Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

The Nintendo Switch has been in the public's grasp for over three months now and I recently got one as a birthday gift from my loving girlfriend. Among the starting games I got with it, the one I spent the most time with so far is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Here are my thoughts on this re-release of the Wii U title that comes with some additional content and enhanced graphics.

Back in the Driver's Seat 


The original Wii U release of Mario Kart 8 was in May 2014. I played the heck out of that game when it came out and loved every minute of it. To me it felt like one of the most fun and aesthetically pleasing Mario Kart titles to date. The music of the game was also stellar and live recorded by a number of different composers and musicians from Japan.

I played the title religiously, unlocking every character, cup, kart and bike (including all their tires and gliders) and loved every minute of it. I played so much that I ended up doing pretty well in online races against other players too.

It was easy for me to jump back in with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Besides the differing control methods, not much has changed minus a brand new Battle mode that's excellent. This time around there's also a few new characters and vehicles that have been added to the roster, but no new courses sadly besides the battle stages.

The ability to hold two items at once (ala Double Dash!!) has been included, as well as a third tier for drift boosting with pink sparks which provides a stronger boost after navigating a turn successfully. Weight classes of some characters have also been altered slightly, affecting how fast they go and if they get bumped around by other "heavier" characters.

Overall the way I play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe hasn't changed drastically from when I was playing it on my Wii U a couple years ago, but the extra item slot is great and provides more versatility while trying to come up with the best way to earn 1st place in a race. Two new items from past Mario Kart titles also make an appearance in Deluxe in the form of the feather from Super Mario Kart, allowing players to jump over obstacles and the Boo item from Mario Kart 64 allowing them to steal another player's item. These add even more strategy to the game.

All of the characters (except Gold Mario) and courses that were originally DLC for the Wii U are now available from the get-go in Deluxe, which is great news for new Switch owners looking to get into a fun title with some of their closest friends and family. Karts, Bikes, ATVs and their parts will still have to be unlocked though.

A Battle Mode that feels Right


The biggest missed opportunity of the original Mario Kart 8 was its Battle Mode. For some reason specific racing courses were repurposed for use in Battle Mode and it just didn't feel right. Luckily for us Nintendo corrected its mistake by including 8 arena style courses, 5 brand new ones and 3 from previous games. All of these are a joy to play on and reminded me of the fun I had while playing Battle Mode on both Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

   Credit: Kotaku

There are five different ways to battle including the standard Balloon Battle, Shine Thief, Coin Runners, Bob-omb Blast and Renegade Roundup. All of these are fun in their own way and are even better online with 11 other human controlled players. Renegade Roundup is the only truly new mode and has a cops and robbers feel to it, with players on the cops side trying to capture the robbers by driving into them with their piranha plant deputy. The robbers can free their teammates by driving into a key switch underneath the cell they are being held in. If all the robbers are caught the game is over or if all the robbers manage to elude capture for the full 2 minutes then they win.

Credit: Gamecrate 


Portability and Longevity


The most convincing selling point of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the ability to take it with you wherever you go and get the full fledged current gen Mario Kart experience. Whether you're playing by yourself in the Switch's handheld mode or with 3 other players in tabletop mode, the versatility of it all is unparalleled for gamers looking to get their Nintendo fix whenever and wherever they may be.

 Credit: Nintendo

To me, the convenience the Switch provides is more than worth the asking price for buying Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at full price again. While new racing courses for this version would have been awesome, the 48 courses from the original title and its DLC are more than enough to keep Mario Kart fans busy racing for a long time especially on the go. The new characters, vehicles and items are a nice addition too. Battle Mode provides some of the most fun you will have with this new title in your Switch library. Deluxe should be a blueprint for future Wii U re-releases that are inevitably coming. Overall Recommended.

My Rating out of 5 Cheesesteaks: 4.5 Cheesesteaks


Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Love-Hate Relationship with Super Mario Run

After a grueling 3 month long wait, Super Mario Run has finally been released for Android devices.  The auto-running platformer is free to start with 3 levels being available to play in their entirety and will cost $9.99 to unlock the rest of the game and its 24 levels. Needless to say I opted to buy the whole game and see what Super Mario Run has to offer to a huge Luigi Mario fan like myself.

Nintendo has been in the business of mobile games for a year now and Super Mario Run is the third title available to Android users after Miitomo and Fire Emblem Heroes. While it was readily available for iOS users back in December, those of us with Android devices had to wait a little longer to see what Mario's latest outing to the Mushroom Kingdom had in store for us.

