Lapis X Labyrinth – Nintendo Switch Review

Stack some heroes, head into the labyrinth and loot to your heart’s content in Lapis X Labyrinth, the latest from Nippon Ichi Software!

Cute chibi characters join forces to battle evil minions in a game that feels like an action RPG crossed with a pachinko machine. In Lapis X Labyrinth you can choose from 8 different character classes ranging from the nimble hunter to the beefy Destroyer and stack 4 of them to head into the depths of the treasure filled Labyrinth. Each character can be equipped with a weapon, armor and a special item or accessory. You collect a contract from the guild that will determine the level you are heading into, difficulty of the enemies and end of level sub-boss, contracts can be completed multiple times but the bonus from completing them is only earned once. Moving through each contract will unlock more and eventually you will be given the opportunity to face the main boss character, defeating whom will open up further areas of the labyrinth.

Lapis X Labyrinth is all about one thing though, Loot. Each level is filled with enemies that have a chance to drop treasure, defeating enemies without being hit will increase your treasure combo which acts as an item chance multiplier. Simply put, the higher your combo score, the more likely you are to find good loot and this mechanic makes Lapis X Labyrinth extremely addictive and fun. In addition to this there is a “Fever” gauge to fill that, once full, will activate “Fever mode” a flashy and thrilling timed event that multiplies and adds to every bit of treasure you gather. Treasure can be spent on upgrades and items back at town but the real thrill comes from finding rare items dropped by enemies and replaying each level to maximise profits and level rank.

Visually Lapis X Labyrinth is both gorgeous and super cute, characters and enemies are adorable while level and background art is vivid and full of detail. Fever mode cranks up the colour as fireworks fill the background, blocks flash and treasure pours from every corner of the screen. There is so much going on at the best of times that it’s easy to lose track in the excitement or get carried away trying to scoop up every bit of treasure but it can become a bit dull if loot grinding isn’t your style. The game audio is exclusively in Japanese which is great for some but could end up sounding a bit repetitive and saccharine for those not overly into this style. Loot will upgrade your stats but won’t affect your character’s look, so no matter how funny it is equipping a destroyer with a “Black Maid’s Outfit” there is no visual change which is a shame but understandable considering the number of items.

Overall though Lapis X Labyrinth is extremely colourful and charming, a wonderful way to waste away some time and have some fun. If you love grinding away for some loot then look no further!

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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: Lapis X Labyrinth [Nintendo Switch eShop code] was kindly provided by NIS America Inc. for this review.

 

 

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action – Nintendo Switch Review

It’s time to mix drinks and change lives in VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action now available on the Nintendo Switch from Sukeban Games.

VA-11 HALL-A is a super stylish bartending sim set in the Cyberpunk styled Glitch City, a city with a whole lot of secrets and unique citizens for you to discover. From the comfort of a bar countertop you play as Jill, one of two employees at the BTC bar designated VA-11 HALL-A. There you mix drinks and make conversation with a large cast of clientele that can range from grumpy publishers, rescue force workers, adult industry workers and hired mercenaries. Some clients will request specific drinks while others will give you vague instructions on what drink they may feel like which can add to the challenge and will change the dialogue depending on how they are served. Looking through the drink recipes and mixing up various cocktails and beverages is easy to understand and fun to do if not a little repetitive at times. At the end of the day Jill will get paid depending on how well she does serving people, while there are no real high stakes, Jill still has bills to pay and needs to be met that help her concentrate at work.

There is some real retro future style in VA-11 HALL-A that mimics PC-98 adventure and visual novel games while feeling set in a cyberpunk like future similar to Blade Runner, Snatcher and Bubblegum Crisis. Glitch city feels full of tension and unrest, hearing rumours and news about what’s happening around you really makes you feel like you really are a part of the world but not a hero that’s called to action. There is a jukebox in the bar that allows you to choose a number of chiptune and vaporwave inspired tracks to play throughout your shift and help set the mood.

VA-11 HALL-A is full of little Easter eggs and references to both popular culture and other games but overall it’s the story that really drives it along. Getting to know the characters, their lives, their stories and their feelings is what makes VA-11 HALL-A so compelling and will require multiple playthroughs to uncover everything. Certain dialogue options are hidden quite cleverly behind different drink choices, some of which must be bought from the store and others that are hidden recipes. It’s easy to tell that a lot of care has gone into making each of these characters as interesting as the last and the allusion to early anime with it’s female heavy cast is quite apparent but never overbearing.

