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Reviews & Previews

Transformice Adventures Review – Mice to See You

Transformice Adventures Review Featured image

What did you want to be when you were a child? What was the career path that presented itself to you most clearly? For me, it was probably cooking.

Yes, it sounds like a fairly pedestrian ambition to have as a child, but I loved the idea of creating meals to stimulate emotions in the manner of Pixar’s Ratatouille. There was always something magical about the scene in which the grumpy critic suddenly rediscovers himself through a well-cooked dish.

The central character in Ratatouille was a rodent chef, which was his ambition since he was but a tiny glint in his mama mouse’s eye. Should he have wanted to change his career, it would have likely been extremely difficult for him to do so after all his hard work.

He should have perhaps been a mouse in Transformice Adventures, the new mousy MMO from Transformice creators Atelier 801. Like Remy, mice in this game can be chefs, but they’re so much more, too.

Transformice Adventures takes the traditional MMO formula and turns it on its head somewhat. If you’d like to experience the game before we start talking about it, then you can play it here in the browser.

It won’t take you very long to get into it and start understanding core mechanics. If you’re not convinced by the premise of a mouse MMO alone and want to read on, let us convince you why you should absolutely play this game as soon as possible.

If you’re familiar with MMORPGs, you’ll know the conventions. A weak character must grow through levelling up, become strong, equip better loot, and learn more skills to take on increasingly difficult dungeons.

Transformice Adventures forgoes all that for something a little simpler. The aim of this game is hats. Cosmetics abound in Transformice Adventures; they’re the rewards for dungeons and they’re what you’re aiming for each time you set out on an adventure.

Somehow, that makes this game immediately a far more enticing prospect than any of its bigger and more moneyed competitors. When you know you’re simply campaigning for a nicer hat or a better cloak, you’re far less likely to become addicted to the number-crunching and the gameplay can have its chance to truly shine.

We’re betting Transformice Adventures will spearhead a new MMO revolution involving games that aren’t interested in stat-building for stat-building’s sake.

It’s a good thing the gameplay is given room to breathe here, because it’s a real strong arrow in Transformice Adventures’ quiver. Combat is a hack-and-slash style affair, with physical attacks mapped to the left mouse button and healing to the right.

You’ll also have access to a number of special skills which will vary depending on your job, all of which can be used with the number keys. There are also turn-based elements of a sort in that attacks take stamina, so you can’t simply spam your way to victory.

This creates a back-and-forth dance-style set of movements to Transformice Adventures’ combat. You’ll need to constantly stay aware of enemy attacks while moving in close enough to deliver ripostes of your own.

Special skills can be used any time, but they should be used sparingly since they often have fairly punishing cooldowns. Each encounter is balanced around using special skills, attacking, and dodging to ensure victory for you and your intrepid mouse team.

After every combat encounter in each dungeon, you’ll be given a treasure box. Said box contains a new skill or a buff to an existing skill that you can learn.

You’ll have a choice of 3 each time, creating a risk-reward dynamic that feels satisfying. None of the choices are incremental or useless, so you can truly create a unique and interesting play style simply by choosing certain skills.

Will you become an efficient healer or a devastating damage-dealer? You’re not limited by class when you make this choice.

There are still jobs, though. Each of them brings its own special skills to the table, and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

The Botanist class is an excellent healer and can deal good poison damage, while the Chef is an expert in keeping enemies away from vulnerable party members.

Classes have a synergy that shows Atelier 801 has very clearly thought through the interplay between its systems in a way that will satisfy players immensely.

The core gameplay loop of Transformice Adventures is thus: pick a dungeon, pick a few friends (or mice you don’t know) to go through it with, take down enemies and a boss, receive cool loot for your troubles.

There’s also an awesome pet-rearing system in which you’ll bring up your pets, teaching them meaningful skills and creating invaluable battle companions by doing so.

Transformice Adventures feels like a game that wants to avoid meaningless stat increments at every opportunity, and it does so with aplomb.