This is where I'm torn. Certain aspects of Run had me jumping with glee, while others left me unimpressed and wanting more from the mobile game. The 24 available levels start off simple enough to get the player accustomed to the touch controls that cause Mario to jump, wall-jump and bounce off the heads of Goombas, Koopas and other baddies. These levels then become trickier and introduce more enemies and obstacles for Mario to overcome. Connecting with multiple jumps on enemies feels great and collecting all three sets of the 5 different colored coins on each level feels like an accomplishment. Unfortunately most levels aren't difficult to get through and can be completed rather quickly. As a result most people playing Super Mario Run will get through the whole game in a couple sittings.

Extra life bubbles also provide a sort of lifeline that makes getting through levels even easier and doesn't really encourage flawless play, but rather allow you to sloppily get through a level and still come out on top even after falling down a pit or running into an enemy that got in your way. As a result Super Mario Run is a perfect casual game for those who aren't looking for a challenge and just want to kill some time and succeeds as a mobile game, especially among the older and younger crowds.

In addition to World Tour with the game's main 24 levels, there's also a Kingdom Builder and Toad Rally mode where you can test your skills against other Run players and recruit Toads to your Kingdom and unlock more decorations for it. While this is a cool concept, playing Toad Rally can get pretty repetitive with the small selection of levels available to compete in. You'll find yourself playing the same levels over and over again just to recruit a specific color of Toad to unlock rewards and decorations that require a set amount. This has resulted in me playing more ghost house levels than I can count, which are slow and boring compared to the fast flying air-ship and lava-ring filled castle levels.

But doesn't my Kingdom look pretty?

The one redeeming quality of Toad Rally (besides annihilating little kids' scores) is defeating a friend who also plays the game in one of their highest-scoring levels (Eat it Nick! aka Zer00urher0).

So adding friends is a must, especially if you want to extend your time enjoying Super Mario Run. Besides bragging rights, that's all you really get unless you want to devote the time to getting Peach's Birthday Cake or Red Yoshi unlockable as a character!


Have you played Super Mario Run yet? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Favorite PAX East 2017 Games

PAX East has come and gone in what was yet another great year at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Massachusetts. My friends and I were lucky enough to score Friday and Saturday passes for the popular gaming convention and to witness it in all its glory. This was my third time attending, while my three friends had never been to one before. The last time I went to a PAX East was in 2013 and while the main idea of what makes PAX East so special remains intact, I've noticed a few differences in how the experience was in 2017.

For one it was a lot more crowded with huge lines for the games everyone was dying to play. Most of these lines were even capped which meant you couldn't wait to play even if you wanted to. Because of this I couldn't try out games I wanted to such as Splatoon 2, Arms and Yooka-Laylee. While it bummed me out a bit, I did get to play some other games I was also looking forward to and some I didn't even know existed. Below you'll find the list of my favorite games that I got to try at PAX East 2017.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom was a huge surprise for me. While walking around PAX I saw a colorful game in the distance and decided to give it a try since there was a free station available. This 2D Action Adventure Platformer held my attention as I experienced its tight gameplay mechanics and cute, yet expressive enemies.

The crab enemies go from looking clueless and happy to angry and annoyed

Little did I know it was based on an old game series on the Sega Genesis called Wonder Boy in Monster World and even has its original creator collaborating with the Cursed Kingdom team. The demo had me controlling a short character with blue hair who is equipped with a sword and eventually learns a fire spell to burn through grassy areas. You can even do a downward charge almost like Scrooge McDuck in the NES Ducktales and bounce off of enemies. There are also various items you need to progress like boots that increase your weight and allow you to walk on the ocean floor. The game felt super polished and the boss fight with the giant squid was awesome. I can't wait to get my hands on this when it launches later this year for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC. 


Little Nightmares

When I first saw the trailer for Little Nighmares I was intrigued. Being the big horror fan that I am this looked right up my alley for a new game to experience. I loved Playdead's INSIDE and this looks to be almost in the same vein as that. In the demo I played I took control of a little girl in a yellow raincoat simply named Six. As I crept under tables and cabinets I had to hide in the shadows so I wouldn't alert the giant grotesque chef that was busy minding his kitchen. The art style of Little Nightmares looks like something out of Tim Burton film.

