Simulation Games   Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Simulation Games   RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Clean Your Evil Spirits in Bathhouse Management Sim Spirittea Wed, 08 Jan 2020 14:17:34 -0500 Joshua Broadwell

If you have a knack for finding disgruntled, dirty spirits and thought Spirited Away's Chihiro was absolutely daft for wanting to leave Yubaba's bathhouse, then Cheesemaster's upcoming Spirittea is probably your kind of game.

Playing as a writer who moves to a new town while trying to finish their book,  you quickly discover this quaint hideaway has some serious problems. It's almost like the gods have a grievance with the place — because basically, they do.

The town you move to is plagued with a host of angry spirits, beings forgotten by the locals, no longer worshipped, and seriously displeased by the fact. After you drink some tea from a special pot, you find you can see these beings, and it's in your best interest to calm them down.

That's where the bathhouse comes in. These spirits like their baths, tea, and proper respect, and they'll reward you for taking good care of them and fulfilling their requests. Each one has different needs and affiliations, so you'll always be kept on your toes as you try and manage your bathhouse, find new spirits, and get to know the local living people too.

Spirittea has a day/night cycle, seasons, festivals, a tea-gathering mini-game, and, of course, fishing and bug catching. Spirittea proudly wears its Animal Crossing, Spirited Away, and Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley influences on its sleeves and seems like it's set to combine all these things into a unique blend all its own.

Spirittea has a Kickstarter campaign running until the end of the month and aims to enter Early Access in 2022. Though specific platforms are still up in the air, Steam, iOS, Android, and are some of the main emphases right now.

This is one we'll be following closely, so stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Spirittea news as it's brewed up.

Feast Your Eyes on New Animal Crossing: New Horizons' Box Art, Screens Fri, 03 Jan 2020 14:42:12 -0500 Joshua Broadwell

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of our most anticipated games for Nintendo Switch in 2020. It's good, then, that we recently got a new trailer for the game, complete with New Horizons' box art at the end. It all came packaged with some interesting new screenshots, too.

The trailer is absolutely adorable, of course, but apart from showing Isabelle — one of gaming's best dogs — the trailer doesn't show off too much that's really brand spankin' new. The real magic is in the accompanying screenshots Nintendo Japan added to the game's Japanese website.

There's a fair bit to pick apart in these images, but one of the most interesting things is how it appears you'll be taking part in island activities alongside your animal neighbors. It might not seem like a huge change, but for a series all about making friends and living together, it's definitely a smart one.

Those inclined to look closely and dissect everything in each image will also notice the variety of plants shown off. Usually, we get weeds and flowers. But on top of the usual flowers like tulips, it appears we're getting several new weed types as well or, if not weeds, new green plants to diversify the island landscape.

Equally interesting is how it seems plants can potentially be stacked, with shorter flowers growing between taller maybe-weeds and blossoms. Fall has leaf piles, fields of wheat — possibly used for the big and much-needed crafting feature — and mushrooms all growing together as well.

Despite being delayed last year, we don't have long to wait to find out how all this comes together and more. Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches March 20 on Nintendo Switch.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Animal Crossing: New Horizons news as it drifts ashore.

Tools Up Review: Extreme Makeover Overcooked Edition Wed, 11 Dec 2019 13:02:51 -0500 Mark Delaney

You may be able to point to a genre progenitor pre-dating Overcooked, but it's clear the kitchen chaos series is responsible for popularizing a certain type of co-op game.

Overcooked challenges its players to cooperate flawlessly, and then snickers as they hilariously fail and players are usually right there laughing too.

Tools Up is the latest apple to fall from the Overcooked family tree. Though it's missing some of the ancillary pieces that make its inspirator an instant classic, the game undoubtedly offers enough of the same happy hysterics to warrant a look from anyone who enjoys the genre.

Tools Up Review: Extreme Makeover Overcooked Edition

Tools Up quickly throws players from the character selection screen into the game, introducing its many-layered objectives and mechanics to come. Rather than move furniture, pilot a spaceship, or work in a kitchen, in Tools Up, you'll be renovating an apartment from the bottom floor to the outlandish top. 

There are several impossibly designed apartments on each floor, each giving players a top-down view of a home desperate for a makeover. Tools Up eases players in perfectly, with virtually every level introducing a new element to consider, making each area feel vital and foundational for the subsequent room.

While the earliest level asks you to repaint some walls, the next level adds carpet installation. Another level adds stripping the walls of old paint until eventually, you're putting doors on hinges, mixing concrete, slabbing bricks in place, and more.

This escalating contract exhibits precisely why you'll want to play in co-op as the game is intended, though with some smart planning, Tools Up does feel a bit more accessible than games like it for solo players.

Scorekeeping in Tools Up also feels more forgiving than it does in its counterparts. As long as you're not trying to three-star everything, you shouldn't hit as many progress-stoppers. Still, failing is half the fun anyway, so it ultimately feels like Tools Up strikes a good balance between offering difficult sections to complete without halting players for so long that frustration starts to seep in like water in an unfinished basement.

Tools Up's best attribute is its ability to capture most of what makes this genre so unforgettable. Tossing a paint can over the wall to your partner only for them to miss the catch, have it spill on the floor, and then trip another partner who is dashing across the room with carpet in tow is the kind of antics Tools Up sets out to deliver. And it consistently delivers highlights like that.

In every level — and without exception  the pandemonium can result in fleeting frustration that's always less than a moment away from shaping into riotous laughter. This is the oft-seen and addicting promise of the genre. Tools Up fulfills that promise almost as well as any other genre title.

Where the game falters is in some of its supplementary parts. The music is light but not as memorable as Overcooked's soundtrack, and animations and the UI aren't as clean and reliable as they need to be, with item detection sometimes slowing you down past the point where it would still be funny. 

The playable characters range from cartoonish humans to cute nonhuman animals, making it an all too familiar experience in the character menu. While the basic gameplay structure is forgivably like other games — because it successfully reapplies some core tenets to a new setting  character selection is an area where Tools Up really could have stood out from an increasingly crowded genre. 

With little to no story tying these games to a certain universe, I don't quite get why every game in this genre offers the same kind of characters when you could instead go in so many different directions. Still, Tools Up volunteers as the latest offender.

The game's secondary mode, Party Mode, doesn't offer much. It changes the scoring format and allows you to jump around the levels more than the rigid campaign, but because each level is the bedrock for the next, you'll not want to jump around anyway. 

Tools Up Review — The Bottom Line

  • Captures the happy mayhem of the games that inspired it
  • Difficulty ramp feels perfectly sloped
  • A bit more forgiving than genre counterparts regarding scoring
  • Some polish is missing in areas like animations and item interaction
  • Feels like a very safe reapplication of the genre's tenets

With a similar cadence of chaos and a better-tuned scoring system, Tools Up is, without question, a game co-op party gamers will enjoy. It's just not the one you'd want to start with in what is fast becoming a crowded genre.

Tools Up successfully reimagines the games that inspired it in the most front-facing, important ways, even as it doesn't manage to bring quite all of the tools for the job.

[Note: A copy of Tools Up was provided by All in! Games for the purpose of this review.]

Control (Or Ruin) the Nightly News in Not For Broadcast Wed, 11 Dec 2019 10:00:02 -0500 Joshua Broadwell

It's the 1980s in an alternate timeline, where the world rushes towards chaos. It's up to you to figure out what news to broadcast, the order it should air in, and how to edit it.

On top of that is the decision to censor certain words — or ideas — to keep the government happy, or not if you feel lucky. Don't forget your advertising either, unless you want the station to go out of business. Plus, this is live TV. There will be problems, and you're the only one to deal with them.

That's the gist of tinyBuild's latest game, Not for Broadcast, set to release into Early Access on January 30, 2020. 

Not for Broadcast is a crash course in the perils of modern media and media politics, though it didn't necessarily start out as such timely commentary. Of the game, tinyBuild said in press release: 

Little did we know that, as we began working on it, the world’s political landscape would change, and just how difficult satire was about to come. It’s impossible to write a joke without it actually happening.

Though Not for Broadcast enters early access in January, a free prologue episode is available today. In it, you'll be handling the switchboard, editing an interview with an obnoxious theatre star, and figuring out the best way to live edit a slightly drunken speech from the current political party.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Not for Broadcast news as it breaks.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey Review — Survival of the Most Patient Mon, 09 Dec 2019 12:11:57 -0500 Mark Delaney

When Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey launched on PC over the summer, its players were divided into two camps. One was in awe of its possibilities, and another was scared away by its laissez-faire design. 