We found our time with Transformice Adventures to be an absolute joy. Its gameplay is deep without being alienating, and its social structures ensure players can co-operate without a chance of hostility.

Atelier 801 is promising more jobs, more loot, and more content in general, and we can’t wait. Transformice Adventures has become our new obsession, and it should become yours too.

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Reviews & Previews

Stickman Hook Review – On The Hook

Have you ever planned the perfect heist? It’s okay, you can tell us – we won’t blab. Maybe you’re the meticulous sort, the kind who assembles ranks of tools and aids to help you score beyond your wildest dreams and retire in luxury and riches. Maybe you’re the kind who wings it, improvises and just goes with the flow. Maybe you’re the kind of master thief who only needs one tool – one multi-purpose implement that gets the job done better than any toolkit ever could.

We’re betting that if the protagonist of Stickman Hook planned a heist, he’d fall into the third camp. Stickman Hook is a physics-based platformer that comes to us from French studio Madbox. You might have played a few of Madbox’s games before, especially if you’re experienced in the mobile space; they count Dash Valley, West Gangs and Tribs.io among their previous efforts, all of which are accomplished outings in their genres.

It will come as no surprise to fans of Madbox that Stickman Hook is no exception. With over 20 million downloads across Google Play and the Apple App Store, as well as consistent Top 3 placement on both platforms, the Stickman Hook game is serious business indeed. The version we have for review is an exclusive web build constructed specifically for browsers, so you’re not just getting a shoddy rehash of the mobile version; if you’ve played that game before, it’s still worth getting stuck into this revision.

For those who aren’t experienced Stickman Hook players, here’s a quick rundown. You are a stick fellow, and you must reach the end of over 100 stages using nothing but your trusty grappling hook. If you’re the type who needs extensive narrative context before you can enjoy your video games, then you’re definitely best looking elsewhere, because Stickman Hook has absolutely no story to speak of whatsoever.

Not that this is a negative thing. We’ve lost count of the amount of games with excellent core mechanics that get bogged down by overly florid exposition or a surplus of story, so the clean, simple lines of Stickman Hook are a refreshing change. That’s not just a narrative comment, either; the visuals of Stickman Hook are as minimalist and hands-off as the storytelling, with the game’s core concepts communicated perfectly through lines and geometric shapes.

Actually, the presentation as a whole is a joy to behold. The exclusive web build presented to us here sports completely revamped animations, so the occasionally stiff and jerky movement of the mobile version has been replaced with a smooth, effortless glide between grapple points. Granted, it’s not a particularly taxing technical challenge to animate a single stick figure, but you’d be amazed at the amount of developers who do manage to get this wrong, so the visuals here are a breath of fresh air whether you’re new to the game or a returning player.

For newbies, Stickman Hook on the web is a simple proposition. This game is controlled entirely using the mouse, so you won’t need more than a single finger to play it – a nod to the game’s touch-screen roots, but also a concession to simplified design that we love. Even browser games don’t need to be complicated, and Stickman Hook exemplifies this philosophy perfectly.

Each stage consists of a series of grappling points which must be traversed using only the main character’s titular grappling hook. Momentum is a huge part of Stickman Hook, with a surprisingly realistic physics engine giving each jump an appropriate amount of momentum. If you launch yourself from a point at speed, you’ll maintain that speed, but if you don’t manage to land on the next hook at just the right moment, you’ll come to a grinding, shuddering halt.

It’s a system that rewards skill and emphasizes challenge without ever feeling too difficult, even when the game has you performing seriously interesting feats with its central engine. Several moments throughout the game – which we don’t wish to spoil – were surprising shake-ups of the formula that we didn’t expect, and the design genius of Madbox shows through when the game takes its core concepts and thinks outside the (mad) box with them.

