Tag Archives: gaming

The Survivalists – Review

The Survivalists, the spiritual successor to developer and publisher Team 17’s ‘The Escapists’ franchise, moves the series’ action away from methodical prison breaking escapades and instead offers a more non-linear experience situated on the (almost literal) sandbox of a deserted desert island. Despite a change in locale, can The Survivalists offer the same enjoyable experience which made The Escapists a runaway hit, or is this one game you will just simply want to cast away?

Desert island danger


As the name would suggest, The Survivalists is a sandbox game all about survival and stranded on a procedurally generated island, either alone or with up to three friends, that is exactly what the player must do. It is up to you and your companions to gather resources, fight off enemies, construct a safe base of operations and eventually find a way to escape from your new home.

Greeted with a slew of tutorial text boxes, the player is quickly introduced to the game’s crafting and survival mechanics. Unlike other titles in the genre which offer a number of complex character needs to manage, The Survivalists refreshingly only has players maintaining a single basic food meter which will lead to death if depleted. Luckily, your food level can be easily topped up by hoovering up any of the number of food items found strewn throughout the island.

Players can also find varying amounts wood or stone washed up with their wrecked ship which can be used to construct makeshift tools. These first makeshift tools are in turn used to acquire more resources and to build more tools, a development which comprises the large majority of The Survivalists’ early gameplay. Whilst initially you are only able to create a couple base items, your crafting capability soon expands as you create specialised crafting stations, unlock new blueprints and discover new materials.

Exploration of the island is always rewarded, through the random placement of treasure chests and the discovery of mysterious jungle temples and labyrinths. Exploration is not risk free however, with a slew of hostile enemies present on the island with you and particularly throughout in dungeons. These include dangerous wild animals like bats and bears, roaming orc-like natives and even a small army of undead pirates. The game’s day-night cycle also adds an additional threat to contend with, with enemy spawns being greatly increased at night.

Saving can only be accomplished by sleeping in beds and, although death is not permanent, it does still lead to the loss of all your currently held inventory items making each foray into the unknown feel suitably tense. Luckily, combat is possible, with a few weapons like axes and clubs available to craft, but quickly declining item durability and your tiny stamina meter, which is depleted with every attack, makes becoming overwhelmed incredibly easy.

Monkey business


The game’s labyrinths are the epitome of this constant risk vs reward mechanic. Distributed randomly throughout the island, labyrinths are where the rarest and most useful loot can be found. Populated by some very powerful enemies, its always important to make sure that you tackle each labyrinth with several health items and weapons on hand. Destroying enemies and busting open chests rewards money, which can eventually be spent on items at a mysterious travelling trader who appears periodically on your island.

Even without survival-hungry friends to fill slots in the online Co-Op, you still do not have to tackle any of The Survivalists alone. Monkeys can be found in cages in dungeons or in the wild and once tamed or rescued these primate pals can perform a wide variety of tasks for you, ranging from construction to combat. You are able to recruit up to twenty monkeys which can easily be managed from the command window which quickly allows the play to assign monkeys to jobs. These are all actions which would otherwise have to be performed by the player, significantly speeding up construction and forming an invaluable addition to combat.

Castaway


Sadly, even the addition of monkey helpers cannot save what is an incredibly clunky and quite honestly impressively mundane crafting system. Either in your inventory or at a crafting table, an item’s blueprint has to be manually selected first which then allows the player to insert the required resources (one at a time of course) and then select the correct tool in your inventory and hold a lengthy button prompt to finally finish the craft.

Annoyingly, the game’s inventory is very small, only holding a handful of items. This means that a lot of crafting time is spent simply moving back and forth between a chest or items left on the floor because you don’t often have enough free slot inventory space to craft the item in one go. On top of this, the tools required to craft items themselves have durability and constantly break, making players stop what they are doing halfway through just to craft another tool. Tools cannot stack in your inventory either, exasperating the issue by meaning that you only really have space to carry one at a time.

Base building is accomplished in a very similar fashion, with a choppy blueprint selection process creating a blank space where the necessary materials must be inserted and combined by holding yet another button prompt. It is incredibly mundane and only becomes more annoying as you unlock increasingly complex items. Because of the amount of crafting you must do to get a base up and running, the game starts off incredibly boring and repetitive, only really becoming entertaining when the dungeon crawling elements come into play.