Finally arriving on PS4 and Xbox One months later, the developers behind Ancestors have used the re-launch to bring a host of new features to one of the year's most ambitious games.

Where do these new onboarding changes leave us?

Well, I didn't play Ancestors before this major patch, but having played several hours after the fact, I can say Ancestors is a game that will infuriate you nearly as much as it will fascinate you  and maybe that's okay.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey Review — Survival of the Most Patient

No one ever said evolution was supposed to be easy, and in Ancestors, it never is. Panache Games' prehistoric ancestry simulator starts slow and welcomes you to keep it that way. Even as Ancestors is clearly at its best when you follow that slow path, it's still an often obtuse, confusing game that punishes players in a hurry and taunts, "now survive."

Coming from Patrice Desilets, the creator of Assassin's Creed, it's funny to see Ancestors reject so much of the rote open-world experience he helped birth. The game has several large hubs, and each of them has a different biome, such as jungle, desert, and swampland.

However, you won't be chasing repeating icons across the map to perform side quests. Across these hubs, our early human ancestors from as far back as 10 million years ago are in your hands, and survival is purely what's at stake.

"Now survive" was once nearly the only implied prompt PC players received, but with recent patchwork and the launch on consoles, the game now holds your hand a bit more. However, that hand-holding is still nowhere near enough to earn the time of most players. Ancestors still feels delighted to be obtuse.

It's a blessing and a curse, really. On the one hand, such a design feels authentic. Early hominids didn't have to time button presses to crack open coconuts, and they weren't able to swap among other members in their clan at will (especially upon death). Even so, these gamified mechanics feel designed to stay as true as they can to their ancient actions.

Yet, because of the way players interact with the world and start from nothingness, the evolution of the controller layout is one of its biggest problems in Ancestors.

Simple movements we take for granted, like moving an item from one hand to another, are among the first abilities you learn. Inspecting an object, for example, is an ability, which alters another ability still, and that ability is timing based. Collectively, it can take a Harmonix-like manipulation of the controller just to peel a branch of its leaves.

While these early maneuvers become the foundation for learning new things and get easier over time, they're always replaced by new confounding mechanics to understand.

Design like that speaks to a Cageian intent on revolutionizing how players manipulate virtual worlds. Still, in Ancestors, it can all feel so unsatisfying and slow that it creates a glacial learning curve.

Consider then these first few hours of learning simple tasks like how to eat, sleep, mate, climb, and so on as the Darwinian test of will for would-be players in this extremely ambitious world. Get beyond those first few unforgiving scenes, and the sense of reward and progress grows exponentially, even as it never ceases to introduce more layers too complex for their own good.

While you start as a herbivore, later evolutionary leaps take you millions of years into the future, up to about 2 million years from today. In that time, you'll grow from a small clan of relative imbeciles to eventually much smarter, fiercer, more capable hominids.

Early encounters with predators such as snakes and crocodiles are brutal and tough to escape, especially when they unfold in territories with which you're unfamiliar; the game clouds those regions in an effectively haunting haze meant to depict your innate fear of the unknown.

But conquer those new lands and you allow your clan to explore further, experiment more, and thrive like never before. Anything you do should always come with two infant hominids clinging to your body, as it's only through their witnessing of your actions that you can ensure genetic progress is passed down through generations.

While it can be grueling, the uplifting part about Ancestors' design is how all experiences are conducive to learning. Eating poison berries will leave you sick, but they'll also build up immunities. Getting attacked by a crocodile is terrifying, but narrowly escaping teaches you how to beat the odds. When the little ones watch it all unfold, it's like seeing the future where they have gone and done better directly because of your instructional living. 

When my first clan died off, and I had to start over, I was disheartened at the roguelike nature of evolutionary progress. It takes a lot to grow your clan and ensure they're progressing as needed. It's not a fun game to start anew. Because of that, it's crucial anyone who survives the first act  to see some traits passed down to future generations — ensures they never go extinct.

The open hub nature of Ancestors makes for a smart setting that begs to be explored. New challenges and triumphs can be found up every tree and under every rock. Watching for predators, or better yet, evading or fighting them, is a repeatable high-intensity moment with real stakes. That feeling is heightened given the game's use of permadeath, especially because the game always seems to give you what you've earned.

New traits are dripped out to players slowly, but your actions have consequences. That can mean making vital strides over a few hours, or it can mean instant death when you try to snatch a giant bird's egg from its nest seriously, don't try this at home.

Many people will downright hate Ancestors, but it's blatantly designed for accepting that eventuality. Patrice Desilets and his team seem to understand that their vision of visiting prehistory in such a grand way means treating the experience, including UI, controller input, and survival odds, with the seriousness of the subject. Whomever they lose on the way are not among the fittest.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey Review — The Bottom Line

  • Pulls no punches
  • Discovery and successes feel extraordinarily earned
  • No really, pulls NO punches
  • Controls are often unwieldy and unintuitive 

I'm still not sure I even enjoyed Ancestors. That is to say, I know I didn't have fun with Panache Games' take on the subject matter like I did reading Harari's Sapiens. But fun seems like the absolutely wrong metric to apply to Ancestors.

As fascinating as it is to read about our early hominids or watch a documentary about them, the interactivity of games seems to mean the concept won't travel well for most players.

Among those who are up for Ancestors' relentlessness, many will find their favorite game of the year. And if that's a small portion of the overall players who try to evolve through this game, then so be it, says Panache. I tend to agree.

[Note: A copy of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey was provided Take-Two Interactive for the purpose of this review.]

Bee Simulator: The Edu-tainment Kids Deserve Wed, 27 Nov 2019 18:09:58 -0500 Mark Delaney

Hearing the name Bee Simulator, you'd be forgiven for expecting the same absurdities as those found in the similarly titled Goat Simulator from Coffee Stain Studios.

While the latter is a bugs-as-features physics playground, the former, from Poland's Varsav Game Studios, is not nearly so dismissive of itself. It's still a lighthearted game, but it uses that quality in a way much more suited to the game's endgame purpose.

At its heart, Bee Sim is as much a learning experience as it is a video game. It performs both roles well enough that it should be used in schools.

By now, you're probably familiar with the meme about bees dying at an alarming rate. I still recall when I first saw it online. What you hopefully also know is that it's based on a real and growing problem. Bees really are dying at an alarming rate. It's made more problematic due to our inability to pinpoint exactly why it's happening.

Lots of theories have been proposed  pesticides, climate change, viruses and though each has its respective proponents, the most recent science, according to source-heavy podcast Science Vs, says the most likely answer is that it's a combination of all these things.

Knowing that, Bee Simulator impressed me right away. The opening cinematic reminds players just how crucial bees are to our world, and when Bee Sim touches on why bees may be fading away, it alludes to this same three-pronged dilemma.

It doesn't hunker down and pick a side. The game's only agenda is obviously to educate players, not to recruit them.

That told me Bee Simulator is well-versed in the important environmental topic it's focused on, and from then on, I was invested to see what else Bee Sim could teach players.

The game's setup is, in a word, cute. You play a bee whom you can name  I stuck with the suggested autofill of Beescuit. Ahem.

It's Beescuit's job to learn how to pollinate, waggle dance, and race across a park meant to mirror Central Park in New York. What I didn't expect is that the bees would be fully voiced and personable.

This strange approach gives the subject a Pixar-like appeal to it, as though Bee Sim is a game meant to instruct and attract kids first and foremost. In that respect, the game totally nails its mission.

Bees chat, and joke, and you'll take plenty of orders the same way every protagonist does in any game. The difference in Bee Sim is that you're a winged insect for nearly the first time ever in video games.

It feels like the kind of game that hardly exists today, but alongside its rather innocent offering to young gamers who maybe already moved onto Fortnite, it also owns something unique: a teachable moment.

Real-life bee roles are turned into silly mini-games and mechanics that put players literally in the mind of a worker bee. Bee Sim teaches the hierarchical nature of a bee colony.

The game explains what pollinating means and why it's vital to the world's food supply. And it even lets players see how bees may interact or clash with other creatures, some of them their size, others much bigger.

