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31 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Achilles: Legends Untold (Early Access - Beta Test)

Review by Jon Donnis
Achilles: Legends Untold is currently in Beta testing, as an early access game, I was invited to take part in the testing, and what follows are my honest and unbiased thoughts. Please keep in mind that the game is not finished, and my opinions on the game are based on the unfinished product.

To start off, this is an isometric RPG game, that isn't really isometric, nor is it a RPG game, in the classical sense. It is isometric only in parts, and the camera angle does move to set positions.

You as the player are unable to move the camera yourself, which is beyond frustrating, especially when you first start the game. Your initial instinct is to use the right stick if using a game controller, to adjust the camera so you can see your surroundings better. And this is the first huge problem with the game. By going against the natural instinct of the player, and forcing a camera perspective, you are taking away a huge part of what makes a game enjoyable. But we will come back to that later.

The game is basically a linear route, hack and slash game, you control your Greek warrior, you run about, and when you come across an enemy, you try to hit him and kill him before he kills you. You will also face mythological creatures, boss fights and everything in between.

As you play you will collect "souls", and other colelctables, used to upgrade your character. Health potions, bombs and so on.

It just so happens that I have been playing Assassins Creed Odyssey for the past few months, so instantly upon playing Achilles: Legends Untold, I already have in my mind what a good game based on Ancient Greece should look like. Unfortunately Achilles: Legends Untold is not in the same league as Odyssey, but then they are very different games with different budgets, so you have to accept that although first impressions of loading screens and so on, indicate one kind of game, what you get is something quite different. The closest you could compare would be one of the top down view Lara Croft games.

Onto the gameplay itself. As I mentioned earlier the camera view is a bit of mess, straight away you feel too close to the character, in that it is hard to tell where you are supposed to go, as the field of view is very limited. There are no on screen maps, no directional arrows, and although the levels are linear, there are a few little side routes you can take. That instinct to adjust the camera is huge though. As you play, the camera angle does change depending on which part of the level you are on. Moving to an almost side on 2D type perspective. This then causes other problems including your character being hidden completely by obstacles in the foreground. Check the photo below, can you see where my character is?

This is seemingly done, to show off some of the pretty backgrounds. It does seem like the game makers created the graphics, backgrounds etc first, and then thought about gameplay, which is a slightly backwards way of creating a game in my opinion.

In your regular hack and slash game, you have a large health bar, and you just go on a killing spree. However in this game, your health bar is tiny, meaning a few good shots from an enemy and you die. You will then respawn either at the start of the level, or at certain points placed around the level, which also act as a place to replenish your health, upgrade your character and so on. With the health bar being so small at the start, you will find yourself drinking health potions in an attempt to stay alive, but this takes a few seconds, leaving you wide open to being attacked by the very enemy you are trying to beat. The menu system is a bit of a mess, to upgrade yoru character and so on, it is pretty unclear, and you will just find yourself clicking on everything, trying to figure it out.

In fights you have a regular attack and a hard attack, the hard attack takes a few seconds to hit with, and the regular one is slightly faster, both seem so slow to use, and instead of what you would normally do in a hack and slash game, you find yourself trying to time the attacks, as they seemingly take forever to actually hit, meaning the game forces you to strategise basically every hit. Not so easy when you are fighting more than one opponent. And if you are facing a boss fight, or a mythological creature, you will struggle, even on the easy setting. Think "Hit, run away, hit, run away" You also can only hit a few times before your stamina runs out, so you then have to wait for that to refill.

I am truly dumbfounded why they would make a game that plays in this way, especially so when you choose the easy difficulty setting. You have a shield you can use in fights, but this just slows down your movement and ends up increasing the chance of you getting hit, and making it harder to time a return hit, as you cant move away fast enough.

Some of the cut scenes look great, some look a bit 2005.

The one saving grace of all of this, is that the game is early access, it is unfinished, and most of these problems can be fixed. I assume that the camera angle is a lost cause, as to fix that, would mean reworking the entire game. But the basic fighting can easily be fixed. Will the game makers listen to the players? Time will tell, as a second quarter relase date is promised.

