It’s another slow week in games, but that’s okay, we still have a lot of big JRPGs to finish from earlier, and I’m sure everyone is still having a blast with Cyberpunk 2077, right?
Oddworld: Soulstorm (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Apr. 6th (Switch version TBD)
Developer Lorne Lanning and his team at Oddworld Inhabitants have been sending us to the world of Abe and co. since 1997, and in that time what was originally slated to be a five part epic has deviated into spin-off’s, potential feature films and, now, remakes. In 2014 we got New ‘n’ Tasty, a remake of the first Abe game, and this week we get the sequel to that game, a kinda/sorta remake of Abe’s Exodus called Soulstorm. Picking up from where New ‘n’ Tasty left off, Soulstorm features the same gameplay from that title, but has added a new crafting element, allowing Abe to make all sorts of weapons to protect himself and his fellow mudokons. Last week I gave the game Outriders grief for being immediately free to play on launch, but since since I personally enjoy the Oddworld series I’m going hold it to a double standard and say that it’s a great idea to give this out for free! Still, there is a catch here, the free version is only going to PlayStation Plus subscribers, and it is only the PS5 version that you will get for free. Don’t fret though, PS4 owners, because you can still add the game to your digital library, however you won’t be able to play it until PS5’s become readily available in stores, likely sometime in 2024.
Lost Words: Beyond The Page (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 6th (Used to be a Stadia exclusive)
Hey, remember Stadia? Remember when they had a handful of timed exclusives? Remember Lost Words: Beyond the Page? Oh, well it’s available on other platforms now.
Cozy Grove (Apple Arcade/PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 8th
Have you ever played Animal Crossing and thought, “boy, I’d love to play a version of this game that has you doing tasks for that ghost character all the time“? Well now you can! In Cozy Grove, players will create their own little forest getaway, interact with residents, and of course, do menial tasks for ghosts. It looks cute.
What The Dub?! (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 8th
Making fun of bad movies is one of our most indelible rights. Everything on television needs to be brought down a peg, and at the age of 12, we all (rightfully) begin to tear these things apart. This well known past time was made famous by the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, and for years, those of us who were, like, super good at it could only spout off our best one liners to our spouses that absolutely LOVE it. My wife (said in a Borat voice) thinks I’m fucking hilarious when I do it, so I’m happy to see that a brand new video game is coming out that will finally validate my humor by giving me points for the great jokes I tell! I can’t wait to play this with my wife (obviously still doing the Borat voice), I just hope she can follow along, sometimes my jokes about Woodrow Wilson go over her head. I should explain to her who Woodrow Wilson is.
Say No! More (iOS/PC/Switch) – Releases Apr. 9th
Do you hate your intern job? Are you tired of being pushed around by demanding office workers? Does the thought of going to Starbucks fill you with existential dread? Would you like to take a copy machine out to a field and go medieval on its ass, Office Space style? Then you need to learn to Say No! More. In this new game, players must channel their inner DMV worker and just keep saying “no”, to everything. Janet in accounting needs you to run over to Staples and pick up some red markers? NO! Doug in logistics wants you to grab lunch for the guys in the warehouse? NO! Lester in the news division needs you to get that special tea from Trader Joe’s so that he can speak clearly on television? Tell him NO, Lester!
Ports and Re-releases:
Star Wars: Republic Commando (PS4/Switch) – Releases Apr. 6th
Originally released for the Xbox and PC back in 2005, Star Wars: Republic Commando has gained a cult following over the last 16 years and is considered one of the best games ever made with the Star Wars license. Set shortly after the events of the film Attack of the Clones, Republic Commando is a first person, squad based, tactical shooter, which has players taking on the role of Delta Squad, an elite set of clone troopers. Tasked with taking on difficult missions, the game spans the entire three year Clone Wars conflict, with players seeing Delta Squad grow from a batch of rookies to hardened combat veterans. It received rave reviews when it came out, but will it stand the test of time? Maybe! This game is likely being released due to its tangential connection to the upcoming Disney+ series The Bad Batch, so I guess we can thank corporate synergy for the preservation of this licensed title. Yay, corporations!
ISLAND (Switch) – Releases Apr. 8th
According to the Nintendo eShop page for this game, ISLAND is a “…beloved Sci-Fi adventure…”. It also boasts that you can play the game with “…one hand…”, so, um, its got that going for it.
The House in Fata Morgana – Dreams of the Revenants Edition (Switch) – Releases Apr. 9th
I don’t know, can I play this with one hand? Oh, and that March 26th date in the image refers to when pre-orders opened up; as of today this is still available for pre-order at Limited Run games, or you can just buy it right now, digitally. Use both hands.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV (PC/Switch) – Releases Apr. 9th
The final chapter in the Trails of Cold Steel saga is finally hitting PC and Switch, so I hope you played the previous three games, as well as the previous, previous three games.