Although the pixelated visuals themselves are lovely, the user-interface is impressively dense and overly crowded without displaying much useful information. Fiddly controls also make and a very slight, but still very noticeable, lag on interface elements make this already confusing user interface an absolute nightmare to navigate and only makes the already agonising crafting mechanics feel even worse.

Finally, there is a significant issue with the title’s lack of content. Despite receiving several updates since launch, there are still a surprisingly small number of items to unlock in the game and even fewer ways to use them. Your starting island is quite small and although you can construct a raft to travel to other nearby landmasses, they are all aesthetically identical and, beyond exploring for the sake of it, there’s very little reason to bother.

Whilst the labyrinth dungeon-crawling segments are a lot of fun, the sheer mundanity of every other gameplay element left me feeling disappointed to find that a game with a £21.99 on both Steam and Nintendo Switch had so few genuinely enjoyable activities to do.

Verdict:


The Survivalists’ cute pixelated graphics may be pleasing and the prospect of a procedurally generated island to explore is undeniably tantalising; but the sheer number of incredibly frustrating issues present in this title, especially when coupled with the hefty asking price, ironically make The Survivalists one game you could certainly survive without.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Going Under – Review

Walking around city centres these days it’s easy to see that we’re living in the era of tech start-ups. Almost every corner you see is now populated by cliquey cafes crammed with checked-shirt wearing, latte-drinking hipsters out for a break from their pot-planted desks where they sit on bouncy beanbags, not chairs. What happens, however, to all the fledgling companies which don’t make it, the ones which never get the shiny office buildings or gain bean-bag chairs? Going Under is a game which attempts, in a very light-hearted manner, to answer this question; taking you on a journey through the dark underbelly of Neo-Cascadia – the city where tech start-ups come to die.

Magnificent melee


A rogue-like, the title ‘Going Under‘ refers not only to the failing companies, who’s sprawling underground offices form the majority of the game’s setting, but also the physical act of descending into these dungeons at the start of each new run. Inside of these arenas, combat is third-person and melee oriented, with a particular focus on improvisation. Like Dead Rising, players can pick up and make weapons of the objects in the world around them – although the brutally bloody chainsaws and gold clubs of that game are replaces with more light-hearted cardboard boxes or staple-guns. There’s also a weapon durability system, which some will find particularly reminiscent of Breath of the Wild, whereby the objects you collect to use as armaments smash into pieces after only a few attacks.

There’s something undeniably enjoyable about your trusty wet-floor sign suddenly smashing mid-fight, sending you frantically flailing toward the nearest weapon in the room regardless of level or type. This unpredictable pandemonium is almost encouraged by the fact that your only dodge move, a basic dodge roll, automatically equips the nearest weapon if you don’t have one in your hand. This lead to many hilarious (and intense!) encounters where my high-level battle-axe unexpectedly exploded leaving me to fend off a room full of enemies with only a mop.

The inclusion of a weapon durability system is an excellent way to encourage the player to experiment with new weapons and try everything the game has to offer in a genre where, traditionally, gameplay involves working out the best combination of items in the game and sticking to them almost religiously. If there are no items nearby, the player character can always engage in combat bare-handed, which is very helpful in a cinch but with large enemy health bars is far too ineffective an endeavour to ever be considered a viable playstyle.

Luckily, it’s quite hard to find yourself without weapons as when you first enter a dungeon there is always a small selection of basic items to pick up before entering the first room. Rooms act almost as compact stand-alone combat arenas which, once entered, cannot be exited until a number of enemies have been defeated. The rooms themselves are randomly laid out but often include a number of items to discover like weapons and health pickups. Many enemies also drop the weapons that they carry which can be picked up.

There is also no time pressure to enter the next room once the one you are in is clear, giving you ample time to explore and pick up any items you missed. Some rooms also give you the opportunity to complete challenges in order to gain a drone-delivered crate containing more powerful gear. If you’re particularly lucky and find a room with a lot of decent gear, you don’t have to leave any behind with the player’s pockets being able to carry up to three weapons which can be quickly swapped at the tap of a button.

