Mars Underground – Steam Review

Time to get stuck in a loop with Mars Underground, a groundhog day style adventure game from Moloch Media on the PC.

It’s Mars’ first day at a new school in a new town, except it’s always his first day since he keeps reliving the same day over and over. In Mars Underground you progress by exploring, gaining knowledge and exploiting that information daily to unravel the reasons why you are stuck in this time loop. Each cycle begins the same way with your alarm going off and Mars struggling to get out of bed, where you go from there is entirely up to you and dependant on what you have discovered to that point. Skip school and go to the movies to see “One Banana, Two Banana” or try and get into the local cool nightclub. At the end of each day you must take your medication, fall asleep and start again.

There is a very Earthbound look to Mars Underground which suits the style of exploration and discovery perfectly, other effects are layered with this to reinforce that unsettling feeling that is ever present. Sound design matches these visuals with chiptune styled effects and music, eerie soundscapes add to the ever claustrophobic nature present in the narrative. It’s not all doom and gloom though, ominous threats such as men in black, the military, Aliens and shady hooded figures are equally balanced with some good humour.

Every choice you make will lead you down another path but this can sometimes lead to the same burn out some will suffer with classic point and click adventure games. Solutions can be so obvious that you might completely glaze over them and others are so obtuse you might not approach them in the exact way needed to succeed. Missed a specific time period that event takes place? Take your pills and try again. Mars Underground definitely captures the sense of repetition one would feel reliving the same day over and over but it can begin to feel a bit much at times.

If complex and intriguing time travel stories are your thing though, Mars Underground is a wonderfully unique adventure that has so many hidden layers for players to find.

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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: Mars Underground [Steam] was kindly provided by Moloch Media for this review.

 

 

Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists – Nintendo Switch Review

Delve into a world of alchemy and mystery in Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, the latest title in the long running Ateliers series by Koei Tecmo

The game starts as Nelke, a young and eager noble woman, and her ever faithful maid Misty arrive in the small town of Westwald. The two have made their way there after hearing rumours that an ancient sage relic of immense power, the Granzweit Tree, is possibly in the region. Nelke’s father agreeing to support her on this quest only if she becomes governor of the town and proves herself to be a worthy leader. You must help Nelke turn this sleepy village into the bustling city of commerce her father desires, all while making new friends, meeting challenges and exploring the surrounding countryside.

Being personally unfamiliar with the world of Ateliers and it’s 20 year history of titles, Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists’ story felt a little daunting at first but all the characters introduced are also unknown to Nelke and their introductions reflect this. The game gives subtle backstories where needed through bits of dialog and character interaction. Characters are out of place and in some cases out of time, fans will no doubt love the return of series famous alchemists and newcomers will enjoy being introduced to the varied cast.

There are 3 main areas of gameplay in Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists, being broken down into turns and each turn involves weekdays and holidays with various actions for each. Weekdays include town management such as construction of various buildings or facilities, commissioning alchemy and working on town requests. Holidays on the other hand give you a chance to visit and develop relationships with towns folk, as well as a chance to explore the region, finding materials or battle monsters.

There is a lot going on in Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists, micromanagement is key to success as you need to assign tasks to alchemists and store owners constantly, depending on production demands and town needs. Tasks such as gathering specific materials or defeating certain monsters will often challenge you and keep the game from feeling stagnant. The battle system is refined yet simple with an option for semi and full auto attack modes, this means low powered enemies will be dealt with rather quickly, keeping the game’s pace moving steadily forward. That being said, there is a lot to take in very quickly between the various mechanics and sub-systems and this might put off some players.

One real stand out attribute in Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists is the anime graphic styling. The game has a beautiful aesthetic overall making it feel bright and cheerful. Most of the character interactions are told by visual novel interface with Japanese voice overs for the cast. Fans of anime and the Ateliers series will really appreciate these visual stylings and especially the gorgeous full animation sequences.

Overall, Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists is a beautiful and in depth title with a lot on offer between the multiple systems at play. Some may find it a bit too complex but others will happily spend dozens of hours making Westwald their perfect home away from home.

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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: Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Turn Left Distribution for this review.

 

 

The Red Strings Club – Nintendo Switch Review

Mix equal parts intrigue, corporate sabotage and philosophy, shake well and serve over ice to get the delicious cocktail that is The Red Strings Club, a cyber-noir adventure game of dystopian proportions.

Set in a cyberpunk future on the verge of becoming a dystopia, The Red Strings Club is an incredibly gripping and heavy hitting adventure game that manages to push all the right buttons. Playing as one of three active characters, an advanced AI android, a bartender and a freelance hacker, The Red Strings Club succeeds in pulling no punches. Asking deep and philosophical questions of the player constantly, there is rarely an easy answer to be found and the ones you do find can be shot down just as quickly. Mainly playing as the bartender and information dealer Donovan, you mix drinks to put patrons into the right mindset for questioning.