Six must do her best to explore and survive her dollhouse world filled with both imaginative and horrific sights. The game is very dark and I had to use Six's lighter to navigate through vents and meat fridges as I solved puzzles and tried to stay as far away from the dollhouse's inhabitants that I came across. I even got a free Little Nightmares t-shirt from playing the demo.

I spoke with one of the level designers and he told me the game would last around 8-12 hours depending on how each player tackles the puzzles and plays the game. Little Nightmares is set to release on April 28, 2017 and will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and I know I'll be getting this next month.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove!

This was one of the big games for me that I NEEDED to try at PAX East. I've been a TJ & Earl fan since the early 90s when the game was first conceived for the Sega Genesis. Although I didn't own the original game until a few months ago I dumped countless hours into its sequel Panic on Funkotron. Back in the Groove supports up to 4-player co-op simultaneously and is most similar to the original Toejam & Earl. It's your job as one of the funky aliens to traverse the Earth and find the missing pieces to your Rapmaster Rocket ship.

Along the way you'll encounter re-imagined versions of the annoying earthlings you found in the original Toejam & Earl. They also included the beat-boxing repeat after me sections and Hyperfunk Zone from the second game Panic on Funkotron in Back in the Groove. Playing this demo really brought me back to when I was a kid sitting in front of my TV and jamming out to toe-tapping funk music all while avoiding the human species that was just trying to get in my way. I even got to meet Greg Johnson, the co-creator the the series and the original mastermind behind everything that is Toejam & Earl and spoke with him a bit about the new game as well as what drove him to come up with the idea for the original game that came out in 1991.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove will have 9 playable characters which include Earl's mom, Peabo, Toejam's nerdy cousin and a few other fan favorites. I for one can't wait to jump back into the TJ & Earl universe when the game comes out later this year on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Sonic Mania


What a beautiful sight

This was another must-play for me at PAX East. I'm a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan and the trailers I've seen of Sonic Mania have gotten me so excited for this new classic Sonic game. The hardest thing was finding where they actually had the demo available to play at PAX East. Sega wasn't in attendance at the convention but the game was still available to play in a small corner of the showroom floor on two laptops that were set up. Luckily one of the PAX enforcers found out where the demo station was and led me in the right direction. Once I found the demo station the magic began.

I tried both of the available stages: Green Hill Zone and Studiopolis Zone. As I played Studiopolis I couldn't help but feel I was playing a brand new level that I never got to experience in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. The controls felt identical to Sonic's Sega Genesis counterparts. Sonic was fast and could bounce on the bumpers throughout the stage. The enemies I encountered felt fresh, but definitely on par with ones you would find in the classic Sonic games. The levels also felt robust and not too short, but also didn't take too long to complete either. A huge smile formed on my face as I played through Studiopolis and its bright casino light appearance.

The small Sonic Mania demo station (only 2 laptops!)

Next was the re-imagined Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1. While it felt pretty similar to its counterpart, this time around there were Water Bubble and Lightning Bubble item boxes to be found. It almost blew my mind to be able to use these power-ups in a level where they normally don't exist. The boss of the zone was also just like past bosses from the Genesis titles.

Sonic Mania was hands down my favorite game to play at PAX East 2017. I felt like I went back to a simpler time where all that mattered was defeating Dr. Robotnik (Dr. Eggman for all you youngins!) and saving cute fuzzy animals from their egg-shaped prison holding cells. Sonic Mania will be a Day 1 purchase for me when it hits Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC later this year. 

So there you have it! That's my list of the best games I got to experience at PAX East 2017. Did you get to attend PAX East this year? If so what games did you enjoy the most? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1-2 Switch First Impressions - Part 1

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to try out Nintendo's new Switch console over my brother's place. He waited in line for over 12 hours with a group of his friends and fellow Nintendo fanatics just to be one of the first people to experience the new console. He picked up The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild (duh!) and 1-2 Switch, a collection of 28 party games meant to show off what the Switch is capable of with its Joy-Con controllers and HD rumble. We played through all 28 mini-games that 1-2 Switch had to offer. I'll post about 7 games each day and tell you what I think of each.

