Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare DLC Revealed & Thoughts

     Dotemu, Guardcrush, and Lizardcube have finally released the trailer for their brilliant Streets of Rage 4's first DLC titled Mr. X Nightmare.

     According to the Steam page:
"The fight continues in Wood Oak City.

After the events of Streets of Rage 4, our heroes wanted to prepare themselves for future threats. Axel, Blaze and their mates will start a very special deranged training with the help of Dr. Zan, who built an AI program from the remnants of Mister X’s brain that simulates every kind of danger they could be facing."
     The trailer reveals that not only will we be getting more gameplay, but it includes new special moves, new weapons, new enemies, and 3 new playable characters- of which we only currently see the highly anticipated Estel Aguirre!  Though the silhouettes at the end appear to hint at new Max and possibly the updated Shiva.  Many of us are also hoping to see long time fan-favorites join like Dr. Zan, Skate, and Roo so perhaps we'll eventually see a second DLC released further down the road with them as well..  

     They've stated that the DLC will allow players to customize their move sets giving players the ability to build the characters to their own kind of playstyles.  Dotemu has gathered a crew that seems to have given 200% in updating this beloved franchise.  Keep up the great work!

     Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare is listed as "Coming Soon." [ Steam ]


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge: Reveal trailer & Thoughts

     The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had a long history in video games from the lowest of the lows (the damn level in the original NES game) to the highest of highs (TMNT for the GBA), with plenty in between.  But the publisher of the glorious Streets of Rage 4 (Dotemu) has come through again with something players have been asking for- a new beat em' up Turtles game- with developer Tribute Games.  This is truly something to celebrate for fans of the TMNT, an actual sequel to one of the franchise's most beloved games three decades in the making!  Cowabunga dudes!

     According to the official reveal:
     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge reunites Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello to kick shell in a beautifully realized pixel art world invoking the turtles’ classic 1987 design.

     With Bebop and Rocksteady amassing gizmos to support Krang and Shredder’s latest scheme, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge finds the turtles battling through a breathless tour of iconic TMNT locations to thwart their nemeses’ most diabolical plan yet. Armed with shell-shocking new abilities built on a foundation of classic brawling mechanics, the gang are in for an exhilarating, Foot Clan-stomping romp leading them through the sewers and bustling boroughs of New York City all the way to Dimension X.
     Honestly, I haven't been this excited for a game since Streets of Rage 4, and now we're getting something we've been asking for for literal years.  The developers haven't given out too much information yet, but it appears there may be more playable characters in the future as I spotted both Splinter and April in action in the trailer- and we can only hope that there'll be plenty more to come in the future!  This is definitely a game to keep our eyes on for fans.

     I'll be covering this game religiously in the future.

     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
          will be coming to PC [ Steam ] and consoles (though no release date is specified).

     For related posts [ TMNT ]


Ashes: A First-Person Dungeon Exploration Experience: A Short Review

     Ashes is an intriguing game to be sure.  It touts itself to be a combination of a narrative focused first-person walking simulator with a dash of Skyrim.  Meant to be a single-sitting gameplay experience giving you a light dose of explorative adventure into the life of a man suffering some odd form of amnesia that wakes up in a strange dungeon.

    The gameplay of Ashes is simple enough, including melee combat, a few puzzle sections, and a handful of platforming sections.  The combat is barebones.  You literally just fight a handful of skeletons with melee weapons through swinging and even a block.  It's sufficient for the game, really.  Ashes really doesn't need any more depth to the combat.  Hacking and slashing is good enough for this type of game.  Though, I actually would've appreciated much more of it.  Not all at once, but peppered throughout.  To see the bodies of others laying around, or even maybe a few skeletons shambling around in cells.  Or better yet, why not have a few just aimlessly wandering around confused and not actively threatening the player even when confronted?  And why aren't any of them found fighting amongst themselves?
     There is weapon degradation as well, which I found to be extremely annoying because from the weapon goes fine for quite a while, then suddenly looks to be near breaking and breaks in just a few swings.  The swiftness it happens always seems like it is fine for 9 swings, one swing to damage the weapon, followed by one to break it.  That progression is too quick, and honestly, why even have it in the game at all?  The weapons seem to have 2 damages, weak and strong, and they are separated by roughly one hit worth of damage to kill an enemy and the system really could be done without completely.