Being so driven by narrative there is a real fear in deciding exactly which questions to ask and when. Do you wish your intended target to feel guilty? Would they let slip better information for a specific question if they felt overly confident? On numerous occasions I found myself staring at two choices for great lengths; following the logical train of thought for both, unhappy with my options but also seeing no alternatives. There is hidden depth to every choice that can affect the story in a multitude of ways. After each client has left the club you are asked ten questions in relation to the conversation you just had, testing your information gathering skills. Every bit of knowledge will count in the ultimate goal of trying to bring down the implementation of “Social Psyche Welfare,” a plan to improve society by removing negative feelings and emotions completely.

Looking very much like a classic adventure game in its pixel art style, The Red Strings Club has a nice gritty feel to it. Adding to this is the sombre and futuristic soundtrack, giving a sense of tension and importance to every scene. Skylines and neon signs glow in the distance of some scenes making this world feel more modern than stories like Blade Runner but still giving off a very similar vibe. Fans of Science fiction and adventure games will appreciate the world that DeconstrucTeam has created.

A simple and very enjoyable game with narrative that really must be experienced first hand to really appreciate. The Red Strings Club is a game you will easily find yourself playing multiple times to discover everything it has to offer.

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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: The Red String Club [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Power Up PR for this review.

 

 

Battlloon – Nintendo Switch Review

Bursting with fun onto the Nintendo Switch is Battlloon, a balloon bashing battler of adorable proportions.

Who doesn’t remember the halcyon days of vollying balloons at each other as kids? Noname Studio certainly does and has distilled the fun of hurtling balloons at other balloons into its latest game Battlloon. You and up to 3 friends can locally battle it out in this simple and intensely colourful balloon bursting battler. Players can choose from 6 different balloon characters, each of which have a different defining characteristic. Some balloons are quick and nimble but very light and easily knocked about, others are the exact opposite and plod along but once they have momentum are nearly unstoppable. 

Controls are simple meaning that pretty much anyone can pick up a controller and give it a go. Holding “A” will cause your Balloon to inflate.Controlling your character with the stick and releasing the button propels you forward. Each arena is randomised in various ways with walls or spikes lining the exterior, while hitting a wall section will turn it into spikes meaning you have only one saving chance per section of wall. There are also randomised events in each arena, matching its general theme including piranhas or ice balls that will pop or freeze you. Getting popped isn’t the end though, with ghost balloons assisting in trying to defeat other players. After finishing a round, points are awarded for finishing position and bonus points for taking out the current winner or other players. 

The game uses retro styled graphics and music very well, helping to create a very light hearted and cheery atmosphere. Apart from a few varied stages with unique additions to the arena walls, there isn’t much else happening gameplay wise though. Essentially, what you see is what you get with Battlloon. It’s a fun game for short bursts but I wouldn’t suggest going in with any fewer than the maximum player count since this really helps the fast and frantic nature of the game. There are no unlockables as far as we have seen and no real match options to change things up, which can be slightly frustrating. 

Battlloon is a game that is packed full of charm with cute characters and colourful levels. While it may not have much depth on its own, it is certainly a fantastic addition to any games night!

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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: Battlloons [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Stride PR for this review.

 

 

Nintendo Switch Review – Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory

A low musical drone welcomes you to a black filled background with a lone spaceship, WAVE 1 appears and enemies swoop down firing off pixelated projectiles. Welcome to Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory, a new space style shooter from Stumphead Games.

From the get go, Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory evokes waves of nostalgia, bringing to mind memories of arcade classics like Galaga, Galaxian and Gorf. Feeling like it would be more suited to play on an upright cab than on a PC, Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory is an extremely pure arcade space shooter. Early waves can be deceptive, luring you into a false sense of security. Underestimating the deadly efficiency of the enemies you encounter can be deadly as the screen is quickly filled with colourful projectiles. Unlike the classic arcade shooters it resembles, each wave is randomised meaning enemies and bosses will vary from playthrough to playthrough. While this may seem unfair to those chasing high scores, it certainly makes each playthrough uniquely enjoyably.There is a really nice clean aesthetic to Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory; visuals are crisp and the colours are vivid, this makes enemies and projectiles really pop off the black background. 

Apart from the normal snappy and responsive controls you expect from a game like Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory, there are some nice additions like special weapons and a warp function. There is a meter for each special weapon and enemies will randomly drop small recharges for them. The specials include a charge shot, auto firing drones that orbit your ship and a shot that splits on impact to home in on nearby enemies. The warp function is the real stand out addition though, it acts as a dodge and will shift you across the screen, allowing you to move through projectiles a short distance without being hit. This can be a real lifesaver, especially with bosses that fill the screen with waves of particles. As you progress through the waves, your ship will also get slightly more powerful standard weapons.

Fans of classic shooters, high score driven gameplay and a nice challenge need look no further than Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory. It is a fun and frantic space shooter that definitely deserves your attention.

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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: Super Chrome: Bullet Purgatory [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Pixel River PR for this review.

