VR Review: Singularity 5

Review By Alexisms

Let’s start from the beginning, Singularity 5 is a virtual reality (VR) wave shooter for Oculus, Vive and Windows Mixed Reality. Using motion controls, I donned my Oculus to immerse myself in all things Singularity 5!

The year is 2050, you are tasked with stopping an AI uprising in Paris through five levels of quickly escalating difficulty. The game opens within an open lift travelling towards the surface. You start with a couple of very stylish pistols which give you a tiny glimpse of the graphic extravaganza to come. You first face some fairly simple static robot enemies which throw grenades which need to be battered away before they explode. They also create these shards of red veined rocks which again you must smash or will explode.

Once the surface is reached, the graphics of the city are mind-blowingly fantastic – with a kind of techno Gothic vibe. Sometimes in VR games the backgrounds can be quite muddy and indistinct but here they are very clear and beautiful using well contrasting colours of white, gold and black along with occasional neon. Of course, visuals doth not just make a game, so the music and sound effects are just as impressive and add to the whole atmosphere.

In normal mode, the difficulty soon ramps up and by level three I had to reduce it to (the recently introduced) easy mode but even then I was unable to get to level four and five. It should be noted that you can select the later levels from the menu so you won’t be left just playing half a game.

The enemies are pretty much all robots. These range from the static type lobbing grenades to robots on rolling wheels that speed directly towards you before exploding. The really hard ones are the larger robots that fire a laser straight at your head so you will have to physically move out of the way (which is so damn cool). You’ll be doing this whilst facing other robots, batting away grenades and smashing rock shards. The frenetic pace to stay alive in the game feels like a high pressure cooker – one little slip and you’re dead!

To help in your quest you have the aforementioned twin pistols. You later obtain grenade guns and machine guns. Thankfully, all these guns have infinite ammo, but do need to be constantly reloaded. You can also throw grenades but I could never get them to do anything but roll weakly towards the enemies.

In conclusion, if you love wave shooters you could do a lot worse than Singularity 5. But be warned, you’ll be sternly challenged. It may only have five levels, but if you’re a high score addict there’s plenty of scope for replayability with multiple kills increasing your combo meter. Go and grab your VR headset and check out Singularity 5.

image source: Singularity 5

Disclosure: Singularity 5 VR  was kindly provided by PR Hound for this review.

JUMPGRID: The Bullet Hell Hyper-Pac-Man

Whoa, this new Ian MacLarty developed white-knuckle dodge’em-up is straight outta Melbourne!

You may be asking, what exactly is this game? Well, let us tell you, at its essence, JUMPGRID is a bullet hell hyper-Pac-Man. The player must survive an ever-moving cosmic obstacle course by deftly teleporting between nodes on the “jump-grid”. Clear all nodes to open a wormhole to the next level. Success requires only a few seconds of precision finger ballet, but touch any of the pulsing hazards and the level instantly resets, ready for you to try again, and again, and again… This is a game about honing your muscle memory until you learn to dance with your fingers!

Features
  • Skin-of-your-teeth gameplay with easy to learn controls
  • Over 100 uniquely challenging levels
  • An original pulse-pounding electronica soundtrack
  • Flaunt your skill and find fame on the speedrun leaderboards
  • Adjustable game speed

Jumpgrid will be hitting PC/Steam, Mac and Itch.io on February 12 for US$4.99 / £3.99 / €3.99 / A$7.50.

image source: Ian MacLarty

 

Japan Amusement Expo: JAEPO 2019 Highlights

We have always wanted to attend an amusement (trade) expo, and it doesn’t get any bigger than the Japan Amusement Expo (JAEPO), which was held over the last weekend.

The heavy hitters of the industry were all there showcasing their latest games and machines (Sega, Taito, Konami, Capcom, Bandai Namco), hoping to attract distributors and operators alike. Oh yeah, Taito’s ‘Mega Rage Darius’ throwback section was a nice touch and proved quite popular!

image source: megarage_mizo

Here are some highlights and new machines that caught our eye from JAEPO 2019. Obviously Space Invaders and anything pinball related caught our eye.