Breathedge (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Apr. 6th (PC back in February)
Before Your Eyes (PC) – Releases Apr. 8th
Potion Party (Switch) – Releases Apr. 8th
Sakura In Gameland (Switch) – Releases Apr. 8th
Girls in Glasses (PC) – Releases Apr. 9th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
World of Tanks (PC) – Released Apr. 12th, 2011: Wiki Link
In 1998, game development company Wargaming was founded in Belarus by a man named Victor Kislyi. His vision for the company was to create world class strategy games that felt like high end, tabletop war games. Their first title, released in 2000, was called DBA Online, a digital simulator of the real life tabletop game De Bellis Antiquitatis. It did well enough and the team was then able to create their first original work, the 2003 title Massive Assault, yet another tabletop-esque strategy game that was very well received and spawned three follow-up titles. A couple more RTS games would follow over the course of the 2000’s, Order of War and Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power, before Wargaming would start work on its biggest selling, and longest running game, World of Tanks. Originally released in Russia in the year 2010, World of Tanks would go through a rigorous beta testing in before it was rolled out worldwide in April of 2011. Released during a period where “free to play” games weren’t quite as ubiquitous, World of Tanks was a bit of a pioneer in the genre, coming out absolutely free right from the get go and saying their game is truly “free to win” by anyone who has the skill, with money only used to purchase skins (although you can pay real money to get more slots for better tanks, make those tanks show up faster, etc. etc.). When it released the game was a hit with both critics and players. Critics were happy to see that the game was, for the most part, winnable by anyone, not just those who plunk down cash, and players rewarded Wargaming by giving them the world record for the most players on one server simultaneously; 91, 311. When World of Tanks went global it was seeing over 3 million registered users diving into their servers, taking mid-century tanks and having them blast the hell out of one another. Today, World of Tanks has been released on just about every modern console, and still has a big presence on PC. With over 60 million registered users as of 2013, World of Tanks is a phenomenon, and at one point was taking in more revenue than World of Warcraft. Playing the game today is seamless, with matches usually popping up within seconds. Wargaming has created a fantastic online shooter that is incredibly addicting, and best of all, absolutely free.
Dr. Mario 64 (N64) – Released Apr. 8th, 2001: Wiki Link
The Dr. Mario series of games have been going strong since 1990, with releases on just about every major Nintendo console. For its third entry, Nintendo stuck to the same formula, dropping pills to kill viruses, but in an attempt to spice up the single player game they added a story mode. In this story, Dr. Mario is traveling around, making house calls to sick patients and curing them with his megavitamins. Wario sees all of this happening and decides to steal the megavitamins and become rich, selling them to desperate people. However, one of Wario’s enmesi, Mad Scienstein, busts in and takes the megavitamins before Wario can, causing Dr. Mario and Wario to chase him through the countryside. Okay, so it isn’t Hemingway, but it’s at least something to pass the time between matches. Each game of Dr. Mario is played against a computer opponent, usually some monster or enemy that you meet along the way. Between Dr. Mario and Wario, there isn’t much difference, the game plays almost identically, however the end boss will change, depending on who you play as. Critics were mildly impressed with the game, giving it pretty good scores, but saying that there wasn’t much different here between the NES and SNES versions of the game (did they miss the story mode). I suppose there isn’t much to say about this game, maybe the critics were right, it’s not all that different. What is interesting is that the game seems to take place in the same universe as Wario Land 3, featuring a bunch of characters from that game. Sadly, Nintendo has given up on this game, not releasing it for any of its virtual console services, with a Japan only GameCube version being the sole port of the title. Without much different in gameplay between the versions, the only reason to give this a curious look would be for the single player mode. Aside from that, play any version of this on any other console and you’ll be fine.
Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (PC) – Released Mar. 4th: Wiki Link
Heart of China (PC) – Released Apr. 1991…I guess?: Wiki Link
In 1991 Sierra published two point & click adventure games in March and April (maybe), both tell wacky tales, with one story spanning the globe and the other sending you across time and space. Both feature terrible cultural and sexual stereotypes, but one is absolutely beloved while another is forgotten to time and would probably get you instantly roasted on Twitter if you called it one of your favorites. Time to enter another era where you played games that took place in different eras; make sense?
