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‘Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee’: The Future is Nostalgic

Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee aren’t shy about the influence Pokémon Yellow had on their development, and by combining the 90s classic with Pokémon Go, they’ve produced one of the more enjoyable adventures on the Nintendo Switch this year.

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Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee Review

Pokémon has been veering off into different directions as of late. X and Y brought Mega Evolution, while Sun and Moon turned its back on gyms and introduced the Z-Move. While new mechanics can be exciting, nostalgia can be an equally persuasive force that captivates the imagination of an older generation. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee aren’t shy about the influence Pokémon Yellow had on their development, and by combining the 90s classic with Pokémon Go, they’ve produced one of the more enjoyable adventures on the Nintendo Switch this year.

Pokémon Let's Go Eevee

Pokémon outside of their balls can have a mind of their own

For those old enough to have played Pokémon Yellow, the story has changed very little, if it at all. Jessie and James from the anime are once again introduced as a comic relief for the otherwise serious Team Rocket. Even though the storyline has barely changed, it’s a reticent reminder of how clever and thought-provoking generation one was, especially enjoying the journey again over twenty years later. The Cubone interlude was particularly tragic at the time, and while Pokémon Origins did a fabulous job of bringing the scene to anime, the gameplay combined with the creepy Lavender Town soundtrack has always enhanced the situation.

Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee are exactly the games Nintendo needed to pitch to the fans before the Switch was launched.

By borrowing mechanics from Pokémon Go, the gameplay has become much more lively and interactive. Rather than rummaging through the tall grass and wasting hours trying to find a rare pokémon, they now freely move in and around the tall grass, allowing the player to choose or avoid the interaction. This is a mechanic that should be brought over to generation eight as the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages; avoiding Zubat and their supersonic disposition is particularly rewarding, but finding a rare pokémon stumbling through the tall grass is even more magnificent.

Team Rocket Pokémon Let's Go

Team Rocket return in Pokémon Let’s Go

Perhaps the biggest change, and probably the most divisive, is to the catching mechanic. Previously, the player would have battled a pokémon until reasonably weak before attempting to throw a pokéball. In Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee, catching a pokémon is very similar to Pokémon Go, relying on timing and technique to maximize the player’s chances. Much of the gameplay is centered around this mechanic and the game actively encourages the player to catch as many pokémon as possible.

Catching pokémon earns EXP for the pokémon currently in the party. The amount of EXP depends on the pokémon caught, the strength of the technique, the size of the pokémon, and how many of the same species the player has caught in a row. This is where the joy-con really excels. While the joy-con has numerous problems, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee are exactly the games Nintendo needed to pitch to the fans before the Switch was launched. The technique the player uses with the motion controls helps them to catch pokémon easier, all while at the same time earn more EXP. It’s still irritating that the games are incompatible with the pro controller, however, as eventually the joy-cons can become tiresome.

Zapdos Pokémon Let's Go

Catching Legendary Pokémon is particularly challenging

The catching mechanic is further enhanced by the individualistic movements of the pokémon. It becomes a mini-game within a game, playing like a motion-controlled arcade experience. Each species has a unique movement that the player has to learn to time the throw of the pokéball perfectly, while at the same time attempting to hit the sweet spot to increase the chances of a capture. While still reliant on the luck of mathematics, there’s an element of skill involved to help the player defy the odds.

There is a slight hint that this mechanic could be brought over to the main games. Some pokémon, notably Snorlax, require a pokémon battle before the new catching mechanic can be utilized. This is another influence from the anime, where the pokémon often fainted before they were caught. If this was to become the new technique for catching pokémon, moves such as False Swipe would certainly suffer an existential crisis, but that’s a sacrifice a Voltorb is willing to risk. Catching pokémon would become more interactive and, therefore, more enjoyable. Indeed, Pokémon Let’s Go itself could have used more of these situations rather than blindly throwing pokéballs until one sticks.

Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee

Familiar faces from various generations can be found

To further incentivize the player to catch pokémon, battling against the various NPCs and Gym Leaders earns less EXP than previous games. Creating catching combos will certainly hasten the leveling up process far more than battling, and by catching the same pokémon continuously, the player will be more likely to find stronger pokémon, including shinies. This is nothing new, just an adaptation from previous games, but it certainly is utilized wonderfully with the Pokémon Go mechanics.

This can have an adverse effect on the player’s box, and unfortunately, the pokémon box system is a complete mess in Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee. While it can be sorted in various ways, the fact that the player’s main party is mixed into the arrangement creates a cumbersome, and even more tiresome, process of finding the desired pokémon. Ideally, the player wouldn’t have to sort through the box at every moment.

Alakazam vs Muk

Alakazam vs Muk

The best way to combat the disorganization is to cut the numbers down. Once upon a time, that would have meant releasing pokémon back into the wild. In Pokémon Let’s Go, rather than give the pokémon freedom, they can suffer a far worse fate and be sent to Professor Oak in exchange for some candies. The candy is incredibly useful and another attempt to persuade trainers to catch as many pokémon as possible. These candies come in many varieties and can be used to boost the stats of the player’s pokémon. This ensures that catching pokémon indirectly strengthens the player’s pokémon, creating a cycle that leads to the Indigo Plateau itself.

Battling hasn’t changed, and with the gameplay ensuring it’s slightly slower to level up pokémon than in previous games, some of the battles can have challenging moments; the NPCs even carry more than one pokémon, unlike in Sun and Moon. And while a difficult tactical affair will ensue against the same crazy Fisherman with six Magikarps, a more cautious approach will be seen at Fuschia City gym where every trainer and his Growlithe has trained their pokémon to know the move Protect; a limit to generation one pokémon hasn’t diminished the diversity of tactics employed.

pokémon let's go pikachu & eevee box system

The box system is a bit of a mess

The Pikachu or Eevee that the player obtains at the beginning of the game can learn some unique moves from various NPCs dotted around the map. These moves are often particularly strong and have cutesy names such as Bouncy Bubble or Sizzly Slide. They’re definitely worth seeking out as they ensure the player’s starting pokémon is worth battling with.

Perhaps controversially, the limit to generation one pokémon has strengthened Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee instead of weakening them. Rather than muddling an odd variety of different pokémon together, the nostalgic choice of only generation one pokémon has set the perfect atmosphere for two games reliant on a Marty McFly maneuver through time. There’s an odd satisfaction when encountering a Pidgey or Rattata on every route, blindly hoping something else will pop out of the tall grass; something as Farfetch’d or without a Chansey of being obtained certainly creates a Taurus of stampedes towards the lambent arrival.

Bellsprout vs Onix

Bellsprout issues a fabulous Vine Whip!

The only issue regarding obtaining rare pokémon is the plight of the once renowned Safari Zone. Before, it was the place to catch a Scyther or a Kangaskhan (or better yet, the elusive Dratini), but now it’s nothing more than a place to connect Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee to Pokémon Go. It’s a huge waste of an opportunity, in which the Safari Zone could have been an amazing area to catch rare pokémon with the new mechanics. Pokémon Go is the fad that fainted, and the continuous CPR to get it breathing again is unlikely to be successful. While being able to trade between Pokémon Go ad Pokémon Let’s Go is positive, it didn’t need to replace the Safari Zone.

Indeed, trading pokémon in general, is a mess, something that didn’t need changing from previous games. The best approach to trade with friends will be to meet up and trade locally as the online system is dysfunctional. Rather than continuing the GTS system, Pokémon Let’s Go asks the player to type in a code, and the friend has to match the code. This highlights two problems: firstly, trading with anybody across the world is now much more difficult, and secondly, trading with a friend is much more difficult as occasionally the player will end up trading with someone completely different to who they intended.