As it is right now, the game has potential, there is a good game hidden in there, the question is if the developers can bring it out of the mess they have created for themselves. Even if they just make a easy dificulty setting with faster strokes, and a massive health bar, and just allow players to have fun. 

My tip to any game developer out there, concentrate on the gameplay first, make an enjoyable game that works, and worry about the graphics and cut scenes later, they really aren't that important.

I wont score the game as it is right now, as it is no where near the finished article. I just hope that the game developers can take constructive criticism, and understand that my criticisms are based off of frustrations for a game that I was sure I would love. I am Greek, so any game that uses my history, my culture needs to be of the highest quality, As of right now, I am just disappointed. 

When the game is finished, if the game makers want me to take a look at it, I will happily do so, but they need to fix the problems I mentioned first.

For now, if you want a great game that celebrates ancient Greece and delivers on the gameplay at the highest level, check out Assassins Creed Odyssey.

Review by Jon Donnis

28 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Screaming Loaf on Android

Review by Staff
Screaming Loaf is a 2D puzzle-platform game, made by Ashley Spencer-Phiilips, Ashley got in contact with me through Twitter and asked me to review the game. So, I have.

Now just because someone asks nicely, does not mean I will go nicely in response, my reviews are always honest and fair.

Clearly this is a game that does not take itself too seriously, the name alone should tell you that, so from the name can you guess what the game is about? Yes, you guessed right, it is about a loaf of bread, that can scream. That is a sentence I have never written before!

The basic idea of the game is that various items from the fridge want to become part of a sandwich, and they need some bread to succeed, however the loaf of bread has no interest in becoming a sandwich, so it wants to resist all attempts, this is where you the player come in, your job is to control the loaf of bread, and avoid being smeared by all manner of fridge based foods. From jars of jam, to butter and even cheese. You can run, but you can't hide, luckily your bread has an amazing and unique skill, it can scream, and when it does so, it allows it to fight back. The scream will shatter glass jam jars, melt butter and explode cheese.

The game is separated into simple levels. To beat the level, you just need to destroy all of your fridge-based enemies.

You can move left and right, jump, scream, but you can also drop a slice of bread behind, this allows for some interesting tactics, as the lone slice can also scream, it can be re-added to the loaf too. If you lose all of your slices you will die, and every time an enemy touches you, a slice leaves you. You can also use the scream to move levers, blow up balloons, move across water as well as attacking your enemies.

You can also leave slices of bread, to help weigh down a balance, which you can then use to get to out of reach places.

With 129 levels spread across 3 stories, and an online leaderboard, the game is certainly unqiue.

With all that said, is the game actually any good?

The platforming elements will take some time to get used to, remember you are controlling a loaf of bread, so things have to be a bit different. The levels are "tight" in their construction, and not a lot of room to move, or make mistakes, luckily you can replay them as much as you want, all the way trying to improve your score.

There is a slight lack of instruction at times, for example the first time I came face to face with butter, I screamed at it, and seemingly nothing happened, other than slowing it down. I later realised that it needed a lot of screaming, to finally melt.

Once you get the hang of the game, it is fun, yes, it is silly, the idea for the game is bizarre, but put everything together, and it just kind of works.

The Good
Fun, silly gameplay. The game is FREE, so literally will cost you nothing outside of your sanity. And although it is ad supported, the ads are not too bad, 5 second wait, click on the X, and that's it.

The Bad
There is a lack of instruction at times, something I have brought up with the game maker, and hopefully this will be fixed in future updates. I also think that larger levels and a way to zoom out the perspective would also be good.

The game is free, so you have nothing to lose, download it, play it, and make your own mind up.

I score Screaming Loaf, a toasty 7/10

Out Now on the Play Store for Android.

24 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Sheltered 2 on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
Sheltered 2 is set 20 years after an apocalyptic event happened on Earth, wiping out most of the human race, what remains are splintered factions, all vying for their own land and resources.

At first look the game will remind you of Fallout Shelter, and although there are similarities, Sheltered 2 is quite different and much more of a hardcore survival game.

Your job is to run your shelter, grow your faction, all the while managing your resources, crafting items, exploring outside of your shelter, and generally trying to keep everyone alive.

