VGamingNews

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered

1 May, 2024 by

Our Rating
8

If I were to present to you an image of the grey, concrete brick-looking relic from the 90’s that is the Playstation One console, and was to ask “name the first games that pop into your head?” 

What are you going to say? 

Crash Bandicoot, maybe? Metal Gear Solid? Resident Evil 2, perhaps? For me it will ALWAYS be the first installments in the Tomb Raider series, in all their blocky retro goodness.

Tomb Raider will forever be renowned as one of gaming’s most iconic and ground-breaking series, and one that I’ve been a huge fan of since my earliest childhood memories in gaming began. Over the years that pass, every so often I’ll get that familiar itch to replay and revisit these games again – however, the only way to do so was to risk mild electric shock in an attempt to boot up the old consoles! Cue the teams at Aspyr and Crystal Dynamics 2024 remastered release of the Tomb Raider Collection I-III to save me from my plight!

Unless you have been living under a rock the past 28 years, we all pretty much know the rundown of these games, but here it is just in case. Tomb Raider is a third-person action-adventure, puzzle-solving platformer, starring famed female British protagonist, archaeologist Lara Croft. Lara travels the world, exploring tombs and various hazardous locations, searching for mysterious lost artifacts, usually to prevent some nefarious character who plans to use said artifact for no good. Originally developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive, the original Tomb Raider was released all the way back in 1996, and was revolutionary and innovative for its time. Tomb Raider 2 followed in quick succession in 1997 and then Tomb Raider 3 then hit the shelves in 1998.


At A Glance

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered

Positives

+ Classic Tomb Raider gameplay with striking revamped visuals
+ All three expansions included for the first time on console
+ Added ‘modern’ control system to cater to new fans

Negatives  

– Outdated gameplay mechanics can sometimes be more frustrating than enjoyable
– Clunky manual saves are unforgiving
– Renovated lighting system makes some areas harder to navigate

Overall

8 /10

Played On

PS5

Also Available On

Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Find out about our scoring policy here.


Now, let’s swan-dive into the review!

In the age of revivals, Aspyr has given these games a new lease of life with a full graphical overhaul, now playable in widescreen and all with an upgraded frame rate of 60FPS. There’s revamped textures, baked and real-time lighting effects and shadowing, remastered menus, new character models, lovely new HD sky boxes – even the 2D sprites have been replaced – and that’s just to name a few! Aesthetically this game has never looked better. Even Lara has had a glow-up! It’s the way the game looked in my mind as a child; the game that could have been had the technology been around at the time. But it’s in no way overwhelming and doesn’t distract from the original gameplay, it simply enhances it, like a filter on your phone camera, it’s just giving you the best version of what it’s given to work with. Obviously it cannot fairly be compared to modern gaming standards – some of the textures are a bit like wallpaper plastered over giant Lego bricks, and the cutscenes are still pretty ghastly, but it does a pretty good job all things considered. 

There’s nice little extras added too, such as lush plant life, particle effects, boss health bars, and subtitles. There’s a new photo mode (should you want a selfie with a cross Atlantean), and over 200 new trophies to collect to keep you busy. What’s also great is the option to switch between the new and old graphics at the push of a button to truly get that authentic vintage Tomb Raider experience, in all its polygonal glory. I found myself compulsively flipping between the two, comparing various iconic locations I had played so many times before looking so much more refined and immersive than ever. The cracks in the stone of the colosseum, the pulsing fleshy walls of Atlantis, the dense foliage of the Indian jungle – seeing them again, all scrubbed up with a fresh coat of paint was a real kick in the feels.

And we have a brand new way of traversing these levels; an additional “modern” control system has been added, which uses more up-to-date analogue controls and a free camera that most modern gamers will be accustomed to. But hardcore retro-gamers needn’t fear, as they should feel right at home with the original, old school “Tank” controls, as they are still available as an option. I personally found the modern controls preferable, as it felt like a much smoother experience compared to the rigid tank controls. But they were not without their problems – the camera was a little unruly at times and would often get stuck on corners or inside the cavity of Lara’s head, particularly if you were up against a wall or in a tight crawl spot. They also -for some illogical reason- completely remove some of Lara’s key movement abilities, such as side jumps, back jumps and side steps, which is rather impractical, particularly during a shootout with one of Natla’s goons or when trying to dodge an oncoming boulder. Consequently, I quite often found myself having to toggle back and forth between the two. Not ideal. 

The controls may seem tricky at first but give it time and practice and in a few hours you’ll be flying. A bit like learning to ride a bike! But rather than riding a bike, playing a Tomb Raider game is a bit like driving a classic car -it’s a timeless experience- but although it may be fun to go for a spin, it is unfortunately a product of its time. It’s outdated and janky and doesn’t always deliver the smoothest ride, so it’s not always appreciated by the modern consumer.

The gameplay requires a certain amount of patience, and the modern gamer might struggle with the fact that often the puzzle itself is navigating the labyrinthian levels in order to progress, leading to quite a lot of confusing back-tracking. It’s a rather dated concept. There’s certainly no hand holding, in fact, there’s barely any guidance in the games at all! You’re left to your own devices, which can be almost as frustrating as the tricky, rage-quit-inducing grid-based jumps you’ll need to perfect during gameplay. As you do progress and then inevitably die due to some miscalculated jump or by taking a tumble into a spike pit, you will then come to the untimely realisation that this game has NO auto saves, just manual ones. So don’t forget! 

You DO NOT want to do that level with the kayak again… trust me.

The combat is also probably one of the weaker aspects in the series; there’s no real dodging, just a lot of haphazardous jumping and rolling. Lara’s guns repeatedly lock-on and -off of their own accord – including targets that are already dead. This makes for a bit of a lacklustre experience, and shooting those icky giant spiders come Tomb Raider 2 becomes far less enjoyable and much more of a chore.

“But should I buy this game?”, I hear you ask.

Honestly, that’s a really tricky one for me to answer. I am blinded by nostalgia. I love these games no matter how infuriatingly vague, obtuse, isolating and notoriously difficult they can be at times. I must be a sucker for punishment because I thoroughly enjoy every meticulous jump or toilsome puzzle these games hand out. They simply don’t make them like this anymore. 

And this may be the exact reason why the modern gamer may not share the same opinion.

If you have dabbled in retro games before, don’t care too much about having the best graphics, and can go in with the understanding that these games are nearly three decades old and haven’t really aged that well, I’d say give it a go. 

Speaking of not aging so well however, it’s worth mentioning that these games now come with a disclaimer warning about the “offensive depictions of people, cultures and stereotypes that are both deeply harmful and inexcusable”. Rather than remove the content, Crystal Dynamics have left it in so that we, the audience, “may acknowledge its harmful impact and learn from it”. Let’s be honest, there’s a fair bit of problematic content in the series. I think deep down we all knew that relieving cultures of their ancient relics and shooting endangered wildlife was never exactly appropriate.

At the retail price of around £25 for all three games plus all of the expansions (previously PC-only exclusives), you’re looking at a minimum of 80+ hours gameplay, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Downside, it is digital download only at the moment, which is a bit of a shame, as I’d quite like a physical copy on my shelf.

You can clearly see the love and attention the team at Aspyr has put into the restoration of this acclaimed franchise; it’s a long-awaited love letter made by fans for fans, and hats off to them. I’m really hoping they will find the time to continue to remaster more of this series in the not-so-distant future. The Last Revelation would be next, and it’s my favorite.