Pokémon let's go outfit selection

There are different outfits to collect

With trading a vital aspect of the Pokémon series, it’s a shame to see the franchise take a step backward, when previously they had leaped forward from game to game. While the dynamics of generation one pokémon ensure it is easy to complete the Pokédex, in the event of a Johto version of the games, the trading system will need to revert back to the previous system.

The new catching mechanics have brought an important aspect of the Pokémon series to life.

Visually, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee has done an incredible job of updating Pokémon Yellow with a fresh palette that actually manages to install nostalgia while still looking distinct. From color alone, the cities match their origins. Fuschia City has the purplish red that its namesake suggests, while Lavender Town still looks as eerie as ever – the soundtrack helps. The vibrant colors bring Kanto to life, and the battles particularly have never looked better. One concern is there occasionally is some lag, particularly during battles or catching pokémon. This has yet to be a detrimental issue, but the lag can last a couple of seconds (enough to suspect a potential crash, although unlikely).

Pokémon Let's Go

Riding on the back of a Gyarados

In addition, the player can choose to have a pokémon walk around with them outside their pokéball, and just like with Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow, the player can interact in meaningful ways. Each pokémon seems to have a personality outside of their pokéball, notably Bellsprout, which seems to run around awkwardly. Some pokémon can be ridden upon, which helps the player move around the map much quicker, although some like Haunter seem to just be for aesthetics only.

Trading and the online services aside, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee is a fantastic return to Kanto. The new catching mechanics have brought an important aspect of the Pokémon series to life, and by keeping the game generation one specific, it’ll help to ease the more stubborn fans into a change that could be beneficial to future games. While apprehension is understandable, the changes are enjoyable, and the nostalgia Kanto induces ensures the games are one of the best adventures on the Nintendo Switch this year.

Lost his ticket on the 'Number 9' Luxury Express Train to the Ninth Underworld. Has been left to write articles and reviews about games to write off his debt until the 'powers that be' feel it is sufficiently paid.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Brent Middleton

    November 20, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Great review James! Really captured my thoughts on the game overall. While I thought the catching mechanic would be annoying, it actually adds a good bit of diversity to the gameplay. And just seeing all the Pokemon walking around really adds a ton to the experience. Some of the battle animations are great too (like Quick Attack and *especially* Seismic Toss).

    Perhaps the most overlooked improvements to the game’s presentation, though, are the little cutscenes interspersed throughout. Seeing some of these story beats actually brought to life a bit is constantly blowing my mind

    • James Baker

      November 21, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Thanks Brent. The cutscenes have definitely been impressive. I’ve particularly liked how they’ve been left quite short, to keep the player involved rather than waiting.

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Game Reviews

‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ Defines Three Incredible Generations

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently has to offer.

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Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Platformer, Action | Platforms: Nintendo Switch | Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch


After nearly half a year of rumors, it was no surprise that Nintendo was going to jump up super high with another compilation title on their red plumber’s next special numbered anniversary. It’s absolutely undeniable to say that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently have to offer. However, there are still a few pesky problems that persist through its leaking warp pipes. Nonetheless, what you are getting here is three updated masterclass retro classics that I probably don’t have to sell you on.

Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy are not only some of the most critically acclaimed titles on their respective systems, but they’re also among the most influential games ever made. Having all these platformers on one modern console handheld hybrid system sounds certainly promising, but how do they hold up in comparison to other games out on the market today? Is this really the best way to play these three classics? Have they been obliterated by time? Of course they all still hold up exceptionally well, but there are some upsetting answers to be found. Veterans and newcomers of Mario’s three-dimensional adventures will be rather pleased though by what is being offered in Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

3D All-Stars is a great best-hits package that can sometimes skimp out on features and upgrades, but it’s simply exceptional nonetheless.