Now do not be mistaken, this is not an easy game, even on the easiest setting, the game is tough, it is probably a bit too tough, and the tutorial is about as much help as a Donor Kebab in a Vegan festival. With that said, each time you play, you do learn, and there is a lot to be said for just starting the game again, using what you have learnt, to help you make better decisions.

Most of the gameplay will take place in your shelter, you need to keep an eye on your group, make sure everyone is happy and healthy, you will need to craft things like a toilet, a shower, beds, as well as expand downwards to make room for more things.

When you are not in your shelter, you will need to keep an eye above land, set traps to catch rabbits, keep things powered, clean and working, plant seeds to grow food and so on. And when you are ready you will need to leave the area altogether and explore. You already control a small region, which is safe to explore on its own, gather more resources as well as grow the levels of experience of your group. But eventually you will want to explore outside of your region, and that is when you will come across other factions.

The faction's system, is the main pull of this game, you will need to trade with other groups, forge relationships, and sometimes fight them, everything is a balancing act, choose who to fight and who to trade with and who to run away from. You will even complete quests, which become a big part of the game if you want your shelter to grow.

The fights are all turn based, you can choose where to hit an opponent, what weapon or skill to use, and if you choose correctly, you will kill them, and then you can take everything they have.

As you play, your characters levels will grow, you will get new skills and so on.

Further into the game you will even find vehicles which you can fix up, to help you explore faster and easier.

The Good
This is a challenging survival game that fans of the genre should enjoy, the graphics are decent, and once you get the general idea of how to play, everything is pretty straight forward.

The Bad
The game is way too tough. When travelling around the map, interactions tend to have three options, Trade, Fight or Flee, and this can become a bit repetitive, and if you come across a rival faction, it is just fight or flee. A couple of lines of dialog and that's it.

The whole crafting system is overly complicated, meaning a lot of back and forth, whether it is trying to see what ingredients you need to craft, then trying to figure out what you need to recycle, and so on, you will be left stuck pretty quick, forcing you to explore outside the shelter, which is fine, but this seems to happen way too quickly, not giving a new player chance to feel settled. There are way too many things to worry about in the Shelter, leaving a new player feeling overwhelmed.

Bugs are being fixed pretty quick by Team 17, but this plays like an Alpha release and not the finished article.

There is a good game in here, but it takes time to find it, and restarting once you figure certain things out will help you, but the game still struggles to really grab you. There needs to be a simplified mode, and a tutorial that really explains things. 

With all my complaints, I just feel that there is a great game here, but it is stuck in some kind of hole, that the developers don't have the time to get it out of.

I will keep an eye out for updates, and maybe they can improve things moving forward.

As the game stands right now, I score it 6/10

12 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Dagon: by H. P. Lovecraft

Review by Staff
Are you a fan of H.P. Lovecraft? If yes, then you should check out Dagon, it is a 3D narrative experience based on the short story book of the same name. Best played in VR, it is a new way of experiencing the written work of Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft.

Gameplay elements are limited, so think of this more of an experience than a game, you play as a former ship officer, a drug addict, and you experience his delusions and experiences.

This is a short experience, maybe 30 minutes on first playthrough, although made for VR headsets, it can be played on a normal screen. Each scene is fully narrated, and you can look around, zoom in etc, you will see points that you can click on to further the story, which gives the origin of the Cthulhu Mythos.

The game is free, so if you have a VR headset and want to try something different, then there is nothing to lose. Other than your sanity perhaps!

The Good
Beautifully animated, everything looks great, the narration is also top notch, and however you decide to experience this, one thing you must do is put on headphones.

The Bad
It's very short and only replay value is for any missed achievements.

Do you have a VR headset? If yes, get this, it is free. If not, get this it is free.
Simple as that, for a short experience you have nothing to lose but your mind.
I score Dagon a simple 8/10

7 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Banana Hell on PC (Steam)

Review by Staff
Banana Hell is a deliberately frustrating, and ridiculously difficult platforming game.

You control a banana, and you have to keep moving upwards to collect crystals. But of course, it is not that easy, as you climb you will face various creatures that are in your way, so you need to try to avoid them.
One mistake however and you will be knocked off course, and worst-case scenario you will fall all the way back to the bottom of the level.

The game is simple, but also needs 100% of your concentration, sometimes you need to jump at the exact right moment, other times you might need to duck. This is precision platforming at its absolute pinnacle.

