Review of Brutal Soulslike Switch Platformer: Salt and Sanctuary

After dying for the umpteenth time in the Festering Banquet (one of the early areas), I came to the realisation that Salt and Sanctuary is not a game to be underestimated, it cannot be rushed through; every mistimed step, jump, slash, hack, stab or even healing can bring about an untimely demise and progress lost. I knew then that I needed to respect the game, its mechanics, its pacing and its world, only then did I truly discover the wonderful experience on offer by Salt and Sanctuary.

Originally released in 2016 on PS4, PC and the Vita, Salt and Sanctuary is a 2D adventure/platform game that tasks you with rescuing a kidnapped princess, however Super Mario this is most definitely not. The world setting here is grim, its foes monstrous and combat brutal. This is not your average platformer, but an amalgamation of retro side scrollers (Metroid, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts) and the modern classic action RPG Dark Souls series.

You begin by creating a character and picking a class, ranging from paladins to mages to hunters to thieves which slightly alters your starting skill point allocations and gear. Perhaps befitting the game title (or not), I couldn’t help but notice the particularly hilarious chef class, armed with naught but an iron pot and a chef’s hat and apron, ready to rid the world of nasty beasts and save the day. I went with the knight class in the end, it just felt safer with a sword and shield in hand.

It turns out, I needed the more appropriate battle apparatus too, as the gameplay in Salt and Sanctuary is absolutely ruthless. Understanding how and when to utilise block, parry and dodge as well as managing resources such as stamina is key to surviving; running out of it mid battle prevents you from performing further attacks or defensive actions, which leaves you open to enemy hits and usually results in a swift death. The combat here is precise and different weapons exhibit appropriate weight to their animation so timing your hits is critical, especially when facing multiple foes at once.

Defeating enemies grants you their essence, ‘salt’ and the amount you carry is lost upon death, with it only retrievable if you can defeat the monster that killed you initially, fail that and you lose it permanently. Salt can be spent at Sanctuaries spread across the game world, where you can summon certain NPCs such as blacksmiths, travel guides and shop vendors to assist you with your journey. The Sanctuaries are aligned to certain ‘creeds’ you pledge to which provide different bonuses. If this set up sounds familiar, that’s because this is effectively the same risk and rewards system implemented so well by the Dark Souls series with some minor differences. It works wonders here as well for Salt and Sanctuary; the player is encouraged to carefully analyse their situation and surroundings; should you venture forward for further progress but risk losing precious salt, or should you return to a sanctuary and spend your hard-earned salt but having to re-tread old grounds and face respawned foes? The decision can be a difficult one to make at times but that’s also what makes it feel so rewarding when the right one is made.

This is accentuated by the intimidating boss battles dotted around the world, you never truly know when you might stumble upon a boss fight, but it is typically accompanied by the feeling of regret of not spending your salt earlier. Despite the lack of warnings of upcoming bosses, I did find the pacing of the game to be spot on. The intricately designed game world is interconnected with branching pathways, hidden entrances and shortcuts that keep you on your toes at all times. And just as you start to feel confident and familiar with the layout of an area, a newly discovered path may lead to one of the many bosses, so you are never really in the comfort zone for long. You’re not always in the dark as to what is coming up though, as other players can leave ‘helpful’ messages in a bottle, providing hints to ambushes or hidden treasures, although their legitimacy is up to you to interpret; I know I’ve plunged to my death on many occasions when told to “jump, trust me!”.

Presented in a unique hand drawn style, Salt and Sanctuary is a gorgeous game to look at, although I did find it difficult to see certain details (such as trap switches), especially when playing in handheld mode due to the largely black, grey and brown colour palette and the intentional dimly lit world. Performance is largely stable and smooth at 60fps, which is essential in a game where every animation counts.

Salt and Sanctuary doesn’t try to hide from its Dark Souls influences, but it manages to transform what made them so great into its own identity (in 2D no less) that it doesn’t have to. It is a challenging game that rewards patience and perseverance and offers deep gameplay and an interesting world to explore for those who dare to venture forth.

Disclosure: Salt and Sanctuary [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Strider PR for this review.

House plays pretty much anything and everything but has almost time for nothing. A devout beat’em up fan, House enjoys a round of captain commando every now and then and can never forget spending hours in dark arcades playing warriors of fate after school. Oh yeah, his favourite console of all time is the original Famicom!




Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: A Nostalgic Triple Treat

The arcade manufacturing business as we knew it in the 80s and 90s might be a wasteland strewn with heavy hitters like Data East, but we are lucky that they aren’t totally forgotten.

Leading the revival of past classic arcade games is publisher FTEGames under their Johnny Turbo’s Arcade banner. We miss Data East quite a lot, their arcade and pinball output was nothing short of awesome and prolific, with their games proving popular with punters and always drawing a crowd.

