Monday 28 February 2022

Not a Hero: Super Snazzy Edition Review (Nintendo Switch)

Written by Thomas GJ Sharpe

The trailer for Not A Hero set high expectations with ridiculous violence, surreal comedy and well-pitched pixel aesthetic. I can assure you that this game is 90% what it said on the tin and thank heavens for that. Hero has a solid, bold and confident voice in all of its facets.

At first it appeared to be an ultra-violent Bonanza Bros., one of my favourite games of all time. But the cut-section'd buildings and cover system are just the tip of the iceberg. Throw in the viciousness of Hotline Miami, but with a more humourous edge, and a dash of the fantastic (if buggy) Gunpoint, and you have a very potent game. What makes it spark right off the bat, and throughout the campaign, is the incredible writing and voice-acting.

The story is of a psychopathic rabbit called Bunnylord who is running in the British election. Hiring in a selection of killers, Bunnylord hopes to prove he can overcome evil by repeatedly shooting it in the face. The mission briefings are a master-class in nonsensical, hyperactive comedy that may grate on some, but had me rapt. At times, I wanted slightly less pre-mission talking, but on the whole I've watched them with glee.

In-game, you take control of an assassin of your choice, each with their own distinct character, voice and perks. This allows fantastic replay value as you try and chase the three optional goals of each mission. The quips of each murderer are some of the best I've ever heard, both writing and acting, with a distinct UK thread running throughout. My particular favourites are the shot-gunning Scot who doesn't own a kilt, screeching Swansea lass, and Mike who is definitely not drunk. You grab different and suitably silly temporary ammo upgrades and secondary weapons such as mines and Molotovs as you rip through drug-dens, warehouses and apartment blocks.

The gameplay moves at a decent speed, keeping action exciting and giving the appearance of fluid, talented execution, any slower and it could feel a bit thin on the ground. The rich, efficient animation, weapon effects, crackin' music and exemplary voice-acting, build on a very simple premise that never outstays its welcome. All you have to do, however, is consider it all for a moment when you are not playing the game and realise that there is very little there, but really, you don't care as it is an incredible laugh both in cut-scene and in-game.

The campaign is, admittedly, rather short, and even with nine varied characters and three unique goals in each mission, this is a brief game. I expect a medium to low replay value as well, sadly, as the levels are simply not varied in approach or structure enough. I would expect I'd need a bit of time between plays to watch the cut-scenes again and enjoy them, however great they are first time round. I personally don't think that a tenner is exorbitant for this game, perhaps a couple quid too much, but there is enough here to justify it. I've had many a dull experience with games that stretch the same content over a much wider space for triple the price, and this is kudos to the developers for making such a rich game.

From the hilarious graffiti, to the aggressive swearing, to the constantly thrusting killer called Jesus, Not A Hero makes more sense, and more happiness, than most others dare to.

Overall 8/10

Monday 21 February 2022

SNK VS. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash Review (Switch)

Of all the Neo Geo Pocket games to be ported to the Switch, Card Fighters Clash is arguably the most high profile and the most sought after. While many of the Pocket games are designed to be enjoyed in short bursts befitting of a handheld, Card Fighter Clash will likely see you lose hours of your life.

It’s a simple concept, you pick either the Capcom or SNK version of the game to start your game and you are off in a Pok√©mon style collecting cards and then using them in battle against other players. Handily, both of the versions of the game are included in the switch port and you can trade between them in order to create a complete collection of cards. Sadly, the ability to play against other human players is incredibly limited as there is no online mode which may limit the games appeal for some.

The single player campaign is enjoyable enough and the setup is simple. Players are initially charged with winning six coins from six locations around a small map. In each location you need to defeat three or four players before challenging the area boss. Each player you defeat gives you more cards to play with. Won cards are randomised so you can try and farm them if you wish, though the rarer cards can only be gained from the best players or by completing specific criteria. Once you have the six coins a few more areas open up with ever increasingly complex decks of cards to play against.

The card battles themselves are deceptively complex. Battles play on out on a table where players can lay a maximum of three cards down. When played, cards add whatever special points they have to the players total and also present a battle point value to attack and defend with. The special points then allow for things like dual attacking and launching special abilities. Once cards are down players can either attack with them or hold them back to defend. Once an action has been taken the card in question is then frozen. This is important as you have to weigh up how likely you are to be able to defend against incoming attacks and if an all-out strike by your team is worth leaving yourself defenceless for.

The key here is that you aren’t trying to eliminate all your opponent’s cards but instead knock down their health bar. If they are unable to block an incoming attack with a card the battle points value of the card will be removed from their total. Once it reaches zero, they lose. The same goes for you of course so the balance between attack and defence is key. The only frustrating thing here is of course that there is always a certain random element to how cards come out so some games can be lost very early on with little the player can do about it. Of course, when you get hold of a few better cards to add into your deck this also works the other way as you can destroy your opponent very quickly if they start with a bad hand.