There is various dialog that appears as text on the screen at the bottom, bad jokes etc, I am sure they are put there deliberately to distract you, like you really need anything to make this game any harder.

There aren't many levels, but the levels that are there are so tricky you won't care about wanting more of them. But if you really want to know there are 5 levels, 2 in the Forest of Frustration, 2 in the Purple Lions Temple, and 1 in the Void.

You can play a choice of 2 levels from the start and the rest you need to unlock.

The Good
Simple clear graphics, nice soundtrack, and the controls are simple, move, jump and duck.

The Bad
This is a pull your hair out type frustration of a game, but that is the point, it is supposed to be like this, so can I call it "Bad" for delivering what it claims to be?

I hate this game; it is so bloody hard. It fills me with rage! I have shouted at the screen multiple times, but I keep coming back to try to beat it.

One of the most frustratingly annoying difficult games ever! I hate everyone involved for making it!

I hate it and love it at the same time.

I score Banana Hell a hateful 8/10

Out now on Steam, but warning, you will hate this game! So go get it now!

6 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Gravity Chase on Xbox One

Review by Jon Donnis
Gravity Chase is a futuristic racer from Repixel8, set in 2088, whereby transport and fighter craft have been converted into racing vehicles, to take part on "Hyperloop Circuits".

A sequel to the game Velocity G, (which I have never played) this is your typical anti-gravity racer but it does differ slightly from other games in the genre. The circuits in this game are enclosed tubes or tunnels, some races take part on the inside, and some on the outside. Due to this unusual style of circuit, the game does create an interesting challenge or making you need to choose the optimum line, if you want to complete a level faster. Throw in your usual pickups of boosters, power ups, shields and weapons, and you have an interesting little racer, that although not unique, does have some original ideas thrown in.

There is your single player mode, as well as split screen multiplayer. 16 tracks set across various themed areas, 10 craft for you to use and upgrade, and 3 separate modes of play.

First one is arcade mode, which your classic race against opponents, get to the finish line first to win, then there is combat mode, where you have to race, but can also fire weapons at your enemy. And finally, another classic mode in Eliminator, every 30 seconds the person in last place is thrown out, try to last as long as possible, or even outlast all of your opponents until you are the last one standing.

Each level can be played on beginner, medium or hard, more points for the harder settings, and as you collect points, this will unlock more tracks. Beating a track alone won't necessarily unlock the next track, this is done purely by points accumulated, so you might need to grind a few tracks to get points if you are struggling to win the harder mode. As well as get enough in game currency to upgrade your ships.

There are leader boards for each track, so you can compare your progress.

The menu is about as simple as you can get, you start the game, choose a track, difficult level and mode, and you are off. I hate complicated menus and this really was an easy to get straight into type of game. When I think of other similar racers, one of my biggest complaints is often the menu, on Pacer for example it was and still is a mess, but by keeping things simple Gravity Chase gives the game a true pick up and play quality.

The soundtrack is pretty decent, generic high pumping electronic music is perfectly acceptable, and I quite enjoyed turning it up.

In game sounds are simple, not distracting, not really noticeable.

In the combat mode I did not really understand the shield and weapons, I'd collect ammo, but nothing happens when I press fire, I am hoping this is just a pre-release bug which will be fixed by release date. The shield as well, you collect shield power ups, and your shield goes down, but it all seems a bit pointless, if your shield runs out, you explode and re-join the race. That really is my only complaint about the game, I tend to prefer the general arcade style modes, so not a huge downer for me, but if you enjoy the combat modes of these types of racers, then this game fails on that.

The Good
A fun, simple, futuristic antigrav racer. I have asked many times for such a game, and now I have one. Is it perfect? No, but is it good fun, with a pull, to keep playing it more? yes.

The Bad
As mentioned, the combat mode is lacking. And the graphics in 2022 could be better.

An enjoyable racer, with a couple of issues that are hopefully easily fixed.
I will keep playing this game after writing this review, and that to me is always the highest compliment I can give a game, playing it when you don't have to.

I score Gravity Chase a strong 8/10

Review by Jon Donnis

Out on Xbox One and Steam on 21st January 2022