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Review: ‘Total War: Warhammer 2’

With Total War: Warhammer 2 Creative Assembly have done a sterling job of developing a game that appeals to fans of their own franchise and enthusiasts of Games Workshop’s iconic intellectual properties.

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Total War

Total War: Warhammer 2 is proof that in this day and age Alexander the Great need not have wept for lack of worlds to conquer. Strategy is one of the cornerstone genres of the modern gaming market and Creative Assembly is the studio responsible for developing some of, if not the, most critically acclaimed and fan favorite titles within the genre. It has been almost two decades since the company first released the original Shogun: Total War and the series has gone from strength to strength ever since. Although each successive entry has had its fair share of issues they have all garnered devoted followings by fans of each individual title as well as the series as a whole. It’s not hard to see why, as there is a surprising amount of fun and satisfaction to be derived from taking on the roles of some of the most famous military commanders or leaders through the ages and changing the course of global history one battle at a time. That’s the essential premise of all of the previous Total War titles and it’s proven to be irresistible to desktop generals everywhere.

Given the nature of the source material it only seemed logical for Games Workshop to license their Warhammer Fantasy IP for use in strategy computer games. There have been numerous such attempts over the years but fans (myself included) of probably the grimmest and darkest fantasy franchise on the planet have long cried out for Warhammer to get the Total War treatment. After countless rituals in the name of deities both benign and malevolent we finally got an answer to our prayers in May 2016 in the form of Total War: Warhammer. Whilst this departure from the formula of using historical settings with content as true-to-life as possible caused consternation for some of the established fan base, the freedom offered by a fantasy setting breathed new life into a game series that was starting to become a little stale. There are only so many times you can fight against slightly recolored versions of the same few civilizations before it becomes difficult to tell which game you’re actually playing.

So here we are a little over a year later and Total War: Warhammer 2 has just been released, and it’s clear that opting to develop a game so far outside the bounds of their usual niche subject matter has done nothing but good for the team at Creative Assembly. Once you’ve seen one testudo or phalanx, you’ve seen them all, and after so many years of reproducing factions and unit types of relative historical accuracy, it’s a testament to the inventiveness (or perhaps creative relief) of the development team that they have been able to bring to life distinct factions with very different play styles. As with the first game, Total War: Warhammer 2 features four factions drawn from the varied races of the Warhammer world.

Players have the option of waging their wars as the aloof and noble High Elves of the island paradise of Ulthuan; their vicious and sadistic fallen kin, the Dark Elves, who have been condemned to dwell in the frozen wastes of Naggaroth; the enigmatic Lizardmen, masters of the Lustrian jungles and last protectors of a civilization ancient beyond reckoning; or the repulsive and infinitely cunning Skaven, a horde of accursed rat-men so vile and evil that most citizens of the Warhammer world refuse to believe they even exist. Each of these races brings with them a plethora of exclusive benefits and drawbacks that are determined by their technology trees, unit selection and general gameplay mechanics. To offer further choice to the player, these races are split into 2 sub-factions with each corresponding legendary lord having either a melee or magic-focused skill set that caters to the preferences of those who favor either a more direct up-close and personal approach to combat or would rather engage their enemies from afar with devastating barrages of spells or projectiles.

Tyrion or Teclis command the High Elves, the faction most comparable to what most people would consider to be a traditional medieval style army. They are generally reliant on a strong cohort of ranged units supported by stalwart infantry and supplemented by a menagerie of dragons and magical beasts. This is an option that wasn’t really present in the previous game and is a very welcome addition for those who are looking for a more stable and reliable campaign experience in terms of economic and combat potential. Their vile kin, the appropriately named Dark Elves, utilize a similar army format but with more emphasis on vicious melee combatants trained to eviscerate the enemy as they cower under a hail of crossbow bolts. As either Malekith the Witch King or Morathi the Hag Queen, players have the option to recruit a combination of robust close quarters specialists supported by various beasts of war and masters of the macabre arcane arts.