Quick Draw and Fake Draw

I'm grouping these two games together since they're essentially the same experience with a minor twist. Quick Draw pits two players against each other in an Old Western type of duel. Staring into each other's eyes each player holds a Joy-Con on their side like a gun in a holster. When given the command to fire, whoever is quickest to point their Joy-Con at their opponent and press the trigger wins! Based solely on reaction time, I had fun with this one and even beat my brother twice in a row before he got a shot in before me. Fake Draw is the same game except it takes place at nighttime and tries to throw the players off by shouting words besides Fire, like Floor, Fly and File. A disqualification occurs if a gun is drawn on any of these words.


When the Wii first came out with Wii Sports, Baseball was one of the games offered on the disc and the same goes for 1-2 Switch. Unfortunately this time around the experience isn't too fun. Just like Quick Draw, Baseball has the two players facing each other as one pitches the ball and the other attempts to hit it. The pitcher simply does a throwing motion while holding one of two buttons on the Joy-Con (ZR or R) to throw either a Fastball or a Change-up. As the ball is thrown the batter will have to listen to the sound of the throw through their Joy-Con speaker to try to figure out when to swing. It's difficult to know exactly when to swing and is a bit frustrating at times. It also seems pretty inconsistent with how some swings warrant a home run while others result in an instant out, as they go right into the hands of an imaginary player on the field that isn't there. Overall Baseball on 1-2 Switch is forgettable, especially with how much deeper the Wii Sports version was, and that came out 10 years ago!

    After playing Baseball once, you'll more than likely not want to play again


This game came as a surprise to me as I didn't know it was in 1-2 Switch! Gorilla has the two players compete for the affection of a female gorilla (with a bow on her head!) that's shyly hiding in the bushes. Players listen to the sound cues that the female gorilla chants and must move their arms in time to the rhythm in a chest-pounding motion. The player who most closely matches the rhythm is declared the winner. This was one of my favorite games to play and had everyone watching laughing as kisses were blown to both me and my brother as we did our best Donkey Kong impersonations.

Treasure Chest

These game feels the most Mario Party esque and is just like a mini-game you would find while partying with your favorite plumber and his friends. The object is to unwind a chain from your treasure chest and open it quicker than your opponent. To do this you must rotate the Joy-Con in the direction the chain is going. We had a lot of fun with this one and glad we were given a break from staring into each other's eyes. 

Copy Dance

This game had my brother and I busting out dance moves while the other person had to copy said moves. It was funny to do the most outlandish dance moves we could and watch as the other person tried to copy them. We had a blast!

  Copy Dance will have you smiling the whole time you play it!


Zen challenges both players to match an on-screen pose and hold their position as long as they can. Every time you move a little too much the candle on your side will go down. Whoever's candle goes out first loses! This was both fun and difficult as you needed to remain steady and keep your balance with some of these. Pro Tip: Never attempt to play this after leg day at the gym!

Have you tried 1-2 Switch yet? If so let me know your thoughts in the comment section below! I will post Part 2 tomorrow describing my impressions of 7 more games from 1-2 Switch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review - Wizardex I: The North Country

Today I'm stepping into new territory by reviewing a book I recently read. The title is Wizardex I: The North Country and it's written by Michael Perry, a dear friend of mine who I first met in college orientation during the summer of 2005 at SUNY Oneonta. Thanks for sharing your book with me Mike!

In what I hope is the first book in a series of many, Wizardex I: The North Country follows the story of six friends who are granted magical powers by objects known as lesser stones. An evil plot is underfoot to upset the peaceful balance that has existed among humans, elves and dwarves for many years and it's up to Rudgaf the red wizard, his wizard friends and the beautiful elf Ramona to stop it from happening.

The tale starts with Rudgaf receiving a letter from the dwarven king Moldof asking him to investigate an attack that occurred on the elven city of Behnon. Rudgaf begins his journey south and eventually meets the quick witted female elf Ramona who accompanies him. Along the way they are met with great challenges and deadly foes, but luckily Rudgaf and Ramona are no strangers to fighting. Rudgaf is a master of fire-based magic, while Ramona has an expert dexterity when it comes to daggers.

As I read through the story I couldn't help but fall in love with the personalities of both Rudgaf and Ramona and the dynamic that exists between them. Rudgaf, while being wise and cautious, can also be quick to act and compassionate. Ramona on the other hand is sarcastic and playful as well as someone who cares too much and lets her feelings get the best of her at times. The other wizards, notably Danagan, Lord of the Grey and Joem, Lord of the Yellow also captivated me with their thief-like and voice of reason personas respectively.

