Virtual Reality Ninja Shenanigans – Sairento VR Review

Virtual reality shooters come in all shapes and sizes, from zombie wave shooters to gun ranges to multiplayer army simulators, but when comparing these to traditional shooters they seem to lack a certain craziness older non-VR games had. Don’t get me wrong, many of these virtual reality games boast an impressive array of good quality and polish, but in the end, they tend to play it safe to stay clear of virtual reality’s biggest enemy: motion sickness. Sairento VR breaks the mold in this regard so hold onto your seats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Sairento VR is a first-person virtual reality shooter developed by Mixed Realms. It’s currently available for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. You don the mask of one of the silent ones, an enigmatic organization trained in the ancient arts of martial arts and fighting techniques of the ancient samurai and ninja. To put it into layman’s terms: You are a badass cyber ninja killing machine, and it’s a hoot!

The thing that makes this game such a blast to play is the unique locomotive system. The basic controls aren’t all that different from other VR shooters such as Robo Recall, you hold a button, point to a location and let go. Voila! You’ve teleported. This is a common locomotion system among VR games because it helps fend off the effects of motion sickness (or as I like to call it: the VR buzzkiller). Mixed Realms seems intent on wiping its bum with this notion, however, because if you angle your neat little teleport ray up you’ll soar through the sky in a massive leap, preferable whilst raining death upon your enemies. Using the motion system takes up a regenerating resource called ‘focus’, another use for focus is briefly slowing down time so you can feel like Neo in the Matrix. You have the option to turn on a full body model so you can see your legs and elbows move while doing all this. It feels just right.

Besides jumping through the air, you can also use this system to backflip off of walls or do wall runs. If you bend your knees before landing a jump you will slide across the floor, decapitating enemies as you go if you choose to hold your katana out to the side. It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to perform these feats of athleticism as other games seem so hellbent on tethering you to the ground. While this locomotion system is rather intense, the motion sickness it incurs really isn’t as bad as you would think. The developers laboriously tested and tweaked the systems to make sure the levels of intensity are always manageable. I personally don’t experience motion sickness all that often, and Sairento VR didn’t trigger it either. A remarkable feat seeing as I was soaring through the sky, jumping into an unsuspecting enemy with my katana in hand.

And that brings is to the weapons in this game. Although I dubbed this game a ‘first person shooter’, ‘action game’ might actually be a better term for it. The game boasts a selection of katanas, handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, throwing weapons and even a bow. All of these weapons are usable in the sky and during wall runs which makes for a pretty great experience. Unfortunately, most of these categories only contain about three weapons, I would really have liked to see more. Shotguns and assault rifles also aren’t that fun to use, so I pretty much stuck with the basic setup of dual-wielding pistols at my hip, a stronger pistol on my bum and dual wielding katanas behind my back, occasionally switching out a sword for a throwing star or bow.

Swordplay is also lackluster. The slightest movement of your wrist will whip your sword around doing major damage. Even just turning around will often make your katana clip through an enemy. It doesn’t feel like you deserve most of your sword kill, and it lacks the weight of combat that games such as Gorn have. A redeeming quality of the weapon selection is the option to infuse your weapons with various relics. During missions enemies can drop ammo, currency and relics. Relics basically serve as upgrades for your weapons increasing their fire rate, damage, headshot efficiency and many other things. Relics of a higher rarity can even give weapons special effects, I especially enjoyed the ability to make my throwing stars explode on impact. These RPG elements are a neat addition, although I would have liked to see them fleshed out a bit.

You start the game from a central control room where you can select random missions, the campaign or multiplayer. I haven’t been able to get into multiplayer so I can’t give an impression of this. I started out doing a few missions but quickly found that the map selection is rather limited. Missions got repetitive quickly so I tried my hand at the campaign. The campaign is basically a set of missions with tacked on dialogue. Seeing as the combat itself is just so darn good it’s disappointing to see that the campaign didn’t manage to hold my attention for long. Coupled with the limited map selection this put a serious damper on my experience.