Whether you are exploring these games for the very first time and just want to see what all the hype is about, or you’re a veteran player who’s ready to be hauled back to the 90’s, nostalgia goggles in hand, ready to reminisce on a time when gaming was a little simpler, anyone who’s a self-proclaimed gamer should try this series at least once, and Aspyr have made this Tomb Raider Remastered collection the definitive way to do so. 

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.


Thanks for taking the time to read our review. If you’d like to support us further, please consider buying us a coffee!

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1

26 March, 2024 by

Our Rating
7

Two weeks ago I’d never played a Metal Gear game in my life, and that’s despite my wife badgering me on and off for over a decade to give it a chance. My excuses ranged from “I’ll add it to the backlog” to “my PlayStation is packed away,” so the timing was never quite right. That all changed when Konami released the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1 on the PS5, and I was tasked with actually sitting down with Solid Snake and finding out what all the hype was about.

To make sure that this piece doesn’t turn itself into a mini-docu series that Netflix would be proud of, I’ll keep my review of Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1 as concise as possible.  As the name suggests, this is a compilation of the first few titles in Konami’s long-running franchise that started way back in the 1980s with Metal Gear. Since Snake’s timeline is as convoluted as both Kingdom Hearts and The Legend of Zelda, Konami had the foresight to stick with the release order, which means we move on to the MSX version of Metal Gear 2 before hitting the PlayStation continuation; Metal Gear Solid and its sequels. Without spoiling the rest of the review too much, the Master Collection is aimed at two types of players: those who want to play the original titles who might not have the means to play them, or those, like me, who’ve never touched a Metal Gear game in their lives.


At A Glance

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1

Positives

+ Five complete Metal Gear games in one package
+ Five Hideo Kojima games in one package
+ Nice bonus features

Negatives  

– Lazy ports of older versions
Convoluted menu systems
– Gameplay issues with MGS 1

Overall

7/10

Played On

PS5

Also Available On

Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Find out about our scoring policy here.


Metal Gear started life on Sony’s MSX PC in 1987 and was created by an upcoming developer named Hideo Kojima (I wonder whatever happened to him). His idea was to create something a little different, a stealth game that revolved around one Solid Snake sneaking into various terrorist facilities to stop the production of Metal Gear, a bipedal tank capable of launching nuclear weapons from almost anywhere on Earth. As we move through the decades in the Master Collection, we see Kojima and his team create classic after classic, culminating in the PS2 hits Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Each game follows a set pattern; Snake has been given some outrageous mission to gain intel and save a VIP, before spinning out into a worldwide threat involving some ridiculously named baddie like Revolver Ocelot, or Liquid Snake (not to be confused with our own Solid Snake). As I played through each game, keeping up with the story became harder, especially since MGS 3 is a prequel that predates everything else in the collection. That being said, each game is thoroughly enjoyable and balances the utterly convoluted plot with a difficulty level which means the games are accessible to almost anyone without being complete walkovers.

If this all seems familiar, that’s because both of the original Metal Gear games, along with MGS 2 and Snake Eater have been rereleased as the HD collection way back on the Xbox 360 and PS3. While this portion of the Master Collection is identical -even the old HD Collection logo flashes up with each game- there is a newcomer to the proceedings; the original PlayStation’s Metal Gear Solid. The 1998 entry became an instant classic when it was released; like the MSX games, Konami utilised the power to bring the series into a vibrant 3D world. Unfortunately, things have changed in the 25+ years since we first saw Solid Snake creep out of the waters in Alaska, and nothing is more evident than booting up MGS for the first time, as Konami have kept everything as it was. 

The first bugbear is that Circle is the accept button, with Cross being cancel. This is how the original PlayStation used to function, however the prompts were flipped in the West back in the PS2 days, so MGS is the only outlier in the collection. The next issue is that MGS is running on an emulator rather than PS5 hardware, meaning there’s slowdown during the high octane portions of the game, the image quality is in the toilet, and there is stuttering at points which wouldn’t be happening if the game was making use of the PS5’s fancy upgrades. If that wasn’t enough, players are burdened with the PAL version of the game out of the box, which clocks the game at 50hz instead of the now standard 60hz, where the sound is slightly off and the game runs approximately 10% slower. Once you’ve downloaded the main game, I’d highly suggest heading into the language options and selecting the North American option. While it’ll trigger a further 1.8GB download, you’ll get a much smoother game out of, it as it runs at the expected 60 frames-per-second.

This leads me to another big gripe with Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1, and that’s the downloads. It could be my age, but I grew up in a time when a compilation was contained in one disc or download, and that’s it. For the Master Collection, Konami saw it fit to break it down into 5 separate tiles; MGS, MGS 2, MGS 3, Metal Gear 1 & 2 and Bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, each game is stacked to the brim with artwork, soundtracks, behind the scenes extras and even scripts, but it felt disjointed having to go from one game, back to the main menu and then to the next. Having one main hub and being able to download whatever game was next on the list would have been a far better experience, especially as there are no clear instructions from the PlayStation storefront that this would be the case.

Along with the five official games that make up Kojima’s timeline, the Master Collection does come with two additional games in the form of the NES version of Metal Gear, along with the divisive Snake’s Revenge. As mentioned, the original Metal Gear is a port of the MSX version, but thanks to the inferior processing power of the NES, some drastic changes had to be made. This included a whole new introduction, along with the complicated buildings being split down so players could easily navigate through them. Following on from the events of the game is Snake’s Revenge, a game that was commissioned solely for western audiences, has no involvement with Kojima and isn’t considered canon. When playing these games, they felt like fine 8-bit adventure games but compared to the surprisingly detailed and story driven MSX versions, both the NES version of Metal Gear and Snake’s Revenge just felt like the black sheep of the series. Thankfully, it’s not just a pair of games that make up the bonus section of the package, as we are also treated to a lengthy soundtrack and four video comics based around the games. Each comic does require an additional download but once it is installed, you can press play and just let the action unfold in a fully narrated adventure.

It is a shame that all of that content is spread across five different apps, perhaps this was due to also having to contend with a Switch version but I think having one succinct menu to load in different games would have been a better option, as it would have helped to navigate through the timeline. At the very least, the bonus application could have been added to the relevant games to prevent having to load up yet another tile on the PlayStation menu.

The most annoying drawback with the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1 is that it is obviously a reskin of the PS3/Xbox 360 HD collection from 2010, albeit with Peace Walker swapped out for Metal Gear Solid. The very same HD logo flashes up when loading all but MGS just highlights the lengths Konami didn’t go to when porting the games over. The reason why the collection scores so highly is purely down to the strength of the titles themselves, which are some of the craziest stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. 

Even with this drawback, The Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection’s package is impressive, especially when you consider the amount of content you get for the price. The developers could have taken a leaf out of Nintendo’s book and created a 3D All-Stars-type collection with just the games and called it a day, but to their credit, Konami has crammed a lot of stuff into the collection to keep you busy for days. While there are no graphical improvements, they run fine as long as expectations are adjusted accordingly. If you have no way to play any of these games or would like to experience the Metal Gear series for the first time, I absolutely recommend Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1. If you already own the originals or the HD Collection, your money is probably best saved for the inevitable remakes.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.


Thanks for taking the time to read our review. If you’d like to support us further, please consider buying us a coffee!