In its four- to five-hour story mode, Bee Sim feels more like something you'd play in school where fun smuggles in the learning. When I'm not writing, I teach at an after-school program at my son's school, and Bee Simulator is the kind of game around which I'd want to build a curriculum. In fact, I'm even considering it for the spring term.  

The gameplay is charmingly goofy, and the developers probably know that, but it's also not self-deprecating. Its pleasant and playful tone is inviting, especially to younger players. While you're having fun, Bee Simulator wants you to think about what's really happening, in the game and in our world alike.

Bee Simulator is a unique game that feels like it came to life almost impossibly. Its scope of edu-tainment would, on one hand, seem dated in an industry that no longer caters games just to kids.

It should be the case that it's now at an insurmountable disadvantage when the competition for timeshare is stuff like Rocket League, Fortnite, and sometimes even Call of Duty (trust me, they tell me).

But Bee Simulator possesses an innate appeal that still speaks to kids thanks to a family-movie-like ethos complete with its serious commitment to instructing positive change and awareness in its players.

Bees are important, and we should care that they're dying off, especially as we seem to be partly to blame. Video games are now the biggest entertainment industry in the world, and I love all sorts of games. But something like Bee Simulator is quite rare today. Even more rarely is this sort of thing done well.

I hope Bee Sim inspires more games like it, more games that use this industry's enormous influence for good. Taking care of our world could use some more positive buzz.

Airplane Mode: Live Out Your Dream of Flying Cramped in Coach Mon, 11 Nov 2019 17:05:26 -0500 Calen Nakash

It's now possible to experience the necessary evil of sitting in a cramped space among other sweaty people for hours upon end — all from the comfort of your own home. Airplane Mode, the first video game published by AMC games, is about to land.  

Specifically, this is a simulation game that allows players to sit down, relax, and listen to the hum of the engine while they do fun activities such as playing crossword puzzles, getting in-flight snacks, and experiencing the trifecta of taxiing, taking off, and landing. Sessions last for the real-time duration of the flight. 

Clayton Neuman, VP of Gaming for AMC, said about the game:

AMC has always been committed to bringing visionaries’ passion projects to life — on-screen and now in games, and we’re thrilled to launch this new label with the debut of Hosni Auji’s Airplane Mode. The game is as insightful as it is absurd; a meditation on life between destinations, and one that we will be proud to bring to players worldwide next year.

The game's official Steam page says that Airplane Mode is full of "authentic ambient noise," including crying babies. It clarifies, though, that not every flight comes with a crying baby. 

According to a press release, it also includes: 

  • Fairly accurate satellite imagery of your flight path
  • Carry-on bag with a book, headphones, pen, and charging cable
  • Overhead reading light and complimentary aircraft information card
  • IFC-produced inflight safety video
  • Chance of inclement weather (turbulence), bad WiFi, and delays
  • Inflight magazine filled with travel articles, crossword and Sudoku.

While the real question might be "why is Airplane Mode even a game?", the answer is most likely that this is the necessary next step in human civilization — or at least simulation games in the vein of Bus Simulator or even Hand Simulator.

By simulating the monotony of their daily lives, players will be ready the next time they're forced to fly coach and choke down subpar food as they fight for dominion over the central armrest. Or it might just be a game about flying in an airplane.  

While Airplane Mode launches in 2020, a special alpha build of the game will run during Desert Bus For Hope’s 2019 livestream on Tuesday, November 12. The Desert Bus For Hope's charity "combines video games with tedium" and has raised more than $4.4 million for Child's Play, an organization that improves the lives of children in hospitals.

The event will kick off on November 8, at 11 a.m. EST. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news on Airplane Mode as it hits the tarmac. 

Sources: Gamasutra, Steam, Desert Bus, Child's Play

Surviving The Aftermath Early Access Impressions: Survival of the Fittest Mon, 21 Oct 2019 11:50:18 -0400 Jordan Baranowski

Even though it was just announced, Surviving the Aftermath is already available in Early Access. It's the next game in Paradox's "Surviving" series following Surviving Mars, and it's exclusive to the Epic Games Store.

It still feels very early in the game's development cycle, but Surviving the Aftermath seems like it could shape up to be a pretty fun colony builder — and a nice way for you to spend some time conquering the apocalypse.

It's All Come Tumbling Down

Surviving the Aftermath brings plenty of new tricks to the table. Here's the setup: a catastrophic event has occurred, killing most of the Earth's population and contaminating a lot of usable land. You are in charge of a small colony of survivors, and you need to manage your resources, expand your settlement, fight off bandits, and make tough decisions about how to withstand the challenging environment you're stuck in.

You do this by building a variety of structures, each offering up different purposes and resources. You can salvage some finite resources from the map around you, but disasters and bandit attacks can occur, and, of course, they cause setbacks. Every type of resource is vital once you get far enough along, so any disruption to your supply chain can have dire consequences if you can't fix them quickly enough.

My first taste of this bitter reality came when my colony became enveloped in radioactive fallout for an extended period. I had neglected my medical supplies, as my colonists had been fairly healthy up until that point. Before I knew it, radiation poisoning was wreaking havoc on the population. About a quarter of my working citizens died before I could get it under control it took a long, long time to recover after that.

End of the Line

Surviving the Aftermath tries to carve out a little niche for itself in a crowded genre. It isn't overtly funny, but it isn't nearly as bleak as something like Frostpunk. It's a bit more Mad Max and Fallout, but it's set in the familiar, engine-building colony management genre we're pretty familiar with.

One way it tries to add a bit of a wrinkle into things is by including a world map. Fairly early on, you can construct your colony's gate. This will achieve a few different things for you: it will allow more random-decision events (traders will come to your camp or nomads looking for a home will come knocking), and it will give you the option to send explorers out into the world.

A few of your citizens are unique, too, and they can explore the world around you. As you survey territories, you can hunt for supplies, fight bandits, pick up technology that allows you to develop new buildings, and so on.

As of right now, the exploration portion of Surviving the Aftermath feels... underwhelming. You're very removed from any of the action; battling bandits plays like Civilization, where you just run your more powerful units into their weaker units a few times until it dies.

At the moment, this is a critical flaw in Surviving the Aftermath because you must continually swap back and forth between the world map and your colony. If the world map is going to remain as hands-off as it currently is, it would be nice if there was a level of automation to it. I would only like to be pulled in for a big decision or an injured explorer. If the developers what to keep it as is, it would be nice to add some sort of minigame or an extra level of interaction to the world map.

Just clicking on things doesn't add anything when players are trying to build a humming colony.

One Man's Trash, Another Man's Treasure

Colony simulation is a pretty crowded genre at this point, so there are some definite similarities to be drawn between Surviving the Aftermath and its cohorts.

The game Surviving the Aftermath closest resembles is Banished: you have a small number of colonists, you set up buildings in very similar ways, and many of your resources are the same. It's tough more for the world it puts you in rather than figuring out what you need to do.

That said, there's already quite a bit more to do in this game than in Banished. If it continues to fill out through Early Access (the developers already have a reasonably robust roadmap for improvements), this is definitely a colony sim you could sink your teeth into and lose plenty of hours with.

It doesn't have to be particularly challenging, either; when you start a new game, there are several options to pick from that adjust how difficult the game will be. Things like starting resources, frequency of catastrophes, and the number of bandits all get adjusted before you begin. You can also see how much each option will affect the difficulty level by means of a percentage counter. 

One aspect that struck me while playing Surviving the Aftermath was how taxing it was on my system. Even adjusting several options and turning settings way down didn't help; I've got a pretty beefy PC, and my GPU was running hot despite the fact that nothing in Surviving the Aftermath should be that taxing. Hopefully, this gets fixed in future updates (or is just an anomaly for me).

Get the Polish

  • Adjustable difficulty
  • Small scale makes for more personal stories
  • Lots of potential
  • Still very early
  • World map needs some work
  • Taxing on performance

At this point, it's tough to recommend Surviving the Aftermath as is. It seems like a game that could become something great, but considering how early the game still feels, you may want to wait on for a while.

Considering the team behind it, it does seem like Aftermath could become another great colony simulator once the wrinkles get ironed out. We'll have more on it as it gets closer to launch.

[Note: An Early Access copy of Surviving the Aftermath was provided by Paradox Interactive for the purposes of this impressions article.]

