How We Soar – review

by Alex Morgen on December 7, 2016

in Game Review Bits, Sony PlayStation News Bits, VR

howwesoar_productimage

Flight, thoughts and human experiences of the heart are presented in the colorful VR abstraction of How We Soar. This PlayStation VR exclusive from Penny Black Studios puts players on the back of a phoenix, sent off to travel through worlds from air, land, sea, and even space–traversing the memories of our protagonist.

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How We Soar’s artistic direction looks amazing, in the vein of papercraft and popup book touches. Players harness the controller to guide a wonderfully crafted phoenix through floating landscapes. The player must direct the phoenix through a series of colored rings and then seek out and find colored orbs. Successfully flying through the rings and collecting orbs will release a phoenix, which will need to be chased down to ultimately unlock a memory – a narrative from the game’s storyline. A series of up to four different colored phoenix may need to be captured to complete a level.

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Flicking the PS4 controller will crack the harness of the phoenix to pick up some momentum. The in-game controller’s skin has feathers that serve as a recharge gauge to let you know when you can boost again. The screen is really clear from any HUD elements, so that really helps keep you in the VR moment.

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The music and voice acting are a wonderful compliment to the visuals. The soft and airy soundtrack takes you away on your flight. How We Soar is really a non-stress game and the music backs that up. There are no limitations on lives or no time limitations either. Just get absorbed in the magical surroundings and focus on steering the phoenix through the landscapes. It’s quite an experience to see the scale of a dragon atop a castle or popups colorfully unfolding into whale with your swoop of the phoenix. And you can really get a sense of the scale of your phoenix as you look side to side and practically feel the air rustling under its colorful ribboned wings.

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Only a few minor things were detractors in the VR and story experience. There are some VR games which, depending on the player experience, may cause nausea. How We Soar does a good job to avoid things like spinning or a disjointed head/body movement experience. The only minor moment that I experienced a bit of VR-motion sickness was during the phoenix chase sequences. Because of the phoenix’s abrupt turns and circling in attempts to dodge you, this is really the only point where some may experience a bit of queasiness. Other than that, the only other moment that felt abrupt was when I accidentally collided against an object during a narrative sequence. Whenever you collide against a large object in the game, you are sent to a respawn tube. I hit something during one of the game’s narrative reveals, which sent me to a respawn point, causing me to miss out a story dialogue sequence. After that, I learned it is best to but the brakes on the phoenix and just hover to enjoy the build-in of the story.

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How We Soar is really a unique VR experience where Penny Black Studios explores an immersive way for players to take in a narrative. The visuals look gorgeous (I love the in-game controller and would totally skin my PS4 controller like it!). Swooping near an object, like a stingray or a planet, and seeing it come to life with color is one of those rewarding experiences only to be had in VR. How We Soar also frames a feeling of what the experience of flight may be like for us land-dwellers–definitely a VR trip worth taking. PSVR players looking for something rightfully unique to the medium, look no further than How We Soar. Penny Black Studios has artfully crafted a memorable PSVR exclusive experience, with a heartfelt story. Two bits up for How We Soar, a VR game sensibly crafted that will transport you to the otherworldly VR landscape.

For more details on How We Soar, visit pennyblackstudios.com. Thanks to Penny Black Studios for making this review possible!

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mekamon1

We’ve come a long way since the days of Atari 2600’s Combat! Competitive remote control robot combat gets amped with augmented reality in the new MekaMon experience. It’s videogaming meets remote control robots. After over three years of development and 27 builds, Reach Robotics has crafted MekaMon. MekaMon uses your smartphone or TV to overlay graphic effects on the spider-like robots. Check out the action video segment below to see how MekaMon robots virtually launch missles and create explosion effects for a blended reality gaming experience that looks like no other.

Combat modes are available for single or multi-player. Single-player campaigns embark your MekaMon on a campaign where experience and upgrades can be earned for battling. Multiplayer mode include gametypes like Last Man Standing, Tug of War and others. Reach Robotics also notes that more than one smartphone can connect to the robots for co-op play. Spectators can also enjoy the augmented battle through TV casting.

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“At the root of everything we build is the premise that gaming is an experience that goes beyond a screen. We imagine a world where things come to life in front of you,” says Silas Adekunle, CEO and cofounder of Reach Robotics. “Our inspiration came from building robots in STEM classes with underprivileged students in the U.K., and while we got our humble start there — we’re ready to introduce a new twist on hardware and video games and unleash our battling robots.”

Another cool factor is that physical pieces of the MekaMon can be swapped out to “add weapons or shields, enabling the creation of aggressive, defensive or technical specialists.” Infrared tracking and a smartphone provide the control scheme. A MekaMon weighs about 2.2 pounds and runs for about one hour per charge.

