Flipping Death Review (Switch)

Flipping Death is a very funny game developed by Zoink and published on Nintendo Switch. It looks like a platformer or side-scrolling adventure, but you should think of it more like a point-and-click puzzle game. It’s definitely story-driven; whether you’re watching cutscenes, hearing a recap during loading screens, or experiencing characters bantering back-and-forth during gameplay, the story is always advancing and the world is being built. It starts with the sudden demise of Penny Doewood, who enters the afterlife and is promptly put on substitute reaper duty for Death himself, who wants to take a vacation to the moon. You may have already gathered that Flipping Death is quite the quirky title, and it’s very charming and entertaining as a result.

The entire game is voice-acted, and skillfully so. This is a bonus that might come unexpected to the average fan of Nintendo games. The writing is top-notch, and Flipping Death’s greatest boast is its impeccable humor and timing. Simeon and I have never laughed out loud so much from a video game! You may be tempted to feel impatient as you can read the captions in half the time it takes the voice actors to deliver their lines, but the wait is worth it.

Another plus in the presentation department are the graphics. Zoink chose a really unique art style, which is memorable and looks beautiful on the Switch. One thing I didn’t like as much was the music—sure it fit the game, but there were so few compositions that the soundtrack grew repetitive. Something else to watch out for are the long loading screens in Flipping Death. A narrator will meander through a funny recap of the previous chapter, which makes it bearable, but you’ll want to try to finish one of the game’s eight chapters in a single sitting so you don’t have to endure the same loading screen a second time.

The gameplay is unique, in that you can gather souls as currency and spend them to possess bodies of the living, who inhabit a mirror version of the world. It’s always interesting to try out all the different characters, find out what their move is, and use them to solve puzzles or just fling them around. There’s a great variety of characters who become “playable” in this way, each with their own special twists and inner-dialogue.

Sadly, controls are sub-optimal. Sometimes, Flipping Death doesn’t feel like it was made with the Switch in mind; using Death’s scythe to teleport was a good mechanic idea, but never feels quite natural as you have to use the right stick at the same time as face-buttons and trigger buttons. Some things aren’t consistent between characters (like holding a button to jump). However, It’s nice that the developers included some touch-screen functionality, which makes using the wide map easier.

The Missions and challenges provide a great variety of things to do. There are also plenty of side-quests in each chapter to keep completionists busy. If you get stuck, there’s a hint system readily available which shows you what needs to happen, but not always how. It’s a good balance of negating frustration without making things too easy.

Flipping Death is an appropriate length, which throws a lot of different ideas at you, but doesn’t get redundant or overstay its welcome. For a second play-through, it may be fun to come back to after several years, but hearing the jokes for the first time is the main reason to play. You could also beat the main story, then go back just to clean up sidequests which can be pretty entertaining, especially when you’re tasked with possessing an undead lama and spitting on everyone.

Overall, this game really is funny. Not just during story segments either, but the way characters move, interact, and the things you can do with them. I did experience a bug that made me lose all progress while reviewing the game. Thankfully it was in chapter 1, and the devs were aware and already working on it. This game is one of a kind, and is enjoyable for the story and humor alone. Considering everything, Two Button Crew scores Flipping Death a 7.25 out of 10.

Thimbleweed Park Review

A few years ago, Gary Winnick and Ron Gilbert wanted to make a spiritual successor to their hit adventure game Maniac Mansion. While many independent developers (and a few bigger studios as well) made their own homages to the point-and-click genre, the prodigal sons had returned to bequeath us with Thimbleweed Park, a love letter to LucasArts games of yore straight from the proverbial source. Initially released in 2017, this tongue-in-cheek hit now finds its way to the Nintendo Switch, perhaps one of the best platforms to play it on.

Set in the distant past (er, 1987), Thimbleweed Park begins with a murder. A body is found in the river of the small Podunk town and two FBI agents are sent to investigate. What follows is a multi-faceted story that takes our protagonists from one end of town to the other in search of clues in a plot that is both funny in a deadpan way and a genuflection of the likes of Twin Peaks or the X-Files. It’s told from multiple points of view, everywhere from a foul-mouthed disrespectful clown to the ghost of an owner of the local pillow factory. The story weaves its way through flashbacks and back in a satisfying manner, bringing plenty of context to what’s truly going on. A nice dash of fourth wall breaking humor and reverent in-jokes round out the package nicely.

Thimbleweed Park stays true to its roots not only in presentation, but in game mechanics as well. If you’ve ever played an adventure game you know the drill: investigate your surroundings, talk to people to infer some clues and use items you’ve picked up to solve puzzles. Rinse, wash, repeat. The game gives you a plethora of ways to maneuver Agents Reyes and Ray and crew that all feel well-suited to the way you want to handle it. Whether with a pro controller or using the touch screen, picking and choosing verbs, inventory or just moving to new locations feel natural. The game also offers both a casual and hard mode, with the differentiator being how many steps it may take to solve a puzzle. Considering there isn’t really a lose state in Thimbleweed Park, it’s worth noting you’ll miss out on a bit of content going with the former option.

