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‘Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse’ Review: Pirates Are Cooler Than Genies



Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third adventure from the hair-whipping half genie, is latest in the trend of “This game’s pretty good, let’s port this one to Switch too” (not that this’s a bad thing). The follow up to Shantae and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is frequently cited as her strongest installment, and it’s no challenge to see why. A magnificently mobile moveset punctuates satisfyingly testing platforming. Throw in some killer dungeons and bosses, and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse stands proud as a testament to the everlasting appeal of the Metroidvania formula.

Forced to collaborate with her nemesis, Risky Boots, to fell an abominable jerk called The Pirate Master, Shantae travels from island to island, conquering Zelda-esque dungeons and acquiring the pirate-themed items they offer. From a pirate hat used to gracefully glide about, to a cannon that outputs a hefty ‘ka-blow’ capable of hurtling Shantae into mid-air, her abilities lean on the side of quick ‘n’ nimble, resulting in movement being ecstatically enjoyable. As iconic as her extensive animal transformations are, the replacement bunch of quick-fire, pirate-y moves lend themselves marvellously to the gameplay at hand. With slick, 16-bit sexiness and melody-laden grooves serving up a plentiful helping of visual and musical charisma, along with a scattering of witty writing to boot, there’s bunches to love in Shantae and the Pirates Curse.

Not all is paradise in Sequin Land however. Particular places offer an abundance of foes, each and every one shooting, slicing, and stabbing at Shantae in unison. As enjoyable as hard-hitting tests of skill may be, these instances come across a tad cruel, as navigating Shantae effectively with such a cluttered quantity of hazards on screen becomes excruciatingly frustrating. A point of no return is also present towards the tail-end of the journey, and whilst it doesn’t impede players from continuing to explore, it does make Scuttle Town totally grim ‘n’ gloomy (so be sure to have an extra save file on hand should you wish to continue kicking back in Scuttle Town’s ‘not depressing’ aesthetic).

In comparison to its sequel, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse boasts a significantly less linear level design, wholeheartedly embracing its Metroidvania influences. Its vast dungeons and awesome bosses overpower the straightforward stages and ‘not quite as awesome’ bosses of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Despite this, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse lacks the accessibility and sublime simplicity of its follow-up, and fails to grasp the equivalent degree of re-playability. In summary, the perfect Shantae experience would marry the focused direction and ‘straight to the point’ approach of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero with the moveset, dungeons, and bosses of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. So, all eyes on the next Shantae installment (whenever it may come to fruition).

When all is said and done, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the definitive Shantae experience, and feels just as fabulous as ever on the Nintendo Switch. Easily trumping its predecessors and confidentially rivaling its stellar sequel, this is an ideal introduction for newcomers into a franchise of platforming mastery. Even despite its slight missteps (emphasis on slight), Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse shows that this hero doesn’t need her genie powers to kick a whole load of monster backside.

I have spent my life in England finding entertainment in both video games and music. Whilst not indulging in the latter, I invest my time in playing all manner of video games, and as of 2017, writing about all manner of video games. Email:

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Game Reviews

‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ Multiplayer Offers Classic Gameplay with a Couple of Twists

Love it or hate it, ‘Modern Warfare’ multiplayer is back and as nostalgic as ever, with a few twists.



Call of Duty Multiplayer

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare often gets a bad rap as a formulaic franchise, especially when it comes to multiplayer. From the original Modern Warfare to more recent titles like WW2, the experience has often felt like a fresh coat of paint on an old, yet addicting, model.

This approach is not always a bad thing though. For fans of the series, the nostalgia and consistency is often the main selling point, and they are always ready to bring the same skills back into a new title’s running and gunning action.

So when Infinity Ward announced that the campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would focus on revolutionizing the franchise with realistic gameplay, no one was really sure what to expect. Naturally, fans were eager to see how this new combat and action would translate to a multiplayer experience but also wary of whether a radical change would ruin the experience they craved.

Well—love it or hate it—Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer is back and just as nostalgic and familiar as ever, although the update brings a couple of new twists. While it’s light years away from perfect, this newest installment in the franchise still offers up classic gameplay with a couple of interesting alterations. For longtime fans, these changes might be positive or negative, but Infinity Ward at least deserves some credit for trying.

Getting tactical

To put it simply, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer gameplay leans more towards what some would call a tactical, cover-based style of combat. In theory, this sounds like a fairly fresh approach to the run and gun style of the past. This new style forces teams to work together to slowly climb up the map, holding various chokeholds while pushing up on enemy positions.