Hell Pie

21 March, 2024 by

Our Rating
7

Since humans first sprang into existence, there have been many interpretations of what life could be like once we expire. The Catholic belief I grew up with told us that we’d be clad in all-white garbs, probably playing golf for eternity should our lives be deemed “Good.” This never sat well with me, as no priest or vicar would ever answer the question, “Are there video games in heaven?” The look of disdain that usually followed such an innocent question gave me all the answers I ever needed. While I’m not here to talk about what happens when our physical form craps out on us, I am here to talk about  Sluggerfly’s take on the afterlife, as presented in my new bible – Hell Pie.

Hell Pie throws us into the role of Nate, a lowly servant in Hell who works as a pencil pusher in the Bad Taste department of Sin Inc. The details of the little red demon’s job are thoroughly disregarded as Satan calls his line directly to order a pie for his birthday party, and when Nate tries to explain Beelzebub has the wrong number, he’s promptly put in his place. After speaking to Hell’s one and only chef it becomes clear that all the demons in Hell are prone to shirking responsibility, leaving the task of finding the ingredients for a truly awful birthday pie to the small red devil. 


At A Glance

Hell Pie

Positives

+ Perfectly sized 3D platformer
+ Crass and disgusting visuals
+ Humourous throughout

Negatives  

– Wonky camera
– Occasional control issues
– Glitches, bugs and crashes

Overall

7 /10

Played On

PS5

Also Available On

Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Find out about our scoring policy here.


After being truly stitched up by the demonic middle management of Hell, Nate sets off to pull the ingredients for Satan’s birthday pie in the first logical place one would go, the supermarket. Along with searching out the first few items on the shopping list, it’s also where Nate learns the ropes of Hell Pie’s 3D platforming mechanics. The game eases you in with the basics; jumping, double-jumping and dashing, as well as the key collectibles you’ll be picking up on your hellish pie-making mission. Nate quickly encounters a cherub who goes by the name of Nugget. This naÏve angel doesn’t realise that his sole purpose is to be Nate’s weapon-slash-tool to perform some of the key moves. The enslaved baby happens to be chained to Nate’s horn and can be used as either a flail-type weapon or as an air anchor, allowing you to swing between platforms. 

Whilst in the supermarket, Hell Pie gave me free rein to practice the various jump-dash-swing combos that are needed to succeed. Going wild in the aisles also gave the first glance at how to upgrade various skills. Giving Nugget what can only be described as cat food, opens up a neat skill tree that will unlock additional jumps, extra health, and eventually a fart button. There’s no reason behind the fart button, except to be childish and funny. And it was funny. Every. Single. Time.

Unfortunately, the supermarket came up short with the list of ingredients, meaning Nate and Nugget were sent out into the wider circles of Hell to hunt down the key items. Five areas gradually open up, four of which are large hub worlds that contain sub-levels to explore. To begin with, you’re presented with an open seaside resort complete with a whaling industry theme, before moving onto a gluttonous restaurant, and a level that puts the ‘jungle’ into Jungle Love. Each world is carefully considered and well put together, and in such a way that Hell Pie took me to an area but it was up to me to discover everything. Each of the four hubs didn’t feel so big that it would be impossible to find everything, nor were they small enough that everything was on Nate’s lap. To plagiarise Goldielocks, Hell Pie’s level design was “just right”, and even kept things fresh by eschewing the established platforming trope of each world having a boss fight waiting for you at the end of it, and focusing purely on the jump-swing-dash rhythm of platforming.

Throughout each level, you’re tasked with not only finding ingredients for the Dark Lord’s pastry but in true 3D platform style, a host of other items to help Nate on his merry way. These include lucky golden cats( which at first seem pointless, until you find the right door back at Sin Inc), and Unilambs. These little unicorn/lamb creatures are quite literally sacrificial lambs which Nate violently de-horns to gain upgrades of his own. The cutscene is deliberately gratuitous, with the cute cartoon lamb having its horn removed in such a way that it made me squirm every time it happened. Mercifully, there are only a handful of Unilamb upgrades available so this section can be quickly glossed over.

If a simpleton chained to a devil that’s on a quest to build a pie isn’t a big enough indicator that the game relies on humour, I don’t know what to tell you. The comedy weaved throughout Hell Pie can only be described as immature bordering on obscene, and I for one gobbled it up. The crafty script leans on both self-deprecating and self-defecating themes that the creators of South Park would be proud of. There are poo jokes, sex references and sendups galore that are peppered throughout the game. From the opening minutes where the sarcastic chef sends Nate on his ‘adventure’, to the closing moments, Hell Pie consistently delivered on drawing an immature titter out of my mouth. (Titter, hurhur.) The biggest laugh came from a section on the second level, where Nate and Nugget had to venture through an oversized restaurant to feed a snooty food critic. The setup starts like Ratatouille, with the seemingly untouchable reviewer that could cause the facility to shut down, but as events spiral it ends up turning into a Monty Python sketch.

The hilarity doesn’t stop at what’s being said by the characters, or how each scene works out, but with the visuals themselves. Sluggerfly has developed a game that looks as crude as the script; the first level for instance, features a sewage section that not only pays homage to Conker’s Bad Fur Day but actively pokes fun at Rare’s 2000 classic. Throughout Hell Pie you’ll encounter various enemies that range from nazi-style faeces that try to smother Nate based on sheer numbers,  to phallic scorpions trying to “sting” you. I was struck by how consistently the comedy spread throughout Hell Pie. Often in movies, books, or even video games, jokes are front-loaded so that a player experience’s everything that’s on offer before making it to the end. Hell Pie separates itself from the crowd by being consistent all the way through, leaving me smiling from ear to ear. When I experienced the game’s utterly unexpected ending, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a satisfying end to a genuinely funny experience.

Don’t get me wrong, Hell Pie isn’t for everyone. There will be some people who consider the game to be crass or disgusting, but the childish, immature nature of the game took me back to being a pre-teen laughing at “58008” on a calculator.  Hell Pie’s divisive scripting isn’t the only challenge, as a few technical issues distract from the experience. The bothersome camera gave me a headache from start to finish, by zooming so close to Nate, I could feel his breath coming through the screen. If I wasn’t looking up a fiery nose, the camera would snap in the opposite direction I wanted to go. This usually happened when lining up a swing across a giant gap, causing me to land Nate in a questionable river of brown goo. Other issues included button presses not registering at all, and the occasional glitch where I was forced to quit to the main menu. These issues reared their heads throughout the game, but thanks to a quick restart system, I quickly got used to the situation, leading me to think that perhaps Nate and Nugget just wanted to go for an early bath. 

Hell Pie manages to be one of those games in which the theme, humour and gameplay are consistent from start to finish. I never tired of the sarcastic comments from the NPCs, or Nugget’s daft commentary throughout the 17 hours it took to complete the platformer. It’s a shame that technical issues plague Hell Pie, with the primary culprit being the camera. Still, even with those issues, I’ve not experienced such a succinct platformer in a long while. There was not one point in Hell Pie where I felt the game suddenly jutted out of line, gave you too much to do, or fell flat in the comedy department. Even in the later levels, like when Nate and Nugget found themselves at the Pearly Gates, the platformer still felt the same game as when I first tapped the Cross button to begin the adventure.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review from Super Rare Games. A limited number of units may still be available.


Thanks for taking the time to read our review. If you’d like to support us further, please consider buying us a coffee!