For everything Thimbleweed Park has going for it, it does still fall into the trap of being a bit obtuse for its own good, as adventure games are wont to do. For the most part solutions to problems are sensible, it’s just a matter of finding the right item in the right place, which usually requires you to fumble your cursor around each screen until you come upon the magical McGuffin that’ll set the wheels of the game back in motion. Mileage may vary depending on the player and their skill at seeking and finding objects, but you will occasionally get hung up and your patience may wear thin.

Gilbert and Winnick have most definitely channeled their past selves to make Thimbleweed Park the proper descendant Maniac Mansion they’ve been wanting to make. If you’re a fan of SCUMM adventure games, wry humor, plumbers dressed as pigeons and plenty of irreverence we can’t recommend this game enough. If you’re new to the genre and can count on two hands how many times you’ve pointed and clicked in a game…well, we’d recommend Thimbleweed Park as well! It’s intuitive to play, it doesn’t intentionally obfuscate the player and did we mention there’s a couple of plumbers dressed like pigeons? Who doesn’t like pigeons!?


This review comes courtesy of Crew member Matt Mason, @ObtainPotion on Twitter.

A Robot Named Fight Review (Switch)

A Robot Named Fight wins an award for the weirdest video game title. Beyond that, it’s also a really good game!

This is a pixel-art, roguelike, Metroidvania. A Metroguevania, if you will.
You would think that these genres are incompatible, with Metroid’s weapon-based progression and roguelike titles’ procedural generation and permadeath. Well, I’m pleased to say that developer Matt Bitner Games pulled it off!

You play as the titular robot, Fight, and are immediately thrown into a scary world where Tutorial Smith (or Tutorial Joe, or some other name depending on your run) gets to impart a small piece of wisdom before he dies. My favorite was “Press B to shoot, pres—Argh—I’m dying—press buttons!” From there, you’re on your own as you traverse through corridors swarming with violent, sentient meat monsters.

Yeah, the game gets a little bit gruesome as you blast baddies apart, with pixelated splatters and surprisingly rolly meat physics. You can turn these effects down in the settings, but it honestly doesn’t help too much… And everything is depicted in roughly 16 bit, so if you can handle the action, there’s plenty of exciting puzzles and hidden weapons to discover.

I love how A Robot Named Fight is smart about the levels it generates. There is a constant sense of purpose and direction, without much emphasis on backtracking, which is nice. Somehow, the game perfectly balances the placement of necessary items, while giving the player an opportunity to feel a little bit lost. The result is a sense of accomplishment as you successfully route yourself through the minimap.

If you’ve played a roguelike, you know what you’re getting into. Death sets you back to square one, although your disparate attempts will unlock hidden items for future runs. This game encourages a more cautious approach to Metroidvania exploration, and it makes every earned energy tank feel like a reward that brings a boost of confidence.

The weapon variety is huge. A Robot Named Fight’s developers were very clever about creating unique items that enhance progression and combat in different ways.

I played a lot of this game with Simeon. It’s primarily a solo affair, although “girlfriend mode” co-op is available. He was particularly fond of the flamethrower, which used a small amount of energy but could blast through terrain, set enemies on fire and burn down obstructions in front of doors.

We had a blast taking turns and seeing how far we could get. A successful run might last you 45 minutes to an hour, but the game is easy to pick up, play, save, and come back to later. A welcome feature was the ability to retry a run you particularly liked by saving the “seed.”

A Robot Named Fight is one of the few games that held our attention so much at Two Button Crew that we just had to keep talking about it and playing it over and over. It kept us from other games we needed to play and we’ve been really excited to recommend it!

A few shortcomings you need to be aware of: the user interface is sadly sub-par. Sometimes randomly generated enemies are concealed by HUD elements. Also, it’s clear that not much time was spent on quality-of-life improvements within menus. For example, you can pause the game with the Plus button but you’ll have to move your thumb over to “A” to continue. Start doesn’t unpause.

Then, there’s the common roguelike issue where things aren’t explained well, which can be frustrating. You’ll find shrines with NPCs that ask you for sacrifices, but it never seems to make them happy and you end up with a curse. This kind of gameplay mechanic discourages players from experimentation, and in a game where health is precious and every stat counts, you can’t afford to throw away resources and downgrade your character.

You quickly learn to avoid these minor issues, and overall, this is an awesome game to have with you on Nintendo Switch. It can be propped up and played with one Joy-Con, thanks to the game’s controls being mapped expertly to the limited amount of buttons. It’s also great to dock and experience on the big screen, with speakers pumping some extremely Samus-y tunes. You almost can’t go wrong with A Robot Named Fight. Two Button Crew gives the game a 9 out of 10.

Runner3 Impressions + Review In Progress

I’ve been so excited about Runner3 coming to Nintendo Switch. As a long-time fan of the Bit.Trip series (especially the Runner games), I welcome CommanderVideo to new console/portable hybrid with open arms.