With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare taking a more realistic approach to combat, it’s natural the multiplayer strategies will change as well. Like the campaign, guns feel more realistic and powerful, resulting in quicker kills and more damage taken. Combined with the new “mount” cover system, this often means that players get mowed down pretty quickly.

But—full disclosure—this new multiplayer gameplay generally means that the game rewards staying in one place for a majority of a match. For lack of a better word, camping. While past COD games placed a heavy emphasis on speed and movement, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare wants players to find a strong, defensible position and hold it.

Modern Warfare Multiplayer

Sure, running and gunning still have a place in Modern Warfare, but it’s definitely not as functional as it has been in the past. Often times, it means just blindly stumbling into the same quick death and missing out on those killstreaks. While not perfect—and a little unbalanced—switching the style up is an interesting move that could be successful with future updates, although no promises.

There’s no list like the quick playlist

It should come as no surprise that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer’s best quality is its Quick Play maps. While the gameplay has shifted to a certain extent, this mode still is a grab-bag of the old nostalgic favorites that pretty much sum up the past decade or more of Call of Duty online. This option has all the old favorites—the traditional Team Deathmatch, Control, and Kill Confirmed—plus a few new additions.

For most COD veterans, these modes are the bread-and-butter of the franchise, and Infinity Ward has really boiled FPS fun down to a science. It’s that perfect video game balance of being both incredibly frustrating and insanely addicting at the same time, sucking players into a cycle of “yeah, okay, one more game.” The lobby keeps the matches coming, the ranks keep the unlocks rolling, and the stats make it all feel worthwhile.

No trouble with doubles

The newest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer element, Gunfight, is absolutely a highlight of the experience. In this new mode, two teams of two duke it out in a close arena-style, last-team-standing match. Every player starts with the same gun and class and spawns in identical positions, and the first team to six wins takes the match. It’s a great example of leveling the playing field and letting the most skilled team win, and it is absolutely intense.

Like the rest of the gameplay, this mode seems to reward patience and teamwork. While running headfirst into danger is always an option, staying back and letting the enemy make the first move seems to be the best tactic and leads to the highest success rate.

While playing with a friend is always the best way to go, Gunfight is still an intense and fast-paced mode with a random partner. Yeah, it can be frustrating at times if players are paired with inexperienced or uncooperative teammates, but Infinity Ward seems to understand matchmaking fairly well.

Not all is perfect

Trying to keep up with other franchises, one of the major selling points for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer was the introduction of the new modes Special Ops and Ground War. While these ideas work on paper, they don’t exactly play out in practice.

Special Ops, the newest coop mode, feels a lot like Infinity Ward’s answer to the social shooter “Strikes” of games like Destiny 2. In teams of 4, players must work together to battle through waves of enemy bots and bosses to achieve different mission objectives and unlock more of the “story” (sort-of). In theory, it sounds awesome, but it’s mind-numbingly awful in execution.

In Special Ops, every objective is incredibly far apart, enemy bots feel both endless and worthless, and the incentive to keep continuing is nonexistent. Unlike Destiny 2 “Strikes,” there is no real coherent narrative that moves players from one objective to the next. Instead, it’s just cookie-cutter “shoot this character” or “stand by this area” quests that feel like huge wastes of time. Combine that with a large empty map and boring enemies, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Modern Warfare Multiplayer

Similarly, Ground War—while a little more interesting—is just as much of a swing-and-a-miss. Taking a few pages out of the Battlefield franchise’s playbook, this mode has 32-man teams and vehicles fighting for control of strategic positions. Again, great in theory, but terrible in execution.

With this Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer game type, it isn’t that everything works poorly. It just doesn’t really sync up into a coherent experience. Ground War plays out exactly as one would expect with vehicles and a larger map, but it still somehow devolves into a convoluted mess of hallways shooting and rapid, almost random deaths. Simply put, its biggest issue is just an incompatibility between the Call of Duty and Battlefield models. The combat just does not feel well-suited to the style of gameplay and the mode just lacks the polish and balance of the Battlefield games.

Where’s the royale?

While many may still disagree, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer feels like it needs a Battle Royal mode to round the whole experience out. As always, multiplayer quickplay is fun for a time, but having something else to break up the repetitive team deathmatch routine would be a welcome addition.

Infinity Ward could even try to mix their experience up a little bit by making a duos Gunfight-style mode the highlight of their BR offering. While single-player is probably the simplest way to play, adding an element of cooperation might make for an interesting and fresh experience.