Each time combat ends you have breathing time where you are free to explore the room and collect any items you may have missed before you move on. Hovering over any item in the world shows you its name, a brief (and often amusing) description in addition to a quick indicator which shows if the item is better, worse than or the same as what you currently have equipped. This is a fantastic little quality of life addition which makes good gear much easier to identify than in games with more traditional numeric stat systems.

Nice to meet brew


There is also the chance for a shop to spawn on the map, styled like a hipster coffee shop, in which you can spend the money you pick up from defeated enemies on a variety of trendy soya-based health items. In addition to health buffs you can also buy ‘skills’ which grant powerful abilities like elemental attacks or increased damage. If you’re particularly short on money, floors can also contain a room where a skill which can be obtained for free. There is also a chance for a room with a charming curse to salesman to appear who will exchange up to three skills or items for a debilitating de-buff. These include things like enemies exploding on death or all of your weapons breaking after one hit and create an enjoyable risk vs reward dynamic.

In Going Under‘s small hub world, styled after a lively office building and serves as the place from which player can enter the game’s three dungeons, a number of NPC’s can be interacted with to gain “tasks”. These function like quests and present the opportunity to unlock characters as “mentors”. Your selected mentor provides a unique bonus to your run which gradually levels up through use. When accepting a task, you are shown one of the game’s charming cutscene, which feature some excellently drawn 2D sprites.

Dialogue is represented through playful smart-phone style text messages which pop-up on the screen as the scene plays out – accompanied by cute notification sound effects. Outside of cutscenes, the game’s visuals still remain one of its strongest suits. The low-poly pastel aesthetic is not only memorable and distinctive but looks absolutely adorably. Going Under‘s quirky bright colours, light-hearted dialogue and enjoyable slow-paced music creates a very calming effect and, as a result, playing the game feels almost therapeutic in the absolute best of ways.

Going under


Unfortunately, some fans of the genre might be put off by the game’s difficulty, which is a little on the easy side – particularly for a rogue-like. A lot of this easy difficulty is due to the game’s combat, which is certainly more on the casual side. The simple formula of frantic button-mashing and occasional dodging is very approachable, it has the downside of making enemy encounters, and even boss fights, trivially easy after only an hour or so of play. Although there is an option to decrease difficulty (by turning on ‘assist’), it would have certainly been nice to have some ways of making the game harder too.

I also found that whilst the use of lifeless text-to-speech in some cutscenes is certainly fitting, considering the setting of a tech company, it detracted somewhat from the game’s otherwise high degree of polish. On the subject of lifeless, the game’s hub world is very small with little to do other than wander around and occasionally interact with objects.

Lastly, the game’s humour is constantly enjoyable but feels a little bit tame. The tongue-in cheek parody of workplace culture and the modern tech industry certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel and might feel somewhat generic if you’re used to that kind of comedy. Regardless of the fact that I personally found the game very funny, this particular brand of almost nihilistic millennial comedy might not be to everyone’s taste, and its constant presence in almost every facet of the game might go so far as to be incredibly annoying to some.

Verdict:


Going Under is a quirky and confident rogue-like. What it lacks in difficulty it certainly compensates for in style with its adorable visuals, fun (albeit somewhat basic) combat and relaxing music. It might be unpaid, but your adventures in the dungeon will certainly be an internship to remember!


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Rogue Legacy 2 – Early Access Review

It’s a tad ironic that Rogue Legacy, a game all about children succeeding their parents, has taken almost seven years to come out with a sequel; but Rogue Legacy 2 is finally here. Can Rouge Legacy 2, which has recently entered its early access period, manage to live up to the legacy of its well-loved predecessor or is this new child nothing but a big disappointment?

Rogue-lite


If you’re not familiar with the original Rogue Legacy, the basic concept is this. An existential threat is facing the kingdom and it’s up to a brave hero, controlled the player, to venture into a dark castle and save the day. As metroidvania style game, the castle is a randomly generated environment divided into different rooms which can all be freely explored by the player from a side-scrolling perspective. Each room presents a different challenge to overcome, from deadly enemies to vicious traps and even the occasional brutally hard boss-fight.