As you have surely noticed, the Switch isn’t hurting for indie titles, so the Commander might be met with some stiff competition, but it’s always good for another developer with as rich a portfolio as Choice Provisions to throw their hat in the ring.

I’m really thankful to be given the opportunity of reviewing Runner3. I excitedly played through the main game and prepared my thoughts thus far, though I am still reserving final judgment. By the end of this write-up, I think you’ll agree with my reasoning.

Scope

Runner3 is ambitious. After essentially introducing the auto-running genre, then perfecting it, the team is now expanding the genre and has included branching paths, vehicles, multiple objectives, non-playable characters, and more. I never expected to have quests or interact with NPCs midlevel in a game like this.

Gameplay

Moment to moment, you know exactly what to expect from a game like this. The core “Runner” gameplay is here and as compelling as ever. You know what you are signing up for, and it’s good.

Music

It wouldn’t be a Choice Provisions game without the pounding soundtrack. I can confidently say that the music is good, though I won’t claim it surpasses the heights of the original Bit.Trip Runner.

Presentation

The creators behind Runner3 sure know how to dress up a game! From entertaining (and fake) advertisements, puppet shows, incredible narration from Charles Martinet, more puns than you can shake a stick at, and clever level names, Runner3 is dripping with personality.

Runner3 is dripping with personality.

Other Good Things

The game definitely sports some fun cameos, like playable Shovel Knight and Charles Martinet—that’s AWESOME!

Play Value

I don’t envy the developers’ task of making a follow-up to games like Runner and Runner2, which are each incredibly difficult and rewarding to master. So where should the threequel pick up as far as difficulty? How long should you spend onboarding newcomers to the series, versus serving experienced fans?

I found myself breezing through the first two worlds somewhat unremarkably. Upon reaching world 3, I felt a noticeable difference where the challenge seemed to hit a sweetspot and the level design felt more inspired. World 3 was really cool… but it was the last world.

Roughly half the levels in Runner3 are “Retro” stages, which you aren’t told how to unlock… but the loading screens start giving you hints about what to do IN them from the start of the game. I found this frustrating, and I’m still trying to locate the VHS which will get me into Retro world 1. I tried reaching out to other reviewers, but they were unable to help. Perhaps I could have pinged the developers, but I felt the need to form my own opinions about how this game does (or doesn’t) guide you through the discovery process.

Crunching a few numbers, you find that the game overall has fewer levels than Runner2, and only a couple more levels than the original Runner.

Replay Value

But just beating the game once from point A to point B doesn’t put a cap on your time with Runner3. Not even close. The replay value in this title is nothing if not dense. I saw credits roll but came nowhere close to conquering the game’s available challenges.

There are lots of attainable achievements for completionists (especially the “not-actually impossible” impossible levels).

Which are pretty much impossible.

… The game stops counting your deaths after 99, by the way.

#NoShame

User Experience

The degree to which you have completed a level isn’t always clear. I can think of many things that MIGHT increase your “grade,” but they would be guesses:

There is gold to collect as well as gems, checkpoints that could be skipped instead of used, collectible items, a score counter that can be boosted by setting off optional rockets along the way, and a bullseye target at the end. It’s not communicated which of these feats correspond to which color of ring on the level select, or color of + icon, or position of said colored + icon. You can go into Stats and it literally records your amount of Perfect, Perfect+, Special, Special+, Special Perfect, Special Perfect+ and “Special Perfect Double+” levels without telling you what the differences are or how to achieve them, so I’m a bit fuzzy on what it takes to 100% this game. I know it’s cute to have those ambiguous ranks, but I felt lost. 

Hiccups and Hang-Ups

I wanted to love every moment of this game, but I feel that it is my duty to report back honestly about some snags I experienced along the way.

– There are so many long loading screens in this game. If you want to back out from the level select to the menu, you’re going to sit through a lot of these back-to-back.

– Sometimes you can’t switch tracks, and other times they seem to switch for you. Sometimes you die because one track is lower than the other (but you’re supposed to be able to switch at any time).

– Accomplishments aren’t very celebrated. Levels end with some calm, anticlimactic elevator music (even if you had an outstanding run or defeated a boss). After an intense feat and narrowly winning, it feels like a crescendo is in order rather than things fading out with a wet fizzle.

– CommanderVideo is missing some of his moves from previous titles, like holding forward to reflect beats with a shield—that was an awesome mechanic! There is also no loop-de-loops or dancing. [Update: Dancing IS included in this game! Immediately after stumbling upon this action with a shoulder button, I was given a loading screen that informed me about the mechanic.]

– The art style is definitely unique, but can be disappointing in places—like looseness in certain animations, background elements being big and weird but not always nice to look at graphically, etc. I feel like a measure of precision was sacrificed when moving this series from sprite graphics to 3D. This is the kind of game where precision is paramount (yes, their proclivity for alliterations is rubbing off on me).

Value Proposition

This game is more expensive (at $30 digital, $40 physical) than any of the others in the series. Runner 2 is available right now on Wii U for $3. Buy that.

