What I've Been Playing
A tad late this month as I've alot to cover as I've knocked three games out of my back log!
South Park The Fractured But Whole - I should start this off by saying I've never really watched the show, sure I've caught a couple of episodes over the years but I'm hardly a fan of the franchise, I bought into this experience purely from the perspective of expecting a funny but solid RPG experience. Did the game deliver on these expectations? Well yes and no. Firstly the game can be pretty funny in the typical childish yet risky/offensive type of humour the South Park series goes for, but in truth the jokes rarely got more than a smirk and they soon wore thin as the game repeats jokes throughout the 20 hour adventure, usually the first time they were pretty funny but by the end I'd lost interest in the humour side of the game. So was it at least a solid RPG experience? Well the battle system in this title is grid based which is one reason why I found it intriguing before purchase as it's a system I've enjoyed before, however unfortunately the South Park system isn't that in depth and can be pretty frustrating, especially as attacks have strict impact areas yet I never felt I had the tactical options to fully set up big chain attacks. It was more adapting turn by turn compared to attempting to set up opportunities for big attacks like the previous systems I've enjoyed. The battle system also incorporated some action RPG elements with little quick time events which when prompt on time offer various boosts to damage and your special meter. Finally the class system is wide open for your avatar as at various points you unlock new classes and you'll have the ability to mix and match attacks from the ones you've assigned yourself, however I found the team building aspects limiting as you can't selected your partner's loadouts and at times I felt like I wanted more options like these to personalise the experience. I will say it was an enjoyable system throughout and the game kept me engaged as the title does throw a few unique battles at you which were really fun, one boss battle late on especially added more of the tactical elements I'd hoped for throughout.
Outside of the humour and the combat the game has a focus on exploring the town which was well done, I'm sure fans of the series would get a kick out of exploring all these locations as graphically the game could easily be mistaken for the show, however as a non fan of the series it was just an okay world to experience, I'm sure with more of a South Park history I'd have enjoyed it more. It's fair to say however there is a decent amount of things to do around town and in the games "dungeons" as you'll unlock abilities throughout which give access to hidden areas, items or general progress but even these got repetitive. My biggest gripe with the game and it's one that massively ruined combat and exploring for me was the inconsistent and constant load screens, honestly I feel a big chunk of my play time was just waiting for things to load. Getting into battle? Have a 10 odd second load screen. Moving screens in town? Here take a loading screen. Moving rooms in a house? Guess what more loading screens! They were constant and absolutely infuriating at times, especially as some were just stupidly long. It got to the point where I was actively trying to avoid combat or doing anything that would require a loading screen I didn't have to do. To end on a positive though I have to say my favourite aspect of this game had to be the super hero setting and story as I found it very unique for a RPG and enjoyable, the game is full of DC and Marvel references and I found them all very entertaining. The main plot of the game is you're kids playing superhero and you're the new kid on the block with the power of farting going by the name Butlord. You're trying to rescue a lost cat for the cash reward to kick start your own movie franchise and let's just say the story soon goes in a very bizarre and unexpected direction, yes it's incredibly stupid but it kept me pushing forward so it achieved its job. The character designs were top draw though as seeing these homemade child costumes and bases was just hilarious and reminded me of my own childhood, yeah don't judge lol. All in all I found this game enjoyable enough but it's pretty flawed in my opinion but the short run time for a RPG made it easier to swallow, even if I thought it could have been 3-5 hours shorter as the fluff was clear to see in the final sections of the game. I'm glad I've played it but I doubt I'd return to the series for the prequel or if any sequels are released, I'd give The Fractured But Whole a 6.5/10.
