game review

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.

final_007_4k

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.

final_002_4k

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.

final_001_4k

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.

final_006_4k

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.

final_005_4k

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!

{ 0 comments }

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:

****

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

{ 0 comments }

Day of The Tentacle RemasteredWith the limitations of graphical power back in the day, a great story delivered deep gaming experiences. And if it was funny, twisted and weird – even better. Leave it up to Double Fine Productions to take us back to revisit an old, odd gaming friend – Day of the Tentacle. Double Fine Productions treats gamers this week to a revisiting of the 1993 release with Day of the Tentacle Remastered. The Double Fine/LucasArts classic is a follow-up to one of the fondest gaming memories back in the day, kicked off by Maniac Mansion. If you missed out on it, no worries. There is a built in playable version of Maniac Mansion should you seek it. And if you played it (or like me, have foggy memories with age), there are sweet upgrades to be found in Day of the Tentacle Remastered. Day of the Tentacle Remastered remains true to its core, crazy self while offering bonuses and fun to make it worth the trip in time.

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Day of the Tentacle centers around a cast of quirky characters out to save the world from the devious plans of a rouge Purple Tentacle. Purple Tentacle sets off for world domination following a new found awareness after drinking toxic material. The player takes on the roles of Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne with the aid of Dr. Fred Edison. Each character is cast off in a different period of time, following a freak time traveling accident with Dr. Fred’s “Chron-o-Johns”. To reunite the gang, and foil Purple Tentacle, the player must solve riddles across the different periods of time. And so ensues a colorful comic adventure with crazy logic. It’s very Back To The Future-esque, where changes in one time period affect another. Being a LucasArts game (RIP!), there are some fun Star Wars references you will find, along with other references to Double Fine Productions graphic adventure games. Undoubtedly fun little nods throughout (and you may get a little bit of historic schooling from The Revolutionary era!).

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Players have the option of using the old school SCUMM interface (pick up, pull, give, etc.) or using the icon based wheel menu.  Being that this was originally developed for computer platforms, the environment interaction was mouse-controlled point and click. On the PS4, interaction works with a crosshair controlled by thumbsticks. It worked better than I had anticipated, although it was hard to let go of the more obvious old school way of clicking on verbs.

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Day of the Tentacle Remastered takes you on an instant gaming time-warp. On the PS4, with a press of the TouchPad, the graphics and audio dynamically change back to the 1993 pixel version of Day of The Tentacle. It’s fun to see how the original pixel art graphics compare to the smooth, cartoony version of the remaster as well as how the music changes (yes, there was a time where we had to deal with SoundBlaster audio card upgrades).

As for bonus features, Day of the Tentacle Remastered is packed with behind-the-scenes goodies. There is an optional audio developer commentary (warranting at least a second play through!) and tons of unlockable concept art.  For the PlayStation release of Day of the Tentacle Remastered, it is a Cross-Buy game so you can enjoy the crispy, color tentacles on the PS4 and PS Vita.

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Day of the Tentacle Remastered still stands out on its own for its twisted characters, quirky humor, challenging puzzles and unique art style. It is a change of pace from many of the games out there today and definitely worth revisiting in this new release. Whether you are too young, or too old, to remember, Double Fine Productions delivers a beautiful remake that even Purple Tentacle would want to get its newfound mitts on. Recommended retro-remake fun! Take the trip.

{ 0 comments }

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025071510

Activision has put out a pretty consistent stream of Transformers games, each one getting progressively better in graphic detail and gameplay. After playing several of the last couple of Transformers games, how can the games continue to be outdone? The answer is take it back to Transformers G1 era with Transformers Devastation. Leave it to PlatinumGames to deliver a strikingly faithful throwback to the original Transformers cartoons. It doesn’t get better than this, playing the Transformers instead of just watching them on TV.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025153948

For the plot line, I won’t spoil it for you but you can pretty much bet that it’s the usual nefarious ways of Megatron that are behind the incursion. Kick it off with the most well known Autobots, including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock and more. Key Decepticons are here, ranging from favorites such Megatron, Starscream and Soundwave, all in faithful character with their personalities intact.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151024074518

The voice acting is pretty spot-on to what the original cartoons were, because the original TV series voice actors are here. The faithful cartoon style throws you back to the simple, straight-up Generation 1 nostalgia where Transformers began. Growing up at the peak of the Transformers cartoon, it was joyful hearing those actors again and seeing the cartoon-like graphics. The rock/metal/synth-laden music captures the 80s era cartoon as well, thanks to Vince DeCola’s scoring of the game. What a treat. It took some time, but here is truly the Transformers game as how it was meant to be experienced.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025155258

Transformers Devastation takes place in a fast-paced third-person perspective, putting you in the role of the Autobots. You are able to switch-up and decide whom you would like to use, making gameplay controls and weapon use varied. Speaking of weapons, there are plenty to find, upgrade and research – from blades, lasers, missiles and one of my favorites – Soundwave’s Loudspeaker blaster!  Abilities of your select Autobot can be upgraded as well.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025163546

Missions take place on linear levels, although some offer some optional missions. There’s standard fodder Decepticon soldiers, mid-level Decepticon bosses and some huge boss battles (where multiple Decepticons combine into a larger Transformer such as Devastator). Switching to robot and vehicle form, or dinosaur form for Grimlock, happens at the press of the trigger. Expect several high speed pursuits or vehicle slamming special moves, each unique to the individual Autobot.

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025071043

In PlatinumGames’ style (such as in Vanquish) the gameplay perspective changes up, making for some arcade gameplay shooter levels and platform gaming. A fun change up to the primary third-person action view.

Transformers Devastation is a single-player game. You can choose how speedily or deep you want to digest this candy. Where the extended game life comes in is with the Challenge Missions, Autobot upgrades, weapon unlocks, in-game side missions, difficulty settings and unlocking concept art hidden throughout levels. The biggest joy and value that Transformers Devastation offers is in it being a very faithful and fun adaptation of the cartoon classic. Kudos to PlatinumGames for making such a fun and bold throwback to the original Transformers. If you were a fan of the Transformers cartoons that started it all, you do not want to miss out on Transformers Devastation. Roll out!

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025155356

###

Transformers Devastation is available for the PlayStation 4 , Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360. This review was done on the PS4 platform. Disclosure: Activision provided GamingBits.com a review code for Transformers Devastation.

{ 0 comments }

The Witcher 3:Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the new gold-standard in action role-playing games. If you enjoy fantasy adventures or even just open world games with awesome storylines, The Witcher 3 is definitely worth owning. The game is vast in areas to explore, has some incredible graphic fidelity, entertains with great character acting and entrancing background music, is highly customizable and unique to each player, and… well, the list goes on and on as to why I highly recommend The Witcher 3. Too vast to capture on video, I decided to share my adventures through the screenshots I took during my complete playthrough of The Witcher 3. Click the link below to flip through over 100 screens and please read the brief captions for a little explanation and details on The Witcher 3. For those of you looking for a quick number, 5 out 5, 10 out of 10 – yes, yes, it is excellent and gaming perfection. Ok, so there are minor things you can point out in the game but the great far outweighs the minor things you may come across. The Witcher 3 is a true labor of love. Don’t let the “3” in the game turn you away either. There is plenty of story and back story to take in. No prior Witcher game experiences are required to enjoy the adventure. See and read more below for a review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!

Flip through the screen by screen review here (no spoilers!).

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is available for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. DO IT!

{ 0 comments }