But don’t write off Runner3 for charging more, either. You know it costs a lot of benjamins to get such an acclaimed voice actor to lend his talent. And if you’re willing to grit your teeth, crack your knuckles and rise to the “post-game” challenges, you’re going to have a nice, long stay in this wonderfully wacky world.

And after knocking out those impossible levels and completing your collection of Super Duper Triple Plus Perfects (or whatever), you’ll have plenty of in-game currency to spend on capes, clothes, and other goodies. There are no in-app purchases to be found, which is reassuring in this day and age.

There are no in-app purchases to be found!

In Summary

I had a great time with Runner3. My wife even enjoyed watching me play, and loved the music. (How many games can you say that about in your house?)

But there were undeniably several niggling aspects of the game’s design that kept me out of the flow, whether they were apparent glitches, omissions from past games, or a general sense of not knowing how to do more than advance through the basic levels.

I would have loved to publish a full review on embargo day, but I have yet to access any of the Retro levels.

I think it would be negligent to offer a score on this game after playing only half the content.

You might struggle a lot less than me once Runner3 is available for purchase, with help from a printed manual or online guide. I think those would have come in handy during my play-through (and still will as I continue to explore).

One more note:

Gaming’s landscape has changed a lot since CommanderVideo first graced consoles. On Nintendo Switch, Runner3 is faced with competitors like the incredibly tight and exciting musical levels in Rayman Legends, or the superbly atmospheric rhythym-horror title Thumper. $30 is a tough sell when Runner3 struggles to stack up to the impressive accomplishments of its earlier installments. But if you’re a fan of the series, and/or someone who 100%s their games no matter how difficult, you could hardly go wrong here.


I will definitely report back once I have a better understanding of the game’s full offering. I’d also like to extend a huge thanks to Choice Provisions, and Dant over there, for giving us the hook-ups. I hope this early look at Runner3 helps inform your buying decisions ahead of launch day, May 22nd! And set a reminder for our live steam!

Adventures of Bertram Fiddle #1 Review (Switch)

I used to believe that graphic adventure games were bimodal when it came to quality. Either they were good or they were bad, with the line between the two so fine that there wasn’t room for any middle ground. Now that I’ve played The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Episode 1, I may need to rethink my hypothesis.

The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle is a point-and-click styled adventure game starring the eponymous Mr. Fiddle and his one-eyed man-servant, Gavin. Mechanically, the game is quite sound, sticking to the tried and true formula of exploring environments, grabbing everything that isn’t nailed-down, and then using said items to advance further. That said, it doesn’t add much of its own to the mix. Normally, this would be a problem, but this style of adventure game has always banked more on plot and puzzles than unique mechanics, so I’m willing to give it a pass.

Speaking of which, the game thankfully avoids the typical pitfall of “moon logic” puzzles that is all too common in the genre: every puzzle has a creative but entirely logical solution. Moreover, the game is quite good at dropping hints without ever feeling like it’s spoon-feeding you the answer.

Visually, the game is a mixed bag. The art style has a nice mid-90’s Nickelodeon vibe to it and does a good job of setting the tone. Unfortunately, between the muted palette for backgrounds and every other environment being the dull and lifeless streets of Victorian London, the environments quickly start to feel repetitive.

Of course, the main draw of these sorts of games is the story. Our adventure begins with a suspicious letter asking our protagonist to assist with a personal matter for a shady, but wealthy, individual. Mrs. Fiddle, however, doesn’t approve and instead tasks our heroes with taking her dog to the groomer, but then they get their bag mixed up with that of a stranger on the street, and somehow the whole thing spirals into a hunt for a serial killer…

If that attempt at a summary didn’t tip you off, the story is a tad unfocused. Several plot threads are introduced very early on and then immediately shunted off to the side to make room for the next one. Now, this can actually work quite well with a mystery plot, as what originally seemed like completely unrelated occurrences are slowly woven together into a tapestry of intrigue. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens here. Instead, Bertram and Gavin wander the streets of London, happen across an item on their to-do list (entirely by accident), decide they really have nothing better to do, and then move on to the next scene to repeat the process with little rhyme or reason.

Unfortunately, pacing isn’t even the writing’s biggest weakness. The concept of an English gentleman and his stalwart man-servant going on an adventure in London immediately evoked the image of one of my all-time favorite literary works, P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster series. The thought of a similar duo starring in a point-and-click adventure game sounded like a smashing idea.

Unfortunately, Jeeves and Wooster they are not. Simply put, neither the protagonist or his sidekick are particularly interesting. There’s little in terms of discernible characterization for either of them and what little is there is just plain uninspired. Bertram is a globe-trotting explorer, and an amateur sleuth, and an inventor. In short, he’s not just a gentleman adventurer, he’s every gentleman adventurer…and that’s it. He’s not particularly smart or stupid, he’s not a lovable loser a la Guybrush Threepwood, he’s not a likable jerk, he’s just a gentleman adventurer. His sidekick, Gavin, is even less interesting, only offering advice in the form of proverbs from his homeland.

