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‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ — The Force Is Not Strong With This One

An engaging campaign, a satisfying arcade mode, and thrilling multiplayer make Star Wars Battlefront II an improvement over its predecessor and it should be the game to bring balance to the Force.

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Though flawed, 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront captured the large-scale, galaxy-high-stakes battle scenarios from the Star Wars franchise that fans always wanted to experience first hand. With a plethora of modes, quality controls, and a modest but respectable arsenal to draw from, Battlefront truly brought the conflict of Star Wars to life in an online shooter.  However, restricting itself to one era, paid DLC that significantly fragmented the audience, a couple of balancing issues, and the lack of a campaign meant it wasn’t the droids game fans were looking for. Now Dice strikes back with Star Wars Battlefront II, the campaign-toting, back-to-basics sequel that mends many of its predecessor’s issues — while sadly managing to make a whole lot more in the process.

The biggest complaint with the 2015 Battlefront was the lack of a story mode, a complaint Dice heard loud and clear and remedied in Battlefront II. At the narrative’s center (and the center of the box art, wouldn’t you know it) is Iden Versio, the commander of an elite Imperial special forces unit, the Inferno Squad. The tale opens at the end of Return of the Jedi, as Iden and Inferno Squad arrive on Endor just in time to see the Death Star destroyed for the second time. Now she must find her place in an Emperor-less Empire fighting desperately to re-find the upper hand that it’s had on the Rebellion for so long.  Unfortunately, the initial intrigue of following a loyal Imperial soldier at the end of the Empire’s reign is wasted when the story dissolves into something far more bland and predictable.

That’s not to say that the campaign doesn’t have its moments. That’s just the problem though — they’re moments, scenes that never quite add up to a whole. Part of this is a lack of a true central conflict. An internal conflict that arises in Iden and other members of her squad is the start of a strong, character-driven narrative from a unique point of view, history told from the perspective of the losers, from the “bad guys.” As soon as the conflict emerges, however, it’s jarringly resolved, and the plot bounds ahead while leaving the player behind. A different conflict ensues, only to be resolved a mission later with little to no fanfare.

Still, saying the plot progresses at a breakneck pace isn’t accurate. Instead, the story makes enormous leaps from one moment in time to the next, making it feel like there are entire chapters missing from the game’s campaign. Context is worked unconvincingly into the dialogue to try to convince the player that proceedings have naturally progressed up to this point, but it’s a clear exposition ruse. Promising, original plot points (like Iden’s internal struggle or “Operation: Cinder”) tend to fizzle out immediately, only to be replaced by new narrative threads that feel like retreads from other Star Wars properties.  There’s novelty in being thrown into some new and some recognizable locales, and atmospherically Battlefront II feels like Star Wars — just without a cohesive narrative to actually bind it together. On top of that, random interludes where the player embodies some of Star Wars’ most recognizable heroes that never truly connect back to anything further chop up a campaign that never realizes its potential.

Characterization is equally as fleeting, emerging promisingly in moments when things decide to slow down, only to be reduced to the same sort of expository shortcuts the game tries to deliver as scenario context. Consequently, Battlefront II lacks any weight or emotional resonance, despite its best efforts. Equally as disappointing (considering its initial effort to unmask and humanize some of the soldiers behind the stormtrooper helmets), the game ultimately settles into the same old binary, black and white, good versus evil perspective of the Galactic Civil War that has always existed. In a time when Rogue One took early steps towards painting the Rebellion as anything less than morally white and pure as sheep’s wool, I don’t think it’s asking too much for a portrait of the Empire as anything more than an abhorrent force. In the end, though, Battlefront II contents itself with portraying the Empire as nothing but evil, hardly tapping into the potential of its initial intrigue. All of that said, while the campaign might not be all that memorable, its characters can’t hold a candle to the original Star Wars cast, and the story is sort of a choppy mess, at the very least it’s fun, and a good introduction to the game.

The second of the three major modes Battlefront II offers is the arcade mode, comprised of multiple mini-missions and scenarios categorized as Light or Dark Side that task the player with eliminating AI-controlled soldiers under specific conditions. Those conditions or modifiers in any combination range from strict time limits to using a specific hero, or limit the player with a strict amount of troops, or even to a single life. Each mission also has three difficulties that alter the game modifiers and make more formidable opponents out of the AI.

The arcade offers players a place to experience the game’s different soldier units, the decent range of heroes, and experience a multitude of the game’s locales in a non-competitive environment. While simple, it’s a lot of fun, and honestly reminds me of the 2004 Star Wars: Battlefront or its 2005 sequel in a really great way. In fact, if Dice somehow sees this and expands arcade mode to feature gameplay identical to the original Battlefront across this game’s full maps, I will raise this review’s score a whole number. Hell, I’d double the score if that’s what it took! Dice, how’d you like to be the first game reviewed by Goomba Stomp to get OVER a ten? Think about it.