So grab a drink, get comfortable and get ready for some Cyberpunk Bartending Action with VA-11 HALL-A. A fantastic story driven title that’s perfect for on the couch or on the go.

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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: VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action [Nintendo Switch eShop code] was kindly provided by Stride PR for Ysbryd Games for this review.

 

 

Prepare for Impact: PC-Engine Mini, CoreGrafx Mini and TurboGrafx-16 Mini are Coming!

Konami has done a mic drop at E3 2019 by announcing that they are entering the Mini classic consoles arena with three variants:

  • PC-Engine Mini (Japan);
  • TurboGrafx-16 Mini (US/Can); and the
  • PC-Engine CoreGrafx (Europe/RoW)

This is huge news, as it means Konami is going to go toe-to-toe with Nintendo and their SNES and NES Classic Minis and also Sega with their Mega Drive Classic Mini (due later this year). The three-way mini console war has been ignited!


source: Konami

Anyway, back on topic, they also revealed 6 titles to tickle our nostalgia, with lots more to come. We are loving the initial games by the way! Oh yeah, it also looks like the Japanese variant (PC-Engine Mini) will have a different lineup of games than the West variants – see below.

TurboGrafx-16 Mini & PC-Engine CoreGrafx Mini Games (announced so far)

PC-Engine Mini Games (announced so far)

Other details worth mentioning are that there will be a MultiTap released for 5-way gaming tussles (will be sold separately), save state functions – so you can play from where you left off and of course, the Minis will have various display modes (yay to scanlines!) to ensure you get the full nostalgic fix!

There were no release dates or pricing details at the announcement, so be sure to hit us up on Twitter and Facebook as more news comes to hand. We are damn excited!

image source: Konami

 

Byte Driver – Review

Get radical and blast down the endless highway in Byte Driver, the latest game from Vector Hat.

Feeling like a long lost arcade cabinet from the early 80’s, Byte Driver is an interesting mix of games like Outrun, Night Driver and Spyhunter. As you make your way through the courses energy slowly depletes, hitting an object or obstacle will drain a larger percentage and hitting zero means game over. As you drive along you can hack opponents stealing energy or earning upgrades like improved vehicle stats, weapons or other consumables for your vehicle. Progressing through levels means harder enemies with more defensive and offensive skills will be there to oppose you in your pursuit of high scores.

Byte Driver definitely has some cool retro styling, looking like an old vector drawn game with screen shake and glitches being thrown in for good measure. There is also a monochrome mode for those that really want to embrace that real vector drawn feeling. The soundtrack is  fantastic and suits the style perfectly, filling sound and vision with pure 80s aesthetic that really gets you into the feel of the game. Being high score driven means that at low level play, Byte Driver is perfect for hot seat score comps with friends while high level play can be fought for with online leaderboards.

Byte Driver succeeds in evoking retro game feel and charm but, much like it’s early arcade peers, there isn’t much else to the game beyond 5 difficulty levels and high scores. Challenge does ramp up nicely as you progress and it can get real tough towards the end but with practice it’s easy to shoot for those high scores. The addition of a “low Stress” mode is nice for people to come to terms with the mechanics and allows you to play without the energy meter falling to zero for some more casual play.

There is a lot of fun to be had here and fans of classic arcade games will likely enjoy what Byte Driver has to offer, a well made and fantastic looking indie title.

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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: Byte Driver was kindly provided by Vector Hat for this review.

 

 

Katana Zero – Steam Review

Hack and slash your way through countless enemies in Katana Zero, the latest game from Askiisoft.

Having originally been refused classification for sale in Australia, Katana Zero is a super stylish and fast paced action platformer that has you slicing through rooms of enemies in ever complex scenarios. As you play through each area you must eliminate or sneak past enemies depending on your exact mission. Enemies are easily dispatched with a swift slice of your blade but you are equally vulnerable and this is where the major gameplay mechanics come into play. Instant death is balanced with being able to slow time, deflect bullets and throw objects at enemies, meaning you are always looking for more efficient and creative ways to dispatch your foes. Feeling a lot like groundhog day, if you happen to get killed the level rewinds back to the start of the area and you must try again. At the end of an area the “tape” is played back for you to watch your Kurosawa style handy work at full speed.

Oozing with style and flair, Katana Zero never fails to impress with visual and audio design.

Each level feels diverse and lived in, giving the city of New Mecca a real gritty and neo-noir feel. Thrown in is some retro cool neon and VCR inspired overlays to really top off that dark future feel the game is going for. The soundtrack is full of a variety of electronica that really nails the vibe of each level, tracks can vary from subtle to full tempo while others really get that heavy grime bass treatment.