That’s not to say that there aren’t interesting characters in this game; there are several. The problem is they’re in and out of the story so quickly, they never really get much time to shine.

Most of the humor consists of [insert clip of Bertram saying “terrible puns”] and poorly-executed, pop-culture references, but the few times it does stray away out of its comfort zone, it’s actually pretty decent. Like I said before, many of the odd folk the protagonists encounter during their adventure are entertaining and I’m always a sucker for the “the solution to one problem comes back to bite you later” gag.

Oh, and this happened. [Show picture of two Bertrams] This isn’t the only graphical glitch I encountered either.

So in summary, The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Episode 1 is a mechanically solid point-and-click adventure game that features good puzzles, so-so writing, and distracting glitches. All of these factors balance out to lead to a completely average, perhaps even mediocre, game, which for a game of this genre is an odd sort of accomplishment. That said, I would say that the asking price of $5.00 is completely fair.

I give The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Episode 1 a shrug.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie We Never Got in America

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Nintendo has partnered with Illumination Entertainment to produce an animated movie staring everybody’s favorite Italian-American-who-looks-like-a-Mexican plumber, Mario. Of course, given how well the Big N’s last film deal turned out, many fans are understandably anxious about Mario’s return to the big screen. Personally, I don’t think we have to worry about it turning out like 1993’s live-action bomb: that film was plagued with a very troubled production and an obscene number of rewrites that ultimately eroded the quality of the end product. I even wrote an article about the original—and much more faithful—screen play over a year ago.

Hmm…Why do I suddenly feel like I’m forgetting something…? Read more The Super Mario Bros. Movie We Never Got in America

Flinthook Review Indie Switch Rougelite

Flinthook is an indie roguelike game for Nintendo Switch. You play as the titular character, a space pirate, as you grapple-hook and blast your way through enemy ships, stealing treasure and taking down bosses along the way.

It’s a great premise, and the execution is pulled off nicely. The first thing you’ll notice about the game is its presentation; upon booting up Flinthook, you’re greeted with an epic chiptune soundtrack cranked up to maximum volume. This game has STYLE, and that persists through its bold, 32-bit (ish) graphics, funny characters, and fast-paced action. The main character is endearing to watch and exciting to play as.

To give you an idea of the gameplay, imagine a Super Mario Bros. game where you have to get from World 1-1 to 1-4 and beat the boss—all on a single life—before you can advance to the next world. But instead of playing as Mario, you’re steamrolling through levels as Samus, and your arsenal includes a plasma blaster, grappling hook, bombs, and more.

There are a couple more systems layered over the basic gameplay, and those are found between bounty runs. In the Black Market, you can spend the treasure you’ve collected on Perks, which are customizable upgrades for your character. You can boost your life, speed, critical hit chances, and much more.

There are also some other side modes included where you can learn more about the story inside the Lore section, play daily challenges, etc. The core game is really solid, so you’ll be compelled to quickly apply some perks and try the game again. Every run, even when you die, is beneficial and will better equip you for your next attempt.

I had a great time advancing through the many challenges of this game. Sadly, I have to point out that I’ve experienced two game-breaking bugs that crashed my Flinthook run and made me lose all progress. One happened after I had just barely managed to defeat a boss and escape with 10HP. The game shut down and I had to do the entire thing over again. I reached out to the developers and wasn’t told a patch was in the works, but hopefully they’ve tracked down the error by now and have it fixed.

The thing I appreciate most about Flinthook is that they took the roguelike genre and tweaked its formula, making it completely fair. This is a skill-based title where the character powers up at the same rate at which the player grows in knowledge and strategy.

I recommend Flinthook to anyone that’s on the fence about it. It blends some of the best elements of roguelikes, platformers, and side-scrolling shooters. It’s got an awesome sense of identity, from the menus to the color palette to the level design. Flinthook gets an 8 out of 10.

Bomberman Hero That Was a Thing

Let’s talk about Bomberman. Introduced in 1983, the Bomberman series has established itself as one of the iconic franchises of gaming, and for good reason. Nearly every system under the sun has at least one entry in the franchise. Moreover, the series has garnered a reputation for its simple, fast-paced, top-down puzzle gameplay and is best known for its frantic multiplayer mayhem.

Bomberman Hero is a single-player, third-person, action platformer. Developed and published by the now defunct Hudson Soft, the game was released for the N64 in 1998. As with any departure from formula, fans are split on whether or not this game is any good. So why the out-of-left field platformer game? Well, as it turns out, Bomberman Hero was originally planned to be a Bonk game.

As with any departure from formula, fans are split on whether or not this game is any good.

You know, Bonk the Caveman? Anyone? No? Well, now you see why they decided to go with Bomberman instead. Point is, the Bonk series were platformers, so this game’s a platformer.

I rented this game several times as a kid, and I remember having mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I greatly appreciated the fact that—unlike Bomberman 64—I could jump freely, a hang-up I developed from my mostly platformer diet at the time. On the other hand, I remember the game feeling cryptic, alien, and everything in the game’s environments feeling just a bit off. It was both fascinating and a little off-putting.

