Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that embraces each and every kind of player who has an appreciation for the franchise it celebrates: those who love Nintendo’s magical touch for coming up with some great platforming; the ones that like to perform speed runs or have their game-playing skills tested to their utter limit by ridiculously tough stages; audiences who find amusement in watching the gimmicks of automatic and musical courses unfold; and folks who want to experience what fellow gamers who like to wear their Shigeru Miyamoto hats will come up with. And that goodness comes in piles that are virtually endless. Although immensely entertaining for both the camps who lean towards playing or creating, the game comes off as particularly spectacular to fans who like to do a bit of the two. In that context, Super Mario Maker 2 is capable of orchestrating an infinite loop of excellence, for one activity inevitably feeds into the other, as creation leads to curiosity about what others are up to and going through some platforming fatally gives way to new level-design ideas. As a consequence, even if a few punctual improvements could have been made, there is no denying that the game succeeds in not just paying homage to what is perhaps the greatest gaming franchise of all time, but also to the fans who have been witnesses to its unlikely run of sustained greatness.

Full Post

Advertisements

Playing Miyamoto – Part III

With the arrival of Super Mario Maker 2 and its pretty spectacular level-making component, there also comes the opportunity for us fans to wear our Shigeru Miyamoto hats in order to try our hands at some level-design – an activity that ends up revealing itself to be not only rewarding, but also quite hard. So, like I did the last time around, I decided to gather the stages I have constructed so far in a post to share them with those who visit this space as well as to talk a little bit about what went into their creation.

Full Post

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

There are plenty of complaints that can be throw at Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Save for the lack of polish exhibited by its wild jumps in difficulty, though, none of them are significant enough to hold the title back; and even in that case, it is possible to look on the bright side to see this excellent remake as a racing title that contains a magnitude of challenge that succeeds in pushing even the most skilled players to the very edge of their abilities. Everywhere else, the title shines as one of the strongest entries in the genre, achieving notable positions in the amount of content it sports, in the sheer depth of its demanding mechanics, and in the impressive variety of modes it has. And due to those awe-inspiring qualities, the frustrations that are bound to rise from the occasional encounters with absurd AI behavior are likely to come off as situations that can be overlooked in favor of the chance to appreciate the considerable achievement in kart racing that Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is.

Full Post

Cadence Of Hyrule

Cadence of Hyrule is as great as it is unlikely. And although much of its excellence can be attributed to the high quality found in the pieces that constitute it, the addictive gameplay of Crypt of the NecroDancer and the prowess in adventure of The Legend of Zelda franchise, the biggest reason for the experiment’s success lies in how it fuses those parts to form a quest that is similar yet different from the products that inspired it, forging a game that would have not existed otherwise. Its focus on quirky rhythm-based combats and its reliance on randomly generated environments hold it back from being universally recommendable, not just because of its peculiar mechanics, but also due to how some may end up perceiving it as repetitive. However, it is undeniable that Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games found an incredible middle ground between the global appeal of the properties of the former and the straightforwardness of the output of the latter. And Cadence of Hyrule reaches for greatness from that territory, smoothing out the roguelike grind of Crypt of the NecroDancer while boosting it with the visual and musical proficiency of The Legend of Zelda as well as with the franchise’s knack for birthing well-designed adventures, making it hard to conceive the partnership between a giant of the industry and an independent studio could have yielded something better.

Full Post

Resident Evil Zero

Resident Evil Zero is, much like its chronological sequel, a flawed game, with the shortcomings it exhibits being of a magnitude and frequency that make them very hard to ignore. At the same time, though, its prowess in matters of tension and fear is absolutely notable, because playing it is being constantly surrounded by sheer dread, whether stemming from an unshakable feeling that something horrifying is always about to happen or originating in its sometimes overwhelming shortage of resources, and that ability is boosted by a fairly original gameplay setup that finds its own signature both in a slightly heavier focus on action and in the presence of a duo of protagonists that must work together in order to survive. And it is thanks to those excellent features that the game justifies its existence, for although it does not succeed either in improving on the chapter that it works as a prequel to or in satisfyingly filling up the blanks it left, Resident Evil Zero plays sufficiently different but also pleasantly familiar to it, and even if such proximity does not continuously work for the best, it ends up being more positive than negative.