Rogue Legacy 2 is an unapologetically hard game, and your first foray into the castle is nearly guaranteed to end with death. Luckily, the adventure doesn’t end there as the hero has a seemingly endless line of descendants who are eager to pick up and continue the quest. Upon death you are presented with a choice of three potential heirs, all with randomised traits, different appearances and a unique class. Classes consist of your typical fantasy fare of with knights wielding sharp swords, spell-casting wizards and axe-carrying barbarians, each with their own unique playstyle and aesthetic.

Your character’s traits, on the other hand, are much more on the zaney side. Each heir can potentially have up to two of over thirty available traits. These range from things like colour-blindness which puts a black and white filter over the entire game to IBS which replaces all of your special abilities with farts. When these traits are first encountered on a character, their meaning is not immediately apparent and their explanations are hidden until you have played with them at least once.

I had to learn the hard way that my pacifist archer who suffered from brittle bone disease was unable to attack, on account of the pacifism, and was doomed to die in one hit. Although it would be nice to see a larger selection of traits added, especially considering that this game contains roughly the same number as its predecessor, the potential for over a thousand unique trait combinations nevertheless kept my characters feeling unique.

Castle crasher


One new feature is the ‘Universal Healthcare’ upgrade which means that you can now pick up positive cash modifiers depending on the severity of your character’s conditions. This means that players who deliberately pick the most challenge traits are rewarded and stops you from just picking the heir with the fewest conditions every single time. As in real life, collecting money in-game is extremely beneficial as it acts much akin to experience points rather than traditional currency.

Whilst money, which is collected from defeated enemies and a variety of hidden chests, is lost at the start of a new run, players are always first given the option to purchase a number of upgrades for their castle. This is effectively your character upgrade tree, unlocking handy upgrades which are carried forward in each subsequent run. You can pick up health upgrades, armour upgrades and even unlock new classes. Unlocked upgrades are accompanied with an additional building being erected in your in-game castle serving as a nice visual way to track your progress the game.

In addition to constructing your castle, you can also build shops in the game’s hub world. These shops include a blacksmith, selling a variety of armour pieces which improve your hit-points, and a sorceress dealing in mana upgrades. Purchases from shops are only temporary, lasting the duration of the run they were purchased on, but can still provide you with a nice little boost. Before you can buy anything however, you have to track down blueprints which are randomly distributed in the chests scattered throughout the castle.

There are also occasionally rooms with special chests. They have special criteria, like killing enemies without taking any damage, which must be completed before the chest can be unlocked. These chests are more likely to contain higher amounts of cash, rare blueprints or even valuable heirlooms – items which provide permanent buffs and are passed on to descendants.

Rogue’s gallery


Visually, Rogue’s Legacy 2 is particularly pleasant. Merging very colourful, smoothly animated character sprites with soft hand-drawn backgrounds is a great aesthetic choice and successfully modernises the original’s pixelated graphics whilst remaining comfortingly familiar to returning players. The game also features two new biomes, distinct from the castle, which appear later in the game. One features a bright and snowy outdoors aesthetic whilst the other is dark, demonic and menacing.

These biomes each have unique architecture and enemies in addition to their new looks and help liven up the experience when they are introduced later in the game. The developer has also promised to release a number of new biomes throughout early access, going so far as to include a countdown to the next biome update on the game’s main menu, and I’m excited to see what new content is in store for the game.

Not much of a legacy


On the subject of new content, more of it is definitely needed. The current experience feels a little bare bones, even for an early access title. In addition to the new biomes, it would be nice to see some new classes added to be unlocked perhaps later in the game as playing for hours with the same four classes that I unlocked right at the start of the game quickly became repetitive and samey in spite of the randomised character traits.

The game’s music could also use some work as whilst some tracks, particularly that of the hub world, are very enjoyable; the majority that play while you explore the castle felt underwhelming. It’s alarmingly easy to forget that there’s any music playing at all and I often found myself muting the in-game music all-together and just jumping on to Spotify instead.