Taking it all the way back to the past, 1996’s Super Mario 64 still holds a candle to many of today’s modern platformers as it flaunts its rebellious spirit through open environments and selective mission paths. The Nintendo 64’s shining star is just as good as you’ve heard or remember it to be. Despite some of its troublesome camera rotation and weird analog movement, the first three-dimensional Super Mario title still lives up to that high standard you would expect from a Nintendo release. Even after all these years, Super Mario 64 still comes out on top as the king of its generation.

There are plenty of cleaned-up trimmings, including new textures and user interface icons sprinkled here and there that benefit the original game’s noticeably aging areas throughout it’s latest rerelease. In comparison to its bundled successors, however, Super Mario 64 received the short end of the enhanced stick. While I certainly won’t say that Super Mario 64 was utterly cheated out on receiving the gleaming treatment it deserves, in comparison to something like Rare’s remasters of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Bethesda’s recent DOOM 64 port, or even just the other games within 3D All-Stars for that matter, Nintendo’s fifth-generation golden goose has disappointingly been adapted to Switch, to say the least.

Not only is the game not in widescreen like the other titles, but the framerate is still capped at 30 frames per second. Nintendo has created an authentic experience for those looking for the same adventure players witnessed when this groundbreaking masterpiece initially hit the public, but that does not mean these features could not have been optional. Considering Super Mario Galaxy is running at 1080p, sixty frames per second, surely Nintendo could have gotten the more primitive Nintendo 64 title up to that pristine quality.

Revisiting 2002’s summer vacation to Isle Delfino was a tear-worthy experience for me that one could say was fludding with nostalgia. I am not going to lie, Super Mario Sunshine was one of the very first console games I ever owned and it is still one of, if not my all-time favorite titles out there. However, ignoring my deep-rooted connection with the GameCube, objectively speaking Sunshine may perhaps be the Mario game that benefits the most from this compilation. Not only does the game look fantastic in widescreen format and high definition like the other games, but that extra field of view increases Delfino’s sense of scale and vision. It is truly incredible how well some of Nintendo’s earliest library of sixth-generation titles hold up visually despite being almost twenty years old.

The biggest concern longtime fans of Super Mario Sunshine will have going into this collection is how the control scheme would function. As someone who has played through the GameCube release dozens of times, I can happily confirm that Nintendo has done a fine job porting the game over to Switch. For those who are unaware, Sunshine originally allowed you to dictate the amount of water pressure F.L.U.D.D. would power out depending on how far you held the right trigger in. Due to the Switch’s lack of back analog triggers, replicating the original game’s experience was going to be difficult from the get-go. Nintendo’s solution was to make the character operate entirely on full power mode. This may sound like a major change, but in reality, the old control scheme was merely a feature that was fun to mess around with rather than a game-changing aspect. Outside of the late game’s irritating casino pachislot before the King Boo boss fight, there is no other area affected by the alteration.

While Nintendo’s newest GameCube emulation is surely impressive, it may not be entirely flawless for every perfectionist’s liking. Sunshine does indeed contain some minor faults that can likely be fixed in a future patch if Nintendo ever so chooses to release one. There are two notable quirks that will bother longtime fans although it should be mentioned that these are incredibly nitpicky changes in the grand scheme of things. For one, I noticed that a specific sound effect heard multiple times before timed missions had been changed to an oddly annoying censored beep- way to make El Piantissimo and Blooper racing bother more newcomers. Secondly, during some of the Fluddless missions focused on platforming, textured blocks that players are not supposed to see can appear that indicate an object’s trajectory.

Speaking of trajectories, its time to talk about the outer space adventure veterans probably have the most questions about. To bring this library to a close, we have 2007’s astronomical hit Super Mario Galaxy– the most critically praised game in this entire package, with the highest Metacritic and OpenCritic scores out of these three monoliths. Super Mario Galaxy is definitely the closest game to hit the modern standard of Mario’s latest globe-trotting adventures. When it comes to gorgeously designed landscapes and compact areas to explore, there are times where Galaxy could quite honestly stand toe to toe with Super Mario Odyssey from a distance. On top of this, we have what is arguably the most heartfelt Mario story to date as its beautifully constructed narrative never pulls any punches with its wholesome story entirely told through chapters of short text and subcontext.