Lizardmen under the stewardship of Lord Mazdamundi or Kroq-Gar are heavily dependent on unified ranks of indefatigable foot soldiers to keep the enemy pinned in place as magic using priests bombard them from afar and the flanks are assaulted by monstrous infantry combined with an array of dinosaurs (yes, you too can have your very own Chris Pratt Jurassic World moment.). The result is a style of warfare that is as indifferent and relentless as the laws of nature itself. Meanwhile under the guiding paws of Lord Skrolk or Queek Headtaker, representatives of Skaven clans Pestilens and Mors respectively, you control innumerable legions of disposable foot soldiers who only serve to suffer the brunt of any onslaught as demented wizards wielding techno-magic weaponry and festering plague-riddled zealots position themselves to annihilate friend and foe alike with rancid blasts of unholy power.

Such variety and flexibility of available army compositions makes itself most apparent on the battlefield, and Total War: Warhammer 2 delivers battle gameplay that is as good, if not better, than it has ever been before. The series secured its reputation with its simulation of combat between massed ranks of troops engaged in real time maneuvers directly controlled by the player, and even though there are a few kinks with the AI that have troubled these games since the very beginning, it’s never less than an absolute joy to watch as formations of High Elf soldiers clash in a desperate melee with hordes of scurrying Skaven, or to see gigantic, heavily-armored lizards smash into braced ranks of Dark Elf warriors. Each combat scenario plays out like the Battle of the Pelennor Fields from The Return of the King crossed with Jon Snow’s gut-wrenching face-off against the Bolton host in Game of Thrones, with a healthy dash of Army of Darkness added for flavor. The battles are chaotic, brutal, and glorious. Without question this is definitely a game of two halves and the strategic campaign gameplay in tandem with the micro-scale tactical warfare that takes place on the battle maps makes for a gaming experience that, thanks to the addition of Warhammer lore, is more compelling than ever.

The same quality and attention to detail that were lavished on the battles carry over onto the campaign map. From the tangled jungles of Lustria to the frozen crags of Naggaroth across a storm-wracked ocean to the verdant isle of Ulthuan and beyond to the mysterious depths of the South Lands, every region is distinct and uniquely embellished. Thematic authenticity was a key design concept for Total War: Warhammer and that is obviously the case for the sequel as well. Anyone with a fondness for Games Workshop’s creation will be thrilled to see some of the most feared and famous locations in the lore. They may not be depicted in precise detail but having such a vast and gorgeous depiction of one of the most popular fantasy worlds ever devised spread out before you to explore, and indeed conquer, is a joy to behold.

Every battle players fight as the leaders of the four factions is just a small part of a titanic struggle for control of the Vortex of Ulhuan, a swirling maelstrom of arcane energy that sits at the very heart of the High Elves’ domain. As the campaign progresses players will be tasked with performing a series of five sequential rituals, the completion of which will bring them closer to final victory. These rituals are not fire-and-forget events, as initiating one prompts unwanted attention in the form of multi-turn offenses that are launched against your cities. There are all manner of other obstacles put in place to try and prevent you from accomplishing your final goal. Rogue armies, random map events, rebellions as well as attacks from both major and minor factions that have their own agendas will do everything within their power to thwart your plans. For the most part how players decide to tackle the various challenges around them is largely up to them, and other than completing the rituals there is no set way to achieve the campaign win condition which means players can expand and organize their power base in whatever way they see fit. Naturally, the most efficient way of ensuring the compliance of the local population is to conquer them so that each province can be developed to open up more economic, technological and recruitment options. Diplomacy plays a role too, particularly for the High Elves who can use their faction specific influence mechanic to alter the course of relations between the various factions in order to either avoid or start wars.