Taito stand

Taito’s Densha De Go (train simulator) – Standard and Kids versions

Taito – Space Invaders Gigamax (10P Space Invaders with a display that fits on a side of a building)

Taito / Raw Thrills – Halo: Fireteam Raven

Street Fighter V Type Arcade (Capcom @ Taito’s stand)

Taito – Space Invaders Pinball Jam

Arcade1Up Japan – Space Invaders 40th Anniversary

Konami – stand

Konami – Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) 20th Anniversary Edition

Bandai Namco Technica – Pac-Man Panic Pinball

Bandai Namco Technica – Super Panic Ball (pinball)

Bandai Namco Technica – unique tool display from a Jersey Jack Pinball cabinet

exA-Arcadia – the NEOGEO MVS of our time!

Arcade Buttons galore!

image sources: Arcade Heroes, Taito Zuntata on Twitter, Taito, Arcade1Up JapanBemaniStyle, exA-Arcadia & BK2000

 

Katy Perry and John Carpenter Have Something in Common

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Pop star Katy Perry is lending her likeness to several characters in the mobile role-playing game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. The first one, Popstar Katy, has the red costume Perry wore during her “Witness” tour. Square Enix, the publisher of Brave Exvius, said that other character designs will be available in future in-game events.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius has been downloaded more than 30 million times worldwide since its launch at the end of 2015.

For the 2002 The Thing, legendary film director John Carpenter made a cameo in the game adaption of his classic horror film. I remember playing the game and thinking that a certain character looked an awful lot like Carpenter. After doing a little research, I found out it was him. It’s one of the coolest video game cameos ever. It helps that The Thing video game is underrated. You feel like you’re in the movie.

image source: Ungeek

Carpenter, who’s a big gamer, probably was allowed to play the frightening game to make sure it deemed a worthy cameo. I’ve watched the 1982 film before playing the game; the game’s visuals are stunningly indistinguishable from the movie.

I’m surprised that more actors, musicians and film makers don’t lend their likeness to video games. I don’t know if artists get well compensated when they do a game cameo, although, with approximately 2.2 billion gamers in the world, the exposure can’t hurt any musician or actor’s brand. Gamers are usually consumers of movies and music as well. Cameos by artists in video games is smart business.

Artists should just make sure that their cameo fits into the journey and narrative of the game. Carpenter’s cameo in The Thing comes out of nowhere, but it works because it fits the acclaimed director’s image and into the game’s universe. Same goes for Perry’s Final Fantasy Brave Exvius cameo as well.

image source: Bloody Disgusting

 

Nintendo Switch Review – YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

Face the impending millennium in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG from ACKK Studios. Not just a new approach to RPGs but a whole other dimension!

Unlike any RPG I have played, YIIK: A Postmodern RPG (pronounced Y2K) is an interesting take on a well-trodden genre. You play as Alex, an entitled 20 something that stumbles on a mystery bigger than him or his bachelor’s degree. The game takes place in a small town called “Frankton” in the year 1999, a very unassuming place for a mystery of these proportions. You will team up with old school friends, arcade employees, pacifists and more on your journey.

The story in YIIK loves throwing curve balls at the player and will have you constantly questioning what is going on, drawing you further into the plot. Even though YIIK looks rather quirky it also delves fairly deep into themes such as the metaphysical, depression and anxiety. Don’t fret though as the game is full of humour, subtle pop culture jokes and references. YIIK pokes fun at cartoon characters, internet culture and a certain JRPG series on multiple occasions very effectively.

The soundtrack in YIIK has an amazing blend of music including chiptune, electronic, jazz and arty pieces. All of the tracks are extremely catchy, I found myself humming along to them while playing and even when I wasn’t. The art style is fantastic and suits the gameplay and story to a tee. Lush colours and striking visuals help bring YIIK to life and flesh out this seemingly ordinary world. YIIK captures a perfect sense of 90s nostalgia, from the birth of the internet subculture, POGs and payphones. The in game online message board “ONISM1999” plays a major role in advancing the story and giving hints on side quests and secrets.

The little details make the biggest impact even in battle as you will fight rodents, bats, rogue stop signs with Vinyl records, Keytars and Hula-hoops. The battle mechanics in YIIK are a fantastic combination of standard RPG elements and quirky quick time events that make you feel far more responsible for every action in battles. Long gone are random die rolls and mashing through standard RPG battle menus. In YIIK you contribute to every action from attacking to defending yourself in carefully timed action sequences.