For all of us with new consoles that are yearning for some Data East arcade gaming nostalgia, Johnny Turbo’s Arcade has delivered in spades! Starting with the classic side-scrolling beat’em up, Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja, the tough as nails platformer, Caveman Ninja (aka: Joe & Mac) and the run and gun Sly Spy, we were in for quite a trip down memory lane on our Nintendo Switch.

Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Bad Dudes Vs DragonNinja (Nintendo Switch eShop)

Are you a bad enough dude? Of course you are! Smash some Ninjas to save President Ronnie and then have burgers and coke as your reward in this brilliant conversion of Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja. This 80s horizontal scrolling beat’em up will satisfy your fighting nostalgic nerve in abundance. Now go and save the Prez!

Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Caveman Ninja (Nintendo Switch eShop)

Forget Mario and definitely forget Sonic, as they weren’t around in prehistoric days. Grab your club and get ready to go on a wild, prehistoric adventure with the Cavemen Ninjas – Joe & Mac! Help Joe and Mac fight against enemy cavemen and dinosaurs using prehistoric weapons. Battle your way through numerous prehistoric levels using weapons such as boomerangs, bones, fire, flints, electricity, stone wheels, and clubs. There is no Princess in a castle to be rescued, only kidnapped “Cave Babes”. This is one tough platformer, so co-op play is recommended!

Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Sly Spy (Nintendo Switch eShop)

We have always wanted to be like James Bond – the awesome contraptions, gadgets, weapons and exotic locations had us hooked. Sly Spy satisfies our secret agent appetite, with contraptions like jet-packs to get around and golden gun weaponry to dispatch baddies to become a hero by saving the world from Evil. The premise of this game is pretty straight forward, you must protect the U.S. from a nuclear missile attack from the terrorist organisation CWD (Council for World Domination). This classic is arcade perfect on the Switch! Just like the other arcade games, it is tough as heck, so the challenge will keep you coming back.

Developer Flying Tiger Entertainment should be commended for their arcade perfect ports of these games on the Switch. There are plenty of tweaks for each title which will keep both retro gamers and contemporary players happy. Oh yeah, the level of detail is nothing short of awesome, our favourite being the curvature of the screen, just like on the old arcade monitors – a great nostalgic touch!

These classic Data East games are lovingly converted by the Flying Tiger Entertaining / Johnny Turbo’s Arcade team and are the perfect trifecta of nostalgic hits for your Nintendo Switch. Being perfect arcade conversions, these are just as difficult as their arcade counterparts, but trust us, that is a good thing – BUY THEM NOW!


Review: Hand of Fate 2 – Nintendo Switch

Hand of Fate 2 is yet another demonstration of how good the Nintendo Switch can be, it is the perfect game to sink your teeth into at home with the console docked to your TV, then pick it up and continue the adventure when you need to be on the move.

Having never played or even heard of the first game, Hand of Fate 2 for the Nintendo Switch has been a pleasant surprise for me. The best way I can describe the game is that it is a hybrid action RPG card building choose your own adventure game (yes, seriously). The basic premise involves pitting the player against a mysterious card dealer across 22 missions, with each mission containing various encounter cards which the dealer reveals as the player traverses across them. Each mission is essentially a mini text story driven adventure with various end and bonus objectives to complete. One involved rescuing residents of a town ravaged by zombie-like plague monsters, while another tasks the player to recover four artefacts, with each inflicting a ‘curse’ condition on the player so it becomes more difficult as more artefacts are recovered.

As the player advances through the story missions, you are rewarded various cards (depending on how well you do), including encounters, equipment, resources and companions with which the player then can effectively build a custom deck to use for each mission. The game has the option of auto building decks but I found customising card decks to be much more fun and makes each mission unique and interesting; bring the card that rewards the armour that grants additional food resources for every other resource card received or just bring more encounters that dish out gold and health as rewards and a high damage sword reward card instead, the choice is yours.

However, even with careful planning, many encounters can still rely on chance. There are several mini games within encounters that help determine their results, such as throwing dice to match or exceed a target number, timing a laser pendulum to stop on a tiny moving box or spinning a wheel of cards that grant or take away valuable resources. I feel this mechanism adds to the excitement of the game and introduces a much-needed unpredictability given the player is usually well aware of what’s coming should they have constructed the decks to their liking for a particular mission. The tension of trying to execute an impeccably timed button press to escape starvation (effectively avoids restarting the entire mission) and the resulting joy of actually pulling it off is what makes this system so great.

When combat is the only way to influence encounter outcomes, the game whisks you away from the card table and into a ring-fenced battle arena for some real time combat utilising a system not too dissimilar from the Batman Arkham games, with an emphasis on building hit combos for a weapon specific special move whilst dodging and blocking enemy attacks. Here the game tosses in a diverse set of enemy and weapon types as well as companions (all with unique abilities). Although challenging, these scenarios play out much the same and proved to be somewhat a distraction from the card table, which I felt was by far the more interesting part of the game.