Destiny 2 – Shadowkeep

14 March, 2024 by

Our Rating
No score

The Destiny 2: Shadowkeep holds a lot of firsts for Guardians. It was the first expansion Bungie self-published after its split from Activision, it is the first release for what is the current free-to-play base game, and it introduced several gameplay mechanics like finishers, Nightmare Hunts, and a reworked armour system. While things have certainly changed since the 2019 expansion first came into being, Shadowkeep is an expansion that deserves some attention, even if it is starting to show its age.


Note from the Editor: As Destiny 2 is a live service game, we’ll be reviewing all of the expansions and what they mean to the overall game. Current reviewed expansions are found below:


Shadowkeep sees the return of Eris Morn who hasn’t been seen since the original Destiny. The powerful witch has discovered that a mysterious Pyramid ship has managed to bury itself under the surface of Earth’s moon. Morn accidentally activates the ship which not only powers up the invading Hive forces but releases the ghosts of her old fireteam. This results in the ever-reliable Guardian being called in to perform a space exorcism across the lunar surface.


At A Glance

Destiny 2- Shadowkeep

Positives

+ Creepy story that differentiates from the usual plot

+ Big, expansive dungeons

+ Tough enemies

Negatives  

– Repetitive back-and-forth admin ‘missions’

– Relatively short

– Story expanded into no-longer accessible seasons

Overall

Recommended as part of the Legacy Pack

Played On

PS5

Also Available On

PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Find out about our scoring policy here.


As soon I was given the instructions to explore the area where the pyramid was hidden, dubbed the Hellmouth, I knew this expansion would be a dark and creepy exploration of Destiny’s darker side, and boy, I wasn’t disappointed. During the campaign, I had to crawl through tight spaces, fight in almost darkness and experience some trippy cutscenes that centered around Eris’s battle with her dead teammates. To say more than this will venture into spoiler territory but I will say that plot-wise, Shadowkeep’s venture into Hell feels like one of the more engaging expansions to Destiny 2.

This in part is due to the enemies Bungie has thrown at me – The Hive. These scuttling critters, who also play a big part in The Witch Queen DLC, lend themselves to the lightless areas of the moon. Thanks to their proximity to the pyramid, these particular Hive have evolved into powerful Red Hive. The Alien-inspired baddies manage to attack in large numbers and can overwhelm battle arenas quickly, coupled with the lack of light, this left me walking around enclosed areas with nothing but the light from my gun keeping me safe. It was a blast having to play through the expansion with a fear of being jumped at any moment, the lengthy levels only added to the tension as the baddies slowly got stronger and more menacing.

The story properly introduces Nightmare Hunts, a public event that’s available to all players who decide to visit the Moon, even without having purchased Shadowkeep. The hunts revolve around trying to stop the Hive from activating an alter of power and summoning a powerful demon. The lengthy battles last around 20-30 minutes depending on the number of players online. Cutting through waves of enemies, in what is effectively a hoard mode, is fun enough but finishing each hunt will net something Destiny 2 is known for – loot.

Like every other expansion Bungie has put together, Shadowkeep has weapons, amour and vehicles in spades. Like a kid looking to smash as much pick ‘n’ mix in a bucket as possible, there are hundreds of guns, bows and swords to get your teeth into and each one has its uses. I particularly found the exclusive Shadowkeep story armour complimented my Titan build rather nicely, and after it was given a splash of green paint, has become my go-to look. 

While it was fun cutting through strong hoards of Hive beasts, and exploring what amounts to Bungie’s version of Hell, there are some issues with Shadowkeep. The main bone of contention comes with the majority of the missions being “Return to talk to Eris,” followed by “Attune at the table next to Eris.” When the plot is spread over 19 missions, these little back-and-forths quickly add up, and the situation isn’t made any better when part of the story is told during seasons that are no longer accessible in 2023. After clearing through the Hive, and slowly sorting out those ghastly premonitions, the story simply ended with nothing more than a pat on the back from Eris Morn. 

Shadowkeep was released at the same time Destiny 2 introduced the battle pass setup and Bungie wanted to ensure players remained committed to the MMO for the year. While the seasons have since been amended to only include additional stories that don’t impact the expansion, at the time this wasn’t the case. This left Guardians having to explore the consequences of Shadowkeep’s ending through lore books rather than having access to play catch up through gameplay. With so much content available, this could be seen as a good thing, skimming books is quicker than shooting through numerous missions, but is it as fun? The answer is always no, but I will say that where Destiny 2: Shadowkeep ends is at a sensible juncture, and if you were to move onto the Beyond Light campaign, the important gaps would be filled in for you.

Shadowkeep is already a relic of the past and while the new areas are quite lengthy, the story can be blasted through in a few hours thanks to the repetitive “Go to the table and then speak to Eris” schtick. Bungie’s foray into seasonal content does mean the year-long season arc, which is no longer accessible, leaves players to fill in the gaps by reading copious amounts of lore books. Shadowkeep is the black sheep of the Destiny 2 experience and while it doesn’t exactly enhance the Light vs Dark story, it is a nice break from the traditional gameplay and is worth exploring, even if you’re only in it for the gear.


Thanks for taking the time to read our review. If you’d like to support us further, please consider buying us a coffee!

Post Void

15 February, 2024 by

Our Rating
6

I’ve never taken drugs. I know the dangers and side effects of that scene, but the true reason is I’m scared I’ll get hooked. I know what I’m like with a strong coffee, let alone taking something designed to mess up my noodle. This applies not only to the hardcore stuff but also to paracetamol. I’ll only take something if I can’t shift an illness after six days, and even then my wife has to practically force the pills into my body. So when someone says, “Oh, this is a drug trip,” I automatically assume it’s popping a couple of Tesco’s own-brand Ibuprofen to take something for a sniffle. But after seeing thirty seconds of Post Void I’m inclined to believe that this game is what it’s like to experience a drug trip.

The thought of experiencing something I would associate more with whatever lives in Rob Zombie’s head at any one time. Within the first 30 seconds of launching the game, YCJY Games hits you right in the face with Post Void’s strobe lighting and graphic images that depict a truly violent version of hell. As you power through the Void and break out of whatever purgatory you’re in, you have to avoid unholy creatures that are looking to end you, whilst also protecting your life force, which has been decanted into a cracked idol and is dripping on the carpet.

Before I carry on with the rest of the review, I will say that you can easily pick up Post Void from wherever you buy your digital games. I do, however, have to give a shout out to the work Super Rare Games has put into creating the physical edition. More specifically, the included art book forgoes the standard instruction manual. It showcases the warped ideas that YCJY Games incorporated into Post Void, including the story of how the game took shape. I don’t want to labour the point too much, but nothing beats having a tangible book included with your game, and while I understand the reasons we no longer enjoy instruction booklets, it’s a shame they’re a dying breed. 

Anyway, back to it. In terms of story, YCJY Games simply wraps a wafer thin plot to explain the gameplay and visual presentation of the game and it makes no bones about leaving you to have fun. The first-person shooter is a straightforward dungeon-crawling-roguelike that plops you into a procedurally generated level and tells you to get to the end before your health runs out, or an enemy steals your life force. When this happens, you’re kicked back to the start of the game where you dust yourself off and try again. Since I died a lot in Post Void, I was thankful that each run was as seamless in loading as continuing onto the next level. This arcade style of gameplay created a “one more go” approach that sucked me in for hours at a time.