I actually made it pretty far in, though, which was unusual for me back then as I usually stuck to the first few levels of games. Unfortunately, I never could quite beat it, getting stuck on the boss of the penultimate world. I never forgot about it, though. For whatever reason, this game stuck around in the back of my mind since my childhood. Then, just a few months ago, I stumbled across it in my town’s GameXchange for a mere ten dollars.

Ten bucks for closure? Heck yeah!

Plot

The story begins with Princess Millian and her robot companion, Pibot, escaping their home world, Primus Star. The Garaden Empire, who have recently invaded Primus Star, are hot on their heels. Turns out the princess has stolen a data disk that contains information on…something important, I’m sure, and the empire wants it back. She gets captured, but before that gives Pibot the disk and instructs him to seek the aid of Bomberman.

So it’s basically Star Wars. Yeah, I take issue with this. Not so much that their referencing something popular, or even outright copying it in places. It’s just that everyone parodies Star Wars. Basing a plot on Star Wars isn’t just plagiarism, it’s clichéd plagiarism! In the end, I suppose it’s ultimately harmless. No one’s going to play this game for its story anyway, and besides, who doesn’t love Star Wars?

Basing a plot on Star Wars isn’t just plagiarism, it’s clichéd plagiarism!

Where was I? Oh right. Pibot’s ship crash lands, leading Bomberman to go investigate and learn about the Garaden Empire’s activities. From there, Bomberman and Pibot travel from planet to planet trying to rescue Princess Millian, only for her to be whisked away by the empire at the last second. Rinse and repeat a la Super Mario Bros.

Yes, I did find sprites of Bomberman, tracked down a font that looked like the one used in SMB, created a custom sprite for Pibot using hardware accurate colors, and edit all of it into a screenshot from Super Mario Bros. just for the sake of this throwaway gag.
Yeah, something like that…

Presentation

In regards to models and textures, the game is on par with most games of the era, and the simplistic nature of Bomberman’s design works well with the graphical limitations. The environments convey the intended mood quite well for the most part, but rarely have much in terms of personality.

The real issues are technical. The game’s frame-rate dips often, especially when there’s multiple explosions on screen, which, considering this is Bomberman we’re talking about, is often. Pop-in is also a noticeable issue for levels set along the Z-axis. Such levels aren’t terribly common, however, as most of the level design is either horizontal or vertical.

The music is a whole other story. The soundtrack, composed by longtime Bomberman series composer Jun Chikuma, is probably my favorite part of this game! The drum and bass inspired soundtrack gives this game a very distinct musical identity. Moreover, the otherworldly sound of Bomberman Hero‘s music fits perfectly with the game’s many alien worlds and bizarre environments. My only complaint is the song selection itself is pretty slim, and of the few songs some get used way more often than others. I really hope you like the song “Redial” because you’re going to be hearing that one a lot (also, I can’t be friends with you if you don’t).

The soundtrack is probably my favorite part of this game!

Between the soundtrack and the bizarre enemy designs, my initial impression that this game was weird was spot on. I’m surprised, too. Usually when I remember a game feeling surreal or mysterious, it’s just a product of my youthful imagination and inexperience; once I revisit it as an adult, it loses that mystique and intrigue. Nope, this game definitely retains that “fever dream” flavor after all these years.

Gameplay

As stated before, Bomberman Hero is a third-person 3D platformer. Bomberman can run, jump, throw bombs, drop bombs, and kick bombs. It took awhile for me to get used to Bomberman’s controls: he not only moved faster than I expected, but felt very heavy. In retrospect, it’s not that Bomberman carries much weight, it’s that he has weight to begin with. Yep, Bomberman has just a little inertia when he moves, which actually feels really good when you get the hang of it. By the end of the game, I was using Bomberman’s momentum to do cool stuff like jump in one direction while chucking bombs in another.

Here we see the Bomberman stalking his prey...
A typical gameplay moment from Bomberman Hero.

Another unexpected but welcome aspect of the game is its level design. Instead of huge sprawling sandboxes for the player to navigate, the stages are typically linear and fairly constrained, being concise and usually only requiring the player to move in one direction: forward, up, right, etc. Again, I think this works well. Each stage is bite sized and rarely overstays its welcome.

That is until you reach a vehicle stage. Bomberman Hero features four vehicles-like pieces of equipment for Bomberman to use: a jet-pack, a submarine, a helicopter, and an underutilized snowboard. While I like the helicopter alright, I don’t think too highly of the rest. They just feel awkward and a little out of place. To make things worse, the B button no longer attacks and is instead used to maneuver each vehicle in some way, which tripped me up on numerous occasions. While I can appreciate the variety they offer, these segments were a chore compared to the core gameplay.

...Except much slower and your only weapon is just as capable of killing you as it is your enemies.
If you squint really hard, it’s kind of like Star Fox…

Unfortunately, my grievances with this game’s design don’t stop at the vehicle stages. This game is very fond of “gotchas”. There are plenty of traps that only seem to exist to stick it to first time players, such as missiles that launch out of destroyed crates. Of course, traps aren’t a problem for cautious players who take their time to look before they leap.