Presentation wise, Hand of Fate 2 is top notch, from fantastic voice acting (card dealer especially) to the beautiful Game of Thrones like campaign map to the well-designed character models, it is an impressive showing on the Nintendo Switch, especially in handheld mode. The only complaint I have here is the rather long load times when transitioning from the card table to a combat arena.

Since starting the game for this review, Hand of Fate 2 has become one of my personal top 5 games to play on the Nintendo Switch. Once the somewhat steep initial learning curve is overcome, it becomes simple to pick up and play but very difficult to put down. Highly recommend that you all add this title to your Switch games library.

image source: Defiant Development


House plays pretty much anything and everything but has almost time for nothing. A devout beat’em up fan, House enjoys a round of captain commando every now and then and can never forget spending hours in dark arcades playing warriors of fate after school. Oh yeah, his favourite console of all time is the original Famicom!




Ultra Space Battle Brawl: It’s Bang Bead For Your Switch!

If you are craving for some PongWindjammers or Bang Bead action for your Nintendo Switch, then keep reading! Hang on, Bang what? Ahhhh, if you don’t know, that’s fine, this game plays it a similar way…

So what do you get when you sprinkle some Pong on steroids, a dose of fighting elements, Japanese 80s aesthetic, some cool Indonesian urban house music and a hefty pinch of Windjammers and Bang Bead for good measure? You get Ultra Space Battle Brawl, that’s what!

For those of you that haven’t played Atari’s Pong or Bang Bead and Windjammers on the Neo Geo, Ultra Space Battle Brawl is a fun competitive game fit for settling disputes, be it with your friends and family or rivals, this couch party game has the essence of a flying fighting game melded onto a single screen that is easy to pick up and play but hard to master.

The game provides a choice of ten protagonists, each with their own unique “Ultra” and quirky skills that can easily turn the tide in the heat of battle. Story mode sees you battling through a number of rivals that will determine your fate in the Intergalactic Society, that is if you manage to beat them all. For those that prefer a party game (of up to 4 players), the ‘Versus’ mode is for you. Versus provides the freedom to set the number of rounds and battle modes, be it 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 1 vs 2 or 2 vs 1. Once your character is chosen you are thrown into a battle where the premise sees you smacking the puck towards your opponents end attempting to smash their glass gem while also defending your end. If you manage to win the necessary rounds, you move onto the next (even tougher) opponent.

Sounds simple enough? Um not really, as this game will see your rage meter go through the roof when you battle tougher opponents that require lightning fast reflexes and dexterity to have a chance at beating them. This game does shine when played against other humans, where you rib each other or give high fives when battling on the same side.

The background story to how this game came about is quite cool too – Ultra Space Battle Brawl was first born out of a Mojiken Camp, an internal team building program. During this program the whole Mojiken Studio crew had to build a prototype based on proven products and fresh concepts. From all the prototypes they came up with, it was Mojiken Studio’s co-founder Eka Pramudita’s Ultra Space Battle Brawl that came out on top.

If you also want to come out on top and can’t wait for Windjammers, then you should grab this game for your Nintendo Switch, stat!

Title: Ultra Space Battle Brawl
Developer: Mojiken Studio
Publisher: Toge Productions
Price: USD$14.99

image source: Toge Productions


Review: Gunbird 2 Swoops In On The Nintendo Switch

With the sheer volume of shoot’em ups on the Nintendo Switch, it will take something quite special to stand out from the crowd!

Having played and loved Zerodiv’s conversion of Psikyo’s Gunbird, we had high expectations for Gunbird 2. Don’t get us wrong, Gunbird 2 is sublime, but it feels like more of the same.

The premise for Gunbird 2 is similar to the original – five protagonists are called upon to appease the Potion God by providing the elements of the Sun, Stars and Moon for him (instead of pieces of the Magic Mirror of Atra) in order to obtain a special medical potion. Just like the original, the story plays out in between levels and before boss fights, so watch-out for the Queen Pirates! The story is absurd and as cheesy as ever, which is exactly how we like it.

As mentioned, the player has a choice of five characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each character possesses a number of different methods of attack; from the standard shot (powered up from downed enemies), an area-clearing bomb, to the melee-like attack which is powerful but forces the player to get dangerously close to the enemy, and the charge shot. All of the attacks are unique and different enough for each character, so Gunbird 2 will have you coming back to play through and finish the game with each of them.

Since this is an arcade conversion, if it is played in ‘child’ difficulty mode, the game can be completed within a sitting of one Seinfeld episode (minus the ads). Luckily Gunbird 2 has enough difficulty modes and scoring methods to satisfy those who enjoy playing for high scores, so the game will definitely keep pulling you back.