At A Glance

Post Void
Positives  + Fast-paced shooter
+ Hyperviolent graphics
+ Tough gameplay
Negatives  – Barebones powerups
– Headache inducing
– Epically short
Overall6/10
Played OnPS5
Also Available OnNintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Find out about our scoring policy here.

When I battled through the bright lights and striking visuals I was left looking at a game that was difficult to describe. At its core Post Void is a 2D game, built in a 3D space much like the original DOOM or Quake. Objects such as tables, chairs and bookcases are pressed to the wall, while the slew of two-dimensional creatures that stop at nothing to end your run. Enemies are designed in a similar 2-dimensional way and are surprisingly varied throughout the game. In the early levels, the creatures start off disgustingly enough with a humanoid shape with a mouth for a face, albeit dressed in a three-piece suit. As I progressed, different creatures started occupying the space, with eyeless gremlins that would bowl up to me and nibble my ankles, or a swarm of bee-sized helicopters that had gatling guns attached to them. Each one has different ways to be killed, but as time was a constraint, I hit them with a couple of shots to move them out of the way and just kept running.

The issues with Post Void aren’t so much the gameplay or the number of levels, but rather how the graphics are presented to you. Before the game reached its title screen, a huge epilepsy warning was plastered across the TV. Seasoned gamers have come to recognise such warnings with any video game, but this one carries some weight. The bright and flashy graphics hit me round the face like a steamroller steamrollering over a lumpy bit of tarmac. The amount of flashing in Post Void rivals a 1980s Japanese anime and even after just 10 minutes of play, I was rooting through the options to help calm down an oncoming headache. Thankfully YCJY Games have included several accessibility options to tone down the experience, although those more prone to such problems may still struggle with the game.

As everything is to the extreme with Post Void, you might be forgiven for thinking this is one game that keeps you from completing it. After all, if you don’t keep moving, you die. If you don’t kill enough enemies to fill your vessel, you die. The game might only have 11 levels that last anywhere up to three minutes each, but with only a few hits until the vessel is empty, there is a lot of restarting. This might seem like a problem but this is one of the fun things about Post Void because the first-person shooter restarts as quickly as if you were slotting another 50p in an arcade machine, ready to beat your score. The only real downside to the fast-paced shooter is that the randomised levels have an uncanny knack for spawning enemies at the start point, meaning a run could be over in three seconds or less. 

The best way to sum up Post Void in any meaningful way would be ‘if Quentin Tarantino had somehow developed Doom instead of directing films’. The game has all the hallmarks of the director’s early works; it’s ultra-violent, hyper visceral and littered with barefoot baddies in sharp suits. The arcade style of short, sweet and brutal gameplay, rather than producing a lengthy campaign is a bold choice, and while your mileage may vary, I felt Post Void was the perfect bite-sized shooter that offered up a lot of fun despite its short runtime. The gameplay is engaging and snappy enough to the point I didn’t care about the game only being an hour long, or the repetitive soundtrack pumping in my ears like a German discotech. All I wanted to do was run through the myriad of creatures with a shotgun and make it as far as possible before being sent back to the beginning. Even now I can feel myself being drawn back for just one more hop through Post Void’s grotesque world…


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Destiny 2 – Lightfall

1 February, 2024 by

Our Rating
No score

After the events of The Witch Queen and the Guardian’s long fight against Savathun, Bungie has lifted the lid on Destiny 2’s next big bad, The Witness. Lightfall is set to be the penultimate expansion in the Light and Dark war that has been building since the first game was released almost 10 years ago. The revelation that The Witness has been the mastermind behind almost everything in the last decade has had fans salivating at the prospect of facing off against the cloud-headed menace, but before that, we have new powers to get our hands on.


Note from the Editor: As Destiny 2 is a live service game, we’ll be reviewing all of the expansions and what they mean to the overall game. Current reviewed expansions are found below:


Destiny 2 – Lightfall begins where The Witch Queen left us last year, with The Witness and his forces finally arriving in the solar system. As Earth’s forces throw everything at this new interloper, the command centre is quickly overpowered and scattered to the various worlds that have been well-trodden over the years. The Witness disappears into the heart of The Traveller and… that’s it. The opening cutscene is all we see of this big imposing doom monger, as apparently, the Guardian has bigger fish to fry; dicking about with a new Tarzan-like ability.

https://youtu.be/i-7Cq7LLPr4?si=xUCzZMxlC8VNp9Db

After the bombastic opening and a short mission that involved running around on an enemy spaceship, I arrived in Neomuna, a vibrant city in the heart of Neptune that has somehow avoided all of the shenanigans that The Witness and the Black Fleet have brought to the solar system over the last few hundred years. That was until I arrived, where I was quickly given a gun and told to sort out the mess I specifically had made. The first step in this new cause is to obtain Strand Energy, a wobbly green beam of energy that can be used as a means to swing around certain areas or to lasso enemies like an armoured Indiana Jones. This is the first new power since Beyond Light so Bungie was keen to make this the sole focus of Lightfall


At A Glance

Destiny 2 – Lightfall
Positives  + Vibrant new world to explore
+ Great supporting cast
+ Strand energy is pretty fun
Negatives  – No real plot development
– Dull missions
– Big advert for next year’s Final Shape DLC
OverallNo Score
Played OnPS5
Also Available OnPC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Find out about our scoring policy here.

To this end the new location of Neomuna is built for the use of this new power and is a far cry from the ruined environments of Earth, or the dark nests of Hive forces we’ve become accustomed to over the years. Neomuna is a lively place full of tall skyscrapers, fluorescent lights, and brimming with technology that is untouched by a brutal war and just wandering around the city is unlike anything Bungie has created in Destiny so far. Once you unlock the Strand ability outside of the campaign, you’re free to swing through the futuristic city like Peter Parker with a laser cannon.

Once the abilities have been unlocked, traversing Neomuna becomes a genuinely fun experience that reminded me more of Mirror’s Edge rather than the first-person shooter I’ve become acutely aware of. In battles, the sword beams which you could shoot by hitting the shoulder buttons allowed me to cut down enemies with gleeful abandon, but taking the powers back to the rest of the solar system felt a little off. Neomuna is full of large gaps and tall buildings, meaning it is the perfect playground to fly from point to point, showcasing my new skills but once I left the planet, I quickly swapped back to my trusty Void build as the other planets are painstakingly flat in comparison so I couldn’t get much airtime. It’s a shame that I quickly defaulted back to my trusty build, but with Destiny 2’s 2023 update at least I can now save specific loadouts so I could sort out a few setups and quickly swap them on the fly. 

With the Strand ability being the primary focus of the 2023 Destiny 2 expansion, this does mean there’s a wealth of new gear to plunder throughout the solar system. The weapons introduced are remixes of what’s come before and unlike 2022’s Witch Queen expansion, there are no new weapon types this time around. That being said, Hand Cannons, Auto Rifles and Grenade Launchers can now be infused with Strand abilities to smash through enemies. While I understand that Bungie couldn’t add in a whole new weapon type to play in every new expansion, it did leave me feeling that Lightfall is just more of the same ground we’ve covered before, albeit with guns covered in green light.

As there is only one officially announced expansion left on the horizon for Destiny 2, this add-on was always going to be a hard sell. Lightfall is purely there to make sure all the pieces for 2024’s Final Shape are where they should be and compared to the incredible story, setting and content that was added in with last year’s expansion, I was left feeling like Lightfall would have been better served if it came before The Witch Queen. It is frustrating that this is the case as the new city of Neomuna is full of colour and life and is one of the most engaging environments I’ve explored in all of Destiny to date.