The encounters that Ramona and Rudgaf have with both a horrifying Hydra and other menacing foes are the most exciting aspects of the book and always had me at the edge of my seat. Without revealing too much about the plot, the main antagonist reminded me of a Voldemort-like fellow who could do great damage to the lesser stone wizards, both physically and psychologically and I can't wait to see what he's planning next. The character development in Wizardex I: The North Country is Mr. Perry's greatest strength and what will have me coming back for future installments in the Wizardex series.

The settings he paints are also imaginative and I could see them vividly while reading as he goes in great depth of detail to describe them in his writing. The 264 page length of the story can be finished in a handful of sittings and while I enjoyed it immensely, I was left wanting to read more about happens next in the intricate story that Mr. Perry has created.

Well done my friend, I only hope that my reunion with Rudgaf and Ramona comes sooner, rather than later.

My review: 4.5/5 Cheese Steaks

Wizardex I: The North Country was released on November 14, 2016 and can be found in both a Kindle and paperback version on Amazon here. The Kindle version is $2.99, while the paperback version is $24.99. 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

7 Games in 2017 that I'm excited for

2017 marks a new year filled with new games to play. My resolution this year?...Play a lot more games than I did in 2016. Lucky for me, 2017 is shaping up to be a huge year of must-play games being released. Below you will find the 7 games that I am most excited to get my hands on this year.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Microsoft Windows)
Release Date: January 24, 2017

Resident Evil is a series that will always be close to my heart (mostly for making it beat faster) and with RE 7 coming out next week I can't help but get that feeling of dread and helplessness within me once more. After playing the Beginning Hour demo I'm certain that this will be the scariest RE title that I have ever experienced. The newly implemented 1st person perspective provides a whole new layer of fear of not knowing what's in the room with you and with headphones on it will be even more heart wrenching. I can't even imagine how scary it will be to play this one in VR on the PS4! After the less than satisfactory Resident Evil 6, Capcom is bound to bounce back and impress us with this new must-experience title for horror game fans. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U  
Release Date: March 3, 2017

The Legend of Zelda has always been a staple of Nintendo consoles and is one of the most played game series among Nintendo fans. From all the footage I have seen of the game, Breath of the Wild looks astonishing on both the Wii U and the Switch. This time around an open world environment exists and allows the player to explore any of the game's dungeons in whichever order they see fit. The combat also looks intuitive and the voice acting (a series first!) and music seem top-notch. This is the first time I have been genuinely excited for a Zelda game since Wind Waker on the Gamecube and once March comes around you can expect to see me playing this on my Wii U.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Windows), Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 11, 2017

Way back when the Nintendo 64 was at the height of its popularity there came a game called Banjo-Kazooie created by the company Rare. It had tight platforming, inventive puzzles, catchy music and a slew of memorable characters. A sequel titled Banjo-Tooie came out a couple years later and continued to build on what made the first game so great with new levels to explore. Unfortunately after Tooie, Rare was bought out by Microsoft and the series wasn't utilized to its fullest after that. Fast forward to now and we are about to be met by its spiritual successor Yooka-Laylee, a game made by ex-members of Rare in the newly formed Playtonic Games. Everything about the game looks to be on par with what fans of the Banjo-Kazooie series were hoping for. This will be a day one purchase for me and a dream come true after waiting for 16 years!

Platforms: Xbox One, PC (Microsoft Windows)
Release Date: Mid-2017

New run and gun games are hard to come by, but lucky for us Canadian brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer had the vision of Cuphead in their minds. Inspired by old-timey cartoons (specifically the 1930s), Cuphead follows the story of Cuphead and his friend Mugman as they must repay a debt to the devil after losing a bet. With gameplay reminiscent of Contra and Gunstar Heroes, Cuphead looks like it will be an absolute blast to play. Its art style is also something that hasn't really been done before in a game and the hand-drawn animations and painted backgrounds look great. If you ever wanted to experience a run and gun game starring characters that look like they came out of a classic Disney cartoon than look no further than Cuphead.