Having clocked almost 30 hours, to tell too much of what makes YIIK so very charming and special would ruin the impact of seeing it first hand for yourself. If you love a good solid RPG, great story and long for the 90s then YIIK is the perfect game for you!

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Mat Panek
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: YIIK: A Postmodern RPG [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Stride PR for this review.

 

 

Review: Atari Flashback Classics – Nintendo Switch

Up until recently Nintendo Switch owners had to watch and endure their contemporary console friends get their Atari classic gaming fix. Well, this is no longer the case!

The Atari Flashback Classics compilation is a collection of 150 Atari favourites for the Nintendo Switch. Taking full advantage of the Switch features, like vertical / TATE orientation (for compatible games), Switch owners now have lots to gloat about to their other console brethren. Let’s just say this straight off the bat – this compilation is choc-full of the legendary publisher’s iconic library of games, with titles from the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 home consoles, along with former Atari coin-op/arcade exclusives.

Of course we were always going to play Atari’s seminal arcade titles first! Well, the scrollable 11 page games menu had the arcade titles first, so it made the choice easier. If there is one gripe here, we just wish that that you could customise the games menu. Anyway, it was game on with Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Pong and Tempest (to start with), and boy, they did not disappoint! These classic Atari arcade games are perfectly converted on the Nintendo Switch, with impeccable controls (each game has a pop control area showing which map buttons to the correspond Switch controls). We also love the bezel artwork, which gives that authentic arcade feeling.

Speaking of artwork, the home console games (Atari 2600 and 5200) get their full box art on the menu and also come with their respective full manual. Some (not all) game manual scans are tad blurry, but it’s still a great example of conservation that helps turn this release into an almost museum-like archive.


source: Atari

Atari Flashback Classics has a slew of features, including a local achievements system, leaderboards and a local (up to four players) and online (two players) multiplayer. These features were designed to bring players together, just like back in the day – a neat little touch.

This massive library of classic Atari 2600, Atari 5200 and Atari arcade games is perfect for those Switch owners craving for a one-stop shop to play old school Atari games either at home or on the go. If you want a fix of classic Atari gaming on your Switch, then grab the Atari Flashback Classics now.

Disclosure: Atari Flashback Classics [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by UberStrategist for this review.

 

Review: Solar Flux – Nintendo Switch

Save some suns in Solar Flux, the latest Switch release from Firebrand games. A unique and challenging puzzler that feels a bit out of place on the Switch.

Solar Flux is an interesting little puzzle game that follows the age old premise “Easy to learn, difficult to master.” You control a ship that collects plasma to shoot into dying suns, saving them in the process. Each level is ranked by either time taken, shields depleted or fuel used. You are then given a ranking out of 3 stars depending on how well you perform. The game itself can be quite tricky but once you get that “Ah ha” moment getting at least one star is quite manageable. The real challenge comes from trying to get a perfect 3 stars in each level.

Listening to the sparse soundtrack and simple audio cues give the game a nice relaxing atmosphere. This really helps to create a sense of isolation in each level. Visuals are nicely contrasted, making each object clearly visible and easily recognised. Overall the look of Solar Flux is very minimal which works in its favour as a puzzle game. Level design can range from twitch reflex or timing based puzzles to pure patience and precision puzzles. Solar Flux’s level and puzzle design certainly make it well suited for some quick pick up and play sessions.

When it comes to controls, Solar flux is a mixed bag. Playing in docked mode the game uses twin stick style controls for thrusting and firing plasma. These controls feel nice and tight, making the game responsive and rewarding. Playing in handheld mode the game defaults to touch only controls, which seems very strange. The touch screen controls do feel fine but a few controls simply don’t work or feel finicky. If you are anything like me, touch screen controls are not exactly first choice when it comes to the Switch.

Solar Flux is a well-designed puzzle game that will have you hunting perfect runs and challenging friends. Puzzle fans will get some real enjoyment out of it at home but may want to give it a miss as an “On the go” title.

Developer: Firebrand Games
Publisher: Firebrand Games
Release Date: December 11, 2018

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Mat Panek
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: Solar Flux [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by HomeRun PR for this review.