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‘Indivisible’ Review: Flash, Flair, and Forgettable Gameplay

Vibrant designs and slick 2D animations can’t hide the fact that beneath the polished exterior lies a mediocre game.

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Indivisible Switch Review

If there’s one thing that Indivisible has proven, it’s that developer Lab Zero knows how to crowdfund. Building hype, maintaining relevance, and exceeding audience expectations seems easy on paper but is woefully hard in practice. Yet, people believed that Lab Zero would deliver. Why wouldn’t they? These were the creators behind Skullgirls. They got crowdfunding and publisher money. They had a celebrity composer and a world-famous anime studio creating an opening animation for their game. Indivisible would be great. 

Like many Kickstarter stories, Indivisible falls short of the lofty image cultivated on the road to release. It’s an extremely good looking game, yet one that feels shallow and lacking in many key aspects of its mechanics. Vibrant designs and slick 2D animations can’t hide the fact that beneath Indivisible’s polished exterior lies a mediocre game.

A Journey of Heroic Proportions

The world is built on mythologies that have seeped into our collective consciousness over centuries of history and cultural osmosis. We know The Hero’s Journey, the struggle of good vs. evil, and the personal quest to find meaning. Indivisible holds true to these longstanding tropes, archetypes, and narrative beats to create a story that feels incredibly familiar. By leaning on Southeast Asian cultures and Japanese pop media, Indivisible keeps these well-tread narrative beats engaging.

After a brief intro detailing events prior to the game, players meet Ajna, the plucky 16-year-old protagonist. Ajna’s world turns upside down when her village falls under attack and a mysterious power awakens inside of her. She must embark on a globetrotting adventure in order to understand her newfound abilities and save the world. Along the way, she meets a host of colorful characters, each with their own unique backgrounds, quirks, and personalities. Together, Ajna and her comrades set out to stop an ancient evil from destroying everything they know and love.

Indivisible’s narrative and visual design are undoubtedly where Lab Zero shines the brightest. The team exhibits much of the same expertise showcased in Skullgirls: vibrant color palettes, playful character designs, and fantastical worldbuilding based on a stylized reality. Lab Zero once again flexes their 2D animation skills with an incredibly diverse array of visually distinct characters. Whether it’s Razmi the swamp witch or Baozhai the pirate queen, Indivisible’s main cast is an absolute delight. Ajna herself (voiced by Tania Gunadi) serves as an endearing protagonist whose rebellious bullheaded shenanigans are good fun to watch. The 3D environments, while also quite nice, mostly serve to showcase the 2D art, which is the real visual draw.

Fun on Paper, Tedious in Practice

As beautiful as everything looks, the gameplay is where many of Indivisible’s problems begin to arise. The game styles itself a platforming action-RPG and, while not wrong, leaves much to be desired in both regards. The two inhabit completely different spaces. You control Ajna to explore the map but start combat whenever you make contact with an enemy NPC. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that combat clearly took priority over platforming. 

Good platformers give you a set of tools to explore the world with. Accordingly, maps should offer a fun but challenging momentum of forward progression. Indivisible has sparks of platforming genius at times by making use of Ajna’s axe-climbing and wall-jumping abilities. However, far too often the way walls, platforms, and hazards are placed is so simple to the point of being tedious. 

Exploration is also plagued by an infuriating backtracking system exacerbated by a complete lack of fast travel. At several points, the game asks you to revisit different locations in order to progress. This becomes an absolute slog to traverse huge maps where the only challenge is to not get so bored that you decide to play something else. Thankfully, the game breaks up these mind-numbing bits of platforming with wandering enemies that you can pummel the snot out of.

Based on the cult classic Valkyrie Profile, Indivisible’s combat is a pseudo-hybrid of action-RPG and turn-based gameplay. You control a party of four characters, each of them assigned to a face button on your controller. In conjunction with directional inputs, you can perform attacks, debuff, or heal depending on who you control. During your “turn”, each character has three Action Points to spend on inputs, refreshing after a given period of time. Combat then switches to the enemy “turn”, where the opposing side will attack certain members of your party. Proper input on the appropriate face button can mitigate damage and fill up your iddhi meter (used for special attacks). It’s quite a fun, tactile system that encourages spontaneity and improvisation. Mixed with Lab Zero’s punchy visuals and a rousing orchestral backing, Indivisible’s fights create a colorful sense of mayhem that’s easy to dive into.

While the combat system is slick and fun, it doesn’t take long to fully “solve” its mechanical complexity. Indivisible borrows several elements from fighting games, like juggling, character combos, and special meters. In spite of all that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to engage with most of those mechanics. The easiest solution is almost always to button spam and unload your specials whenever your meter gets maxed out. Spend the bare minimum effort to maintain blocks and HP upkeep and there’s never truly any danger of you losing. The combat spontaneity and improvisation mentioned earlier is certainly encouraged, but never is it optimal.

Indivisible also features boss fights, but those tend to be more frustrating than fun. Mixing the two aspects of platforming and action-RPG, these encounters often devolve into wild goose chases. You slowly chip away the boss’s health in combat, get pushed out, run around with Ajna on the map while avoiding environmental hazards, then dive back into combat to rinse and repeat. Boss fights do little to raise the challenging benchmark set by the rest of the game. As a result, they end up feeling like a chore to get through rather than epic showdowns.