Things go south even further if you consider the technical difficulties the game has. The graphics aren’t bad, but they are generally unimpressive, it’s also very easy to teleport yourself through a wall of floor, forcing yourself to reset your position to the beginning of the map. Sometimes my character would get her arm stuck behind her back, warping her arm length so one was shorter than the other. These are also a number of general bugs which I won’t go into. It’s such a shame, because the fun factor is so damn high! Despite all of these issues I still played this game for hours on end. It’s the kind of title where you make your own fun. Crank up the difficulty, pick up some creative weapons and you’ll be sure to have a great time! Just don’t expect the same amount of polish as something like Robo Recall.

A Fresh Roguelike – Slay The Spire Early Access Review

Roguelikes have been a dime and a dozen over the last decade. While it is an interesting video game genre with a high difficulty level and clever progression mechanics, many of the games that belong to it have flown past the radar for many because they failed to differentiate themselves from kingpins like Rogue Legacy and Spelunky. Not only that, but all too many games seem to be implementing Roguelike elements into their gameplay seemingly at random. But despite the over-saturated market Slay The Spire, which just released on Steam early access, manages to feel fresh and engaging.

I know, I know, it’s heresy to review a game while it’s in early access, but this is one of those games that deserved to be checked out now. You’re not missing out on any story (of which there is none, in typical roguelike fashion) and all mechanics are in place. All to be added is some additional game modes, characters and cards. ‘Cards?’, I hear you ask. Yes, cards. In this game, you defeat your enemy using a deck of cards, each with unique offensive, defensive or skill based powers. You use these cards in turn based fashion to deplete your enemies health pool while saving your own hide. If you are thinking Hearthstone, then you are on the right track.

The gameplay mechanics of Slay The Spire actually aren’t all that unique. You progress through a series of rooms containing combat encounters, shops, rest points and a smattering of other things. While all these rooms are presented on a map and you are allowed to pick your own route, this is still standard fare in the land of Roguelikes. The combat mechanics, while finely tuned, are also fairly reminiscent of games like Hearthstone, and standard trading card games. What makes this game feels fresh is that this combination of game elements hasn’t been done all that many times before. The only other game I can think of that does this is Hand of Fate, and that game has a wholly different approach. It’s a breath of fresh air to play a roguelike that isn’t a top-down hack and slash or a 2D platformer for once. The art style has a hand-drawn feeling to them (probably because the sprites were hand drawn). This style may not appeal to every gamer but it’s good when a game strays away from pixel art for once.

The game plays really smooth in its current state, so there’s good hope for the rest of the journey through early access. You start the game with one of three characters, one of which isn’t out yet. The difference between them is their starting health pool, aesthetics and relic. Relics are items that give you a permanent buff for your playthrough, which could be over in minutes. The Ironclad starts out with a relic that heals him at the end of every combat encounter, for example.

Your starting deck consists of a bunch of duplicate attack and defend cards that you can use to damage your enemy or block incoming damage. At the end of every combat encounter, you are able to choose one of three random cards to add to your deck. There is a surprising amount of depth and strategy in deck building. Will you choose cards with high damage output and boosts your deck with cards that increase your strength? Or perhaps you will focus on debuffs or even a deck where you discard cards and gain special effects. The fun lies in experimenting with these strategies, and overcoming the many powerful enemies with them. Add potions, shops and relics to this and you’ve got yourself a game where roguelike enthusiasts can really sink their teeth in. Highly recommended in its current state, but we will definitely update this post when it comes out of early access.

Cooperative Madness – We Were Here Review

Co-op mode has been pervasive in video games for as long as we can remember, tracing back to the dawn of modern gaming back in the 80’s. Although there is a smattering of game titles that do this mode justice, cooperative modes often seem tacked on and insignificant. A lot of times a game’s design simply wasn’t built around the experience of multiple players. Not so much for We Were Here, an indie game by Total Mayhem Games that’s built around pure co-op and is not playable alone. While the game is rather short, clocking just over 40 minutes for us, it feels refreshing.