Thanks to its focus on the new powers, rather than progressing the story in any meaningful way, Lightfall ends up being a flat experience that leaves you wanting more. It doesn’t help that the Light vs Dark story, which has been building for the best part of a decade, is in its endgame. It also doesn’t help that the expansion has to live up to the incredible add-on that was released the year prior. There are good points to be found in Lightfall like the setting and the new Strand ability but as far as it being essential to the story, I’m not so sure. I’d only recommend Lightfall to the dedicated Destiny 2 players, or when it is inevitably rolled into the expansion collection when The Final Shape arrives.


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Destiny 2 – Armoury Collection

11 January, 2024 by

Our Rating
No Score

I’m back with another Destiny 2 DLC review and this time I’m taking on 2023’s newest bundle, The Armoury Collection. Rather than being a new addition like the Lightfall update, this package combines both the 30th Anniversary Pack and the Forsaken DLC, which was removed from the Legacy bundle in favour of The Witch Queen expansion.


Note from the Editor: As Destiny 2 is a live service game, we’ll be reviewing all of the expansions and what they mean to the overall game. Current reviewed expansions are found below:


At A Glance

Destiny 2: The Armoury Collection
Positives  + Guns
+ Lots of guns
+ Oh and a new Raid
Negatives  – You’re mainly paying for guns
– And access to a couple of trophies/achievements
– But mainly, guns
OverallNo Score
Played OnPS5
Also Available OnPC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Find out about our scoring policy here.

The Destiny 2: The Armoury Collection is a neat little package of two halves. I’ve decided to treat it as such and have split the review accordingly. To be clear, I would only suggest buying the Forsaken DLC and The 30th Anniversary Pack as part of The Amoury Collection to get the most value out of the content, but I understand everyone is different, so let’s have a look at what you get.

I should be saying that the Forsaken story revolved around the Guardian’s seeking to avenge the death of a popular character at the hands of Prince Uldren Sov. I would then go on to say that Uldren, corrupted by the Darkness, was in search of his lost sister, Queen Mara Sov. Both names should be familiar to those who played the epic The Taken King expansion in the original Destiny. I could have then wrapped up by saying the expansion was one of the more popular releases that Destiny 2 has seen in years. The 2018 expansion detailed the heartache of the Guardians losing a key character in such a manner. Except this is irrelevant as Bungie removed the story from Destiny 2 early in 2022. New players will only get the briefest mention of these events as it’s all gone, much to my annoyance. These were some of the best missions within the shooter, full of charm, wit and charisma that balanced the seriousness of the war with lighthearted comedic moments.

Still, the Gambit mode that launched as part of the expansion didn’t meet with the same fate as the story mode. These PVP and PVE modes gave Guardians a break from the reality of war and it gave a real sense of how Bungie could evolve Destiny as a game. Players were no longer limited to nightfall missions but were finally able to fight in compact sandbox-style levels either together or against each other. Each of the modes is recognisable as typical multiplayer modes like deathmatch and capture-the-flag style, but Bungie manages to keep them fresh, entertaining and meaningful. Much like Nightfall Strikes, each of the modes found in Gambit rotates each week to keep things fresh and despite my reluctance to battle in competitive areas, I rather enjoy getting my arse handed to me regularly. A personal favourite is the 3v3 guardian mode with a capped weapon level, meaning players have to strategise to knock out the opposing team. With so few players on the map, it felt like battling in an abandoned theme park which gave a sense of tension throughout each round.

An exciting multiplayer mode might sound like the Forsaken DLC is good in theory, but when Bungie decided to confine Forsaken to the vault, the team carried Gambit over to the free-to-play base game. This means that buying the Forsaken expansion only unlocks a large number of exotic weapons and amour. This is handy for those looking to complete the game’s dastardly trophy list, but for me, that doesn’t scream value for money. This is why I’d suggest that to get the full experience, players should consider combining the expansion with The 30th Anniversary Pack to get the most value for money. 

The pack is a celebration of the studio’s three decades of creating video games. It contains a handful of fan-favourite weapons for players to unlock as well as a new raid based on what Guardians experienced with the original Destiny

The Grasp of Avarice raid is a three-player co-op dungeon crawler set in the Cosmodrome. Taking inspiration from the old loot raids from the original game, players explore, puzzle solve, and take out powerful enemies to unlock a treasure trove of goodies and it is tough going. I particularly enjoyed the level of puzzle solving required, and while there were a few cheap tricks like booby-trapped doors and unexpected platforms falling from underneath me, the overall experience was a great change of pace from the usual run-and-gun style Destiny 2 is known for. 

Aside from the dungeon and the plethora of weapons and armour, there is very little to speak of and as such, the mileage you get with The 30th Anniversary Pack in Destiny 2 will vary. I am very much a creature of habit and have my specific loadouts so I found myself just throwing all the weapons in my archive rather than adopting them into my usual rotation and the dungeon, while nice is only one to come back to a handful of times.

Bungie has done the right thing by combining The 30 Anniversary Pack with what remains of the Forsaken expansion into one price for what is essentially a couple of dungeons and a plethora of weapons. While I’m sure some players will derive value for each bit of content (looking at you trophy hunters), I would only recommend buying either DLC as part of The Amoury Collection. It remains frustrating to see what was a strong story in Forsaken reduced to two cutscenes that don’t enhance the story in a meaningful way. If you are interested in picking up this bit of DLC, then please, get it when it’s on sale. 


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Source of Madness

7 December, 2023 by

Our Rating
7

When I started VGamingNews in 2011, it seemed that I was solely writing about post-apocalyptic open-world games thanks to the success of Fallout 3. A few years later, it seemed every other developer was looking to force RPG mechanics into everything (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed). So far in the 2020s, we’ve seen an influx of dark and moody ‘Soulslikes’ juxtaposed against a resurgence of adventure-rhythm games. While the industry has ebbs and flows with whatever is popular, from platformers, shooters or MMOs, one genre is seeing a consistent release every few months – Roguelikes. Billed as a hybrid platformer-meets-beat ’em up, roguelikes open the door for some very clever storytelling, often with procedurally generated levels. Source of Madness is one roguelike that has gained popularity since its initial 2021 release and is seeing a boom in popularity thanks to a physical edition courtesy of Super Rare Games.

At A Glance

Source of Madness
Positives  + Gothic visuals
+ Satisfying gameplay
+ Meaningful upgrades
Negatives  – Enemies don’t obey the laws of physics
– Confusing menu system
– The Grind, oh the grind
Overall7/10
Played OnPS5
Also Available OnNintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Find out about our scoring policy here.

Developed by Carry Castle, a one-man developer and backed by publisher Thunderful, Source of Madness is a side-scrolling dark action roguelike that is set in a procedurally generated Lovecraftian-inspired world filled with various nasties. Players take on the roles of Acolytes as they embark on a nightmarish odyssey. Starting from the safe haven of a cathedral they set out to explore the Loam Lands in order to find the *ahem*  source of madness that enveloped the land.