     On a side note there's some floating orbs that light the areas up and can be broken, but there's really no purpose to them.  Why have them even be destructible if it isn't for a reason?  It seems like a strange decision.  Bouncing off that, the game has a collectible in the form of glowing green skulls.  The fact they are there isn't a problem, it offers a nice distraction while exploring the dungeons.  What nags at me is they seem like an item that should offer a reason for being there.  Maybe have them drop some lore of the world, or spark a new exclusive memory unlock.  Have a reason to be collecting them outside of Steam achievements.  There's a necromancer out there in this world, so why not have them tie to maybe bits of narrative from him?  Or perhaps have them be other peoples' memories (include their own voiced narration)?

     As for the level design and art...  you know, I actually really, really like it.  I'd actually tie it much more closely to being a combination of a narrative walking simulator and Ico, as opposed to Skyrim as the devs say.  Ashes has a very nice feel and it's areas differ just enough to make things interesting.  There's dark shadowy areas with green glowing ooze, to empty sewage tubes, as well as bright sunlit courtyards, creating a nice range of things to look at.  With that said, there's room for expansion here.  Considering how vast the castle is, personally I would've really liked to have a lot more exploration options.  There's a bunch of doors that don't open- so why not make them open into larger places to roam around in.  That would help get rid of the deliberate linearity the game has you follow along, providing players with more time to enjoy the world.

    My biggest qualm with Ashes is that it feels like it's truly just the beginning of a larger game.  There's some unfair storytelling elements that make the ending both good, but also predictable, and a little unfair. [ SPOILER: Not one other skeleton is wearing clothes, and they all have a distinct sound when running around- so why does the player have clothes and not make that noise?  That kind of thing is deliberately lying to the player to make a payoff in the end.  The twist could be handled better, the story could have a bigger payoff by having some of the skeletons wearing bits of clothes and some distinctions.  Maybe have some wear gauntlets, some wearing all clothes, some just pants, and so on. That isn't to say I didn't like it.  I guessed it quite early on, and liked the narrative memories coming back as you progress through the castle.  It might've been more effective to space them out instead of having large chunks all at once.  Slow it down and allow us to digest it as we go.  If the developers take my recommendation to add more places to explore they could add small touches to expand the story as well.  Perhaps have a series of passageways that lead to a kitchen or dining hall and maybe something like memories returning of dinners with the family come to the surface.
     Now I must also mention the voice acting of the player-character's narration.  He does pretty well, but could use just a bit more emotive force and range.  Granted, what we get is good, so that isn't a complaint, more of a request, I want just more.  I want more story.  I want more exploration.  I want more combat, puzzles, and exploration out of Ashes!

     Ashes appears to be an exercise for the developer to show off what they can do while still leaving us wanting more- as I wrote earlier, this game feels like the beginning of something much larger.  I'd be more than pleased if the devs, Windlimit Games, went and actually added some of the extra things I've suggested.  But I digress, even as it is right now, it's still a decent fantasy dungeon exploration game with a unique narrative.  I'd happily recommend this game because it's all of the things I want in games lately- it's brief, engaging, and fun- and it actually leaves me wanting much more.  Overall, Ashes is a great one-sitting experience and I'm eager to see what the devs make next.  Go check it out.

     Ashes is $3.99 on [ Steam ]

*Review Copy Provided, Thank you


ZCREW: The Last Legion: Review: A Decent Start to a Post-Apocalyptic Shooter

      ZCREW is a Diablo-esque post-apocalyptic isometric shooter.  A group of elite militaristic elites have banded together to bring order to a world falling apart and reclaim the Earth from mutant hordes.  As the official sites say:

     "ZCREW is an isometric shooter that supports up to 4 player co-op. In the world destroyed by an alien virus, every day is a matter of life or death. Players will need to cooperate and fight back the mutant blight in their quest to rebuild the world and restore civil order.

     Battle within the Ruined City and the Lost Desert, facing hordes of infected humans, mutant insects and creatures unknown until now."


     Players begin the game and can choose one of 4 different classes- Assault, Warrior, Supply, or a Medic.  They all begin with a singular skill like a dash or teleport.  As you do missions you unlock both more skills (of 4 total) as well as small perks applicable to the character, weapons, or skills they use.  Each of the classes then also begin with their own type of weapon- assault rifle, sniper rifle, SMG, etc- and it is an absolute slog to level up anything because the experience is based on in-game level completion and I don't believe enemy kills actually seem to give you any bonus XP.  

     The early game skills make the player classes start relatively the same, but as the game goes they wind up much more varied in HOW those skills are used- which is awesome.  Each character's movement skill begins just as a movement, but as skills unlock through leveling the characters up they add bonuses to them.  The Assault class can leave a trail of electricity to the teleport, while the medic can disperse poison orbs in 4 directions upon dashing.  It is the beginning of great system.