Let’s get one thing straight, the gameplay in Gunbird 2 is frenetic, with bullets raining everywhere, especially as you keep powering up your attack. The constant barrage of firing and dodging never gets old, unless you despise vertical shmups! Gunbird 2 is fun to play solo, but it gets better and crazier when playing with a friend. The visuals are stunning, especially when you can see more of the background in TATE orientation – we love seeing the villagers running around on the ground. Coupled with the beautiful visuals is the equally awesome audio, with tunes that are in keeping with the theme (ie: whimsical) and sound effects that are meaty enough without piercing your eardrum.

If you already have Gunbird and are still enjoying it, Gunbird 2 may not offer enough in gameplay to warrant a purchase (even though it is still cheap!). If you don’t have Gunbird in your burgeoning Switch shmup library or are in need of a good old fashioned vertical shmup, then we highly recommend you grab Gunbird 2 – it’s AUD$9.99 well spent!

image source: Gunbird 2


Review – Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles opens up like a mix of Sea of Thieves and Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild; both excelled in creating a beautiful world with a sense of wonder and adventure, which is also Yonder’s greatest strength.

After creating a character with some very basic options (although you can customise him or her throughout the game with a wealth of cosmetic options such as clothes, hair dyes and other accessories to keep things interesting) you are thrown onto the island of Gemea where the game is set and free to explore the open world at your leisure. The game world is beautifully realised; whist it doesn’t surpass Breath of the Wild (but to be fair not many have), it does an admirable job in creating a large, interesting and vibrant world with lush forests, sunny beaches and snowy mountains. Graphically, it is one of the best on the Switch.

How it looks is where the similarities end between Yonder and the aforementioned games. With no enemies to kill or levels to grind, Yonder presents itself as a slow-paced exploration game filled with rather mundane tasks. The game’s myriad of largely lifeless NPCs dish out most of the side quests, usually involving collecting various resources around the world such as fodder, wood, stones, seeds etc using a set of contextual tools introduced early on in the game. For example, using sickles to cut grass, axe to chop trees, pickaxe to mine ore and so on. There is also the ability to run your own farm by building simple structures and rearing the exotic animals found in the game to store and generate resources.

The main story quest is painstakingly simple and the only real sense of progression comes from unlocking previously inaccessible areas of the map by dispersing the ‘murk’ (a mysterious dark shroud covering certain areas) by finding enough pet fairy ‘sprites’. There is no real sense of urgency to this though, as the Murk is not at all dangerous and there is no time limit or any order in which part of the map needs to be uncovered first.

I must confess that I usually like my games with a mature and engaging storyline, deep combat mechanics and RPG-like progression systems. However, I recently played through Yonder during a month long overseas holiday and found it to be the perfect companion game for such an occasion. It is something I could pick up and enjoy for a few minutes to half an hour at a time without the stress of levelling up or acquiring better gear to take on bigger bosses. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is all about discovering its world at your own pace and having the most relaxed time doing so, and like what my 3-year-old daughter said when she watched me play, “it’s beautiful”.



House plays pretty much anything and everything but has almost time for nothing. A devout beat’em up fan, House enjoys a round of captain commando every now and then and can never forget spending hours in dark arcades playing warriors of fate after school. Oh yeah, his favourite console of all time is the original Famicom!




Book Review: PlayStation Anthology

Book: PlayStation Anthology (Classic or Collector Editions)
Publisher: Geeks-Line Publishing
Pages: 386 pages (Classic Edition) / 458 pages (Collector Edition)
Price $USD: $44.90 (Classic Edition) / $55.90 (Collector Edition – currently unavailable)
Available from: Amazon

After impressing us with their Nintendo 64 Anthology, Geeks-Line Publishing has taken its next book, PlayStation Anthology in a different direction. The result is a great read that not only explains Sony’s origins and the rise of its first console, but also includes some amazing interviews with a number of high-profile devs, like Jason Rubin, Yuji Horii, Kanta Watanabe and Suda51 to name just a few. It is let down in places by some low quality images, but it still manages to do an incredible job of retelling the story of Sony’s market dominance.

To add to the level of detail that the book offers, it finishes with a collector’s guide that lists every single PlayStation game that was officially published. This book was touted as a celebration of a console that brought wonder into the lives of many (us included), and a brand that reshaped the whole entertainment industry – we reckon the authors have definitely achieved this and surpassed what they had promised.

This IS the definitive book on Sony’s PlayStation. You won’t find any other book that covers so much detail on the original PlayStation as this one does, so we recommend you get yourself the PlayStation Anthology tome right now!

Disclosure: The ‘PlayStation Anthology’ book was kindly provided by Geeks-Line for this article.