Katana Zero is all about brutal but stylish action, feeling at times like an action filled anime it’s hard not to love it. As the plot thickens and answers make way for more questions the action really starts to heat up, leading to some very intense and complex levels. Some real serious issues like war crimes and PTSD play an import part of the plot, meaning that the story is just as intense as the levels. The ending does leave you wanting for more but there is more than enough game already there for you to enjoy. For the player that isn’t used to this kind of precision and repetition, later levels can get increasingly frustrating but not impossible. Players that crave this kind of pixel perfect movement and timing though will find it both incredibly rewarding and satisfying.

Available on Steam and the Nintendo Switch, Katana Zero is Blade Runner with samurai blades, a game full of fantastic style and super solid gameplay that makes it a must play title.

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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: Katana Zero [Steam] was kindly provided by Power Up PR for this review.

 

 

Renzo Racer – Steam Review

Zooming its way onto Steam is Renzo Racer, a fast and frantic kart racer with a lot of personality. 

Who doesn’t love a good cart racer game from time to time, especially with friends! Renzo Racer is, as one would expect, a fairly cookie cutter style racing game. Choose from one of 16 different racers and around 20 tracks and prove your racing prowess against friends or the computer. Characters are full of charm and personality and the tracks are all interesting and diverse but the racing itself is a mixed bag. There are plenty of obstacles and hazards thrown into the tracks which add to the fun but weird AI can be a hassle when playing alone.

The physics model feels very realistic which is a little strange for a kart racing game and because of this everything feels a bit mismatched. While it does feel like a deliberate choice for the game it will throw off players thinking of a traditional kart racer. There is no easy way to slide into corners which means a more realistic driving approach needs to be taken and proper apex turns are required. Another issue is the barriers which are properly modelled not just invisible walls. Hitting a barrier at speed can cause your racer to flip or get stuck, leaving you spinning tyres for a few seconds until you eventually reset. Characters and tracks are unlocked very slowly by placing first in single race or Grand Prix modes, while a slow drip of content is nice only one character and track is available from the start.

It’s not all negatives though, the physics model definitely adds to the experience and getting used to it can reveal some nice tricks. Placing the bomb item down as a person is right behind you will give you a nice impromptu boost forwards and hitting a ramp just right can have you soar right over the competition. The character designs are all well done and it’s easy to start picking favourites depending on the kart shape and stats. There is a real charm to the whole feel of the game but it is often easy to see where other kart games have influenced Renzo Racer in its style. 

A good game to try with a few friends for a good laugh as you knock each other about but single player can be a bit frustrating from time to time. From the wacky cast to the cute tracks, Renzo Racer is a game that definitely stands out from other Kart clone racers but not always in the best way.

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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: Renzo Racer [Steam] was kindly provided by EnsenaSoft for this review.

 

 

She Remembered Caterpillars – Nintendo Switch Review

Delve into the strange and cryptic world of She Remembered Caterpillars, a new puzzle game from Jumpsuit Entertainment

She Remembered Caterpillars is an interesting puzzle game where it is your goal to move various little fungi creatures through a level so that each ends up resting on an exit tile. Adding to the complexity of these puzzles is the shape if the creatures casing, hard to explain but visually easy to understand. Different obstacles, activated bridges and restricting gates will allow or prevent movement depending on the specific shape of the fungi. Various mechanics are added slowly over the course of the game, leading to some real brain bending puzzles that feel very satisfying to complete.

Rather than being told overtly, there is a narrative of love and loss interwoven between the puzzles in little text segments between puzzles. Often times it is only a brief conversation between characters but other times it can be small stories that explain the state of the world overall. There is a nice mysterious feel to what exactly the story has to do with the game you are playing but it all feels very symbiotic. The drip feed of story elements has a very moreish appeal to it and I often found myself playing entire chapters when initially only planning to play a level or two.

There is a pleasing aesthetic to the microbe and fungus style in She Remembered Caterpillars that works real well with the puzzles. Backgrounds are generally subdued and all of the important puzzle elements are quite bright and vibrant, this really helps you to identify exactly what is going on at all times. The soundtrack is quite mellow and this results in a very chilled out feel to the game which can help when puzzles start to get taxing.

She Remembered Caterpillars is a wonderful puzzle game with funky visuals and a surprisingly deep story. There is a real hidden depth in this title that is sure to win many over.

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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: She Remembered Caterpillars [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Stride PR for this review.