffer zone of the Free Rasalhuage Republic (designed to keep the Draconis Combine and Lyran Alliance from each other’s throats), Lambrecht is hotly contested and it exchanges conquerors every two decades. Its strategic value is questionable though this heavily populated planet would remain a proving ground for continued acts of aggression.

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