Rumor has it that this multiplayer mode is in the works and coming in a later update, and it feels like a natural fit. The way that guns are upgraded in the class menu makes finding weapon parts a logical next step. Hopefully, this mode can revitalize the player base of Call of Duty once the holidays roll around.

More of the same

Overall, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer is a slight variation of the traditional Quick Play-style gameplay that the franchise is known for, and that’s not always a bad thing. For diehard fans of the franchise, it’s the same old Modern Warfare package with a fresh coat of paint. Sure, the gunplay and combat changes do take a while to get used to, but after a few hours of mindlessly running through maps, players should be well on their way to 20 kill games.  

For those looking for a fairly basic Call of Duty multiplayer experience with some slight gameplay tweaks, this one is for you. But if you want something new and revolutionary, take a different route.

Check out our review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s campaign mode.

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Game Reviews

‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ Campaign: Finally Shooting in the Right Direction



Modern Warfare campaign

Let’s face it, not many people buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles for the story anymore. With the dominance of the multiplayer modes, it’s almost like the campaign has become a tacked-on bonus to play if there is ever a problem with the WiFi connection.

A lot of that has to do with the narrative direction of the franchise—it has felt downright cookie-cutter in the past. Every year, COD offers the same old thing. Some generic serviceman is sent to a war-torn 3rd world country to save the free world from a random insurgent leader, military dictator, or rebel group. Sprinkle in some nuclear launch codes, chemical weapons, and futuristic military technology, and there’s the go-to formula for the series.  

With that said, imagine everyone’s surprise when Infinity Ward announced that they were reimagining the Modern Warfare franchise by rebooting its defining title. To establish this entry as a turning point, their new vision for the game would be bold, unapologetic, gritty, and realistic. By moving in this new and unexplored direction, the veteran developer believed that this was THE opportunity to create a new title that could change the landscape of AAA narratives forever.

So how did they do with this fresh direction for the Modern Warfare campaign? Actually, surprisingly well given the franchise’s history of forgettable stories and lackluster single-player experiences. The new 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign is actually an interesting and inventive take on the series and sets the table for some killer opportunities for future success if handled correctly. While it’s not without a few missteps along the way, overall Infinity Ward delivers on their promise and serves up a unique war experience unlike any in recent memory.

Finally, a story worth playing

Taking place in fictional Urzikstan, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s campaign puts players in the tough moral situations of war, asking them to consider what makes a “righteous” cause, an enemy combatant, or a war crime. Initially, the story seemed to follow the traditional COD trajectory, as players start as a CIA ghost tasked with finding a stolen shipment of chemical gas, but the story takes a quick turn into uncharted territory. This usually translates to showing gamers a glimpse of the much darker world of the present day, having players respond to a major terror attack, protect a stormed embassy, or stalk terrorist ringleaders through tunnel mazes.

Sure, these plot devices may feel a bit similar to past campaigns, but it’s Modern Warfare’s murkier presentation that elevates these elements to new heights. Instead of having the feeling of mowing down hundreds of faceless, generic computer bots to advance to the next mission, there is a weight to the combat and atmosphere that adds a certain gravity to the narrative. It could be because of the new focus on characters or just the general atmosphere, but this new aesthetic goes a long way in creating a more immersive Modern Warfare campaign experience.

That being said, while the campaign is solid, it’s no Black Hawk Down or Homeland. The story arc of the main characters, Alex and Kyle, play out far too abruptly and lack the nuance of deep development. It almost feels like a few things were cut for time from the original script or just got lost in translation to favor gameplay. As a result, some of the larger “critical” points about terrorism and morality fall a little flat as the story progresses. Sure, Infinity Ward deserves some credit for ambitiously trying to make some deep statements in video game form, no small feat for a AAA dev, but these complex issues require complex stories to flesh them out and do them justice.

Mostly killer, a little filler

What really sets this title apart from past entries is its willingness to experiment with level design, making for some really unique gameplay moments. Of course, the campaign has all the COD staples—the generic sniper mission, the protect the base objectives, etc, etc. But it’s the new stuff that creates some excitement for the future of the franchise.

Most memorable of these Modern Warfare campaign levels were the missions involving nighttime raids on suspected terrorist cells. As players slowly move from floor to floor with their tactical squad, they are forced to quickly assess whether characters are enemies or civilians. When corners are quickly turned, some of the people react in fear, some pull weapons, and others make a long con to distract while danger lurks nearby. To make things even better, these whole missions take place in dead silence and through night vision, giving it a vaguely Outlast-ey feel. Hopefully, Infinity Ward will be brave enough to bring more of these types of levels into the future of the series.