Hop Into an X-Wing With This VR Mod for Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance Fri, 09 Aug 2019 14:46:55 -0400 Jonathan Moore

There's little doubt that any Star Wars fan would jump at the chance to climb into the cockpit of an X-Wing fighter. In no small way is the idea of piloting the iconic Rebel Alliance spacecraft ingrained into the larger cultural zeitgeist, appearing in various television shows and movies across many decades. 

Now, thanks to the power of VR and the ingenuity of the modding community, that fiction has become reality in one of the series' more revered games: X-Wing Alliance

First reported by UploadVR, the X-Wing Alliance VR mod is the product of a single developer, known as Prof Butts on YouTube. Though I haven't yet tried the mod myself and work is still being done, the developer's YouTube channel shows the incredible progress that's been made since the project started in March. 

The video at the top of this article showcases one of the mod's more recent updates, which brings a dynamic cockpit into the game. However, there is another video (seen below) showing super awesome dogfighting and other XWA gameplay that highlights the power VR can have in a game like X-Wing

Making this an even more impressive achievement: this is their first mod ever.

Those interested in giving the mod a whirl can download the latest version here. According to the developer, who I spoke to on Reddit, "version 1.0.0 supports PSVR and Google Cardboard through third-party software, and it's also compatible with SteamVR ... Oculus, Vive, and Pimax."

Prof Butts explains how to use the mod with PSVR in this Reddit post

They also say that VR in X-Wing Alliance is not exactly a mod in and of itself. Instead, it's more accurately a "graphics library mod" doing most of the work.

I'm not really modifying the game; we don't have the source code for XWA. Instead, there's this graphics library that is used to translate old DirectX 6 commands into DirectX 11. The source code for the graphics library is public, and that's what I'm modifying.

So, I guess, technically speaking, it's not even an XWA mod; it's a DirectX 6-graphics-library mod that just happens to make XWA run in VR.

They say most of the work is done with Visual Studio, although some other community-made tools are necessary as well. The most recent update to the project fixes previous issues with the game's HUD

This virtual reality mod for X-Wing Alliance isn't the first time players have had the chance to immersively sit in the cockpit of an X-Wing. Several arcade games have attempted to recreate the experience over the years, although those did not implement virtual reality and instead relied on other immersive haptic techniques to simulate a cockpit experience.

2016's Star Wars: Battlefront — Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission allowed PlayStation VR players, who also owned that year's Battlefront reboot, to pilot the eponymous craft. However, as the name suggests, that "game" is only a single level, one that clocks in somewhere around 20 minutes. While extraordinary, it's hardly a robust experience.

The dearth of X-Wing VR experiences is actually what set Prof Butts on this modding journey in the first place. 

Growing up, I loved the X-Wing/TIE-Fighter series. I played them over and over. Then, around 2016, the Rogue One VR mission came out for PSVR, and it was AMAZING! [sic] But short... I wanted more.

I kept waiting for this other flight simulator to come out [Ace Combat 7] ... because I read somewhere that it was going to be 100% VR. Then it finally came out and [I] saw it on the shelves back in [February]; but the VR content was again about 20 mins. It was very disappointing and my PSVR was essentially just gathering dust in the meantime.

Around that time, my sister (who is also a big Star Wars fan) and I were talking about how it would be great to have a full VR X-Wing space combat sim game. So then I searched the web for any X-Wing VR games and found tools that automatically converted old games into VR, like VorpX, Trinus, TriDef and even some nVidia VR drivers.

None of that worked very well (it was just varying degrees of flatness). So, more frustration. That's when I asked myself: "How hard would it be to convert one of the classic games into VR?" And here we are. Also, I chose XWA because it's the only game in the series with 3D cockpits.

Another impressive fan-made project, called Star Wars X-Wing VR, allows players into the cockpit of an X-Wing but only for the now infamous trench run from Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. The cool thing here, though, is that it's a student-made experience compatible with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. 

That experience can be downloaded here

Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance released on February 28, 1999, on Microsoft Windows and IBM PC compatible. It improved on the earlier X-Wing and Tie Fighter games in several ways. Outside of improved graphics and a mission editor, the game increased the size of its playable maps as well as the number of ships present in each battle. 

The game is currently available for $9.99 on both Steam and Good Old Games. Those interested can download more mods for the game by visiting Darksaber's X-Wing Station, a modding site shared with us by Prof Butts. 

Stardew Valley Blooms on Android Today, Brings New Features Thu, 14 Mar 2019 14:50:58 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Developer Concerned Ape and publisher Chucklefish teamed up a few years back to bring the world a loveably retro farming simulator, Stardew Valley.

At the time, no one could have predicted this indie take on classic Harvest Moon style gameplay would garner such a large and intensely devoted audience.

However, here we are today, knowing that it certainly did.

The game sold more than a million copies two months after its initial launch, an additional one million copies five months after launching on the Switch, and it surpassed 3.5 million total units sold as of January 2018.

Back in October, the farming simulator launched on iOS devices. While the App Store doesn't show download numbers, the game is #1 in the store's role-playing section and has some 3,900 ratings. Stardew Valley is currently rated a 4.5 out of 5 on the store. 

But now, months after being promised, Android owners can share in the fun, too, as the award-winning indie launches on Android today. It's available in the Google Play Store for $7.99.

In case you aren't familiar with the game's basic premise, here's an overview from Chucklefish:

  • Create the farm of your dreams: Turn your overgrown fields into a lively and bountiful farm!
  • Learn to live off the land: Raise animals, go fishing, tend to crops, craft items, or do it all! The choice is yours...
  • Become a part of the local community: Pelican Town is home to over 30 residents you can befriend!
  • Meet someone special: With 12 townsfolk to date, you may even find someone to start a family with!
  • Explore vast, mysterious caves: Encounter dangerous monsters & valuable treasures deep underground!
  • Customize: There are hundreds of character & home decoration options to choose from!

The Android version of Stardew Valley is similar to the iOS version, with all of the single-player content of the main game, but no multiplayer modes. The only other difference between the mobile and console versions of the game is that the mobile version is optimized for touch-screen control, allegeldy making Stardew Valley even easier to play on the go.

The Secret Police, the game's mobile developer, has also implemented a few new changes to the mobile version since it launched on iOS:

  • Save at any time, even when you close the app!
  • Pinch-zoom functionality, allowing players to handily zoom in to track down your Junimos or zoom out to get a full view of your farm
  • New control systems including virtual joystick and invisible joystick options, 'action/attack' button option, improved auto-attack and Joypad adjuster tool with complete customization of your onscreen controls

Stardew Valley isn't the newest indie farm-and-life simulator available, but the combination of gameplay styles and massive amounts of content — the main game will take 50+ hours to finish — mean many people consider it the superior choice.

Long-time Harvest Moon fans even see Stardew Valley as the series' natural successor, since it builds on what made Natsume's franchise so popular while fixing many of the problems fans pointed out for years.

There is certainly a lot to do, but if you're a complete newcomer to the Valley, you can check out our extensive Stardew Valley guide content for help getting started.

Devolver Digital's Marijuana Tycoon Game, Weedcraft Inc, Comes To Steam on April 11 Wed, 13 Mar 2019 16:51:11 -0400 QuintLyn

In a little over a month, Steam players everywhere will be able to build their own cannabis empire. On April 11, Vile Monarch and Devolver Digital's Weedcraft Inc will launch on Valve's digital store.

The narrative-based tycoon simulator offers players a chance to experience the growing American cannabis industry, telling the story of a business student named Johnny who joins his brother in the weed industry after their dad dies. 

While Johnny's brother was growing weed to help with their father's illness,  the duo decided it was time to branch out, with Johnny running the business side of things while learning how to grow weed and escape the law. 

Players decide everything in their new business, ranging from how their storefront will look to whether or not to bribe cops, and, finally, if they should take advantage of weed legalization and become a legitimate business. 

In Weedcraft Inc, players will test both their weed growing abilities and their business knowledge. They'll decide what strains of weed to grow and how to grow them. They'll upgrade the business as they go along, using better grow spaces, better soil, and choosing the best types of marijuana to grow. Real strains are represented in the game, too, so players will be able to choose between the likes of Blue Dream and Northern Lights, for example.


The game's story and various scenarios are "largely informed" by the research of lead writer, Scott Alexander. According to the developers, "Scott's stories fold examples of the often ludicrous loopholes unique to specific regions, as well as the grim realities of prejudice, into the game's narrative." 

While they continue by saying Weedcraft's story is meant to highlight and "better understand" the pros and cons of the legal marijuana debate, that still remains to be seen. 