Sphinx And The Cursed Mummy - I went into Sphinx expecting a 3D Zelda clone set in Egyptian times and that's essentially what I got, this title has some very rough parts I wish the remaster fixed but it was a solid experience. Story wise the game is basically split in two halves as this title features two playable characters which you jump between at regular intervals, in the one half you play as Sphinx who is on the typical hero route of stopping the big bad, however you also play as a mummy who was killed by the big bad during a ritual that Sphinx managed to interrupt so instead of the ritual killing the sacrifice it turned him into a mummy. Obviously that's a basic run down as while the story is decent it is a tad long winded but it does the job, I do like the fact however both paths interact with each other though as when you're Sphinx you'll find items for the mummy to use and vice versa when you're playing as the mummy. Gameplay wise I will start with the negatives though as there are a few, firstly this game is very much a game of its era in its design and structure, saving especially is a royal pain in the arse as save points aren't overly frequent and any game over respawns you at your last save point, so I quickly learnt to save often and to go out of my way to lock in my progress. I'd also say It's a massive shame the remaster didn't add voice acting to the game as the story is pretty speech heavy and dramatically animated but without voices it feels essentially empty, I think a voice over would have gone a long way to improving this title. Secondly the combat in Sphinx is some of the worst I've experienced in a long time, granted it's not really a big feature of the game but any combat sections had me groaning in boredom, frustration and tedium. You see the game uses the fairly typically 3 strike combat found in many games but this title doesn't have any targeting or lock on feature which means keeping track of enemies is a nightmare, especially ones that move fast, teleport or are practically invisible....Yeah the combat is just awful, you'll get the hang of it but it was never enjoyable unfortunately. My final moan would have to be the lack of clear direction as this game doesn't hold your hand at all, it doesn't even have a map! While the world isn't that large it did quickly become a pain trying to remember where everything was and how to get around, especially as I played this over a few weekends so it's not like everything stayed fresh in my mind, in the end I did resort to a guide for some guidance outside of dungeons just to keep the games pace up, I'm all for hands off games but at times I finished found Sphinx to be a little obtuse and almost intentionally vague which I don't have time for. Thankfully however the game has a massive saving grace being the dungeons as I found them all an absolute joy to play through with some real brain scratching puzzles hidden within them which I loved figuring out. This is where the two characters really shine as while both characters have a big focus on puzzle solving Sphinx is more action/combat based while the mummy has more of a focus on stealth, platforming and bigger puzzles as he has no combat abilities at all. On the Sphinx side of things it's your typical Zelda type tropes as you'll push statues, shoot targets, press switches and so on but the creativity really shrines through on the mummy side. Obviously a mummy is dead and the game has alot of fun with this concept as the mummy can conduct certain elements like fire and electricity, so alot of the challenges will see you having to work out how to catch fire and then where to take your burning wraps to, usually while avoiding any danger like water which would extinguish the flame. Admittedly this concept does end up alittle over done but I ended up really enjoying it, considering I'm usually more of a combat type of guy I really enjoyed the mummies side of the game alot more. One thing that did surprise me however is the game features very few actual bosses, I can't say I minded as like I said the combat is garbage but I found a game of this style not having dungeon bosses very peculiar. Basically I'm really happy I played this title, admittedly as a whole it's nowhere near Zelda's quality or even Okami's but I did seriously enjoy these dungeons, it's a hard one to recommend though as while it might be in HD it's still a GameCube/PS2 era action platformer which carries alot of problems, I can see past such issues as I often revist older games but some other might not be able to. The game did end heavily teasing a sequel but unfortunately it wasn't to be which has to be a shame as this series had potential.
Animal Crossing New Horizons - I fell off Animal Crossing pretty hard and I think the turnips are to blame as they ruined the game for me. They're just so over powered that they make basically everything else pointless or meaningless, especially as I'm not as interested in the design aspect of the game where you need bells/money. Tbf I tried to stick with the game but once I ran out of recipes to craft or I didn't have the type of items I wanted to use in my designs I soon lost interest, the game still called to me but I had nothing to do but grind in hope of recipes I wanted. I did however jump back in for the museum day event which unfortunately was a pretty poor event, I did end up playing longer than I expected though and it felt great to be back on my island. I guess this game will have lasting appeal even if it's brief each time.