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MekaMon is available to order now  (website currently says shipping in January 2017) in a single or dual pack from MekaMon.com, in a variety of styles. Make sure to check the website for the latest price, which is currently discounted for the holiday. The first 500 orders are entitled to perks in the MekAcademy, which includes exclusive and early content. Looks like a promising new way to have fun with competitive gaming. Hope to bring you more details on the gameplay experience of MekaMon!

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Happy holidays - holiday 2016 video game gift guide

It’s about that time to wrap up another year of gaming – and tear up the gaming goodness! Whichever platform you get your gaming fix from, 2016 delivers many new options. Now is the time to grab some great video game system bundles, amazing breakout VR experiences, bleeding-eye graphic FPSes, and geek-out on gaming goodies. Keep it bookmarked here as game deals (hello, Black Friday!), last minute new game releases, special video game bundles and gaming goods will be updated in the weeks ahead.

Obviously this isn’t the end-all video game list – just a few biggies that are available now for your gaming appetite (ahem, if you can find the elusive NES 8-bit revival). Have any suggestions for the holiday gaming list? Send an email to alexis@gamingbits.com for possible inclusion in this GamingBits 2016 Holiday Video Game Gift Guide!

Make sure to follow @GamingBits on Twitter for the latest holiday video game and Black Friday deals as they happen during the week of November 21, 2016.

Select from the following video game lists:
Game & Geek Toys | Retro gaming
PlayStation 4 (PS4) | Xbox One | Wii U | 3DS | Virtual Reality (VR)

Game & Geek Toys

Geek Fuel
Geek Fuel
What’s in the box?!?! A gaming and sci-fi bundle of goodies! Geek Fuel is the ultimate inner-geek care package, which you can delight in giving (or receiving) all year long. Geek Fuel packs a meticulous box of themed goodies that include items such as t-shirts, mugs, pins, and even video game download codes – at least a $50 value in a box! See these pictures for an example of the awesome items packed into a month’s delivery box. It’s the surprise gift that gives all year long, one which any fan of sci-fi, fantasy, comics and/or gaming will surely love! Thanks to Geek Fuel for the samples pictured here and the heads up on the awesomeness.
Geek Fuel

 

More gaming toys and goods recommended:


Nintendo Pokemon GO Plus
Bluetooth Bracelet
pacman-fig

Funko POP Games:
Pac-Man Action Figure

PDP Donkey Kong Display

Mega Bloks Destiny
Arcadia Jumpship Construction Set

Portal 2 Sentry Turret –
Motion Activated Desk Defender

Kirby’s Dream Land Nosechara

 

Retro gaming

Nintendo Entertainment System:
NES Classic Edition

Nintendo NES Controller

Pac-Man Connect and Play

Sega Genesis Classic Game
Console 2016

Atari Flashback 7 Classic
Game Console

Art of Atari


PlayStation 4 (PS4)

PS4 hardware:

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro – 1TB

PlayStation VR Launch Bundle

PS4 games:

Battlefield 1

Dishonored 2

Doom

Overwatch

Ratchet & Clank

Rise of the Tomb Raider:
20 Year Celebration

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim –
Special Edition

Titanfall 2

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Uncharted 4

(For PlayStation VR (PSVR) games, check the VR category below).

Recommended upcoming PS4 games:

Final Fantasy XV

The Last Guardian

 

Xbox One

Xbox One hardware:

Xbox One S 2TB Console –
Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Bundle

Xbox One S 1TB Console –
Battlefield 1 Special Edition Bundle

Xbox One games:

Battlefield 1

Dishonored 2

Doom

Forza Horizon 3

Gears of War 4

Ori and the Blind Forest:
Definitive Edition

Overwatch

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim –
Special Edition

Titanfall 2

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Recommended upcoming Xbox One games:

Dead Rising 4

Final Fantasy XV

 

Wii U

Wii U hardware:

Nintendo Wii U 32GB
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set

Wii U games:

Paper Mario: Color Splash

Pokken Tournament

The Legend of Zelda:
Twilight Princess HD

 

Nintendo 3DS

3DS hardware:

Nintendo New 3DS XL
Solgaleo Lunala Black Edition

Nintendo 3DS Black Friday deal

3DS games:

Azure Striker Gunvolt:
Striker Pack

Kirby: Planet Robobot

Pokémon Sun

 

Pokémon Moon

Recommended upcoming 3DS games:

Super Mario Maker

 

Virtual Reality (VR)

HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System

Some of today’s best VR gaming experiences are to be found on the HTC Vive. Room-scale motion tracking, included motion controllers and a headset with an external camera create an out-of-the-box virtual reality experience like no other today. Backed by a growing Steam game library and Viveport VR software, there is no shortage of what to virtually experience.