Those interested can learn more by checking out our preview of the game, as well as by visiting the game's official Steam page

Out Of Space Is Behold Studios' Annoying Housemates Simulator Tue, 05 Mar 2019 14:06:17 -0500 Joshua Broadwell

Brazilian developer Behold Studios, the minds behind Chroma Squad and The Knights of Pen and Paper, announced its newest project today, Out of Space. A multiplayer simulator, this upcoming title focuses on the small details of life, like keeping the house clean, that can so easily get under the skin, but there's a twist: it happens to be set in space.

The goal in Out of Space is twofold: stay alive while keeping your space home running smoothly. The latter task involves ordinary daily tasks, such as taking out the trash, keeping things free from dirt, and doing the dishes, but, according to Behold's Sauolo Camarotti, that's where things get interesting:

Almost everyone has experienced the frustration of figuring out who’s responsible for all those mundane household tasks. But imagine if you lived in space how much more challenging it would be to even take the dog for a walk.

Along with maintaining your space home, you'll also be decorating it and making it exactly the way you and your housemates want it to be. Judging from the images Behold provided, there will be a wide range of furnishings to use when doing so, and houses appear fairly large, featuring what looks like an outdoor deck area.

Whether you'll be able to add rooms during the game remains to be seen, but it seems, just like in real life, you'll have a budget to work with. Presumably, in future updates and demonstrations, Behold will reveal how players can earn money too.

The other aspect of gameplay involves survival, though Behold wasn't as detailed on that facet. Alien goo and dirt apparently make their way into your home from time to time and must be dealt with before disaster strikes. There's also the threat of people turning into alien cocoons.

Out of Space is expected to launch this fall on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch with support for multiple languages. While it is focused on co-op play, it will feature a single player mode.

Monster Rancher 2 Celebratory Tweets Tease New Game Mon, 25 Feb 2019 12:24:36 -0500 Ashley Shankle

The folks over at Koei Tecmo have created a Japanese Twitter account for the Monster-raising and fighting sim series Monster Rancher (Monster Farm in Japan). While the first tweets from the account are in celebration of Monster Rancher 2's 20th anniversary, they also indicate that the series may be making its return.

The current tweets from the official Monster Farm Twitter don't directly confirm that something is in the works, but they do offer a tease. Rancher assistant Colt makes her return in the tweets, and they both have tags indicating it's Monster Rancher 2's 20th anniversary.

I've translated them lazily and will let you be the judge of what they might mean for the future:

Whew... can you believe it?
It's already been 20 years since we started working together!

Really, thank you so much for everything.
And now, it's goodbye...

Just kidding
Let's keep it up!

If Monster Rancher comes back in this day and age, we may get it as a mobile game rather than a full-blown title. There's always the possibility of it just staying in Japan, too.

I, for one, would welcome any sort of new entry to the series, gacha or otherwise. Koei Tecmo themselves have been dipping its toes into the mobile market these days, particularly with Romance of the Three Kingdoms titles. It's most likely that a new Monster Rancher would be a mobile game, all things considered.

Don't take this as an official announcement just yet, though. These new images of Colt and Mocchi are a blast from the past, but a new Twitter account and celebratory tweets are not confirmation of a new title. We'll just have to wait and see whether Koei Tecmo decides to turn this reference into a revival.

Prison Architect IP Sold to Paradox Interactive Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:06:47 -0500 Ashley Shankle

Prison Architect's gotten a handful of updates since its full release, but even more updates may be in store if Paradox Interactive's track record is any indication. After all, they did just buy all of the rights and assets for Prison Architect from developer Introversion.

Since its release on Steam Early Access, Prison Architect has stood both as one of the most prolific indie games on Steam and as one of the most played management simulation games on the platform. It has also been released on PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One, and mobile. It's stretched far past its initial aspirations as a PC game.

Paradox is best known as a strategy publisher and Prison Architect fits right within the rest of their IPs. This acquisition will allow Paradox to continue development of the game and develop other titles based off the Architect IP.

If you're a fan of Prison Architect, this news may be a little worrying as Paradox is very well known for releasing long lists of DLC for individual titles. The game thus far has been free of DLC, with its big updates simply being released as free patches. On the other hand, even more content for Prison Architect is more than welcome as its patches have been releasing in a slow roll over the years.

I, for one, welcome our Paradox overlords to take the reigns and give me more ways to manage and torture my prisoners. Don't you? Let us know in the comments below!

Cities: Skylines Industries DLC Review -- A Fantastic Addition Mon, 22 Oct 2018 19:30:42 -0400 Fox Doucette

Every so often, a great game gets a great expansion DLC. In even fewer instances, that DLC improves so well upon the promise of the original release that from that point onward, it's hard to recommend new players buy the game without immediately including the DLC in their order.

Think Modern Times in Tropico 4, the downtown nightlife expansions in the Sims series, or Brave New World for Civilization V. They're indispensable parts of the games they add to because of the new mechanics they introduce.

Industries, the latest DLC for Cities: Skylines, joins Mass Transit on that must-have list.

A vast expanse of oil fields with red and white conning towers emitting steam, reaches toward the city downtown

As the name implies, this DLC completely overhauls the game's industrial system, taking mechanics that will be familiar to anyone who's already familiar with the game's districting system and using them to finally bring some real value to the four natural resources that have been part of Skylines maps since the game launched in 2015.

What's New in Industries

Before, you could put down an industrial district on fertile land and rely on the game to create farming industries. The same was true of trees and forestry, ores and mining, and oil and...well...oil.

With the expansion installed? You'll have a far greater level of control over the production chains those resources previously handled offscreen.

For example, if you build a forestry district, you'll first have specialized buildings -- and they're not standard industrial zones; they're actual buildings like the venues in Parklife, Skylines' previous DLC -- that create “forestry products”, which is to say logs.

Once your forestry district levels up -- and this, too, is a direct pull from the way the parks level up in Parklife, dependent on resource production and profitability -- you can start producing “planed lumber”, otherwise known as boards.

Those boards can then be transported within your city, influencing the classic zoned industry.

Trucks drive down dirt roads in a forestry district in Cities: Skylines

And Colossal Order has built a complete tycoon game into this new supply-chain mechanic. It's reminiscent of the resources in the Cities XL series or even the production chains in the classic Capitalism 2.

There are also plenty of other industry buildings -- warehouses, cargo airports, and even a post office system to turn mail into an industry unto itself -- to completely change the way the industries work in the game.

And because of the way these systems level up over the course of the game, they're not only usable out of the box, but it's actually better to plan your entire city's growth around just that eventuality. This is a DLC that scales from early- to late-game and can have a place in a variety of different city plans from the moment you're choosing a map and looking at what resources are available on it -- all before ever putting down your first building.

Another plus? Where in the past industry was something players tended to (typically) evolve away from in terms of employment options for their citizens as soon as office zones unlocked, you can now create actual prosperous industrial cities that aren't polluted disaster areas.

The high-tech production chains have profit potential that puts even the best office-and-education strategy to shame, but it comes at a cost of the game expecting players to put a lot of effort into the building and maintenance of their industrial production.

A dirt road cuts through farm land with trees on one side, green and brown crops on the other

If you are any kind of Skylines enthusiast, you're going to enjoy what this DLC has to offer. Your cities will have more variety since those resources on the map will finally be worth something in terms of actual interesting gameplay options.

In addition, managing those production chains is a game within a game that makes Skylines an even deeper and richer experience than it's ever been before.

If you're the kind of person who turns off the advanced options because Skylines is already a little too complex for you out of the box, this isn't going to be your cup of tea. It will break your brain if you're not careful, and if you just don't want to have manufacturing be part of your city's economy, you can still play without it.

The Verdict

This is an absolute must-have DLC for Cities: Skylines enthusiasts. It's one of the best expansion packs to come into gaming itself in years, and it brings Skylines closer to being the ultimate only city-builder you'll ever need.

The way industrial zones will change the way your cities function and serve as the focus of a powerhouse economy turns one of the biggest albatrosses of the late-game into an integrated part of the game's overall strategy from small town to metropolis.

If you own Skylines, get Industries. It's that good.

You can pick up the Industries DLC on Steam for $14.99.

[Note: A review copy of this DLC was provided by the publisher.]