Like the rest of the present Battlefront II‘s modes, arcade isn’t without its blemishes. For whatever reason (probably to match the rest of Battlefront II‘s horrendous progression system), in-game currency gains are capped after five arcade missions, so that while the mode is a fun diversion, arcade isn’t helping players progress in the rest of the game.  Perhaps it was a decision made to prevent players from farming for credits (the in-game currency) as fast as possible, but considering each mission only doles out 100 credits upon completion, and the cost of everything in game is thousands of credits, this is a disturbingly stingy design choice. And while the arcade can be experienced cooperatively, co-op is limited to same console split-screen, an enormous oversight for a fundamentally online multiplayer game that already allows players to party up to experience almost all of the rest of the content together. While this is the least of the game’s issues, it’s still a design choice that lacks foresight (force sight?).

The final and arguably primary category of play in Battlefront II is the multiplayer mode.  The multiplayer is broken into five modes, the largest of which is Galactic Assault, where two teams of twenty clash over objectives that shift as the game progresses. A combination of the 2015 Battlefront‘s forty-person modes like Supremacy and Walker Assault, Galactic Assault’s objectives vary by map, vast battlefields from all eras of the films that perfectly capture beloved locales such as Hoth, Endor, or even Theed. For those looking for smaller-scale, more contained objective play, the Strike mode is perfect. Round-based, Strike pits two teams of eight against one another in a best of three bout across equally as iconic — albeit more reigned in — locales. Strike provides just the right amount of focused, objective gameplay, remaining quick-paced and competitive despite being far more controlled, and allows teams and individuals to adapt to enemy tactics and mount a comeback when necessary. I still find myself bouncing between the two modes, easily the standouts of Battlefront II‘s multiplayer.

That’s not to say the other multiplayer modes aren’t fun diversions. Starfighter Assault is the game’s starfighter dogfight mode. While better balanced than its predecessor’s dogfight mode, and providing some much-needed objectives to truly make proceedings feel like a “star war,” fighters’ lack of evasive maneuvers means that when a player has you in their sights, you’ll fare no better than Biggs did against Vader during the trench run on the Death Star. You can’t shake ’em (actually, I think Wedge said that, not Biggs, but for the record, Biggs got dead). Heroes vs. Villains is a fun mode where teams of four go head to head as the game’s cast of heroes. A player on each team is randomly highlighted as the target, and killing them nets your team a point — first to ten wins. It’s a goofy diversion, but good to get a feel for all of Battlefront‘s hero characters. Finally there’s Blast, a ten versus ten deathmatch mode. It’s nothing special, and I’d hardly call it a “blast.” Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Each mode (minus Heroes vs. Villains) features a new Battle Point system. Landing hits on enemies, netting kills, and playing the objective grants points that can be spent on rewards and upgrades in the match. The system rewards player performance by allowing them to take control of special troopers, vehicles, or even heroes, regardless of era. The system seems fairly well balanced, and only allows a limited quantity of each special trooper type onto the field at once. To maintain balance in the force, smaller modes such as Blast and Strike only feature the elite trooper upgrade options rather than allow players to dominate the enemy’s smaller numbers with their favorite hero or villain. Admittedly, it can be antagonizing to get cornered all alone by a Sith or Jedi as humble foot soldier in the larger modes (Yoda, in particular, can be a pesky, small target, and maybe should be rebalanced), but heroes, vehicles, and all upgrades have been fairly well balanced, and players will have to wield all special troops with quite a bit of care, or risk getting taken down quickly by the enemy’s ranks. It can also be a bit irksome when you’ve finally earned enough BPs to upgrade to a hero, only to see the maximum quantity of heroes already on the battlefield, but sometimes resource management can save a team in some clutch moments. In any case, the system is far preferable to 2015’s Battlefront upgrades, which were randomly scattered across each map.

Perhaps taking inspiration from the original Battlefront series, Battlefront II introduces a class system to its ground-based multiplayer modes. Each of the four basic classes fulfills a specific role, and comes equipped with different guns, tools, and perks. The Assault class is a basic ground soldier, effective at medium ranges. The Heavy is tanker, and has a handy shield and lethal minigun. The Officer can boost a teams health and lay down automated turrets, while the Specialist class specializes in range, stealth, and infiltration. While a welcome addition, the class system isn’t without issues — primarily balancing issues, which unfortunately have been drowned out by the more dire progression system complaints. As it stands, the Heavy class is as efficient as the Assault class at close to medium range, but with the benefit of an energy shield to halt incoming damage, meaning far more survivability. On top of that, Heavy weapons have almost as much range as a Specialist’s snipers, with less need for accuracy due to the higher rate of fire, particularly when in Sentry mode (the Heavy class’ special attack). When playing as a Heavy, I’d frequently be about to lose a gunfight, only to pop my shield and finish mowing down my opponent, safe behind my personal barrier. A relatively high time to kill means Heavies can react to incoming fire, drop a shield to turn the tides of the engagement, or, if fighting a Specialist, simply fire faster and finish them off if the Specialist so much as misses one headshot.