There’s also the matter of the game’s difficulty, which is notably high. Whilst I don’t have an inherent issue with hard games, I died frequently as a result of the game’s bizarre keyboard controls which are particularly fiddly. The game makes use of the left mouse button to attack and the right to use powerups, but there’s no option to face the direction of your cursor. This means you have to stalk walking towards your enemies to actually face them, and lead to many annoying instances where I was either desperately clicking to kill a fast-moving enemy I wasn’t facing or accidentally walking into enemies while trying to face them.

Verdict:


Rogue Legacy 2‘s position as an early access title is definitely reflected in its current state. It has many of the same features which made the original great, accompanied by a fantastically overhauled set of visuals, but lacks a degree of polish. At the moment there are some solid foundations laid which would greatly benefit from some minor fixes and a hearty content addition. Although the high difficulty might prove too challenging for some, if you were the type of person who got hooked on the original Rogue Legacy, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be equally enthralled by its successor.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Necronator: Dead Wrong – Review

Have you ever been in the middle of a round on one of those browser tower defence games and sat back and just wondered about who exactly is behind the seemingly endless legions of baddies who are practically throwing themselves at your impenetrable defences? Well, Necronator: Dead Wrong, which has just received a full release having recently left early access, is a game to answer that question. Uniquely told from the attacker’s perspective, it combines elements from both the deck-building and real-time-strategy into a proudly quirky and distinctly different experience that will likely have you coming back time and time again for more.

Tower offence


The plot follows the exploits of a young evil-doer fully trained up in all sorts of villainy, having recently graduated from the ‘Undead Academy’, who is aiming to become the greatest necromancer in the rather ironically named fantasy world of Livmore. Joined by a ‘chubat’, an adorably squishy looking winged purple comrade, players must rampage across Livmore winning challenging battles, recruiting armies of troops and just generally leaving a trail of death and destruction in your wake.

When you start the game, there are three available protagonists to choose from with one, the Death Knight, available right away and the other two being unlockable via in-game progression. With slightly different story interactions throughout their campaigns, each protagonist has their own unique abilities and card decks, giving them unique playstyles. Your character’s decks and abilities are utilised in the game’s combat sections, which involve using cards from your deck to dispatch troops along paths, much like the lanes of MOBA titles, towards an enemy base and to heal or provide buffs to your army.

Your current hand is shown at the bottom of the screen and each card is labelled with a set amount of mana which must be spent to play the card. Mana is generated predominantly by your home building or when by captured enemy defences You mana can too be used to discard your hand and draw new cards from your deck – particularly handy a few hours in, when you have obtained a deck of considerable size.

It’s good to be bad


Although the initial few levels being almost incredibly easy, completed in a matter of seconds by simply spamming all your units, difficulty soon picks up and I was pleased to discover that there is a shocking amount of strategy required in order to get past the later levels. Becoming acquainted with the individual stats and properties of the cards in your deck is a must if you want to get very far, and I found that keeping track of which cards I had already played in a game in order to try and predict the ones which would enter my hand next both kept me one step ahead of my adversary, making winning the fight extra rewarding.

No matter how much you think things through however, battles still rely partly on chance. The cards selected to enter your hand are chosen entirely at random from your card pool and the same goes for that of your enemy. Whilst strategy is undeniably effective, this randomness stops the player from becoming too complacent and, despite sometimes becoming a source of unparalleled frustration, keeps each battle feeling fresh and exciting. Keeping battles engaging is particularly important for Necronator; with death converting all of their progress to overall character XP and setting the player right back to square one.

XP levels up your protagonist, unlocking new starting decks and abilities. Alongside gaining cards to bolster out your deck, succeeding on the battlefield grants “souls” which players can spend on upgrades. Cards can be purchased directly in their upgraded forms through the shops littered about the map or alternatively upgraded in camp. The opportunity to set up camp is granted to the player every few levels and allows them to upgrade cheaply, heal or pay a small fee to remove cards from their hand. You can, however, only select one of these options before being forced to move on.

This creates an interesting conflict between maintaining your health and increasing the power of your deck. Alongside better stats, enhancing cards unlocks new visual sprites for your units who are now seen with visibly more durable armour or a more menacing looking improved weapon in their hands. In addition to being a nice bit of attention-to-detail, this helps give a good sense of progression to your deck and I enjoyed being able to actually see my troops becoming more powerful throughout the game.