Megaquarium: Joyous Fun in a Straightforward Management Simulator Tue, 18 Sep 2018 12:21:36 -0400 Zack Palm

Whenever you sit down to enjoy a majority of management simulators, you're expected to handle various different pop-ups jumping up at you to gain your attention, you're expected to notice small problems in your facility and address them accordingly, and the developers want you to handle every detail with the accuracy of an overhanging god. The developers behind Megaquarium threw away this mindset and instead hand you a wonderful simulator so you can sit back, relax, and take pride in the joy you bring to crafting a lovely aquarium for every member of the family to enjoy.

Though Megaquarium may seem overly simple, there's plenty the game brings to your attention in a great manner without making you feel like you have to micro-manage every detail of every day as you run your ideal aquarium.

We All Start Here

The game's story is loose, but it keeps you engaged as a player. You start beginning to learn how to run your own aquarium, discovering what the needs of your fish are and what they require to stay alive. There's a lot more going on than you expect! However, you don't have to manage too much of it, only make it available for your staff to access, and they do the rest.

The game introduces you to the requirements of each tank, as they need proper water filters and heat filters to survive in a suitable environment. This becomes easy management, at first, until the game starts to throw at you various species that need different things beyond this -- some require the proper amount of vegetation living their tank, or the right amount of hiding spaces to survive; fish need their privacy if they're ready to get adored by humans. Each tank provides space for a certain amount of fish, and each species of fish takes up a certain amount of space. 

This concept becomes a bit more complicated due to some species growing even larger after a set number of days. You either prepare for this by having space for more filters or heaters to accommodate the bigger fish, or have an empty enough tank for them to room. You also have to watch out for their tank-mates -- as they may eat smaller fish if they grow too big.

Are you following all of these minor details?

While it may seem insane at first, Megaquarium breaks all of these concepts down in simple, easy-to-follow levels that make you handle them one by one. None of these issues or problems are brought up without a thorough explanation, which makes this game a fun experience to behold as you can almost never feel left behind, unless you jump straight into the sandbox menu.

Breaking Out

The game's campaign takes a while to break you out of its training wheels, but when it does you'll have a wide-wealth of skills at your disposal. You'll learn how to build tanks in the middle of a floor and have the equipment away from the audience's eye, how to make it look natural against the wall of your establishment, and how to provide the best reading material for your audience without letting them look at it for free. There's balance to knowing how to build your aquarium, but it's entirely up to you.

The campaign's levels give you a good breadth of what to expect when you craft your own building, but don't expect any handouts -- expect for the optional missions that pop up to give you a small leading hand while you handle the main mission of managing your revenue and your prestige. The more prestige you have, the more ranks of fame your aquarium has, which means the wider diversity of fish and buildings you can incorporate into your personal choices. These pieces of research take time, as they you need aquarium points in ecology and science to build. You can only add these up based on the types of animals you have in your establish. 

Thankfully, the wonderful break downs make it easy for you to see what you're earning and what you need to work on. You can even see which fish are the most popular, and this changes based on where they're located in your aquarium.

The Beautiful Data

Don't fret if you believe you're going to spend half of your time in game staring at a menu, reading numerous numbers. This part distinctly tells you the information you need to know, and then you can freely move on to use that date to improve your park.

It's that simple!

On the lower left hand of the screen you pull up how much money you make in a day based on the tickets you sell. While you can change how much the tickets cost, you can see the increase of how many tickets are purchased based on the attractions you've added to your establishment. You can't strictly see this information, but it becomes obvious as you add more exhibits and add more places for people to visit. I found myself waiting a few days for the audience members to do their rounds, view what they wanted, and then move on, before I felt safe in adding a new attraction. 

One thing that was really nice about this game was I never felt a distinct pressure about crafting a new area. Some management games hurt or encouraged me to build a new station, and when they hurt me I felt the repercussions for several days as I attempted to cover the losses. You don't get that in this game. You can have bad things happen to your tanks, such as a bigger fish eating a smaller fish or a predator eating a prey, but other than that, there's no big consequence to adding a new tank to your facility to increase revenue or prestige to build your location even further. 

You do have to look out for the fact you may build too many tanks for a similar species. The more diverse species you have in an aquarium, the happier your audience is as they don't have the see the same thing over and over again. When you watch out for that, the minor attractions like food, drink, and restroom facilities, you're basically golden to sit back and enjoy the numbers going up, and up in this game.

Difficult To Produce Errors

One thing I never felt while running my little aquarium was a sense of fear. I never feared I would run out of money, I would simply need to wait a day or two for income to arrive and I could purchase the items I needed. I never felt the information the game gave me was insufficient to where I would accidentally house fish together that could eat each other. While it did happen, it was never a learning experience, it was always presented to me.

This is the one thing Megaquarium doesn't seem to present players: a sense of worry or doubt in themselves in what they build. There's plenty of brakes given to the player to ensure they build at a gradual rate without going too overboard. I never went into the red and never ran into money issues or felt I needed to fire an employee to ensure the lights stayed on.

Though, this isn't a huge issue. For those who want a simple, relaxing simulation game to play without feeling the need to constantly fixate over charts, this makes for an excellent experience. There's nothing wrong with this, but it feels like a missed opportunity for players to feel the weight of having to own a struggling business.

The Result

Megaquarium invites you to have a good time learning how to run your own aquarium with the various different mechanics going on in its game. You learn plenty, and when you the spend the time getting to know what you need to do to run your own establishment, everything falls into place -- don't ever feel too pressured!

Though this game doesn't offer too much pressure, that's not the point. You're meant to relax while you build your favorite aquarium and provide pure joy for everyone who walks through your days to view your exhibits. Only remember to watch what species you put together and what you show off, as too much of a good thing is not a good sight for others to behold!

Senran Kagura Reflexions Review: Senran-Lite Thu, 13 Sep 2018 13:28:24 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Let's not pretend the Senran Kagura games are high art: you play the games for the boobs. I also play the games for the boobs. You know what you're getting into when you buy a Senran Kagura game, is what I'm saying.

The big draw to this series is the fanservice -- oppai here, oppai there, oppai everywhere! Somehow Senrans have found their way to several platforms over the past few years, from PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS to PC and Nintendo Switch.

Senran Kagura Reflexions is not a game for a new wave of players, but it's more a toybox for already-acclimated fans who want to spend time with their favorite girls. Out of its digital box, Reflexions allows you to practice massage and spend time with series headliner Asuka.

Yeah, the above paragraph is kind of weird. This is a fanservice game, which can mean a few things within the anime community. Sometimes it means simply something for fans of a series to enjoy, and other times it means it's explicitly erotic without showing sex (or outright nudity; this definition is also called "ecchi").

In the case of Reflexions, "fanservice" retains both its definitions. It's pretty much only for fans of certain girls, and it's pretty much all ecchi content. This is not a game you buy for the gameplay.

Your time in Senran Kagura Reflexions is spent massaging Asuka in three phases. In the first, you massage her hands. In the second, you massage her body. In the third, you use one of a handful of tools for a deeper massage. Between each phase, she talks to you about the dream scenario you're in or her training a la' a visual novel.

There's not much to it. Her interactions with you adjust a bit between each phase based on how you just finished massaging her. In the Standard Reflexology ~Body~ phase, this is most easily directly affected as each action you perform can give one one of five feelings that will carry over into the next phase. It is very simple and easy to understand once you get to it.

When you finish the game -- which takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes -- you unlock new accessories to dress Asuka in and pose or freely massage. Dressing the girls up and posing them is a series past-time this entry couldn't afford to miss out on.

If this all sounds bad, it's time to check out from this review. If it sounds decent, it's time to get to the real meat of it.

Ecchi, at your service

The things I was excited for in Senran Kagura Reflexions were the supposedly unique controller vibrations the Nintendo Switch Joy Cons were supposed to have with this game. You're supposed to feel the jiggles. That's very tempting. Regrettably, I would not say I "felt the jiggles".

There's a lot of rumble in the jungle but don't let that push you into a buy if think it's going to feel like your holding your favorite Senran's hand. It's not going to. I'm sorry.

The last of the three phases is the most ecchi of them by a few miles.

The first one focuses on her hands, which (for me) is a big "whatever." The second is squeezing, caressing, or spraying water on her to affect her mood; this phase takes the longest, but is another "whatever." This one is best in Mini-Reflexology mode where she wears your chosen outfits.