Too Much, Too Little

Indivisible’s vast scope is also its most glaring issue. The game has far too many things that, while polished, serve little purpose beyond window dressing. This is most obvious with interactable NPCs that you are, for the most part, better off skipping. Ostensibly, they were a result of crowdfunding pledges that Lab Zero honored. These fanmade characters, though drawn in Lab Zero’s style, stick out like a sore thumb. These NPCs are completely inconsequential not only to the environment they’re in but the game as a whole. It’s rather distracting to talk to NPCs and have them tell some in-joke where reference obviously goes over your head. 

That same problem affects Indivisible’s core gameplay systems. Ajna’s diverse party and the plethora of roles they fill in combat serve as one of the game’s selling points. Yet, you very quickly discover that some characters are objectively better in combat. Furthermore, several characters serve no purpose in the story other than to join your party. This becomes a glaring issue when they never again become relevant to what’s happening on screen, pushed aside by the voiced characters that the developers deemed more important.

There are also RPG progression mechanics that, quite frankly, feel like they were included because sure it’s an RPG. You can level up and improve your combat capabilities, but this progression system is so shallow that you wonder why it’s there at all.

Short of the Mark

Indivisible falls too short too many times for it to really be worth a go. But, depending on what you value, it could be up your alley.

Developer Lab Zero can certainly create a game that looks great and has good game feel. The story, aesthetic, and characters magnificently blend Southeast Asian mythologies and cultures with a grandiose anime-inspired style to great effect. Combat can be satisfying if you buy into the system it’s trying to sell you. However, an overabundance of style over substance prevents Indivisible from being the truly great game that it could be.

Indivisible will be available on PS4, Xbone, and Steam on October 8th, with a TBD Switch release.

Kyle grew up with a controller in one hand and a book in the other. He would've put something else in a third hand, but science isn't quite there yet. In the meantime, he makes do with watching things like television, film, and anime. He can be found posting ramblings on liketherogue.tumblr.com or trying to hop on the social media bandwagon @LikeTheRogue

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

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AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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Game Reviews

‘Tamarin’ Review: Monkey Trouble

Like Yooka-Laylee before it, Tamarin flounders in its attempts to recreate its source material for a more modern audience.

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Tamarin Game Review

Developer: Chameleon Games | Publisher: Chameleon Games | Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Platformer| Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

You have to be of a certain age to recall a game like Jet Force Gemini. One of Rare’s one-off titles of the N64 era, like Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini never earned itself a sequel but was a fun sci-fi adventure for its time. It’s this same energy that Tamarin, from Chameleon Games, attempts to channel.

Made up of former Rare staff, the folks at Chameleon Games are almost certainly the best team to make an attempt at rekindling such a long dead franchise with their spiritual successor. However, as can be the case with retro throwbacks, sometimes it’s better to ask whether you should bring back an older style of gaming, rather than if you could.

As we’ve seen with games like Yooka Laylee and Mighty No. 9, it often seems that the idea of an older game or franchise being resurrected for modern audiences is better to imagine than to actually play. While the occasional Bloodstained does come along to buck the trend, more often than not we get a game which is too faithful to its sources to make a mark or too different to rekindle that old love and nostalgia.

All of which is to say that Tamarin, while very faithful to its inspirations, never quite hits the mark that brings it to the next level. Part of this is the natural aging process, particularly of the first era of 3D platformers and adventure games which spawned on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. While many of the games of that generation packed in endless hours of fun, so too have many of their mechanics aged terribly.

Tamarin Game Review

This accounts for Tamarin‘s weakest point, which is undoubtedly its combat. The shooting sections of the game, while channeling another Rare franchise that balanced cuteness with cartoonish violence, are just so mechanically terse that they drag the game down egregiously each time they crop up.

Like with Jet Force Gemini, players will spend much of Tamarin battling troubling insectoid enemies that threaten the peace of all of civilization. Also like the game which was such a clear inspiration for Chameleon, Tamarin brings back the clunky 3D aiming reticle. Not only is the shooting janky here, it feels downright unwieldy when you first get your hands on a firearm.

Though players can get the hang of it with a little effort and some reworking of how they see shooters, there seems to be little point in doing so. Tamarin‘s braindead AI and sparse few enemy types make combat feel like much of an afterthought to the experience, despite how central it is to progressing through the game.

To be fair, Tamarin does also bring some of the good from its spiritual forebear. The gradually growing arsenal of laser guns and rocket launchers does feel fun to play with, and the game is peppered with plenty of upgrades for the guns along the way. Sadly, then another of the Space Invaders style mini-games will pop up and derail things all over again.

Yes, there is a strange reference to yet another long gone gaming franchise here. Unlocking certain doors requires players to start from the center and aim the analog stick around firing at hovering, shifting rows of bugs. Again, it feels very unwieldy, and by the end most players will simply settle for spinning the analog stick wildly while firing with the machine gun for maximum ease.