Overall, SNK Vs. Capcom: Card Fighter Clash is a welcome addition to the Switch library. It’s perhaps the Neo Pocket Game that has aged the least and remains the most relevant. It does take a few hours to really get into but once you do, you’ll be losing hours of your life without realising it.

 Overall 8/10

Monday 14 February 2022

Chaos Brigade Review (Steam)

Written By Thomas G.J. Sharpe

Finally, a game which demonstrates green in a such a xenomorphic hue as 1994’s defining gaming moment Pickle Wars. Chaos Brigade is a nifty, but clunky, little game that has quite an effective take on the reiterative rogue-lite formula. Dolled up in homey, chunky pixel-art, you control one character at a time from a motley squad of space-mercs aiming to cleanse wayward spaceships of alien infestations. Kill the aliens, don’t damage the ship, and that’s all there is to it. There are five characters, each acting as a “life”, who once dead are dead. They have vaguely different performing stats, but to be honest, they all felt about the same in play.

The levels seem to be procedurally generated, with door lock system “rooms” and heal kit modules, and the like, and interestingly, destructible terrain. Destroy a block, it takes from your money (cringingly called “bitcoin”) and forms a little fire obstacle. This pushes you to not spray your weapon all over the shop. Aliens reproduce or evolve as time goes on, becoming more deadly, so there is a degree of mutability and development that the levels go through. This is reminiscent of the explosive (if repetitive) Broforce, except for the fact that you can way more easily make a level impassable in Chaos Brigade.

I started to think of Chaos Brigade a little like Broforce married with the unbelievably underrated Duskers. I then wished that the solo developer (props, indeed) had taken more of a slant to the latter. In Duskers, a beautifully satisfying strategy to rid the xenomorph presence on a vessel would be to flush the wee buggers into space by opening an exterior hull door. I wondered if the destructible element was the real opportunity in Chaos Brigade, wherein I would like to make holes and then escape the impending vacuum of a corridor, while the aliens are sucked out. Something like that, anyway. I feel this is a response to me feeling that the runnin’ n’ gunnin’ wasn’t that fun… nin’. The weapons lack a heft at this stage, and the character movement is a little slippy on the flat, and a bit hard to judge on the jumps.

In short, the environmental elements and fun enemies in Chaos Brigade (not to mention the pretty cool music), is where it is currently working. The character differentiation (outside of special skill) and general movement feel undercooked. Given some more time in the oven, and some tweaking here and there, you have a nice, characterful action-platform romp. Just not quite yet.

Overall 6/10

Monday 7 February 2022

Worms Collection 1 Review (Evercade)


It was a bit of a surprise when the Evercade team announced that Worms was coming to the system. A handheld doesn’t necessarily seem like the best place for the games to be played (we have nightmares about the Gameboy version to this day). But then the VS came along, and everything made more sense.

There are only three games here, which may well raise eyebrows from some. It’s likely down to the space available as the PS1 version of Worms Armageddon is the main part of the package. The Megadrive version of the original game and GBA version of Worms Blast round out the cartridge.

The first issue we found was that Worms on the Megadrive is almost impossible to play if you are colour blind. You simply can’t see the menu’s when they highlight. This is less of an issue with the filters on the VS but still. Also, if you are going to play the original game this really is not the version to go for. If you do get a game set up and running it does run well though so if you have nostalgic memories of it, they should remain untainted - just don’t expect all the sound and videos that some of the other versions have.

Worms Blast is a take on the Puzzle Bobble format where your worm sits in a boat at the bottom of the screen and uses different weapons to blast coloured blocks. It is surprisingly addictive and well realised even in this downgraded version of the game. Colourblind issues are at the fore again, though they are less fatal here. This is really the game that most handheld Evercade players will probably play the most on the cart and while good it’s not amazing and knowing better versions exist is a shame.

The real highlight is of course Worms Armageddon, which is a stalwart of nostalgic multiplayer mayhem. The game runs well on the handheld and removes most of the visual issues that the other games have. There is also a decent single player campaign which acts as a sort of lengthy tutorial for all the weapons with players taking on different challenges. The multiplayer element will potentially last you for years with all the new weapons and additions turning an already crazy game into something even more chaotic. It is potentially the best multiplayer game on the Evercade so if you are looking for something to while away the hours with friends then this could be the game for you.

Overall, this is a difficult cart to pin down. Space may well have been an issue, but the included content does seem light. If Worms Pinball, World Party and the PS1 version of the original game had been included it would have created a much better (and criticism proof), all-round package. The Evercade doesn’t support the PS2 generation of consoles but again, having the stripped down GBA version of Blast here is also a compromise. What it really boils down to is - are you are willing to pay the money for Armageddon?  For some that will be enough. If the game had been bundled with the VS it would feel much more relevant but on its own it may well struggle to get the audience, it deserves.


Overall –

Worms                                 3/5

Worms: Blast                     3/5

Worms: Armageddon    5/5