Splatoon 2
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Summer 2017

Just a week ago Nintendo had their Switch presentation revealing all sorts of new games for their new home console/portable hybrid. One of these was Splatoon 2, the sequel to 2015's Splatoon and it looks awesome! Splatoon in a way redefined Nintendo and their online community by providing a competitive shooter on the Wii U console that was still family-friendly and a lot of fun to play. Splatoon 2 adds new weapons, specials, gear and stages to the mix, all while keeping the fast-paced strategic gameplay and team battles intact. While I may not be getting a Switch on day one, Splatoon 2 might be the reason I pick one up when the game launches this summer.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Windows), Mac, Linux
Release Date: TBD 2017

Crowdfunded on Kickstarter back in 2015, Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove is finally coming (fingers crossed) this year. Toejam and Earl made their first appearance on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90s and the rest is history. TJ & E are two aliens from Funkotron that crash landed on Earth and had to find the missing pieces of their spaceship so that they could go home. While on Earth they had to deal with annoying earthlings that provided trouble for them at every turn. Back in the Groove is a retelling of this story with elements of both Genesis titles thrown in as well as some new ones to be seen. Anyone who loved the funky, hip-hop duo of aliens in the original games is sure to find something to love in Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove when it hits later this year. 

Super Mario Odyssey
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Holiday 2017

Everyone loves Mario right? Sadly I have to admit that I wasn't impressed by Mario's last few console outings. While the Super Mario Galaxy titles were great in their own way, I just didn't care enough to finish either of them. With Super Mario Odyssey, Mario seems to be going back to his roots in more of an open-world level design like the ones found in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. This time around Mario visits many different locations including a New York City like area and uses his hat to jump across wide chasms and reach higher areas. The story of Odyssey also made me laugh as you must help Mario prevent a wedding between Bowser and Princess Peach from happening. I don't remember the last time I was this excited for a Mario game and you should be too when it hits stores this Holiday season!

What games are you most excited for that are coming out in 2017? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fran Bow Review

Fran Bow is the first game I completed in 2017. A point-and-click adventure game that throws horror and hallucinations into the mix, Fran Bow is creepy and oftentimes unsettling. You take control of the character Fran Bow Dagenhart as you try to figure out who killed your parents and left them bloody and dismembered in their bedroom. After discovering this horrific scene Fran runs into the nearby forest outside of her house with her black cat Mr. Midnight and collapses on the ground. She is later found by police and taken to a mental institute for children.

This is where the game begins as you try to figure out who butchered your parents and why you have been brought to this institute. After a recent session with your psychiatrist Dr. Deern, he gives you a new type of medicine called Duotine. The medicine is supposed to "create a door between the subconscious and conscious," and when Fran takes it she sees hallucinations of morbid scenes involving the people and objects around her. 

Taking a Duotine pill will allow Fran to see characters and items she couldn't see before and allows her to progress through the game further. After finding items you'll have to figure out what they are used for and oftentimes you will even have to combine certain items (just like the classic Resident Evil Titles) to make new items. While this can be frustrating at times, with a little bit of thought and experimentation you'll be solving Fran Bow's puzzles in no time.

 Just some of the many items you will find in Fran Bow

Without saying too much about the story, as I don't want to spoil it, Fran Bow gets progressively more frightening and unsettling as you get closer to the end. It also isn't for the faint of heart or those that don't do well with blood and horrific scenes. I love horror games, but even I found myself cringing at some of the images I was shown. The music and sound effects also do a great job of encouraging uneasiness.

If you can get past the extremely high level of creepiness, you're in for a treat. The main appeal of Fran Bow is the imaginative characters and environments you'll encounter throughout the game and their interactions with Fran. Killmonday also did a great job of including a great amount of lore and detail into the story. The illustrations and art style also made me feel like I was reading a children's storybook at times and I couldn't help but think of Alice in Wonderland as I played.

    Speaking with the many inhabitants of the world is a must to progress

The five chapters found within Fran Bow are storytelling at its finest and definitely worth the ride. Everyone who plays will likely interpret the story differently, as it's left up to your imagination and the clues left throughout the game.

Overall, Fran Bow is a game that I will remember for a long time due to the sheer shock value associated with it and the disturbing scenes I bared witness to. If you're the type of person who enjoys a good story and can handle blood and guts then I highly suggest experiencing Killmonday's game.

My Review: 8/10


Monday, January 2, 2017

My Top Video Games of 2016

Another year is over and we're left with more new game releases than we can count. 2016 saw many new options for us to indulge in, covering just about every genre we can think of. That being said, here are my favorite games of 2016 that I played. I'm also going to include some honorable mentions that I have not played, but games my friends loved that came out this year.