There are a number of random encounters to be discovered throughout the game, marked by a mysterious question mark on the map. These give the player some choices to make, granting powerful cards if successful but simultaneously run the risk of crippling unlucky players with debuffs. The sheer number of different decisions to be made throughout the campaign, as well as the vast number of cards that can be added to your deck, makes losing feel less like a chore than an opportunity to start over and experiment with new card configurations or discover events and outcomes you may have missed. Furthermore, the inclusion Steam Workshop support does wonders for replayability, allowing players to create and share everything from custom-made game modifiers to full-length story campaigns.

Unfinished business


Outside of combat, the game’s map is pleasantly drawn with its soft colours and cartoon-like style complimenting the game’s cutesy hand-drawn character designs well. Battles themselves, on the other hand, are presented from an isometric perspective the presentation of each battlefield in a small square area, which can be rotated and explored by the camera. I found that it was far easier to focus with concentration focused on a small area and kept even the most frantic of fights from feeling too overwhelming. Older gamers will likely find the box-like arenas, three-dimensional scenery and two-dimensional pixelated unit sprites a pleasantly nostalgic combination, being particularly reminiscent of early strategy games like Disgaea.

This influence is also apparent in the game’s writing, which follows a similarly comic tone. I found the light-hearted pre-battle dialogue to be a constant source of amusement whilst the sardonic interactions with the game’s cast of punnily-named boss characters contains its fair share of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. It’s a shame that this dialogue becomes far less entertaining when it is repeated verbatim at the same points in every single playthrough. The pre-battle dialogue from Chubat is a notable offender in this regard, which each area only having a handful of lines which play out before each battle. What’s there may be very good, but it’s a shame there simply aren’t enough unique lines to keep you from instinctively skipping dialogue interactions.

The title’s music, although by all means wholly satisfactory, was on the whole a little blander than I expected for a game which is otherwise oozing with personality. This is quite nit-picky, but it would also be nice if the game’s tutorial, which is relegated to a small tick-box on the game creation menu, was made a little more apparent for new players as launching the game for the first time and missing the tutorial made for quite a confusing experience.

Despite having left early access, the game is still receiving frequent content and quality of life updates based on user feedback, so I’m confident that these small nagging issues will be resolved in future patches.

Verdict:


Despite some very minor shortcomings, the entertaining writing and engaging visual flair elevates the game’s experimental gameplay combination of addictive deck-building and unpredictable real-time strategy. Cute and colourful, Necronator: Dead Wrong is one unique strategy experience you won’t soon forget.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Panzer Paladin – Review

Whether you’re a long time player who’s chasing the thrill of childhood nostalgia or a more recent arrival to the gaming world who is simply trying to live the highlights of an era gone-by, there’s nothing quite like a great retro-styled platformer. After a few hours with the recently released game from the platforming gurus over at Tribute Games, I can report that Panzer Paladin is exactly that – a great retro-styled platformer that will certainly scratch your itch for all things 8-bit.

Gundam style


The game opens with a quick tutorial level, which introduces the core mechanics of Panzer Paladin‘s gameplay. In short, you play as the pilot of a powerful mech suit – the titular paladin – and must utilise this suit to navigate sprawling levels populated by evil demons which have escaped from the underworld. These demons appear in a number of forms including horrible insects, evil knights and even knife-throwing goblins. Each enemy poses a unique challenge, with distinctive attack patterns with must be learned to ensure success in combat.

Players can employ the mech’s in-built defences, a somewhat weak fire-ball attack, or take advantage of the plethora of oversized medieval melee weapons dropped by enemies. Paladins are able to carry a large number of these dropped weapons, each of which carries its own attack range, damage stat and durability meter. These values, which can be viewed in the game’s pause-menu work about how you would expect. Weapons like spears have large ranges and high durability but comparatively low damage when put against the likes of swords or clubs. Having your items frequently break may sound like a chore on paper, but in practice it ensures you experience the wide range of weapons on offer and incentivises you to pursue higher-level, and therefore more durable, weapons.