Modern Warfare campaign

Also, the Modern Warfare campaign seems to be less afraid of letting players choose their own path through the mission. Varying weapon types are available from the get-go and objectives can often be addressed in multiple ways, giving players more freedom. While the narrative doesn’t exactly feel non-linear (although that would have been even more interesting), it certainly opens up possibilities for a little more replayability than previous campaigns.

The devil is in the details

There was a healthy skepticism when Infinity Ward first promised that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign would be gritty and realistic, but they truly lived up to their word. Civilians and enemies both drop at a similar rate, takedowns are visceral and brutal, and the subject matter of the game can be downright sickening. There are times that will actually have players think, “I’m too soft for war,” which is absolutely the feeling that Infinity Ward is going for.

To achieve this depth, all the assets and cinematics work well in tandem. The gunplay is visceral and realistic, giving some of the best FPS feelings in the current-gen. The cinematics is also awe-inspiring, literally light years away from the Uncanny Valley. To be quite honest, it actually makes one wish that there were more cinematics in the game. 

Finally shooting in the right direction

Although not a perfect game, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign might be one of the bigger surprises of the year in terms of expectations. With a franchise that has been running this long on such half-hearted narrative experiences, the stakes for the title were incredibly low. But Infinity Ward has delivered something worth playing that truly feels like the vision that they promised. Sure, the campaign is not without flaws, as it would be great to see a tighter story and even more diverse gameplay elements, but it is absolutely worth a play just to experience its better moments.

Even though the Modern Warfare campaign is no Game of the Year contender, it’s nice to know that the franchise is finally headed back in the right direction. Who knows? Maybe one day people will pick the game up for the campaign over the multiplayer, instead of vice-versa.

Speaking of multiplayer, check out our review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer mode.

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Game Reviews

‘Luigi’s Mansion 3′ Review: The Franchise is Movin’ On Up



No more living in the shadow of his more stalwart sibling — Luigi’s Mansion 3 has built its puzzle-solving, ghost-busting gameplay upon two solid foundations, and the result reaches fantastic new heights. With a host of new abilities, an incredible amount of interactivity in a gorgeous setting, and an army of undead hotel staff ready to be sucked up into the afterlife, this is easily the best entry in the franchise — and a culmination of what Nintendo and developer Next Level Games has learned since the original GameCube release.

Luigi's Mansion 3 lobby

While there will always be those who appreciate the more Gothic atmosphere of that first entry, it’s hard to argue the superiority of its basic action. Gameplay-wise, the original Luigi’s Mansion was a starter home, and Dark Moon is where the timid green plumber’s ghost-busting, drapery-sucking antics really settled down. By adding new abilities to the Poltergust, increased interactivity with the environments, and a multitude of secrets, Next Level Games created a blueprint that future entries in the series could build upon. Luigi’s Mansion 3 takes that schematic and runs wild with it, jam-packing their funhouse with a plethora of things to do and discover, and plenty of new ways to do it.

Fans of the franchise will no doubt remember exactly how to blind their foes (and disintegrate creepy-crawlies) with the blinding flash of the Strobulb, as well as obsessively comb every nook and cranny with the Dark Light, which can materialize hidden objects (and Boos) out of thin air. But while these holdovers are just as fun as ever, it’s the additions to Luigi’s repertoire that really take Luigi’s Mansion 3 on a private elevator to the penthouse. The best is Gooigi, a green jello doppelganger of the hero who has all the same abilities, but can also ooze through cage bars or spikes like the T-1000, and travel through pipes like…Mario and Luigi; like the Wicked Witch of the West, however, he will melt when exposed to water. Several wonderful puzzles and boss fights involve switching back and forth between the two controllable characters, and some even require them working in conjunction to combine their vacuum powers.

Luigi's Mansion 3 mummy

Also tons of fun is a suction cup projectile that conveniently has a rope attached for Luigi to yank on. Firing it at bulging pieces of luggage, electrical boxes, potted plants, garbage cans, bathroom stall doors, or any number of highlighted objects around the hotel allows Luigi to perform a smashing slam move that breaks ornaments apart and spills their loot. There are times when Luigi’s Mansion 3 feels like a hotel burglar simulation, as players run around destroying everything in sight, ransacking rooms for anything valuable — but the spree is certainly a blast. In addition to feeling great, these new abilities also force players to scrutinize rooms closer than ever before if they are to find every deviously hidden stash of gold or gems.