Steam Store VR recomendations:
– The Lab
– Job Simulator
– FATED: The SIlent Oath
– SoundStage
– Tilt Brush(and checkout ReVive for using Oculus Rift games with the HTC Vive.)

PlayStation VR Launch Bundle

Batman: Arkham VR – PlayStation 4

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Pokemon Go Plus

The Pokémon GO Plus is an accessory now available to accompany your Pokémon GO gaming. The small bluetooth device is simple to use, featuring just one color-changing button on the face. It pairs up with an iPhone or Android phone and the Pokémon GO game. The Pokémon GO Plus can be clipped on or strapped to your wrist with the included adjustable wrist strap.

Pairing Pokémon GO Plus is done through Pokémon GO’s settings. Once you pair it, you will see the Pokémon GO Plus icon on the gameplay map. If a Pokémon is nearby, the Pokémon GO Plus button flashes green and the device vibrates. On screen, you see it point out to an estimated area where the Pokémon is with a red line. Click the button and it will start to pulse white, where you have a random chance to catch the Pokémon. If you’ve successfully caught it, the button will flash in different colors. If you miss catching the Pokémon, it will pulse red a moment and will let you know onscreen that the Pokémon got away. The Pokémon GO Plus will also light up in blue when a Pokéstop is nearby. Click it and it easily collects items at the Pokéstop. The other useful function, and phone battery saver, is having the Pokémon GO Plus count steps while your phone is in your pocket (good for your Pokémon buddy and egg hatching). That’s about all the interaction with the game and the Pokémon GO Plus device. So what are some advantages, and disadvantages, of using the Pókemon GO Plus?

Pokemon Go Plus

The Pokémon GO Plus is a quick and easy way to capture those pesky and repeated Rattata and Pidgey Pokémon. But don’t expect them to be dead giveaways. In fact, it seems the odds are against you in randomly being able to successfully catch them, versus you trying with your own Pókeball throw. You also lose the visibility of what’s happening on screen. When you click on the Pokémon GO Plus, you don’t see anything on screen change, other than a small notification that says whether you were successful or not in catching the Pokémon. There aren’t any animations or indication of experience points earned (but yes, you still do get experience points for catching Pokémon with the Pokémon GO Plus). At times, the Pokémon GO Plus did point out there was a Pokémon nearby before the Pokémon appeared on screen. Yet, at other times a Pokémon was on screen and the Pokémon GO Plus took a few seconds to acknowledge it. If you also attempt to catch a Pokémon the old school way (with a finger swipe), the Pokémon GO Plus will have to be paired again via the on screen Pokémon GO Plus icon and a button press on the device. When you click on the Pokémon GO Plus when it is blue, for a Pokéstop, it will show the items you got from it onscreen. Note that one regular Pokéball will be used per Pokémon encounter with the Pokémon GO Plus. You have that one random chance to catch it or not. There are some inconsistencies with what shows on screen, but that may not be a deal breaker, being that you probably have your phone tucked away when using the Pokémon GO Plus.

So the Pokémon GO Plus has it’s advantage in helping you save phone battery life by not having to access your device all the time, avoid the bother of a Pidgey or Rattata encounter, and sometimes helps to discover a nearby Pokémon quicker. There are inaccuracies sometimes in when it detects Pokémon and the catch rate feels lower than usual for common Pokémon. Having a Pokémon GO Plus doesn’t provide a surefire way to catch a Pokémon. I doubt you would want to take the risk of catching a rare Pokémon with a Pokémon GO Plus. The Pokémon GO Plus has a clip on the back or you can unscrew it to place a wrist strap backing on it. The wrist strap is a multi-colored cloth material and considerably thin – not a particularly cool design. The Pokémon GO Plus is powered by an included, replaceable battery (CR2032).

The Pokémon GO Plus has a $34.99 MSRP and was released on September 16, 2016. Initial inventory on Amazon (http://amzn.to/2cSxHn3) and GameStop seems to have sold through quickly. So demand was, unsurprisingly high at launch (and there is definitely eBay price gouging happening at launch). 

Pokemon Go Plus

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Livelock

Livelock
Official website: www.arcgames.com
Developer: Tuque Games
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Release date: August 30, 2016
Available for PS4, Xbox One and PC
Reviewed on PC (Steam)

Following a cataclysmic event, corrupted AI machinery overuns Earth. Humanity is on lockdown. Three “Capital Intellects” (aka, robots with big guns) are awakened and released to the surface to reclaim humanity’s freedom in Livelock. Find the encryption keys to Eden, humanity’s sanctuary, with the guidance of Satcom in this sci-fi action top-down shooter.