There’s a host of unlockable characters for those who need extra incentive to play the game, but the main attraction of Stickman Hook is undeniably its gameplay. Although the game’s origin as a mobile title is clearly visible in its simple controls and level-based structure, the web build breathes new life into the formula, creating an experience that doesn’t just stand beside the original but surpasses it in many ways.

It’s not difficult for us to recommend Stickman Hook to anyone who’s looking for a fun time. With close to 150 levels, a series of fun unlockable characters and a robust core gameplay loop, Stickman Hook had its hooks in us from the moment we pressed play.

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Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry Review

7.9Good

I have the perks of a person living in a former-communist country in Eastern Europe, meaning that although by definition I would be entitled to call myself a Millennial, being born in the early 80s, I’m more of a Gen X kind of guy. I mean, my country was under a communist regime until 1989 and I got my first computer in the mid 90s. And everything we got, we were getting 10-15 years later than the rest of the world.

This means that I did grow up playing the original Leisure Suit Larry games many years after their official release – but that’s a good thing, because I was about 12 when I first got my hand on a LSL game. And I was really happy to have a free hand too: even though I didn’t really get the adventures themselves, the graphics and the sleaziness of the products were enough to make me consider myself a Larry Laffer fan.

Many, many years later and after a few failed attempts to bring back the man in the white suit to a successful computer game, Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry launches, seemingly the first true Larry game in decades. Of course, I was curious. The trailers looked good. The name is right up there on the “ohh, that’s gross” list and I consider myself old enough now to finally experience a Leisure Suit Larry game and play it using both hands. Oh, the evolution I’ve been through!

Now, the reason why I mentioned Millennials and Gen X in the intro is because I believe that Larry’s later adventure is perfect for a specific type of demographic. I am not entirely sure that this was intended, but I like it. I like it because I am completely able to connect with Larry and understand what he’s going through. Somebody born way after the final LSL game was launched though might have a hard time connecting or even enjoying the humor…

You see, in Wet Dreams Don’t Dry, Larry wakes up after decades of being help captive in some sort of a laboratory – all the way since his glory days in 1987. He’s the same Larry that we know, but in a completely different world. And even though most of the people my age and older had a chance to grow accustomed with the new world, he didn’t. And he’s up for a shock.

And this is what I liked the most about Leisure Suit Larry, surprisingly. I mean, Wet Dreams Don’t Dry is clearly meant to be played as an over the top, humorous adventure filled with sexual innuendo. But it also has – for the particular demographic – a ton of Aha! moments. The game manages, above all things, to show how much the world has changed in just a few decades and does so in a brilliant way.

Absolutely every stereotype in today’s world is tackled, with everything that makes the present look and feel like it is painted with a brush of genius. Sure, the humor is almost always rude and the sexual connotations are obvious, while the story itself is extremely predictable in many cases, but the overall impression that the game leaves is pretty much flawless.

Your goal in the game is to score a date with a girl like most in the world – one that’s completely out of Larry’s league. In order to do that, you will have to meet, interact and complete quests for a colorful cast of characters through an adventure that will take you thorough a lot of well made locations, but all of them over the top and filled with kind-of-adult-rated stuff.

The gameplay stays true to the classic point and click adventures, having you collect a ton of items and store them in your suit, then try to find the correct combination for them. Sometimes, the number of items you’ll hold will be overwhelming to say the least and the solutions not so obvious, meaning that you will have to randomly try inventory combinations and see what could work. Just like back in the old days…

And since we’re at the inventory part, it’s worth mentioning that the developers created a completely over the top game and wanted to make sure that we know they knew what they were doing. Larry himself is self-aware early on in the game when he collects two jugs full of beer and stores them inside his suit. The barman asks something like: “Wait, did you just place those two jugs of beer in your suit?” And he nonchalantly answers something like “Of course, why? Isn’t this how things are still done nowadays?”