Colour me cynical, but when something is described as Lovecraftian, it’s usually code for ‘we got messed up octopus creatures.’ I think the description is overdone to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo markets the Splatoon 4 as a love letter to HP Lovecraft himself. That being said, Source of Madness is absolutely spot on with its comparison. The gothic setup with Source of Madness is one of grim intrigue that pulled me straight into the world of the Loam Lands in a way that I’ve not experienced for a little while. The two-dimensional world leaves a lot of story up for interpretation, with very little text that relies more on innuendo than directly telling you what’s going on. But the dark and grim land is full of melancholy and gothic tropes creating a moody atmosphere that simply wins you over. As I explored the nine worlds that make up the roguelike, I was struck by how consistent the foreboding tone within Source of Madness took me, especially considering each level changes with every playthrough. The design feels like it is two steps removed from a grotesque lovechild between Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro. 

If the opening moments weren’t a signifier of the game’s tone, then the strange shapes fill the lands, vines populate the natural forest levels, jagged rocks cover the underground and even in the starting town area will certainly drive the point home. There’s barely a straight edge to be found through the environments, twisting and turning in an almost unnatural way, much like the enemies who awkwardly roll around the Loam Lands. Unlike the typical Chtulu-esque monsters that spring to mind when thinking about Lovecraft, each monster is more of a gloopy mass of black with either claws that try to pin the unsuspecting cultist to the ground or sacks of unholy poisons that slow down their prey. 

While the baddy designs are positively unholy to look at, they are unfortunately the worst part of Source of Madness. Each set of enemies is unique to one of the nine areas I explored and while they appear frightening, and have a horrible screech before speedily attacking, they are easily dispatched by smashing the attack buttons. Bigger enemies that split into smaller enemies and bosses can prove to be a bit more time-consuming, but it’s nothing that a barrage of bullets and some well-timed dodges can solve. The biggest challenge I faced wasn’t the attacks from any of the creatures but rather their obsession with flaunting the laws of gravity as they often bounced from the ground into the stratosphere more often than NASA’s space programme. 

Enemies that rocket into the sky aside, the game itself has a finely balanced difficulty system. Nothing is ever too hard, the enemies can be hit from a distance and the levels are well-sized so that if you do need healing, it’s towards the end of the level. I found that examining the random loot to equip more powerful weapons was the only caveat to making meaningful progression. The constant rhythm of acquiring items and checking their stats meant a lot of dipping in and out of a clunky menu but it’s a necessary evil that’s required to make progress. As with other roguelikes, Source of Madness does give the option to upgrade the cultists and weapon drops to make the proceedings even easier but to fully unlock everything will take hours and hours of grinding. 

For completionists, Source of Madness is aptly named, the main story itself only lasts a handful of hours (my first playthrough took most of an afternoon), but to 100% everything will take much, much longer than that. The thought of spending hours upon hours replaying the same levels might be too much for some but not everything in Source of Madness is as dark and foreboding as Batman’s personality. The game takes on an occasional sense of dark humour, like the Book of the Dead. The game employs permadeath so once a character is killed, that’s it. Their name gets written into the book with how long they lasted and how many kills they racked up. The grim presentation for me was simultaneously hilarious and brutal, but it’s one way of lightening the tone somewhat. 

Source of Madness is one game that stands out from the ever-growing roguelike crowd. The very nature of the genre means that there is a long grind in front of players but the team at Carry Castle has done an excellent job at making sure the gameplay is as engaging as it can be. Restarting over, over, over and over again never feels like a chore, rather it sets a target for you to beat. Sure, Source of Madness has its flaws, particularly the odd enemy design and vague story, but if you are in the market for something that is super accessible, easygoing and looks as gothy as a Tim Burton film, then Source of Madness is a game I’d recommend.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game to conduct this review. At the time of writing, there are still physical copies of Source of Madness available from Super Rare Games.


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Brok The InvestiGator

28 November, 2023 by

Our Rating
7

The life of an investigator can be a difficult one. Long nights, tough cases, complex puzzles to solve. Now imagine that same life, but this time from the perspective of a giant, anthropomorphic alligator. No, no, you heard me correctly – a humanoid, crime busting swamp lizard… Welcome to BROK the InvestiGator!

At A Glance

Brok: The InvestiGator
Positives  + Fun and unique mix of two different gaming styles
+ Great cast of characters and VA talents
+ Awesome, cartoonish art style
Negatives  – Not very difficult
– Slow beginning
Overall7/10
Played OnPS5
Also Available OnNintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Find out about our scoring policy here.

Developed and published by COWCAT Games, Brok the InvestiGator is a delightful mashup of both point-and-click and the beat-‘em-up-style games of old that I know my fellow 90’s kids will appreciate. The game has two modes of operation, investigative and combative, and you can switch between them at will. With Investigative Mode activated, you will explore your various environments, looking for clues and workable leads to further your cases; the point-and-click system giving the player the freedom to dutifully study each item in their surroundings before moving along with the story. The fighting meanwhile leans heavily into the beat-‘em-up genre, where Brok will adopt a fighting stance to let the player know that he is now in ‘Combat Mode’, and that a button press will now yield a violent uppercut rather than delicately pick up that clue you were looking at.

The story of Brok can be… sluggish to begin with. There is a lot of explanation and introduction to get through at the start: we have to meet the characters and gain an understanding of the world we’ve been dropped into, and some might find this slow and a little tedious. Not to say that the world of our friendly neighbourhood investigator isn’t interesting. Set in a dystopian style future, Brok navigates a world quite literally divided, where members of higher society, known as the Drumers, live inside a giant dome where they are safe and protected from the toxic wastelands outside, and the lesser half of the population, the Slumers. Life inside the dome is comfortable and thriving, where animals have access to good jobs and the necessities of life, such as medicine and security. The Slumers, as the name would suggest, live in near-poverty and squalor, a slum rife with crime and gangs and poor living conditions, and each day a struggle to simply survive.

Brok contains six chapters and takes place over the span of three days, with a lot of focus placed on the animals Brok meets and the relationships he forges with them along the way. For example, the relationship between Brok and his adopted son Graff (a teenage cat anthropomorph that also happens to be the only other playable character) is both tumultuous and endearing, with the trauma they have shared throughout their lives bonding them together in a way that little else can. The RPG element of the game really comes into play during these scenarios, with some classic ‘reward and consequence’ depending on how you answer a question or let a scenario play out. Subject to the decisions you make along the way, the relationship between Brok and Graff will either strengthen or deteriorate, clues will be lost or solved, and characters can even die. This lends the game a sense of replayability if you’d like to go back and achieve a better ending than the first time around – and I personally wouldn’t blame anyone who did, as some of the endings can be very bleak indeed.

It doesn’t take long to discover that life isn’t exactly a stroll in the proverbial park for our resident reptile. Like something straight out of your favourite detective show, Brok is a pained soul who struggles with the emotional baggage of losing his wife, living paycheque to paycheque, keeping up with overdue bills, all on top of being a single father to his stepson. Graff, meanwhile, has his own teenage angst going on as he studies hard to leave the Slums behind. His eyes are set firm upon that sweet, luxurious Dome life, whilst also coming to grips with the death of his mother, an absent paternal father, and feelings of neglect from a well-meaning but workaholic step-father. Step-reptilian? You get what I mean…

Between Brok and Graff, you will traverse the post-apocalyptic worldscape, talking to a colourful cast of critters while you gather clues and solve puzzles to try and piece together the game’s mysteries -whether that’s using brain or brawn is largely up to you. When investigating, the player simply moves the cursor around the screen with the right analogue stick, whilst controlling Brok’s side-scroller-esque movements with the left. There are a myriad of different items in any given room that you can interact with, so it’s always worth your while clicking over everything of interest – even if it is just to be told; “Hey! Put that mostly irrelevant [insert item here] down!”. As with any good detective adventure, you’ll encounter a series of puzzles with varying degrees of difficulty, though most of them aren’t too terribly taxing on the brain.