Devil May Cry 3 - I didn't intend to finish this trilogy so quickly after playing the previous two games in the franchise last month but the call of one of my favourite games was too strong! I've made no secret of my love of Devil May Cry 3 and replaying it was pure nostalgia and gaming bliss. While the second game in the series was a massive disappointment the developers went back to what worked originally for the third title in the series while also adding a big focus on the story and characters. Vergil did appear in the first game but it's in the third instalment where he's truly developed as a character and where we learn more about Dante's family. The story basically focuses around the sons of Sparda (Dante + Vergil) where Vergil is the evil twin looking to inherit his father's power while Dante tries to stop him, however there is also another separate family plot surrounding Arkham and his daughter Mary aka Lady where you'll see the lengths Arkham will go to to become a God. The story focus is very much shown throughout the adventure as every mission more or less starts and ends with a cut scene and having the cocky free going Dante back from the first game is wonderful to see, the serious and moody Dante from the middle game of the series let the game down. However it is Vergil who completely steals the show as he's a complete badass from start to finish and just oozes power, for example there is this one really challenging boss who'll repeatedly batter you, then a few cut scenes later Vergil will cross paths with said boss and dispatch of him in seconds, the game just does a really good job of showing how powerful Vergil is and how he is a step above Dante. This is especially showcased in the boss battles featuring the brothers as he's an absolutely brutal encounter, especially the final meeting between the two as getting caught in his combo is devastating! Vergil is just extremely quick and potent with damage but when you finally beat him it's invigorating! Which brings me on to the difficulty as DMC3 is by far the hardest in the series thus far (on normal anyway). I seriously don't remember it giving me as much trouble as it did but every boss encounter was a grind as I releaned the patterns and strategies, granted the level to level gameplay was pretty reasonable but not far off every boss battle was intense and challenging. Ahh I just loved it! Seriously I could gush about this game for ages as I just love everything about it, DMC3 is just one of the best character action games ever made. Now to wait for DMC4 to come to Switch as I've not played the three titles that followed DMC3 (4, reboot and 5).
Songbird Symphony - This had me hyped when it released as graphically it really stands out and the concept of a rhythm platformer had me intrigued as I do enjoy rhythm games, so I decided to give the demo a whirl as the physical version is basically £10 everywhere currently. For once I'm glad I tried before I bought as while I adore the visuals I absolutely suck at rhythm games even though I enjoy them and the demo kicked my arse. Reviews say you can beat the game while sucking which is a nice feature but I don't think my ego or backlog would appreciate the battering. Like I said it's already a £10 game physically so I doubt I'll be adding it to my collection unless it drops further which doesn't seem likely, digitally it's been as low as £2.50 though I believe so maybe that'll tempt me in the future.
Game Of The Year
1. Animal Crossing New Horizons
First Time Played This Year
1. Dragon Quest XIs
2. Steamworld Quest Hand of Gilgamech
3. Poi! Explorers Edition
4. Sphinx And The Cursed Mummy
5. South Park The Fractured But Whole
Recent Pick Ups
Victor Vran Overkill Edition - Switch - £14 - Yet another game thats been on my at the right price radar! Victor Vran is an action RPG in the Diablo mould which is a genre I've next to no experience in and as you know I love trying new genres and getting new experiences. The thing that caught my eye about Victor Vran when it released was the gothic/steampunk Van Hesling type design which I'm always a sucker for, the box art just looks cool! Thankfully the coolness seems to be more than just the art style as it reviewed well and this edition even comes with some Motorhead DLC so what could be more intriguing than that. So yeah I've added another physical indie to my ever growing collection.
Anthill - Switch - Free - I've raved about Image & Form games countless times (Steamworld series developers) and they recently held a Twitter giveaway for 2000 copies of Anthill which @Nucleus also won. Any way Anthill has recently been ported to the Switch as it's one of the company's early mobile games and it seems to be a strategy tower defence game, tbf they had me at giveaway and I'm intrigued to check out one of their earlier games but it is handheld mode only.