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‘NBA 2K19’ – A Slam Dunk and a Vast Improvement on its Predecessor

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NBA 2K19 Review

By now, you figure there wouldn’t be much to add to the conversation when reviewing the latest entry in the NBA 2K franchise. Not only is it one of the most critically acclaimed video game series of all time (not to mention a series that has had a strong hold on the video game basketball market for nearly two decades), but little has changed with the brand from one installment to the next. Year-in and year-out, the 2K games have almost always delivered a level of quality that no other sports series has come close to matching, and in this critic’s opinion, the NBA 2K series is the only viable option for fans seeking out a game that is well worth your hard-earned money (sorry NBA Live).

NBA 2K18 is a game we called great, but also incredibly frustrating. Put aside the atrocious myPlayer campaign and overall reliance on microtransactions, what really bothered me was the actual gameplay and the disappointing MyCareer mode that the game offered. That’s not to say that game isn’t good (read our review) but it was a step down from NBA2K 17, arguably the best entry in the series by far. Thankfully Visual Concepts was determined to correct some of the problems that befell last year’s edition. NBA 2K19 is not without its fair share of problems but it is hands down, the best basketball game on the market, a triumph of style and simulation, and a game loaded with plenty of content to keep you busy until next September.

NBA 2K19 Review2K19 features its strongest MyCareer mode yet with the aptly titled, The Way Back, a fascinating look at the culture behind college basketball recruiting. The story puts you in the shoes of a somewhat arrogant young baller nicknamed A.I. (not to be confused with Allen Iverson) who leaves college early for the NBA draft, only to have his dreams crushed when he’s left undrafted. Despite having enormous talent, A.I. still has a lot to learn before he will ever get a chance to play in the big leagues. With few options available to him, A.I. makes his way to China to play for the Shanghai Bears hoping his time there will catch the attention of an NBA scout.

A.I. sure knows how to dress great!

Written by Adam Hoelzel and directed by Christian Papierniak, The Way Back gives players plenty of reasons to remain invested with several unexpected plot twists and a journey that takes A.I. from the East to the West where he gets a spot playing for the Mad Ants, the popular NBA G League team located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There’s plenty of colourful characters you meet along the way including Corey Harris played by Aldis Hodge (A.I.’s former college teammate), Zach Coleman played by Haley Joel Osment (a backstabbing social media guru) and Coach Stackhouse played by famous character actor, Michael Rapaport who steals the show despite only having a few scenes. The Way Back even features a love interest played by Meghan Lennox who doubles as a famous sports writer as well as a few villains – the most memorable being Marcus Young (Mo McRae), A.I.’s teammate who will do anything in his power to get what he wants. The Way Back is a well scripted, finely acted coming of age tale about a young man who starts out as a self-centered, incredibly selfish brat who over time must overcome his biggest obstacle – that being his overall attitude to both the game he loves and the game of life. The Way Back also doubles as a heady dose of the American dream and the American nightmare combined as it unfolds as a true-to-life investigation of how one turnover, one bad pass, or one missed basket can make all the difference in a player’s fortunes. And it isn’t just about the decisions A.I. makes on the court but also the decisions he makes in his everyday life. Featuring an RPG element that allows players to choose between certain actions and decisions, players are able to craft a personalized journey and shape the outcome of A.I.’s destiny. For example, at the end of the regular season playing with the Mad Ants, A.I. must decide if he should pass the ball as often as possible to his arch nemesis Marcus Young and win the game for his team, or, steal the spotlight and score all the baskets knowing full well the Mad Ants will not only lose, but Marcus would find a way to get his revenge.

Visual Concepts continues to set the benchmark for sports titles

Despite the short five hour running time, The Way Back is an incredible achievement that conveys the fabric of modern American life, aspirations and incidentally, sports, in close-up and at length. After several ups and downs, “The Prelude” culminates with A.I. negotiating a deal with a club of your choosing (of course I chose the Lakers). By the time A.I. has finally achieved his goal of playing in the NBA, he’s accomplished more than just a career – he’s become a better person getting there.

Mad Ants NBA 2K19

Marcus Young (left) and Ricky D (right)

MyCareer doesn’t just get by on the story, however; some quality changes and welcome new additions help make the story mode far more enjoyable than its predecessor. This time around, you’re able to skip the cutscenes (although I’m not sure why you’d want to) and the revamped Neighborhood is drastically improved thanks to the design, variety and more refined navigation. Included are easily achievable daily bonuses, flexible endorsement contracts, tons of minigames to participate in, and a layout that sidesteps the endless walking 2K18 forced you to do. The biggest highlight, however, comes during the “Prelude”, when A.I. and his college friend visit an arcade that just so happens to feature the original 2K game. Taking a page out of Uncharted 4, MyCareer then lets you play that original 2K game in a match between the 1999 Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics. All in all, MyCarrer is of course only one piece of the overall experience but it is hands down the best addition to the game.

You can play the original NBA 2K game in MyCareer!

There’s so much to write about when reviewing NBA 2K19 – from the Blacktop mode (that includes half court street basketball) to the updated roster, to the classic NBA teams, to the colorful commentary (welcome Bill Simmons), to the incredible soundtrack, and even MyLeague, which allows you to build upon  an NBA franchise with a dazzling amount of customization. But of all the improvements and changes this time around, it is the new gameplay additions and tweaks that are by far it’s most impressive component. NBA 2K19 has a tougher learning curve when compared to all of the entries from the past, something which prevents you from easily pushing towards the hoop thanks to a much-needed improvement on defense. Even as a veteran of the series, I found myself getting destroyed by the CPU. It takes some time getting accustomed to the advanced controls but in the end, you’ll appreciate how the game forces users to be smart on the court.

NBA 2K19 has a tougher learning curve

Needless to say, 2K Games is pushing its affection for realism and I doubt you’ll find another sports game in which the A.I. behaves so realistically. Furthermore, the new “takeover” mechanic gives players the opportunity to raise their attributes within several distinct categories – something that makes you think more carefully about your choices on the court as your performance can hurt the number of attribute points you are rewarded after a match. For example, if you want to focus on boosting your passing skills, you’ll want to make sure you not only pass the ball often but avoid any turnovers. Once the game has ended you can trade in your “currency’ and raise your skill level as you see fit. My only major gripe is the speed of the transition game. After playing the aforementioned original 2K mini-game which features controls that are both fluid and smooth, it became clear just how sluggish the 2K gameplay has become. Apart from that, the character models and faces are somewhat awkward. Lebron James, for example, doesn’t look like James and the animation at times leaves much to be desired.

NBA 2k20

The Prelude allows you to play the original 2K game when you visit this arcade!

As the reviewer, I should state that I have no interest in dabbling with microtransactions nor do I care to play online. Over the years I’ve spent the majority of my time with the 2K series playing with my family and friends. That said, one of the biggest strengths of the game is that it offers something for everyone, even if that means you for some reason are a fan of its aggressive monetization tactics and choose to spend your hard earned cash and pay to win. Apart from that, NBA 2K19 is a must for any fan of the franchise. Visual Concepts continues to set the benchmark for sports titles leaving me wondering just what they can add next year.

– Ricky D

NBA 2k19 ReviewNBA 2k19NBA 2k19NBA 2k19 Review

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and Tilt Magazine. Host of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast and the Sordid Cinema Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound on Sight. Former host of several other podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead shows, as well as Sound On Sight. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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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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