There are plenty of traps that only seem to exist to stick it to first time players.

The real problem is it’s not always possible to look before you leap. The game’s camera mostly stays in a fixed position relative to Bomberman: angle and distance. Because the player’s view is so constrained, seeing what’s to the left or right or above and below is difficult. Remember how I mentioned most levels aren’t set along the Z-axis? That’s great if you want to hide the technical limitations of the game’s engine, but it leads to several situations where enemies can fire at the player before he can even see them. The game does offer some very limited camera controls: the player can rotate the camera by pressing the up, left, and right C buttons…but only while standing still. Seriously, why not just have the camera stay angled the way the player tells it to be until told otherwise?

While we’re on the subject of the game’s camera, boss battles are the one time the camera doesn’t stay in a fixed position. To the game’s credit, it tries to always keep Bomberman and the boss in the frame; the key word here is tries. For whatever reason, the camera is rather lethargic, not wanting to exceed a certain speed of rotation. That said, it works most of the time, with the constant motion only being a little disorientating. When it does screw up, however, you’ll be fighting the camera more than the boss.

At times, you’ll be fighting the camera more than the bosses.

Ending

So after traversing four planets, Bomberman finally catches up with Princess Millian. She asks Bomberman to return the disk that he apparently obtained from Pibot and was carrying this whole time. Bomberman obliges only to find out the Millian he’s talking to isn’t the real Millian and you totally saw that coming didn’t you? Well, the bad guys take the disk and use it to revive their leader, Bagular…whoever that is. Cue one more world, a boss rush, and kicking Bagular’s butt. The game ends with the princess giving Bomberman a medal and a “thank you” kiss while Pibot expresses envy.

Well that was underwhelming…If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there was some sort of secret, unlockable, true ending…

Wait, there is? Okay, now we’re talking! What do I have to do? Find all of the collectible bonus items…and get a perfect score on every level of the game?

To YouTube!

In all seriousness, it’s only worth your time if you really like the game and have the time to 100% it. The true ending amounts to nothing but a non-sequiter plot twist that extends the game by a scant three levels, one of which is a…jetpack stage. While the ending cinematic for beating the true final boss is slightly cooler, it doesn’t add anything to the overall narrative.


In the end, Bomberman Hero is great platformer that feels distinct from its contemporaries. The game’s by no means perfect, but most of the issues it has were more the result of the time it was made than poor design choices on the developers’ part, most notably the camera. Aside from the vehicle stages, the game feels very focused, with its tight controls and concise level design. In my debatably humble opinion, this is a game that deserves a spot in any N64 collector’s library.

I’m really glad I shelled out those ten dollars: finally having closure on this bizarre blast from my past is more than enough bang for my buck.

Review // SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition (Nintendo Switch)


SteamWorld Heist is an indie game developed by Image & Form, who brought us the immensely popular SteamWorld Dig game and its sequel.

Heist takes place after the events of Dig 2, as our robotic characters struggle to cling to existence after Planet Earth has been shattered.

Resources are scarce, and that’s why our trusty Steambot pirate leader Piper and her scrappy crew are exploring space and raiding enemy ships for loot.

The objective of the game is to enter a series of procedurally generated ships, accomplish certain missions like obtaining epic swag, rescuing robots in distress, or destroying big baddies.

Combat consists of moving your characters behind cover, lining up shots, and firing weapons that you’ve collected from across space. Many times, destroying all enemies is not a requirement for success, so it pays to play smart and keep the mission in mind.

Along your journey, you will collect a plethora of weapons in many categories and a ragtag bunch of crew members with different abilities. It’s up to you to determine your loadout for each mission, and any characters that survive the ensuing encounters will gain more experience points and level up.

Controls are flawless. Whether you’re playing with Joy-Con, Pro Controller, or even touching the screen without the need for any buttons, the game adapts to the way you want to play. You can gain a bit more accuracy by aiming with the touch screen if you prefer, even if you play the rest of the game with analog sticks and buttons.

Gameplay in SteamWorld Heist is turn-based, but fast-paced and exciting during the player’s turn. Aiming is a nonstop challenge that gets easier with experience, and as you learn how your character’s “breathe” and move naturally as you line up a shot. Sometimes, I wished that I could speed up the enemies’ turn, especially when multiple Scrappers and turrets were on screen. A “zoom-out” button also would have been helpful for scouting a ship, but panning around works fine.

It’s hard to complain about the graphics in this game, which are high definition with a stylized art approach. Presentation is equally good, with quick load times, a driving atmospheric soundtrack, simple user interface, and genuinely funny and clever writing that endears you to the characters and their world.

SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition boasts a healthy amount of content, including DLC previously sold on other platforms. A large range of difficulty settings promises replayability, as well as New Game+ mode unlocked after beating the game (which took me over 10 hours). The downloadable content adds a playable character, interesting side-missions, and a load of hats with pop-culture references.