Although it’s still true to say that this is a free-for-all sandbox style experience typical to what has been seen in previous games from this studio, there have been significant moves toward giving the Total War gameplay experience a more coherent structure. There are new additions to the campaign map such as treasures to find and locations to explore in both offshore locales and in the various ruined settlements that may or may not harbor lurking Skaven forces. When interacted with, these locations trigger mini-text events that, after a brief blurb, offer you a choice that could have either negative or positive effects for your faction. The rewards are never anything especially amazing, but they can be lucrative enough to make an effort to collect them as you march across the world. Throughout the campaign players will also be issued with a steady stream of quests and missions that tie directly into the personal goals of your individual chosen legendary lord as well as the factions as a whole. Completing these is by no means mandatory, but doing so offers rewards ranging from character buffs, traits, equipment, followers and even small but regular amounts of the ritual currency that your chosen faction requires to progress toward mastery of the Vortex.

The implementation of this guided structure within a more free-form environment makes for a much for substantial sense of purpose to the campaign that was often lost in the Old World setting of the first game. However, if I had one gripe with the vortex campaign, then it would be the muddled sense of pacing that characterizes the experience. There’s nothing wrong with using strongly objective driven elements to give a game a degree of dynamism and focus, but coupling them with the timed element of the rituals can give the impression of disjointed start-stop gameplay. Total War: Warhammer 2 alternates between periods of relative freedom, as you collect enough currency for the next ritual, explore the map and conquer or confederate other factions at your leisure, and the hectic intensity of the combat heavy ritual cycles which see you having to fight off ever-increasing numbers of enemy armies.

It’s not a major criticism but it does at times seem as if it would have been more appropriate to make the vortex more akin to the Realm of the Wood Elves and Call of the Beastmen DLC mini-campaigns that were added to the first game rather than the centerpiece of an entire game. Luckily, for players who already own the previous title, Creative Assembly plan to combine the original map with the new Vortex oriented one to create what has been dubbed the ‘Mortal Empires’ campaign. This will include slightly modified versions of every area available on both maps and all the races made available to date will be playable in one vast war for dominance of the Warhammer world. As a long time fan of Games Workshop and their unique brand of fantasy that’s an exciting prospect and should provide ample opportunity to lead my favorite races and characters to total and final triumph.

With Total War: Warhammer 2, Creative Assembly have done a sterling job of developing a game that appeals to fans of their own franchise, and enthusiasts of Games Workshop’s iconic intellectual property. When it comes to gaming I don’t think there could ever be a better match. The robust campaign and battle mechanics that the Total War series is renowned for is the perfect framework for Warhammer‘s rich and intricate lore. The end result is a title that is as engaging for the complexity of its gameplay as it is for its palpable thematic atmosphere. Less forgiving veterans of the Total War series should probably hold off for the next historical release slated for some point in 2018 because if the goblins and wizards of Total War: Warhammer were enough to put you off then you’ll probably not look kindly on fighting armies of plague-riddled rat-men or legions of dinosaur-riding sentient lizards.

For Warhammer fans that are new to this unique brand of simulated warfare then this is the perfect jumping-on point for the series, as it improves upon the first entry in every way and has no immediate connection to the first game, so you won’t be missing anything essential. The upcoming ‘Mortal Empires’ combined campaign map along with everything else that this unusually impressive sequel already has to offer makes for an absolute bargain, one that I doubt even the Chaos gods themselves could refuse.

Chris is a Cambridge, UK based freelance writer and reviewer. A graduate of English Literature from Goldsmiths College in London he has been composing poetry and prose for most of his life. More than partial to real ale/craft beer and a general fan of sci-fi and fantasy. He first started gaming on a borrowed Mega Drive as a child and has been a passionate enthusiast of the hobby and art form ever since. Never afraid to speak his mind he always aims to tell the unvarnished truth about a game. Favourite genres: RPGs, action adventure and MMOs. Least favourite genre: anything EA Sports related (they're the same games every year!)

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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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