It’s sheer pleasure seeing how cleverly Next Level Games has layered puzzle upon puzzle in such luxuriously small spaces, daring players to experiment and think outside the box when it comes to how the Poltergust’s various powers are applied. It’s easy to turn on a bathroom faucet and receive a couple of coins in return, but perhaps this simple button prompt leads players to wonder what happens when other taps — ones that aren’t accessible by hand — are opened. So many puzzles require players to make logical leaps without any telegraphed clues, and that makes the process of discovery so much more satisfying. This is where Luigi’s Mansion 3 stands out most from its predecessors — the incredible amount of variety and interactivity to poke around in.

Luigi's Mansion 3 pirate cave

And unlike Dark Moon, players won’t be kicked out this time upon completing objectives. Completing a floor simply leaves Luigi where the battle began, free to go about his business and explore, or to move on to the next story beat. The seventeen floors blend seamlessly with each other via an elevator (in which Luigi is still controllable — a nice touch), allowing for the feeling that this is one continuous environment more than the multiple mansions of the last trip.

Each floor also is given a specific theme (an deadly overgrown garden, an ominous concert hall, a pirate-themed seafood restaurant, a peppy fitness gym, etc.), and is often presented as a maze of rooms which Luigi must work his way through in order to get to the boss. The more cartoonish vibe of Dark Moon is clearly the influence here, but these spaces are absolutely gorgeous, showcasing a tactile, diorama-ish look that will have players eager to see what inventive scenario comes next. What’s better is that they are also thoughtfully designed and stuffed with complementary amenities, artwork, and knick-knacks (often tailored to the theme of the floor, which only increases the visual variety) with which to manipulate.

Sure, every loose piece of cloth can be whisked away, each sheet of paper can be sent scattering in a blast of air, and no plant’s leaves can consider themselves safe from the mighty Poltergust-00, but a comprehensive physics system is where so much of the magic in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is made. This is introduced immediately in a benign opening sequence that features tumbling luggage and tippable chairs. As Luigi bumps into objects, they react appropriately; plates fall to the ground and shatter like they should, things with wheels can be rolled, loose carpeting can be furled. It isn’t long before knowledge of these principles comes into play, and certain puzzles begin to show how the ‘regular’ moves by themselves aren’t going to cut it. If something is made of glass, it’s likely breakable — one only need to figure out how to smash it.

Experimentation is the key, and one of the real joys of Luigi’s Mansion 3. With so many tools at one’s disposal, it’s only natural to test the boundaries of this physics system, but Next Level Games has risen impressively to the challenge. Unorthodox maneuvers are almost always rewarded, either by a cornucopia of cash, a well-earned gem, or even an achievement recognizing the outstanding industriousness. This validation goes the extra mile in making the gameplay feel gratifying, and encourages spending a lot of time in each room to prod at every corner.

More importantly, training players to think creatively prepares them for the combat challenges ahead, and for those whose primary aim is to to bust ghosts, be assured that there are plenty. While most of the standard enemies conform to the same six or seven types, they often are wielding accessories that complicate the fight. Disarming plays a big part of combat, as savvy ghosts know how to block that Strobulb flash, and swarms of these yammering poltergeists can easily overtake poor Luigi. To assist in this, the previously mentioned slam works well at flattening approaching opponents and reducing their health, while a jump of sorts creates a burst of air which knocks opponents backwards. As usual, this latter move is useful for more than meets the eye.

Luigi's Mansion 3 dance

There is much more visual variety to the abundance of bosses, and while it’s doubtful they will be the subjects of much fan fiction or lore (with a few exceptions), the goofy characterizations are more distinct this time around than the last, and provide some of the most memorable moments. These ghoulies aren’t to be slept on in the difficulty department either; more than one boss ghost will put the plumber in his place if players simply charge right in without thinking first. And while Luigi’s Mansion 3 is generous with healing hearts and semi-useful hints from Professor E. Gadd, these creatively epic battles ultimately rely on understanding the full range of what Luigi’s many abilities can do. Weaknesses are rarely just given away, especially later in the game, and it’s likely that many younger or inexperienced players will be glad of some of E. Gadd’s health-restoring shop items.

Regardless of any bumps in the night, Luigi’s Mansion 3 succeeds wonderfully in creating a bountiful playground out of a haunted hotel that is a pleasure to patronize. With the online play of the Scarescraper still manic fun, and the mini-games of ScreamPark as an enjoyable multiplayer diversion, players are likely to return for many, many lengthy stays. A couple tedious set pieces and one or two frustrating boss fights aside, this is a perfectly paced sandbox (especially on the Egyptian floor) teeming with fun ideas — a towering expansion on previous models that takes the franchise to the next level.

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