You can manually break your weapons by holding a button. This destroys you currently selected item but unleashes a unique-power attack, the strength of which depends predominantly on the power of the weapon you are sacrificing. It’s an enjoyable and effective way of disposing of any lower-level items you might pick up and can come in extremely handy in a fight. Weapons can also be tossed a high speeds and throwing a spear at an out of reach enemy is an awful lot of fun. You still have to be careful though, because tossing away all your weapons willy-nilly can leave you highly vulnerable until they are retrieved.

In addition to combat the game also features some light platforming elements which have you avoiding trapdoor platforms, exploding mines and spike pits galore. These sections are made easier by leaving ejecting from your power-armour which renders you more smaller and more mobile at the cost of lower health and the inability to pick up and use weapons. There are also some small puzzle-like optional elements in levels centred around breaking parts of the environment or ejecting from your suit at specific points to enter small gaps. Completing these is often rewarded with a bonus health regeneration station or unique weapon.

A world at your fingertips:


One of the first thing’s you’ll notice about the game is it’s striking art-style, a faithful recreation of colourful 8-bit graphics. Each of the thirteen levels is based upon a real-world country, selected from a world map-style level select screen, and carries its own distinctive art style. The portrayals of each country may be a little on the stereotypical side but they provide a great variety. One minute you’re taking in the spooky gothic atmosphere of an ancient Scottish castle and the next you’re navigating the bustling streets of New York. I was also pleased to notice that the game’s bosses, which are situated at the end of each level, were all loosely based upon mythological creatures native to each country’s lore. The stages themselves are accompanied by their own fantastic theme songs, featuring an exciting blend of typical 8-bit beeps and more sophisticated elements clearly inspired by each nation’s traditional instruments. Each boss fight also comes with its own, more generic, combat theme.

From the map-screen, players can also access the “laboratory” in which they can use their “spirit points” – gained by completing levels – to upgrade their weapons. An upgrade system is a nice feature to have, but it is made pretty redundant by the fact that you still have to find the weapons each level to use them with the large number of available weapons making it quite tricky to actually encounter the specific one you have just poured all of your points into. Luckily, although these upgrades do undeniably improve weapons they are certainly not necessary to complete the game and in my playthrough the availability of powerful weapons in levels meant I never really felt held back by a lack of upgrades.

The game also features an in-depth weapon creator which allows users to create their own pixel-sprites and stat sheets. Your creation uploaded directly to the Steam Workshop on PC and automatically integrated into everyone’s games. Players can find community created weapons dropped randomly by higher level enemies and the potential of finding all-new weapons contributes greatly to the replayability of the game. If for some reason though you want to stick to only the developer-made weapons, the community content can be disabled at any time via the settings menu.

In addition to encountering all new weapons, replays are encouraged by the remix mode and speedrun mode. As the name would suggest, remix mode alters the levels of the campaign mode by altering enemy placements to create a more challenging experience whilst speedrun mode challenges players to beat “ghost” versions of either their previous playthroughs or those of the top global players.

Lost the plot


I found the only real major issue with the game to be the result of questionable PC optimisation. The default keyboard control scheme can be described as ‘unintuitive’ at best and makes a game with an old-school approach to difficulty borderline impossible at times – even on easiest settings. Thankfully, this is easily remedied through either picking up a cheap PC compatible controller or purchasing the Nintendo Switch edition of the game; it is worth noting that this edition doesn’t include the Steam Workshop features, however, for obvious reasons.

The game’s plot, which is presented through some admittedly superbly drawn retro pixel-art cutscenes, is pretty straightforward and I found that, despite their prettiness, being bombarded with walls of text at the end of an otherwise exciting level made me pretty eager to skip them; particularly in some of the longer story segments. It would also be nice to have the option to change the in-game font as, although the blocky text is undeniably authentic, I found it a bit hard to read at times. These criticisms may seem to be a little nit-picky, but there’s really very little wrong with the game besides these minor niggles.

Verdict:


When it comes to retro-styled platformers, this is certainly one of the best we’ve seen yet. It may not entirely reinvent the wheel conceptually but Panzer Paladin still has a host of fantastic features and a great art direction. Any fans of the genre will certainly appreciate a particularly well crafted set of maps, some killer music and gameplay which has undeniably been tweaked to perfection.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.