 

 

OlliOlli Switch Stance – Nintendo Switch Review

Kickflipping their way onto the Nintendo Switch is OlliOlli and OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood in the new collection OlliOlli Switch Stance.

Much like the multitude of skateboarding games that have come before it, OlliOlli Switch Stance is all about racking up multipliers and high scores. Unlike its predecessors though, OlliOlli Switch Stance is a 2D side-on skateboarding game with a very simplified art style. Each run has a mix of 5 specific point, or objective- based challenges to be completed. To proceed the player only has to make it to the end of the run without bailing. Along with the standard levels there is a “Daily Grind” mode in both games and other additional challenges including multiplayer in OlliOlli 2.

Both games in OlliOlli Switch Stance have similar yet different visual styles. OlliOlli has a pixel art style with levels that span a multitude of urban environments. Whereas OlliOlli 2 has an updated yet equally clean 2D style that takes place on and around movie sets. The very simplistic art style works in favour of the quick gameplay, most notably in OlliOlli 2 where jumps and grinds stand out. The soundtrack in OlliOlli Switch Stance is very much the opposite, being purposefully subdued yet still catchy and suits the games perfectly.

The controls are what will really set this series apart from other skateboarding games that most players are familiar with. Everything from jumps to flips to grinds are all accomplished using the left analogue stick. By holding, rotating and finally releasing the stick, players can carry out a multitude of tricks to build up their score. What really makes the game technical is the timing required when carrying out every action, including landing. Starting up OlliOlli Switch Stance, the player is warned that “OlliOlli is a super-fast game” and this is no understatement. Pulling off a lengthy series of chained tricks can all be rendered moot by the act of a “Sloppy” landing. Retrying stages over and
over is almost a necessity but snappy menus and instant restarts mean there is no waiting between rounds and you can get straight into the action.

OlliOlli Switch Stance plants itself perfectly on the Nintendo Switch, whether you want to knock out a quick run or chase high scores. The technical and precise nature of these controls may be a little off putting to some but others will find it incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.

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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: OlliOlli Switch Stance [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by POWER UP PR for this review.

 

 

First Impressions: Stern’s The Munsters Pro Pinball

When Stern Pinball Inc. unveiled their latest machine, The Munsters on January 8 at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, it generated such a buzz in the pinball world, that the Limited Edition (LE) models sold out worldwide almost instantly!

We may not be able to experience the glory of the LE machine, but when Zax Amusements invited us to the unboxing and the offer to play The Munsters Pro pinball machine, that was definitely an offer we could not refuse.

With The Munsters, Stern promises that we will be transported to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, joining the entire Munsters family, from Herman, Lily, Raven, to Spot and Grandpa in this cool haunted pinball adventure.  Stern Pinball’s Chairman and CEO, Gary Stern succinctly put it like this, “The Munsters are iconic and timeless, and it was time to create a pinball experience around this freaky-fun family.  With beautiful artwork inspired by the supernatural family, this theme is perfect for a pinball machine” – we could not have said it better, really!


source: Ausretrogamer – Facebook

As this machine is still evolving (with its code base), we can only offer out first impressions based on the current Dwight Sullivan code. As a lot of you know, we are huge fans of John Borg designed machines, with The Walking Dead being our favourite Stern machine in recent times. The excitement for The Munsters has been brewing for a little while, and with Borg designing it and Christopher Franchi on art, we knew we were in for a treat. Our only apprehension was with Dwight Sullivan being on code, but that may have been down to us being mediocre players that don’t necessarily like playing games with deep rulesets. To our pleasant surprise, the design and ruleset (so far!) of The Munsters is pure damn fun! We love the fan layout, with each shot feeling great when hitting targets, Grandpa’s ball scoop, the Herman bash toy and of course the two ramps, especially the 180 degree high speed gravity defying right ramp! Oh yeah, the visual look of the machine speaks for itself, so Christopher Franchi should be commended for his stunning and distinctive hand-drawn art.

This is where the magic happens!

After playing The Munsters, we can safely say that on first impressions, we really really like it. The theme integration is awesome – we never get sick of the artwork, the LCD visuals and the sounds from the TV show. The game made us feel like hitting the start button immediately after we drained our last ball from our previous game, so the game did have a high replayability for us – which is good news for operators routing this machine.

We also asked PAPA 20 Division B World Pinball Champion, Jordan Tredaway to give us his first impressions from an expert player’s perspective – he was quite open and upfront stating that the game shot well and hitting the ramps felt good. That’s a big plus coming from a champion pinball player.

There will never be a pinball machine that will make everyone happy, but just like everything else in life, variety is the spice of life, and in this instance, gives us the option to try all these new pinball machines to see if we like them or not. As it currently stands, we are big fans of The Munsters Pro and cannot wait for the Premium model to land in Australia – that lower playfield and of course, that beautiful black and white artwork has us intrigued!

If you are yearning for some fun pinball action, go and play The Munsters! You never know, you may just like it.

A big thank you to Scott and Phil from Zax Amusements for inviting us to check out and play Stern’s The Munsters Pro pinball machine.