The third is the one where it gets real weird. You can use one of a handful of massage tools -- from your hands to a brush or even an ultimate massager.

This is easily the most ecchi of the phases, but it's also the only one that actually has active gameplay. The motion controls are best for this phase but are significantly more cumbersome than just pressing the buttons. The motion controls are for dedicated fans only! At least, they're the only ones I can imagine using them the whole way through.

Among the 3D ecchi are a few visual novel-style CGs. These are few and far between, but I find them more satisfying than petting Asuka's arm with a brush.

Senran Kagura Reflexions is ultimately not much more than a toybox for fans of the series who want to get more up close and personal with a handful of Senrans. It's nothing more and it's nothing less -- the pool of girls and overall reflexology activities you can participate in are both very shallow.

As mentioned earlier, Reflexions only comes with Asuka to start. That's fair considering the $9.99 price tag, but there is no way to get out of buying Asuka (my second-least favorite girl).

Further characters to be added as DLC are Yumi, Murasaki, Ryouna, and Yomi. Each girl costs an additional $9.99 to practice reflexology with, with Yumi being the first available DLC today. Yomi, Murasaki, and Ryouna will be released in the coming weeks.

I can appreciate a good ecchi game but the lack of character and gameplay variety in Reflexions sticks out like a sore thumb to anyone not a massive fan of the five girls, and additional characters being $9.99 each only makes that sting a little more.

This is a discount game in price and content, and is by no means the high point of the SK series. If you want an ecchi game on console, go with a different Senran Kagura game like Estival Versus or Peach Beach Splash. There's even SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy out now, and that's a fanservice fighter.

If you're a superfan of one of the five girls mentioned, you'll probably want to pick Senran Kagura Reflexions up just to interact with them in a more direct manner than the series usually has available. I'll no doubt be buying Ryouna on release day, but only because she is of my particular tastes; otherwise this is an entirely forgettable entry to a series that is best known for it's big boobs and nutty scenarios. It's got the honkers, but they're not varied enough that i would recommend a purchase unless you really really want to get up close and personal with Asuka's thighs.

(Disclaimer: Writer was granted a copy of the game from the publisher for review purposes.)


This Is The Police 2 Review Fri, 03 Aug 2018 17:15:18 -0400 Zack Palm

Managing a police station can lead to some outrageous circumstances, and This Is The Police 2 doesn't pull any punches. In this management sim, you'll find yourself patrolling a ridiculously dark and brutal main story, while also stumbling upon some light-heartened humor and painful choices.

Sharpwood PD rides the roller-coaster of emotion.

As the police chief of the titular station, you'll manage cops and deal with the criminal underworld wiggling beneath this small town. Though tough decisions help This Is The Police 2 stand out as a fun management sim, the story itself feels a little underwhelming as it quickly deflates into a mirror of the first game.

Breaker, Breaker, One-Nine

When you first start up This Is The Police 2, you'll be introduced to the most noticeable feature of the sequel, the game's XCOM-like combat swat missions (which we'll talk about in more detail later). But after that, the action quickly comes to a screeching halt as you're tossed into a long cutscene that feels like you've been thrown into a small movie you can't get out of.

Unfortunately, this is the trend throughout This Is The Police 2; each new day starts with a brief cutscene you can't possibly skip. If you're a fan of the first game, you're probably used to this and won't necessarily be bothered, but if you're someone who wants to get to the action quickly (and haven't played the first game), it's something to note. 

Following the protagonist from the first game, Jack Boyd, This Is The Police 2 delves into the seedy underworld of a more-or-less traditional cop flick. There's intrigue, there's suspicion, there's blackmail. Gangs and drug traffickers make things dicey, and people are wrongly(?) accused. There's murder, there's vice, there's corruption.

Although all the pieces for a gripping narrative are here -- as Jack finds that the only way to escape the dire circumstances around him is to reach out to those around him -- the game instead focuses on basically retelling what happened in the first gameIt's ultimately a lazy form of storytelling that makes the best parts of This Is The Police 2 less memorable. 

Managing The Worst Cops Ever

Once you finish the game's relatively long introduction, you'll get thrown into the real meat of the game: becoming Sharpwood's police chief. You're going to spend most of your time focused on these duties and responding to calls using your limited resources.

This is how it works: at the end of each day, you pick from a roster of officers who you'll assign to the next day's shift. Each officer has a portrait detailing six stats. These stats show how talented each officer is based on their traits of strength, intelligence, speed, stealth, shooting, and negotiation. 

As you would suspect, your officers use these skills in their day-to-day tasks, and their skills determine how likely it is the officers in question will succeed in stopping crime or serving the public. On top of that, some calls will require multiple officers with a certain score, adding an interesting wrinkle to your overall strategy. 

Under each portrait is a small line detailing the officer's energy levels. If this bar gets too low, the officer cannot perform any more tasks and takes the day off. Though, if you send an officer home with a low energy bar, it's likely they'll return to duty having gotten sloppy drunk the night before -- and it makes them angry and difficult to work with.

Of course, as it happens, that's just one line you'll get. You'll quickly discover there's a veritable smorgasbord of excuses just waiting to be gobbled up. 

When certain officers arrive to report, they'll showcase their expertise in coming up with lame, absolutely absurd excuses as to why they can't work that day. Some officers get too drunk at home or at happy hour or some other seemingly-illegitimate excuse, while others have the gumption to simply say they don't want to work today. 

Either way, it places a somewhat infuriating burden on the player when they've expect 10 cops show up to work one day and can only start the day with five. This happened a lot in the beginning of the game, and it made answering calls a nightmare before more officers were hired to the force.

Fighting Crime in Sharpwood

When you have your force ready to go, you arrive to a map of Sharpwood and spend the day answering calls. 

After officers arrive on the scene, you'll be faced with several choices, each of which gives you a unique way of handling the current situation. This is where the officer's skills come into play, since certain actions depend on certain skills. For example, you might need a cop to sneak up on an old man attempting to defecate on a banker's desk (yes, this occurred several times), and if he doesn't pass his sneak check, well ...  

Other times, you'll run into some officers saying they can't head out on call because they're taking a nap or they don't want to go on call with a woman -- the excuses never stop in Sharpwood and they only get worse. When this happened, it felt like another annoying, obstructing feature developed solely to give you an even more difficult situation.

Sure, there are lazy misogynists in the world, but having so many didn't necessarily feel organic to the game itself. 

After your shift, you'll receive the tops of aluminum soda cans -- or stay-tabs -- which act as the game's currency. Based on how well your team did during the day, you'll get a certain amount to add more officers to the force and provide more equipment to your team.

With enough balancing, you should add enough new faces to the force to endure those rougher (ahem, lazier) days and eventually gain loyalty with your officers, which becomes more useful as the main story unwinds.

SWAT Missions

The game's SWAT missions show up much like any other call does. You'll assign officers and when they arrive, your cops have the option to talk to three witnesses. They'll talk, but only if you give up one of the confiscated items Jack has in his office. Sometimes the intel's good, other times, it's useless.

After a bit of chatting, you'll get taken to the scene of the crime and observe the mission from an over-the-top perspective. Here, you'll manage your cops much like you would manage soldiers in an XCOM mission. Though, the XCOM soldiers were likely far better disciplined, and vastly more useful.

If you've assigned officers not loyal to Jack, or those who simply don't like him, they'll do whatever they want during the mission. This doesn't mean they're ignoring your commands every couple of turns. No, that'd be too easy. These rogue officers straight up have a bloodthirsty A.I. controlling them, having them shoot any perpetrator(s) they run into. 

This becomes a huge problem in the beginning of the game because you want to arrest these criminals, not kill them, because you receive less stay-tabs if they're dead.

Of course, that's likely the difficulty behind it. The game wants to prevent you from getting too many stay-tabs early, making it a tad bit harder to turn the Sharpwood PD around. But in some ways, it feels like frustrating design more than anything else. 

Lastly, based on the crime happening in the SWAT mission, the parameters for success change. Again, because half of your squad will likely not listen to you in the beginning, you'll probably be following the A.I. officers through the map as they unleash a devastating bloodbath on unsuspecting criminals.

I truly felt sorry for them -- and a bit frustrated. 

The Bottom Line

This Is The Police 2 focuses on a number of different features all at once. At the beginning, the game feels a little bit like it's out to get you. The game's unprofessional cops do nothing to help you gain a running start, and you can easily trip up from there as additional obtuse features call for your attention as the game progresses.