     There's a lot of good ideas in mission variety- find or investigate areas, escort NPCs (that really shouldn't be nearly as dumb as they are currently), even some where you need to find some parts and build something to make way into the next area.  Honestly, some of the early levels could be lengthened with the option for more exploration, but overall, it's still really fun to go in and start the action.  The levels don't have much right now in the way of extra things to wander around for.  They are made to be simple and linear by giving you tasks to complete and waypoints to follow.  Drop in hidden areas or things for players to loot.  Give players a reason to explore these gorgeous-looking areas you've made.  

     For weapons, you have to randomly find design blueprints as random drops, parts, and currency to build new guns, then create parts to build those guns up in the players' hub.  The system isn't great, and could definitely use some streamlining- why should you need 2 of the same gun blueprint to make that gun?  Why doesn't one suffice?

     The weapons have just barely enough difference, but could use some bolstering to make them feel really different (the bullet impacts, reload and firing speeds, firing distance, etc).  Players begin with their class' starter weapon, but can switch to another later.  Each weapon then can be upgraded with parts you find schematics for- such as extended magazines, sights, shoulder stalks, etc- each item bumps up various stats to the weapon you attach it to.  It's a great idea, but the implementation is poor.  Just as the core weapons, players have to find multiple blueprints of the same weapon (often it's 2), then randomly find parts during missions, and then currency to make them.  But you also need to use multiple terminals in the players hub to build them up, then another to equip them, and so on.  Why not let players be able to equip a weapon from the crafting station or personal inventory as well as the character screen?  Why can we craft but not dismantle at the same station- why can we only dismantle from the personal inventory station?

     As the hub where players go to (which is for some reason in 3rd person instead of the isometric view the entire rest of the game is) is confusing already, they really need to clean it up.  Why aren't all the varied menu consoles consolidated?  Put the weapons/items, materials, and character screen all lumped into one?  We are forced to craft weapons in at one console, but equip that to the weapon in another.  Or, why aren't the mission control and multiplayer ones merged?  As of right now you have to enter a mission select, choose the mission, then leave to go to another console to select a player ready.  These should be streamlined for sure, and really, they might want to think about shifting the entire player hub to the same isometric view as the rest of the game while reducing the number of terminals players have to interact with.


     The first major combat irritation is how enemies spawn.  Sometimes they appear far enough away that players have time to react with moving or shooting, but at other times 5 enemies will spawn surrounding you leaving you nowhere to go and guaranteeing you will take heavy damage and likely die.  This is insanely annoying in the early game when you try and do a mission "search" (holding the E button for way too long) enemies will consistently spawn nearby and interrupt you.  This might not be as frustrating if you were playing multiplayer (or why can you not bring in AI support characters of the classes you are not playing as?).

     Even more frustratingly, if you fail a level (after 3 deaths), EVERYTHING you did is lost in it, items you found are gone.  I had a level where I spent 20 minutes slowly making my way through, completing all the tasks, the end of every level is a timed rush to get to an extraction point.  This part is an absolute MUST change part of the game- players are swarmed with overwhelming hordes of enemies.  I got completely buried in enemies with ZERO way of avoiding instant damage and died immediately after each respawn literally lost all that effort within seconds.  It is easily the worst design decision in the game.  That run to the extraction point should, first off, not have a timer.  And it should be balanced to how many characters are playing.  If you are stuck playing solo (I had only a single time being able to actually play a level with another player, all other attempts we could match up, but our levels were 2 or 3 off and we couldn't play together (why would you allow players to match together, but then not allow them to actually play a level together?!?).  Why would you spawn 40 enemies on a solo player that has no hope of fending that many off, especially in the early levels?  By changing this singular thing, ZCREW would be instantly better.  Perhaps giving players far more health (and get rid of the run button, make the base speed the run speed- enemies can easily catch you even when you run), and have the absurd enemy damage reduced, and it might help balance things out a bit.


     There's a myriad of small problems (remapping a controller for Steam winds up a mess), some general control issues (running away while firing backwards at enemies will shoot a few first shots/grenade the direction you are running and NOT the direction you are aiming), and oddities in player numbers to enemy numbers (both sheer numbers, as well in health and damage).  If the developers keep at it, they have a truly good gem here, it'll just take a lot of hard work and balancing to get it to make it into a great one.

     With all that said, ZCREW actually does have a solid foundation and is generally enjoyable (outside of the aforementioned frustrations).  There are numerous irritations and problems with the game, but I don't want to dissuade anyone from actually playing the game.  I did actually enjoy it quite a bit, and will be playing more as the developers continue to improve the game.  I believe they have a tremendous base to build upon.  There's a lot to like and I look forward to seeing how ZCREW: The Last Legion shapes up over time.

*A review copy was provided, thank you!