Fortunately, more successful are the platforming sections. Making up the other side of Tamarin‘s coin, is a game more inspired by Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country 64 than anything else. As players travel through the outside world, gathering collectibles and gaining new abilities as they go, Tamarin shows much more variety than its combat sections.

With clear cues marked on the terrain to denote which areas require upgrades or new abilities to traverse, Tamarin is generally able to point you in the right direction across its world, though a map or minimap would help matters considerably. Though the game is split into many separate areas, they often look so similar that it can make the game hard to navigate and harder to remember where previous markers were for exploration. Even a rudimentary map feature would make this far less of an issue.

Alas, the exploration flounders on occasion as well. Jumping sometimes feels a bit too flighty and can even break the game at times, allowing players to jump off of surfaces they shouldn’t be able to normally. Further, the need to hold down a button and press another to grab certain collectibles is totally unintuitive and is another feature that seems to be more or less pointless.

As such, for all of it’s cute mascot spiritedness and lovingly attributed influences, Tamarin ultimately falls short in bringing back some of the best franchises of yesteryear. Though the effort is a valiant one, Tamarin, hampered by the flaws of the games it attempts to emulate, is just too clunky in its execution.

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Game Reviews

‘Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered’ Review: Some Games Age Like Milk

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Developer: Square-Enix | Publisher: Square-Enix | Genre: Action-RPG| Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Mobile | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

There’s a bit of a storied history between Nintendo and Square. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is an important part of that history. Or rather, the original version, released in 2003, was.

While it might seem to younger gamers like Square-Enix and Sony have always been close, Square had a different best friend for much of the 80s and 90s: Nintendo. Though a rift developed between them when Square opted to focus on CD-roms rather than cartridges for Final Fantasy VII, that rift only lasted for about 6 years. The game that signalled the end it? Well that was a new release exclusively for the GameCube: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

Though Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was released to relatively positive reviews 17 years ago, the game has not aged well. The quest of a caravan of crystal bearers to refill their crystal’s power and protect their homes from a deadly miasma, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

The first, and most considerable, problem with the game is that the quest at the heart of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is tedious and repetitive. Players ostensibly go from area to area on a world map, exploring uninteresting towns and beating lackluster dungeons. If this wasn’t enough, players are also forced to replay these levels over and over again in order to gain enough upgrades for later levels.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: all RPGs ask players to level up in order to succeed. You’re not wrong, it’s simply the structure of levelling up that makes this experience so trying. The only way to level up in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is to beat the entire level again. Players are not rewarded experience for killing enemies but instead can choose one stat to upgrade each time they complete a level. What this means is that every tiny upgrade to your character can take 10-15 minutes at a time to get.

This wouldn’t be as trying on your patience if simple, basic flaws in the game weren’t so egregious. Hit detection is incomprehensible at times because, even when your character seems to be standing right next to an enemy or boss, they often fail to connect their attacks. Even worse, rather than mapping different attacks to the face and shoulder buttons, players must cycle through them one at a time, with the attack button standing in for defense, magic, healing or food consumption.

Of course, much of this has to do with the format of the original game. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was meant to be played with link cables and Game Boy Advances connected to the GameCube. Each player would have a different bonus displayed on their GBA screens and, as such, players would work together in local multiplayer, aiding each other with their unique screen information as well as their combat skills.

Naturally the GBA had only two face buttons and two shoulder buttons, hence the layout. However, it’s been 17 years, and it’s pretty egregious that Square-Enix didn’t even think of giving players an option to rework the button layout. Doing so would make combat much more dynamic and help to fix the often clunky feeling of battling the game’s monsters.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Adding to the tedium are unskippable cutscenes all over the game. Every single time players challenge a boss, they are forced to sit through the same cutscene introducing the boss. Further, there are random events that occur on the world map which are also unskippable, even if they’re repeats of events that the player has already seen. Haplessly tapping the confirm button to skip through dialog that we’ve already heard should not be an issue in a game released in 2020.

These flaws were mostly a part of the original release as well but what’s the point of remastering a game if you haven’t fixed anything? Even the visuals in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered have failed to receive much polish. The game looks murky and fuzzy rather than sharp and clear. If Square-Enix could clean up Final Fantasy VIII for its gorgeous remaster, what stopped them here?

This is without even mentioning the loading times, which are frankly absurd for a game nearly two decades old. Again, it seems that getting this remaster out the door trumped quality control for Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, which does nothing to help the game’s case.

Though the game is markedly more fun when players join you to take on a level, even the online connectivity has serious issues. To make matters worse, if a player chooses to use the multiplayer, they’ll have to carry a chalice around themselves if no one joins them, picking it up and putting it down all through the level.

Since single player has an AI character who will carry it for you, this option could be easily added to multiplayer, disappearing when (or if) someone actually joins you. This would allow the structure of the game to remain static regardless of whether someone joins your game or not, instead of making the game harder if no one decides to pop in.

While game director Araki Ryoma has promised to address the issues with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, the game has aged so poorly that, even without the flaws of the remaster, it’s hard to recommend it to modern audiences. Sad as it is, some games are better left in the past. Such is the case with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

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