The point and click adventure genre has many flaws and since Wet Dreams Don’t Dry stays as close to the classics as possible, it means that it has them also. Apart from the sluggish movements of Larry that drive you crazy sometimes, we have a lot of backtracking in the game, with visits back and forth from location to location, sometimes without really knowing why. Walking cluelessly around has never been fun and it’s not fun in 2018 either. Apparently some things don’t change, after all…

But overall, thanks to the crude humor that overflows from the game and especially the way Larry handles all the changes that some of us lived through, everything’s nice and well at the end, despite the negatives.

One thing that I didn’t really like and I was surprised to see many others praise was the actual voice acting in the game. Larry’s voice is particularly irritating to my ears and I don’t think it stays true to the character and what I am used to hearing. The other voiced characters are not that great either in my opinion, the voice acting being one of the weakest – if not the weakest parts of the game.

But fortunately you are not playing a point and click adventure game for the voice acting, so that’s not really a problem. What matters is that Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry has a perfect execution and the courage to say things that many other people (or game developers) would not even dare to think about. And that’s what I liked the most: this game is exactly as it should be!

If you want to check it out, head over to Steam and get your copy today.

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Agony Unrated Review

8.8Awesome!

Have you asked yourself the million dollar question “How’s it like in Hell?”, because I sure know the answer now, and it’s not a pretty one (unless you’re into intense pain and suffering, that is). The game Agony Unrated is one of those kind of games that lure you in with exciting, stomach-turning, mind-blowing puzzles (I mean, feed the demon babies to the door hands?) and various characters each with their own story, only to drive you deeper into the abyss.

The game follows its own rules, and censorship isn’t one of them. So if you’re sensitive to blood, gore and violence, I suggest you stay as far away from the game as you can, because it’s going to stain your retina in ways you can not imagine (trust me on this one). But on the other hand, if you do like these horror adventures, then welcome to the club (we’re out of cookies tho)!

One thing I could say about the gameplay that just doesn’t do it for me, is the first-person perspective. I do get where it’s coming from, the purpose that it has, to put you exactly into the character’s skin, to experience everything as the character himself, all the dialogues and interactions, but I just find it off-putting. For real.

As a puzzle addict that I consider myself to be, I like to see things from a broader perspective and analyze all possibilities before diving head first into the action. In Agony Unrated I found myself going back and forth like a headless chicken thinking “what am i doing here?” when everything was kinda clear now that I think about it (but being in that hell-ish environment makes it harder to think clear through all the screams and so, you know).

In the game you play as a mortal being who made a pact with the devil and ended up in Hell. You will interact with several other humans who now reside there and probably have done the same as you. Unlike them, you have a set goal, and that is to find the Red Lady. Through all the puzzles and trials you have to go to get to her, you will find artifacts and collectibles that unlock extras, so keep an eye out for these. Also, as referenced in the Bible, you will find forbidden fruits which will make you stronger (and yes, they DO look like that).

All things considered, if you’re curious about the story (which is quite an interesting one BTW), about how the actual devil looks like and if you can put aside all the sexual references combined with religion, you should definitely have a blast playing Agony Unrated. The Bible quotations in the game give it some sort of mysterious aura which in a way is tied to the events in the game. These, along with the notes you find throughout the game, relate the story of the game in morbidly vivid detail.

As for the sounds of the hellish world, you should expect the usual screaming, begging for mercy and forgiveness and lots and lots of gross squishy sounds. If that is not enough to project you into this world, then turn the volume up because this game sounds exactly as it is supposed to do. Even if some animations and cut-scenes in dialogues are a little weird and abrupt, the overall experience is a good one because the environment’s graphic is making up for all the minuses in the character animations.

In a way, the game reminds me of Dishonored. It has a set objective, a first person perspective and the ability to improve skills in game. That, and the dark environment bring to life all the graphic details put in the making of it. However, it can be a little overwhelming when it comes down to gameplay, because it is not the best, as I mentioned before.