My Top 5 Games of the Year (in no particular order):
The Witness
Available on: PC,
PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Developer: Thekla Inc
Publisher: Thekla Inc
Created by:
Jonathan Blow

Initial Release: January 26, 2016

After fully embracing the PC gaming life (and buying a capable tower), The Witness was one of the first games I downloaded to experience on my new machine. I followed the game for most of its development cycle and couldn't wait to get my hands on the creator of Braid's next game. I wasn't let down. The Witness provides a serene environment to explore with mysteries hidden at every corner. Best described as a 1st Person Puzzle/Adventure game, it left me speechless with its aesthetically pleasing surroundings, calming sounds of nature and clever puzzle design. If you love exploration games and using your brain then this one is for you.

Pokémon Sun and Moon
Available on: Nintendo 3DS

Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon Company

Release Date: November 18, 2016

I've been a huge Pokémon fan since I was 12 and received a copy of Pokémon Yellow as a gift to play on my Game Boy Color. Ever since that first adventure with my Pikachu by my side, I knew that Nintendo and Game Freak had something special, but little did I know how much sticking power the series would have over the years. Whether I was 12 or in college, I always found something to like about each new version of Pokémon that would come out. Pokémon Sun and Moon is no exception to this and is hands-down one of my favorite Pokémon games of all-time. Some improvements include HM moves being eliminated entirely and a reminder of what moves are effective and ineffective while in battle. Couple this in with an interesting story and the best visuals I've seen in a Pokémon game and you've got one of my top picks of 2016.

Available on: PlayStation 4,
Xbox One, PC (Windows)

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks 

Release Date: May 13, 2016 

Gamers know Doom as the 1st Person Shooter where, as a space marine, you must take out all the demons of Hell in your pathway before they do the same to you. To survive you must utilize a wide variety of weapons including a chainsaw, rocket launcher, and other moddable guns such as a shotgun and assault rifle. Using quick thinking and an even quicker trigger finger, this game brings back the fond memories of the first two Doom games, while providing an updated take that includes impressive graphics and near flawless gameplay. Look no further than 2016's Doom if you're looking for a fast, satisfying and frantic shooter. Oh yeah the BFG is back too!

Mario Party: Star Rush
Available on: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Nd Cube
Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: November 4, 2016

Mario Party is one of my all time favorite game series. I loved the original games on the Nintendo 64 and even the majority of them on the Gamecube, but things started to go south in the Wii releases for Mario and his friends. Mario Party 8, 9 and 10 were all pretty lackluster and somehow lost the magic that I grew to love with the earlier games. Since then I have patiently been waiting for the next great Mario Party title and Mario Party: Star Rush is it. Gone is the traditional everyone take turns and rolls individually format, but also gone is the move as a group mechanic found within the Wii games. Instead we are given a breath of fresh air as every player rolls a dice block at the same time and moves simultaneously within the game board, collecting coins and stars to their hearts content. Mini-games are also abundant and I can happily say that their design is smart and enjoyable, making great use of the 3DS hardware. The best part of Star Rush however is that only one copy of the game is needed for 4 people to play (As long as everyone has their own 3DS!) after downloading a free guest pass. While it isn't without its issues, Mario Party: Star Rush still remains my Multiplayer Game of the Year because it reignited my love of playing games in the same room with my closest friends and family.  

Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (Windows)

Developer: Playdead
Publisher: Playdead

Initial Release: 
June 29, 2016

Playdead, known as the guys who made Limbo, are back again with their latest effort Inside. Coming out 6 years after Limbo, the game follows the story of a young boy who breaks into a research facility for unknown reasons. Using the same two-dimensional platforming gameplay that was first seen in Limbo, you must control the boy to solve puzzles and avoid being captured by scientists. The whole game has no dialogue, but instead focuses on detailed sound effects and musical cues. One wrong step or move can lead you right to the boy's grisly death. Figuring out why you are there and the motivations of the boy make for a truly engrossing story that can be left up to interpretation. A must-play and a work of art.

Honorable Mentions

Best PS4 Exclusive: 
Best Xbox One Exclusive:

Best Wii U Exclusive:

Best Single Player Experiences:

Best Multiplayer Game:

Best Shooters:

Most Difficult Game:

Biggest Disappointments:
So there you have it, the Top Games of 2016! Do you agree with my list and the honorable mentions? Which games did I leave out that you feel deserve recognition of being great games that came out last year? Let me know in the comments!