After connecting with a friend through a lobby (you can play with strangers, but a close friend is preferable) and watching a short cutscene where you and your friend travel through a snowy valley into an ominous looking building, the game sets you down into either a library or a medieval-looking dungeon. I say ‘either’ because you don’t actually start out together. You only get to meet up again at the very end of the game, and up until then, you’ll have to communicate through a walkie-talkie, guiding each other through a variety of puzzles looking to escape.

The beauty lies in miscommunication, the difficulty in communication truly creates a bond between players. If you start out in the library it’s your job to help the other player solve their puzzles so that person can, in turn, open doors for you to progress. Neither of you has all the pieces to the puzzle, so the game quickly turns into a game of 20 questions where you are both frantically describing your surroundings before one of you meets an unfortunate end.

Some of the puzzles are quite ingenious. They’re hard to describe without spoiling too much, but one puzzle has one player blindly grasping for levers that move theatrical set pieces on a stage in the other player’s world. That player has to listen to a narrator describing the story and communicate with the other player to move the set pieces in the right position throughout a five-act play. Be fast though, because a shadowy figure is moving up through the audience to kill you.

The back and forth puzzles between two players are fun and engaging. Too bad it doesn’t last too long because it’ll all be over in about 40 minutes. But it’s hard to fault the game for this since the game is free! Do you have a friend and some time to spare? Try out We Were Here!

EnomView Score: 8 out of 10

Check the game out: http://store.steampowered.com/app/582500/We_Were_Here/

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Back to the 90’s – Rogue Quest: The Vault of the Lost Tyrant Review

Just before we hop into this review, we want to sincerely thank FeedSpot for naming us one of the best indie game sites out there! Make sure to go check them out!

Before we had open world tactical RPG’s, loot box gambling, and convoluted combat systems, there was a simpler time back in the early 90’s where the market was dominated by simple point and click style adventure games such as Space Quest and Monkey Island. You simply clicked and watched as your character walked to that location or interacted with an item to experience a story. That’s it, no strings attached. Simple in their design but often brilliant in their execution. While these games were beloved by many, the community eventually moved on and the genre died out, save for the odd revival. But nostalgia is a powerful motivator, so the small team of ExperaGames sought to bring back the early 90’s point and click goodness with their newest game Rogue Quest: The Vault of the Lost Tyrant. Should you play it? That solely depends on the answer to the question ‘how much nostalgia toward old-school point and click adventures do you have?’.

Almost in a direct homage to the old Sierra Entertainment games (Space QuestKing’s Quest), the game tasks you with escaping from a prickly situation, in this case, the sealed off vault of the lost tyrant. You will do this with the help of the main character: Cassandra Nech, a treasure huntress from the rogue’s guild who arrived at the fabled vault in search of treasure. The game’s coarse pixel art is subpar compared to other modern pixel art outings on the market right now, but it is clear that a lot of love and dedication went into bringing the world alive through animation. Whether it’s Cassandra swinging from a rope to clear a chasm or the comical walking cycle of the wannabe pirate brothers Needlebag and Finspin, a lot of work went into animation, just don’t expect something along the lines of Hyper Light Drifter.

Rogue Quest does a good job of supplying you with tasks and puzzles that strike a proper balance of difficulty. Many point-and-click games are notorious for ‘pixel hunting’, where the hitboxes for puzzle solutions are so small players will need to click every tiny pebble in case it’s interactable. Puzzles in Rogue Quest often boil down to logical solutions. Need to burn away the toxic mushrooms? Perhaps tear off the cloth hanging from the wall and set it ablaze. And if you really can’t figure out what it is you have to do then there is a nifty hint system. There are a lot of little quality of life functions in the game, like being able to double click doors to skip Cassandra having to walk to the door or being able to open up shortcuts to decrease travel time.