So, if you want to adventure into Hell with a mediocre gameplay, good graphics and amazing story, check out Agony Unrated! And if you do, I suggest you play in a dark room to experience first-hand the horrors of the underworld! (Also, you should be 18+)

To download the game, check Agony Unrated on Steam.

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Thief Simulator Review

8.2Awesome!

It is the dead of night. The tenants are sound asleep. You pull up quietly in your car and check all of your tools. You sneak around to the back of of house and find a door protected by a weak lock that is no match for your lock picking skills. You carefully slide an unlocked window up, climb in, and suddenly you are surrounded by shiny glassware and precious electronics. Grabbing it all, you scurry back to your car and drive off into night, without leaving a single trace.

You, my friend, have just pulled off a robbery in Thief Simulator, the newest simulation game that puts you right in the shoes of a sneaky bandit. You have been recently bailed out of jail, and we all know that old habits die hard, so you continue your life of crime, swindling the nearby neighborhood of all they are worth. You are accompanied by your good friend Vinny, who will teach you the in’s and out’s of being a thief.

Even though Thief Simulator is still in early access, those moments like the one we described where you pull off the perfect heist is when the game is at its best. At its core, Thief Simulator has the basis of a typical stealth game – you will need to stay out of sight, avoid making too much noise, and make sure you are equipped with the right tools for the job. When you get a good handle on all of Thief Simulator’s inner workings, you will truly feel like a master thief.

Before heading out into the neighborhood, you will prep at your secret hideout. Here you can access the internet which lets you purchase new gear, take up requests, pawn off special items, and more. You can even practice picking locks on dummy locks or try out your other abilities, because as any master thief knows it is all about preparing!

Your computer also has access to a secret community forum that keeps an eye on the neighborhood. If you have the cash, you can purchase some info about your target location, provide you with some helpful insight on how to plan your approach. That dingy old fence that is falling apart in the back? Give it a good smack with a crowbar and you are pretty much in. Tenant has a graveyard shift job? The house is basically yours for the night.

These tips are helpful, but you will also want to do some scouting of your own. You can go to any of the houses at any time you like, but just be aware of prying eyes. If you catch too much attention, civilians will become alarmed and call the cops on you. When you make it to your desired house, you can spy from a safe distance. Any tenants you see can be “marked,” and this will add their current time frame to your notes, which allows you to keep track of when and where the tenants are at every hour of the day.

Once you have your entry point info and tenant schedule, it is time to strike. The story missions will have you following Vinny’s requests, where usually he will ask you to steal a certain item. This is where the main portion of Thief Simulator’s game play happens. Breaking into the houses usually requires you to pick some locks The Elder Scrolls style where you will need to move a bobby pin around while turning a lock. As you progress through the game, obstacles will become more difficult and you will have to do more complex minigames to get around them. Eventually you will need to start taking car parts from other cars and it is a surprisingly in-depth ordeal.

You will also need the appropriate skills and gear as well. As you steal and successfully complete requests, you will gain experience points and level up, receiving skill points in the process. Thief Simulator has a rather simple skill tree, and the upgrades let you tackle stronger locks, carry more goods, and even become more agile, letting you climb walls.

Though, you may fall behind in terms of skills and gear, and then you will be forced to steal the same items from older houses. At this point Thief Simulator might wear out its main attraction – the actual act of stealing – because you are too low level or you need more gear, which is never a good thing. Houses reset every time you go back to your hideout, so you will sometimes end up in this monotonous loop of raiding the same house over and over again until you get the skill or tool you need to advance the story. It does not happen too frequently to be a big problem, but it is rather cumbersome when it pops up.

With that said, Thief Simulator’s prime directive is to make you feel like you are an actual burglar but without all of the real life consequences involved, and it succeeds. As we mentioned, the game is still in early access so expect some general clunkiness like wacky physics, items pushing you around, and things falling through the world, but it is never bad enough to distract from the main experience. The developer is constantly updating the game as well, so the game should be getting more obstacles, more neighborhoods, and so forth.