Full Post

Resident Evil

The immaculate and horrific atmosphere of Resident Evil is clearly the product of a game whose every single piece was designed to serve its ability to create tension. Sometimes, that subordination works for the best, as it is the case of its frightening scenarios, its calculated soundtrack, its obscure and fragmented storytelling approach, its controlled yet open-ended exploration, its ominous puzzles, and its dedication towards putting players in situations where life is only maintained through grueling survival. Sadly, that focus also causes a couple of considerable slips, which come to the surface in its constantly shifting and fixed camera angles as well as in the extreme implementation of its inventory system. As big as these problems may be, though, Resident Evil is just too successful in mixing genuine horror with engaging gameplay to be contained by any of that. Once it starts, its infectious suspense breaks through whatever physical barriers stand on its way, quickly surrounding gamers and immersing them inside a thriller that tests one’s capacity to both be resilient and not look away.

Full Post

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech ends up being pleasantly enjoyable as a whole, displaying a good deal of competence in the building of all parts that constitute it. It is true that, when all of these elements come together, what is formed is an experience that – inside the RPG genre – does not quite produce ripples as strong as those generated by Dig and Heist in their respective niches, which makes the game’s overall impact feel somewhat subdued in relation to those caused by its peers. Nonetheless, even if it does not put a fight against the major actors of the role-playing field, SteamWorld Quest qualifies as another successful venture by Image & Form, because its plot flows nicely and stars likable heroes; its technical features exhibit a quality in production that feels like a new frontier for the SteamWorld property; and its card-based battling mechanics are original and flexible. Due to that, regardless of how it does not possess the makings of one of those special indie effort that challenge products made by much larger companies, SteamWorld Quest is likely to satisfy those that are already converted to the franchise and lure in a batch of new fans.

Full Post

Cuphead

Cuphead is absolutely magnificent. It is old-school not only in visual and musical presentation, but also in gameplay; however, it uses its blatant and ancient influences not as a way to coast towards success, but as a source of inspiration to build character. In the old gritty cartoons from which it borrows its animation, its calculated artistic imperfections, and its vicious tone, it finds cues that are sufficient to allow it to exist inside a realm that is absolutely its own. Meanwhile, in the action run and gun games that were so dearly beloved by its creators, the title locates basic premises in pacing, challenge, and controls that it employs in the assembling of a sidescroller whose focus lies on struggling to take down mighty multi-phased bosses that are as inventive as they are capable of filling up the screen with an obscene amount of hazards. And in the combination of those two veins, Cuphead builds an experience that, more importantly than being unique, manages to be fun in spite of its unbridled brutality; inspiring, through the sheer joy that is playing it, gamers to come back for more even after they have been shot down for the hundredth time.

Full Post

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi’s Crafted World, then, poses a bit of a dilemma to players, because while its generally low level of difficulty makes simply getting to the end of the quest a task that does not reveal the full extent of its wonderful design, aiming for full completion unearths some frustrations of its own. The bottom line, though, is that regardless of how one chooses to approach the quest, there is a lot of fun to be had, whether the player in question is a child who is taking their first steps into the gaming world or a veteran with a fondness for the platforming genre. And that quality stems from how Yoshi’s Crafted World is constantly changing not just the gameplay quirks around which its stages are built, but also the nature of its stunningly detailed environments. These two elements, which never repeat themselves through the course of forty levels, form an adventure that is entertaining and inventive all the way through, mixing situations that fall perfectly among the character’s traditional exploits with unexpected gameplay detours and mechanics that creatively take advantage of the depth of the title’s tridimensional scenarios. It is thanks to such prowess that Yoshi’s Crafted World rises above its obvious flaws to qualify as an experience that cannot be missed and a product worthy of the Nintendo stamp.

Full Post

Transistor

Transistor does hold some flaws. It has a short length; it possesses a linearity that may be perceived as exaggerated; and its constant alternation between walking and battling can feel too predictable. Its impeccable and overflowing style, however, overpowers it all, and allows the game to deliver an experience that although certainly not as refreshing or great as that of its precursor, Bastion, is still immensely enjoyable. Its battles are dynamic and offer an uncanny amount of possibilities via simple building blocks; its plot is compelling due to its initial vagueness and the boldness found in its presentation; its highly artistic inclinations generate visuals and music of incredible quality; and its omnipresent narration, inherited straight from its predecessor, lends it a lot of identity. Due to that, even if it shares notable similarities to Bastion, Transistor is clearly not simply resting on past laurels; it is, quite stylishly, repackaging a gameplay and narrative format that achieved huge success while adding a few clever flourishes of its own. And it does so quite well.

Full Post