Livelock’s story is very much inspired by elements of The Matrix. You may even catch a few references, like the kill speech of one of the Intellects, “Not like this.” The story unfolds throughout the gameplay and a few cartoon animated cutscenes in between. The animated cutscenes are a treat and look great, with no skimping on the audio and a killer soundtrack to boot. Livelock’s action takes place in the semi-destructive environments of war-torn New York, Tokyo and Moscow. Initial levels are not too long – all of which are linear. But boy, are they beefed-up with detail. Some levels are primarily boss battles while others may feel a bit more open for exploration and tearing walls down for some secret bonus discoveries. You’ll want to enjoy the sights. The attention to detail on the environments, animations, enemies and the player’s characters are incredible and run smooth and silky. You can feel the inspiration from Diablo games, but with a detailed sci-fi spin. Enjoy the lighting and detailed environments – there is lots of eye candy and visual effects to absorb. Livelock is a refreshing change – harkening to classic gameplay with 3d graphical goodness. Livelock truly is a beautifully detailed, chaotic world.

Livelock screen

Select from three different character types, which include Hex, Vanguard or Catalyst, each with their own class traits, weapon stock and visual customization types. Hex is a nimble marksman, Vanguard a brawler with big guns, and Catalyst is flanked by combat drones. You can upgrade and store up to five different Chassis types to stock up for different multiplayer experiences.

Whichever of the three chassis you choose, there is a big variety of weapons, class-based skills (Functions), and visual appearances (Firmware) to dominate with your Capital Intellect. Weapons include the infinite ammo primary type, a secondary type for a bigger punch, and a mow-down big-gun heavy duty launcher type. Each weapon stock is distinct to the Chassis you choose. Functions, which are class-based skills, allow for up to three loaded special skills. The Catalyst can drop down a Drone Gun with a shield for attack and defensive support and combine that with a Temporal Rift to suck enemies into a vortex magnet. Maybe finish the enemies off with a carpet-bombing Drone Storm. There are many functions and weapons to find and upgrade to take down corrupt robots by your preference. Finding Carbon-caches throughout levels will help in upgrading weapons. Enemies will attack in huge waves in some areas, where they present the biggest challenge to stay alive. From clusters of small and speedy types, to larger bosses flanked by heavy shielded bots, Livelock features an array of enemies to tear through, or tear you down. So stocking up on the most compatible weaponry to your gameplay style is essential – or teaming up with the right Capital Intellect online. Find yourself in a heap of scrap? Throwing down a drop pod easily continues the action.

Livelock

Livelock’s game options include the primary Campaign Mode or the how-long-can-you-last survivalist Open Protocol Mode. In Campaign Mode, you can select from four gameplay types: Public, Friends Only, Private and Offline. Online multiplayer will allow up to 3 Capital Intellects to battle it out together. The main Campaign Mode game is about under 10 hours, but Livelock offers three different difficulty modes for each level. Difficulty varies from Autonomous (Easy), Emergent (Normal) and Singular (Hard). Starting out at Emergent feels balanced enough for new players. A high score leaderboard is tracked for each level, so once you get your Intellect up to speed, you will want to revisit higher difficulties for more rewards (and leaderboard bragging rights!). There’s a time-completion bonus too, so you can always put your speed-running game skills to test. Completionists will want to revisit levels to discover secret areas and Audio Logs, which is easily doable from a level selection screen. Once you complete a level you can revisit it. Plus there are different kinds of visual gear you can find and unlock to customize your character’s Chassis. These include custom parts for your head, body and cape. There is a plenty to discover and to be rewarded with for players who like to dig deep. Getting to 100% completion for each Capital Intellect is a challenge and will take some time.

Livelock

Open Protocol gameplay mode tests your Captial Intellict’s power against endless waves of enemies. How long can you survive and topple the leaderboard? It’s a smaller combat arena that sends wave after wave of ever-challenging enemies. It’s just another way to enjoy a bit more gameplay from Livelock.

Livelock is a refreshing top-down action game with super sweet 360 degrees of action. The attention to detail, soundtrack, and most importantly the gameplay, is locked down for enjoyment. I really enjoyed Livelock. The sci-fi references, cartoon intermissions and soundtrack make Livelock feel like a classic rebooted with beefy graphics and slick animations. But it’s a new piece of action gaming that I highly recommend to gamers who want to enjoy something fun and different to what is out there today. Two bits up for Livelock! Go forth, Capital Intellect.

Livelock screen

Livelock official launch trailer:

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Thanks to Perfect World Entertainment for providing GamingBits’ Livelock review access.

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