There are, however, also a slew of technical problems. Skipping through text sometimes creates a jarring flicker and controls are at times unresponsive when I would try to open my inventory. Writing is often too on the nose and at times even grammatically incorrect. Rogue Quest does little to innovate the genre, the pixel art isn’t up to par compared to other pixel art games and the game is really short clocking just over an hour. Yet, despite these negative aspects, the game does have a charm to it. Do you have overflowing nostalgia for these types of games and an hour to spare? Then give it a shot. But if you haven’t liked point-and-click adventure games in the past then Rogue Quest: The Vault of the Lost Tyrant will not change your mind.

EnomView Score: 6 out of 10

Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/728420/Rogue_Quest_The_Vault_of_the_Lost_Tyrant/

Intoxicating Alchemic Madness – Opus Magnum Review

If you have spent any time on Twitter lately there’s a good chance you’ve come across satisfying gifs of intricate, whirring machines moving glass orbs to and fro, locking them into place before handing them over to rotating grippers, shifting color and transmogrifying them into new elements. It is intoxicating to look at, and, as it turns out to play as well! The name of the game is Opus Magnum, the newest project by Zachtronics, and it’s pretty damn great.

This ingenious puzzle game has an actual story to back it up. You set out as Anataeus Vaya, an alchemical prodigy who lands the job of head alchemist at one of the prestigious houses of the game’s steampunk inspired world. As the head alchemist, you are tasked with creating a variety of compounds, from fuel for the airships to a ‘stamina potion’ so the house’s prince can produce an heir. And later, as the story progresses, explosive phials and rocket propellant.

You create these items through your trusty alchemical transmutation engine, represented as a hexagon-shaped grid on which you place alchemical reagents, various mechanisms and glyphs with which you create fantastical machines. You can drag ‘instructions’ to each mechanisms timeline, making it grab or release a compound, rotating it left or having it ride along a rail until you form the compounds and lock it in place to win the puzzle. Easier said than done as mechanisms and reagents may not touch each other.

Then again, finishing the puzzle is actually not that difficult. It gets interesting when you get to see the metrics afterward. You are shown a graph on which you can see the number of people that finished the puzzle in the scores of cost, cycles, and area. These metrics take no precedence over each other and you can choose whether you want to create an efficient machine with a low amount of cycles, a cheap machine that only uses two grippers or a really small one with a low area cost. Seeing that large spike at 60 cycles while you finished the puzzle in 50 gives a real sense of accomplishment, and if you didn’t do so well you’ll be driven to optimise more or find satisfaction in a different metric. You’ll be refining each puzzle for months to come!

By not having a singular score metric the game allows you to set your own goals. It creates dynamic difficulty and rewards creativity. There are so many ways to solve each puzzle and not being locked in a ‘right way’ to go about it allows for a lot of freedom. Many puzzle games have a set solution, and while it gives off a sense of accomplishment no feeling is better than doing something in a way that is unique to you as a person. Every solution you tinker with creates an on-screen splendor for you to share with friends. These elements are well thought out with players being able to create a gif of their work at the click of a button, multiple save slots per puzzle solution, and the implementation of steam leaderboards.

The story is by and large presented through short conversations between classical looking portraits of the main characters before each puzzle. These exchanges are brief enough to not disrupt the pace of the game, but in-depth enough to provide a good understanding of what’s going on in the story, and cleverly written to boot. The story takes a backseat to the gameplay but still serves as an interesting backdrop to the true star of the game: the brilliant puzzles. It took me about ten hours to get through the five-act campaign. I could have done it a lot faster but I didn’t want to. I could see myself replaying these puzzles endlessly before wanting to move on to the next one.

Zachtronics is well known in the industry for creating logic-based puzzle games such as Infinifactory, SHENZHEN I/O and TIS-100. All of these games revolve around automating various processes and are known for having a high level of complexity, but Opus Magnum manages to be Zachtronic’s most accessible game yet with a surprising amount of depth and flexibility. Highly recommended!

EnomView Score: 9.5 out of 10

Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/558990/Opus_Magnum/