However, if you do find yourself struggling with a particular riddle that’s hindering you from moving forward, you’re in luck! The game offers a hint system, whereby you can find hidden ‘ads’ in each area which you can then use on confuddling conundrums to help surpass them. Once you have gathered all of your clues, using information gleaned from interrogated NPCs and evidence collected from the environment, it’s time to put those detective skills to use as you narrow down your list of suspects and point the long arm of the law at the villain. Be careful who you accuse, however, as each wrong decision can lead you further down the path to a potentially devastating ending!

As far as brawlers go, Brok’s fight mode is pretty straightforward, but certainly still enjoyable. You have a very simplistic list of moves, including punches, kicks, fly-kicks and blocks. You can use weapons in a fight to help shift the odds in your favour, or you can buff up your stats (including health, special attack and strength) by gaining XP and levelling up.  That said, if you’re more pacifist than aggressor – you can set the game’s difficulty to Easy and simply skip any sort of physical altercations altogether! The choice is entirely up to you.

The voice acting in Brok is definitely one of it’s outstanding features. Each anthropomorphic character sounds exactly how they look like they should, with each actor bringing their character to life in ways that I’ve seen big triple A titles fail to implement well. The cast are well sourced, with the leads having worked on a vast number of other games and animated titles to boot. The game’s aesthetic is also very pleasing, it’s bright colours, sharp lines and cartoony artstyle making me feel like a kid again, waking up at the butt-crack of dawn on Saturday morning to sit in front of the TV and watch classic 90s ‘toons like Dexter’s Laboratory. The nostalgia is real, folks.

For anyone yet to pick up this great title by COWCAT, I highly recommend not sitting on it. It may not be the most multifaceted of games, nor the most strenuous, but it has plenty of heart and a ton of character, the story is solid and the investigations are fun to solve. At roughly 14+ hours to complete, it doesn’t require a large commitment, so you can continue to grind those battlepasses (looking at you, Overwatch!) and then wind down at the end of the day with our resident reptilian, BROK the InvestiGator!

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.


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Everspace 2

24 October, 2023 by

Our Rating
7

Everspace 2 is a space combat game from Rockfish, the followup to the successful run-based roguelite Everspace (2017), expanding the original game’s core gameplay into a more traditional narrative structure. The game was released on PC earlier this year but has just made the jump to current gen consoles at the tail end of the summer. It’s a solid shooter and easy recommend to someone coming from the like of No Man’s Sky seeking something a bit more combat-focused, but a harder sell  to anyone with experience in the more simulation-adjacent space of the like of Elite: Dangerous. Everspace 2 instead acts more as a gateway drug to those interested in the concept of a Serious Space Sim™, but cautious about jumping in.

At A Glance

EVERSPACE 2
Positives  + Fun arcade action
+ Big world(s) to explore
+ Lots of customisation options

Negatives  – Slow paced opening
– By-the-numbers story
– Not much depth

Overall7 /10
Played OnPS5
Also Available OnPC, Xbox Series X|S
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To get it out of the way early, Everspace 2’s greatest sin is that it thinks much more highly of its narrative than is perhaps warranted. Early on the game will frequently stop you so it can exposit more story at you, none of which is delivered particularly well. You play as a generic, brown-haired white (space) American guy in his early-to-mid-twenties, who you will recognise from ten thousand other mid-budget action games of the last… well, forever basically. All rough edges or interesting personality quirks have been sanded off to make sure that you, statistically a brown-haired white (non-space) American guy in his early-to-mid-twenties, can easily identify with this character. Honestly, I don’t mind a game giving me a set character – some of the best experiences I’ve had in video games have been with proper authored characters, even those fitting the mould of that stereotyped video game guy – but please, developers, I beg you, if you’re going to give me an authored character, at least have the decency to actually write them. I can see no reason at all the game couldn’t have let you have some input into your character – you’re going to spend a fair amount of time with them, after all, and it’s a great shortcut to building an immediate relationship with the protagonist.

Once given a little time to develop organically, the story and setting themselves aren’t too bad, but nothing here is going to set the world on fire. There are some interesting characters and world-building, but the delivery and writing is pretty wooden and oddly slow-paced. In short, you’re a clone-pilot as in the first game, but the “respawning” function (Everspace’s in-world justification for the roguelike structure) no longer works, so I guess now you’re just a guy? The plot pretty quickly dovetails into running missions for a variety of characters, all of which essentially boil down into: a) fly to a place and b) shoot some things.

Luckily, then, the moment to moment gameplay of shooting some things is largely solid. We are very much in arcade-shooter territory here, rather than anything approaching a sim, and the physics of space are entirely Star Wars as opposed to anything more complex. I was reminded far more of something like Descent (1995, yes I am old) than the more meaty offerings of an Elite: Dangerous or even Star Wars: Squadrons. Enemies are numerous and varied, though identifying them can be tough – more often than not I was working out threats based on the HUD readout of hull/shield values rather than silhouette.

Your ship build is treated very much more like a character in a looter-shooter than a machine, again due to the arcade-over-sim sensibilities of the game, with all that is to be expected of the genre – colour-coded item rarity and the ability to swap equipment out on the fly (literally). There’s a good variety of weapons that feel different from each other and have different applications – knowing when to swap from projectile guns to lasers has real impact – with missiles being a favourite of mine: visually great and highly effective. There’s also a whole truckload of extra kit and inventory to play around with, active and passive effects to juggle and, of course, a variety of hulls to upgrade to as well, functioning almost like classes though also bringing in differences in manoeuvrability as well as tankiness and upgrade slots. Defeated enemies will drop items and resources, of which there are many. While combat is the game’s main focus, inventory management is a close second. It’s a heavy price to pay, but the wide customisation it offers does let you really play around with a great variety of play styles – for the min-max minded player there is a lot to dig into, though the challenge of the game never really forces you to interact with this beyond the most cursory depth if you don’t want to.

Levels are well designed, managing to avoid the wide open expanse of, well, space, but keeping things sparse enough that it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. The game works on a series of instances scattered throughout a half-dozen or so star systems, which you jump between through FTL (faster-than-light, the not-quite fast travel option for the game). I was somewhat surprised that this isn’t seamless, as the design strongly suggests this was the goal, but instead while you leave an instance and jump to FTL travel, zooming about the star system, when you drop into a new instance there’s a brief loading pause and black screen before you’re in control again. Given the parallels in game-feel and (assumed) audience to No Man’s Sky, this feels quite disappointing. FTL travel itself is also a little awkward, as while you can technically fly around manually, actually doing so is fiddly, and lining up an exit seemed particularly finicky to pull off. Better instead to rely on the autopilot, with the added benefit that you can look around at the stars and planets flying by.

Everspace 2 then is overall a competent space-combat based looter-shooter in the sheepskin of a space-combat sim. Come to it knowing what to expect and there’s a good few dozen hours of simple fun to be had, but I’m not convinced it has the systemic depth to truly rival either the looter-shooter or space-sim heavyweights on their own turf.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.

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