Galaxy heavily utilized the Wii remote and nunchuck, but Nintendo is offering players with quite a few ways to now enjoy the title. Both Pro-Controller and Joy-Con proclaimers can breath easy because Galaxy supports both formats. While they may not be as pinpoint accurate as they previously were, the latest control schemes are exceptional. When playing with either of these controller options, you will have to utilize either motion or gyro to move the Luma cursor used to collect star bits, stop enemies, or solve various puzzles. Since the Switch lacks the intricately designed motion controls of the Wii, the developers have smartly mapped the right trigger to reset the cursor to the center of the screen.

The only aspect of Super Mario Galaxy that can often become problematic is when the game is being played in handheld mode, but this really only applies to specific sections of the game. In regards to on the go action, the game’s motion controls have been optimized for the touch screen, however, anyone who has played the Wii release can probably tell why this would not always work efficiently. When it comes to specifically collecting star bits, Galaxy can be a nightmare to try and multitask as you have to either pull your hand away from moving the left stick or inputting basic action commands like jumping. Menus and motion puzzles work great in handheld mode and can even be easier to play at times, but it is odd that the docked and tabletop control schemes can not be used with attached Joy-Cons.

Outside of the core three titles, Nintendo has opted out of including any special modes or features, unlike some of their various other notable anniversary titles such as Kirby’s Dream Collection or even the original Super Mario All-Stars rerelease on Wii. Without the additional extra content that properly commemorates the history of the Super Mario Bros. series, this anniversary can feel dishearteningly shallow as it looks more like a hangout than a massive birthday on the surface. Aside from including each game’s incredible soundtracks that double down as a way to always mix up your main menu experience, there are no art pages, interviews, design documents, or anything significant to glance at in this collection when it comes to additional trincites to awe at.

At the bare minimum, Nintendo could have at least included each title’s original manual for players to browse through, but even that is absent here. Even Super Mario Maker’s physical release came with a special booklet for fans to peruse five years ago. The games are obviously what matters most, but for something made to celebrate such a noteworthy milestone, audiences will definitely be expecting more from a character as iconic as Mario. The Super Mario Bros. franchise has such a fascinating history with a literal ocean of trivia and art worth exploring that you can find across several official artbooks, social media platform pages, and wikis. It is truly a shame that Nintendo did not go the extra mile to include any of this when commemorating 35 years of their mascot, but once again, the games at the spotlight are what truly matters most.

Despite its minor emulation issues and missing opportunities, 3D All-Stars manages to defy three incredible generations in one worthwhile package.

With its outstanding lineup of three masterclass generation-defining titles, Super Mario 3D All-Stars exceeds in a value rightfully way above its retail price tag as it bundles together three incredible journies into one package. Whether it is your first time getting to know Mario’s fantastical world or you are coming back to relive your childhood memories, this is a special title that offers some of the finest platforming adventures the red plumber has embarked on. Outside of the fact that it is literally a limited-time release, Nintendo’s latest anniversary best-hits extravaganza is well worth running out to purchase. If you have not played Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy, you owe it to yourself to experience every one of these games.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is indeed lacking in bonus content to make this truly feel like a shebang worth celebrating, but its three games keep the entire party from ever being less than exceptional. All three games included still remain tremendously entertaining as they prove to excel upon the passage of time. Perhaps it is not the grand superstar it could have potentially been, but it will put a huge smile on any veteran or newcomer’s face as they explore Peach’s castle grounds, take on a thwarted island vacation, or skyrocket into the cosmos that have brought decades of enjoyment to audiences of all ages. Collect your coins and get it while you can or begin plotting a Bowser-like scheme to score a copy in the distant future.

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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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