The first cutscene of the game took nearly half an hour to finish and each individual scene after dragged on too long. Though, this was the initial set up and every subsequent one became snappier as it transitioned into the game and gave you more control. Once you're managing your cops and handling situations, the story provides a great direction for what you need to do and leaves you having a great time in the management portion.

The two worst parts of the game are the SWAT missions and the cutscenes. While the cutscenes feel hefty, the voice actors do a great job delivering emotional moments and the added camera shakes raise the presentation as the tension thickens. The SWAT sections feel unnecessarily unfair as some police officers are controlled by an unwieldy and brazen A.I., leading to the feeling that you never really have control of supposedly the best units in the game. 

If you're looking for a tough management simulator with light role playing decisions, this game is certainly up your alley. It's not perfect, but for fans of the genre, it provides a good amount of fun if you can overlook some of its blemishes. 

You can buy This Is The Police 2 on Steam for $14.99. 

[Note: The publisher provided the copy of This Is The Police 2 used for this review.]

Ooblets Replaces Traditional Monster Battling with Dance-Offs Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:53:09 -0400 Erroll Maas

Indie developer Glumberland has revealed that its monster-raising-life-simulation game, Ooblets, has replaced traditional monster battles with dance-off battles in a new trailer from E3 2018.

Ooblets will have different dance moves to perform, which can agitate opponents or boost your team's confidence. Ego is the dance-off version of health, and Ooblets will run back home in shame if they lose all of it.

Crash is a randomized event that can cause a move to miss and can be affected by accessories and other moves, while Fresh is another randomized event more akin to a critical hit; it is also affected by certain accessories and moves.

As Ooblets gain experience, they can be taught more dance moves and each of them will have different movesets and specialties.

There will also be a Dance Barn that will let players engage in friendly dance-off battles against in-game Ooblet trainers.

To learn more about Ooblets and the details on why the developers made this change, you can read the devlog post on the Ooblets website.

Ooblets is slated for a 2018 launch for Xbox One and PC.

A Beginner's Guide to Cultist Simulator Tue, 05 Jun 2018 13:37:44 -0400 Zack Palm

Not every game hands you the keys to the front entrance. And in Cultist Simulator, the developers want you to look under every rock to find the hidden key they've placed for the entrance.

This challenging game invites players to try a new method and go forward with a different approach to discover success on their own terms. This guide offers some helpful tips for anyone getting stuck in Cultist Simulator or who wants to improve their chances of surviving.

Note: The developers encourage experimentation in this game. Much of the advice shared here may contain spoilers.

Read the Aspects of Your Cards

You'll find these at the lower right-hand side of every card you click on. You should understand what these symbols mean and how they work together with the other Verbs that pop up on your board. 

This means spending a lot of time starting your game paused and reading through the aspects attached to your starting deck. Don't be afraid to read as much as you can -- the more you read, the more likely you are to immediately know what cards go together.

Make sure to do this even if you experience a loss. Take a moment to read the aspects of the Verbs you were given, as well as the cards you have on your board. This will give you a better idea of why you lost and how you can correct it for next time.

Know How to Reliably Acquire Resource Cards

The start of the game may seem forgiving by granting you a healthy pool of personal stats, such as Health, Funds, Passion, and Reason cards. These remain difficult resources to gather throughout your playthrough of Cultist Simulator, and you'll consistently find a excuse to keep these items in stock. The best way to keep them around is to know the easiest and quickest ways to acquire them.


This may prove the toughest resource to acquire. You're going to want to stock up on Vitality cards. You can acquire these by placing Health cards in the Study slot. It will take two Vitality cards to gain another Health, and this can take some time; make sure you do this earlier rather than later. To increase your Health further, you'll need at least four Vitality cards at once to gain another; the same goes for Passion and Reason, for which you'll need Glimmering and Erudition respectively.


You'll find this the easiest personal stat to acquire, and you'll have the most of it. You can use your other personal stats, such as Health, Passion, and Reason, to acquire more of it. You replenish this from the Work Verb. You'll want to have a lot of Funds as this stat can help you upgrade your other stats, and it remains a useful tool to advance the game!


If you place Passion in the Study Verb, you'll find that you can acquire Glimmering. When you add enough Glimmering (along with funds) to the Study Verb, you can add more Passion to your overall pool. Other cards, such as Fascination, can pop up from studying Glimmering. You can use Fascination with the Sleep Verb, add Dread to it, and acquire more Passion.


Much like Passion, you can use a Reason card with Study to acquire Erudition. With Erudition, you can use it with the Study Verb, add a Fund card, and receive an upgrade in Reason. If you draw a Dread card, use it with Sleep and add Contentment to it to increase your Reason pool.

In Cultist Simulator, there's no surefire way to receive a card when you use it with a task. There's always a small risk you're going to receive a negative aspect, but that's a part of the game. If you want the biggest rewards, you have to prepare yourself to handle the risks associated with them.

The Glover and Glover Position

Of all the jobs available to you in the game, the Glover and Glover career can provide you with the most funds. If you plan on going this route, don't get stuck at the junior position. You want to earn more funds and expand your career by earning promotions.

You can earn promotions by adding Reason when you place the Glover and Glover Junior Position into the Work Verb. Because this occupies your Reason card, it's best to do this when you have at least 2 Reason in your pool.

Once you receive your promotion, you'll notice your boss, Mr. Alden, starts demanding you work overtime. He'll continue to demand this from you, and if you don't comply, he'll dock your pay.

To get the most out of this career path, you have to take out Mr. Alden. You can do this by placing a Health or a Follower Card in the Explore slot. This may take several attempts. Eventually, you should receive some hired help to handle Mr. Alden.

When you're ready, place your hired help card in the Talk slot and then add your Job card to it. They should eliminate Mr. Alden. This may take you several attempts as you can fail this opportunity. With Mr. Alden gone, you can continue working as you normally did, and over time, you should gain another promotion.

The Senior Position is not the highest level you achieve at Glover and Glover. Much like how you eliminated Mr. Alden, you can take out one of the seated chairmen of the company in the same fashion. Again, this may take you some time as you can fail this opportunity. Once you've taken out the younger Glover, you'll find yourself with a seat at the Glover and Glover company.

For those just starting out, this is a secure position to play the game. 

Avoid Using Health on Work If You Can

By throwing a health card into the Work Verb, you're performing manual labor. You'll find this a great way to make money in the short run, but this doesn't bode well for your long game. Use this option sparingly and only if you have health to spare.

If you're in a pinch, sure, this is a great option if you need a quick burst of funds. But when you do this too much, you run the risk of potentially acquiring the Injury card. You'll have to use funds to turn this Injury card back into a Health card. So, if you were doing this to receive funds in the first place and you drew the Injury card, you're out of luck.

Only use Health in the Work Verb if you have available funds to bail yourself out.

More Followers Always Helps, and How You Use Them

When you're not using your Talk verb for anything in particular, optimize this empty section and try to locate followers. The more you have on your side, the more options you'll have during the mid-to-late game. 

It's important you also understand you'll likely find two different types: named followers and Hangers-On. Hangers-On are lower on the power pole compared to named followers, and you can only upgrade them once to the level of Pawn.

You can upgrade named followers three times. They start out as Acquaintances, and you can turn them into Believers, and later, Disciples. A select few can turn into Exalted. This can only happen if they are associated with the core principle of your Cult.

Of the two, use a Hanger-On in a ritual to gain a benefit as they do not matter as much as the named ones. Additionally, if you upgrade a Hanger-on to the level of Pawn, you can use it as a scapegoat when the Suppression Bureau start to catch wind of you.

Because you're reserving your named followers for real tasks, only assign them to tasks you want to get done right. Believers have a 30% chance to succeed, Disciples have a 70% chance, and Exalted have a 100% chance.

Do Not Let Expeditions Use Up All of Your Followers

You have three outcomes when it comes to completing an expedition:

  • You succeed (great!)
  • You run out of money
  • You run out followers

Of the three, running out of followers is the worst because these were the most difficult to acquire, and once you lose them, they're gone. You can earn back money. Not people. If you see your expedition is not going well, the best thing to do is let it run out of money -- do not keep throwing followers at the problem!

If there's something you're still having trouble with, or if you have a particular question, let your voice be heard in the comments below.

For more Cultist Simulator guides, keep it here at GameSkinny.