Simeon and I both played through this title simultaneously, and it was really fun to compare our loadouts, including all the optional characters Simeon unlocked while I was impatiently pressing through the main storyline. Exploration and strategizing is rewarded in this title!

SteamWorld Heist is easily recommendable to everyone that enjoyed Mario + Rabbids, the Worms series, or previous SteamWorld games. Heist has more limited movement options than Kingdom Battle, but is also available for the lower launch price of $20 on the Switch eShop, launching December 28th. To sum it up, it’s a challenging, rewarding, interesting, smooth, expansive game for a great value. Two Button Crew awards SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition an 8.25 out of 10. Buy it!

Don’t Forget the Fun Factor Scott’s Thoughts

I often see newly released games being appraised for their graphics, controls, music, and price.

What the industry needs more of a focus on is simple: fun.

A game can have terrible graphics, no soundtrack, and clunky controls, but still be a lot of fun.
Conversely, a beautiful and imaginative game can be boring and punishing.

Video games are a form of art, but that doesn’t mean they need to be treated with as much weight and gravitas as other mediums.
Some critics don’t understand this and neglect to consider the fun factor, so take review scores with a grain of salt. A 7/10 game might be the most fun you and a friend have ever had.

Mr. Shifty Review (Steam)

Thank you Dark Simeon for giving Simeon and Scott the day off!


#568 – Does this episode feel… dark to you? We requested a Switch review code, but were given one for Steam. That left us no choice – no one to turn to, but… DARK SIMEON. He’s played Mr. Shifty on Steam and he’s here to tell you all about it. The game is supposedly EXTREMELY similar between versions, so this video should help you decide if you want to own the Switch game or not!

Footage credit: SwitchForce
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

WonderBoy: The Dragon’s Trap Review (Switch)

Or Wonder Girl – don’t you forget it!


#567 – SEGA fans, rejoice – your time has come. This Master System classic has been remastered and released on the Switch! This is a RPG-ish, Metroidvania-ish, Zelda II-ish game that looks and sounds stunning in the rereleased version. Beautiful hand-drawn graphics are really on display here, so take a look at the footage as you hear our thoughts!

Footage credit: GiantBomb
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Thumper Review (Switch)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Thump for Prez.


#566 – Thumper is a rhythm game unlike anything you’ve played before. Take control of a speeding scarab as you try desperately to stay alive. Crash through barriers, take the tightest turns, and fight back against giant boss battles… all in time with the music! This is an indie title that you DON’T want to miss.

Footage credit: Polygon

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

World of Goo Review (Switch)

Goo Balls is really the official term in this game.


#565 – This indie classic has no problem resurfacing on new consoles, and Switch is no exception! Outfitted with touch (and pointer?!) controls, this remake is a must-own if you’ve never played it before. If you HAVE, well, this review should help you decide if the $10 double-dip is worth it or not.

Footage credit: SwitchForce

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Astro Duel Review (Switch Nindie)

I challenge you… to a D-D-D-D-DUEL!


#549 – Astro Duel! You’ve seen it on the Switch eShop, but maybe you’re not entirely clear on how it works or how it plays. Wonder no more – Crew Member Glen himself is here with the review to fill you in. Make smart choices with that money of yours!

Footage credit: Nintendo World Report TV

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Switch’s 1st Shovelware: Vroom in the Night Sky

Why are we such gluttons for punishment?


#543 – Vroom in the Night Sky is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Is it worth it? No… unless you can have a good laugh at a game like we can! Vroom’s terrible translation lends itself to some hilarious jokes (at its expense, of course). Seriously, if you haven’t seen this game, it’s so worth watching the footage and hearing us pick it apart!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What is Thumper for Switch?

Thump 4 Prez.


#536 – If you own a Nintendo Switch and you haven’t downloaded Thumper, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! This rhythm game on the eShop is worth all 2,000 pennies you’ll drop on this gem. You’ll be intrigued, you’ll be awed, you’ll be stunned, you’ll be challenged… do it. Go forth and Thump.

Footage Credit – SwitchForce
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

TumbleSeed Review (Switch Nindie Game)

For real though, is Scott just being a pansy? (GET IT!?)


#535 – TumbleSeed is a cute, adorable, STINKING DIFFICULT indie game on the Nintendo Switch. Your only task is to roll a seed to the top of the mountain, but the game does everything in its power to stop you. Games like this straddle a fine line between fun and frustrating… where does TumbleSeed land?

Footage Credit – Polygon, SwitchForce
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Switch) Review

Look what gem we dug up.


Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is available on Nintendo Switch, including the timed-exclusive Specter of Torment campaign! Ryan has been playing the title for review, and has completed the game and assembled all of his thoughts. Watch to see what he thought of this villainous twist on Shovel Knight!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Bomberman Co-Op Mode on Switch

The fume is strong with this one.


Bomberman is the perfect game for the Nintendo Switch – the portable home console that always has two controllers with it! Whether you’re doing some multiplayer showdown matches or teaming up to take on the story mode campaign, it’s always… a… BLAST!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/