As far as the Specialist goes, the class does have the advantage at really long distances, especially if the player has unlocked a double zoom scope for any of the guns. However, most of these guns don’t have quick rates of fire, and (by design) don’t reward kills for single headshots — or, as is often common in shooters, two body shots. I’ve had countless awkward engagements where I simply missed the headshot and couldn’t put my opponent down before they had reacted and finished me off simply because their gun was far faster and more lethal when landing body shots. Further hampering the Specialist class is the fact that it’s the only class to start with a non-lethal grenade. While a trip mine can be equipped once the proper Star Card has been unlocked, it doesn’t replace the horrendous, near-useless shock grenade, but instead replaces the very beneficial thermal binoculars, which help the class set up in ideal positions to pick off enemies at range.

Finally, the best option for the Specialist in close range encounters is the special ability, Infiltration, which provides a detailed minimap, scrambles enemy radars, and auto equips a three round burst, medium-range blaster for a short period of time. Unfortunately, the blaster feels slow, and has a longer time to kill than most classes’ standard blasters. It can be helpful if the player manages to flank a group of enemy troops, but in a face-to-face encounter, even with Star Card improvements, it often comes up short, making the Specialist’s special hardly a special at all.

Those scruples aside, Star Wars Battlefront II‘s multiplayer content is fun. Unfortunately, this quality content is unequivocally marred by the game’s abysmal progression system.  The most natural progression in game occurs as players utilize each of the four basic classes. Those classes can earn upwards of three new weapons, rewarded after earning fifty, 200, and 500 kills respectively. However, EA has managed to botch even that up by allowing players who pre-ordered immediate access to some of the guns, a non-issue if those guns weren’t all indisputably better.

As for the rest of progression, it’s all dependent on loot crates. As individuals play, they’ll earn credits, which can then be spent on an assortment of crates, which grant Star Cards. These cards are meant as customization options which grant new tools, augment existing abilities, improve cooldown speeds of said tools and abilities, and even buff base stats like damage resistance. All Star Cards are tiered, altering their effectiveness. A level one white tier card might provide a new grenade for example, while a level three blue tier card might improve the damage it does, its blast radius, and always improves the cooldown time of the ability. Consequently, players with better cards — received randomly in loot crates and rarely through any matter of earning them — are at an advantage, upsetting the game’s already questionably balanced ecosystem.

Undoubtedly this progression system was designed to promote microtransactions, as initially players were invited to spend real currency on “crystals” that could also be used to purchase loot crates. However, even if EA were to permanently remove microtransactions from the game, the progression system as it stands would be irreparably broken. As mentioned, crates can be purchased with the in-game currency,but doing so is a slow and tedious process that never guarantees players the specific cards they’re seeking. Each crate grants three to four cards: one or two specific to the crate type, one random card, and a card with “crafting parts” (more on those later). For example, the cheapest crate — the Hero Crate — costs 2,200 credits and only guarantees one or two random cards that improve a hero or villain. The most expensive crate — the Trooper Crate — is the only crate that guarantees at least one card to improve the basic trooper classes, costs 4,000 credits, and again, provides a totally random cards, leaving the player no control over what trooper the card will be for, let alone what perk it will improve.

The average game rewards the player somewhere between 100 and 350 credits for roughly fifteen minutes of play. While credits can also be earned through completing career “milestones” (a system that tracks player achievements in game), these returns are pitiful, typically bestowing the player with 100 or 250 additional credits. Long story short, progression in Battlefront II is tedious and left up to a random number generator.

This doesn’t even take into consideration that players will also have to balance their credit spending between hero unlocks, as six heroes must be purchased with in-game credits, including Luke and Darth Vader. Yes, the Skywalkers are locked at the game’s outset. Not helping the matter at all, these characters are all pricier than the most expensive loot crate, costing 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 credits per character. Even the game’s protagonist, Iden Versio, must be unlocked.

While there’s no shortcut to unlock each hero, Star Cards can be crafted using the aforementioned crafting parts. These parts, also occasionally earned through milestones (though these rewards are equally as paltry as the credits earned in this way), are typically found in loot crates. The lowest-level Star Cards can be crafted using forty crafting parts, a reasonable amount considering that there are forty-five to sixty crafting parts in each crate. The higher tier cards, however, cost significantly more. As a measure of balance, the highest tier of each card can only be acquired by crafting them once that specific class has reached a high level, and costs 480 crafting parts — just another inanely tedious climb.  Luckily, the three-tier cards can still be found in loot crates, totally at random, totally out of the control of the player who will probably end up having to grind to a high level anyway to get the card through crafting it.

All that said, Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t all bad. I can’t honestly recommend it, especially since thanks to the worst progression system I’ve ever experienced, new players will be at a continually steeper disadvantage, but underneath all the bullsith (eh?) and greedy mishandling is a really fun Star Wars game. An engaging if terse and sporadic campaign, satisfying arcade mode (Dice, my deal still stands), and thrilling but imbalanced multiplayer make Battlefront II an improvement over its predecessor, and a laudable arcade shooter satisfyingly set in the Star Wars galaxy. Unfortunately, the appalling progression system and unmistakable greed of the publisher tarnishes all of that, leaving it looking less sleek and shiny, and more gross and dirty like Jabba the Hut. Like a Stormtrooper aiming at a named hero, this one just misses the mark.

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Hvd

    November 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    ea its in the crates…lol.ea just pay 2 win…lol.

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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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