With the time we had with Thief Simulator, we feel that the game has barely scratched the surface of its potential. There is a really enjoyable idea here, and if the developers expand on it some more, we could potentially end up with one of the best thief games!

You can view Thief Simulator on Steam.

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GRIP: Combat Racing Review (Nintendo Switch)

8Awesome!

Welcome to the high-octane world of GRIP: Combat Racing! In this thrilling sci-fi racer, you will be barreling down expansive tunnels at blistering speeds, hurling explosive weapons at your foes, and of course blasting through the competition. GRIP seems to have a lot of inspiration from Nintendo’s own long-lost futuristic racer, F-Zero, with a hint of Mario Kart.

Those two games are actually the perfection description of how GRIP plays like – it’s part high-speed racer with gravity defying tracks and part action combat with a plethora of lethal weapons that you can use against the other racers. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of excitement during a typical race in GRIP.

The main mechanic that separates it from the other racing games is its tubular track design. As the game’s name implies, your vehicles are armed with wheels built for hugging surfaces, so you will be driving down tubular tunnels and angled tracks. If you have got the speed, you can actually drive onto walls if the terrain permits it. This provides racers with more room to maneuver and extra paths to discover. Most racing games have you driving down a flat, static track, but in GRIP, you can drive onto the ceiling if you so wish.

Your combat vehicle is equipped with jumping abilities that let you spring into the air. This is useful for getting extra air when going off big ramps, or for when you just want to grip onto another surface. You have also got the standard handbrake for drifting, and even a built-in booster that – while not as powerful as the item booster – can still help you recover from a wipeout.

Speaking of item boosters, a lot of the fun in GRIP comes from taking out your opponents with one of the powerful weapons. Pepper your opponents with the Raptor machine gun and force them to drive off course, or blow ’em up directly with the bombastic Scorpion missile. Or, if you’re feeling particularly devilish, fire off an Assassin, a specialized missile that targets the racer in the lead, much like the Blue Shell from Mario Kart. For extra power, you can charge weapons by sacrificing your other power up, giving some extra strategy to item distribution.

When you combine all of this, GRIP shines at its best. Picture this: you are driving down a long tubular tunnel, when all of a sudden you hear a beeping coming from behind you. A Scorpion missile has locked onto, so you drive onto the walls to spin around at 500+ MPH in an effort to dodge the missile. These daredevil moments will happen to you a lot as you try to stay on course while speeding through hazards and obstacles that not only the other racers throw at you, but the course as well.

For this reason GRIP is best enjoyed with other players. The single player campaign is a fun distraction that will help you get familiar with the tracks and earn experience points, but the real meat of the game is in the competitive multiplayer, whether that be locally with up to four players or online. Taking down racers online is just too satisfying to pass up!

But make sure you are prepared before you challenge the world! Finishing any kind of race will earn you XP, and leveling up unlocks additional vehicles, decals, and wheels for you to customize your rides with. Each new vehicle has its own set of stats, so you will need to find the one that suits you the best. There are no vehicles that feel radically different, so try them all.

The only problems we had involved occasionally confusing track design, and some technical issues. You will sometimes get lost on your first run through a new track, because sometimes the game does not communicate where you should be going, and it is a bit frustrating to slam into an invisible wall and lose all of your momentum. The game also seems to have some performance issues, as the frame rate can dip every now and then.

Each track takes place on a planet, and the planets all follow unique themes. There’s a snow planet, a desert planet, a forest mountain planet, and so forth. While the tracks look pretty awesome, some general textures seem kind of blurry and the game overall feels like it’s not as crisp and clear as it could be. This is not too big of a problem as you will be blazing by too fast to even notice, but it still drags the game’s overall presentation down a bit.

Aside from that, GRIP: Combat Racing is a fun and chaotic racer, and it is perfectly priced for a budget indie title. GRIP: Combat Racing is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.

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