Following the success of their first point and click adventure, the futuristic cyberpunk title Rise of the Dragon, developer Dynamix decided to send players on an even bigger adventure in the 1930’s. Taking on the role of ace WWI pilot “Lucky” Jake Masters, currently down on his luck and living in Hong Kong, players find out that Jake’s home has been destroyed by the wealthy tycoon E.A. Lomax in a ploy to get him to rescue his daughter, a nurse named Kate, who has been kidnapped by a ruthless warlord named Li Deng. Aiding Jake on his quest is a ninja named Zhao Chi. Like Pit-Fighter before it, and soon to be seen in Mortal Kombat, Heart of China uses digitized images of real actors to portray all of the characters. Most of the time you just see them in static images up against a painted background, but occasionally you will see these digitized characters moving around, a pretty groundbreaking technology for the time. Using a similar AI and engine as Rise of the Dragon, Heart of China was made to kind of free players from the typical point & click interface, allowing them to experience more of the story instead of constantly switching between various actions as they attempt to look at, talk to , or grab anything and everything on the screen. When it released, Heart of China received glowing reviews, with critics blown away by the cutting edge graphics and highly engaging plot, declaring that Heart of China was just the beginning for the future of interactive entertainment, with gamers living in a world where we no longer watched movies and television, but PLAYED them. Now here we are, thirty years later, and we all know that future did not happen, at least not how they thought. Digitized actors did not replace the sprite, 3D models did, along with motion captured performances. There can be an argument made that video games can, on some level, compete with the best of film and television, but those mediums still exist, and there is room for all three in our lives. As for that very compelling story, give me a fucking break. Perhaps in a world where most video game storylines consisted of “run from right to left“, Heart of China might have seemed like a breath of fresh air, but compared to what would come afterwards (including very recently), Heart of China’s story is generic and predictable. In fact, the story is so generic and predictable that it almost follows the exact plot of the 1983 film High Road To China, starring Tom Selleck, only with things reversed (father kidnapped instead of daughter, film starts in Europe and ends in China instead of the other way around). This also brings us to what is the worst part of the game, it’s clear racism and sexism. Like a lot of things in America, most stuff is made by, and for, white men. For years it was the preconceived notion that only men played video games, with children and teens making up the console market, and adults making up the PC market. Earlier I mentioned that your companion is a Chinese ninja, but most of us are probably aware that ninjas are from Japan. Now I guess this guy could have learned the ways of the ninja, but I’m going to take a wild guess and just assume that the team at Dynamix were like “ninjas are an Oriental thing, right; just make the guy a ninja” (I also assume they call Asian thigs “Oriental“). That’s just one of the many racist/xenophobic things they put in the game; others include outlandishly offensive costumes, outlandishly offensive broken English, and so on and so on. Now the game tries to get away with this by making Jake Masters a fucking moron who should know better, and all of the foreigners are much, MUCH, smarter than him, but at the end of the day Jake is the hero and your ninja friend gets blown up in an airplane (spoiler, he didn’t actually die). The game is also incredibly sexist, treating its lone female character as a token for most of the game, and when you do get to play as her you are pretty much a damsel in distress, hoping that all the men around you will help, and then when she does something awesome, Jake immediately give her shit about it and she tries to make him fall in love with her. I hated this fucking game, and you probably will too; unless you voted for Trump.
To wash the taste of Heart of China out of my mouth I decided to go back a few weeks and play the other Sierra point & click adventure from the early months of 1991, Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. The game cost over $1 million to make, and would end up being one of the biggest games in Sierra’s early history, selling more copies than Space Quest I – III combined. Space Quest IV is notable in that it is the first in the series to both function how we would expect modern point & click games to, and to be released in VGA graphics. While Heart of China would be praised for its “real” graphics, SQ IV would also be similarly praised for its picturesque backgrounds, and smooth animation that used an early form of motion capture. This would also be the last game that both series creators, Scott Murphy & Mark Crowe, would work on together, with part V being overseen by Crowe and VI being overseen by Murphy. When it came out, SQ IV was a bit hit with both critics and players, both of which found the game to be highly engrossing and absolutely hilarious. Its a bit corny by today’s standards, but it did get a chuckle out of me, particularly in the computer store at the mall. In the bargain bin are several parody games based on popular PC titles from the 1990, including Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, Loom, and SimCity. There is even a copy of King’s Quest XXXXVIII (48?) which has a gag that the game is a MASSIVE 12 gigs in size. The joke here is that games will be really big hundreds of years in the future, but in reality we’d have video games that size by the early 2010’s, and we now regularly have games come out that can be in excess of 100 GB. Since this is both a thirty year old title, and a game on PC, there is still some pretty casual sexism, including a troubling puzzle where Roger must buy a dress (in which he’s called a “sicko” for wearing) in order to fool an ATM machine into letting him drain the bank account of a woman (she was mean to him, so I guess its okay). Still, nothing here is quite as bad as the shit they do in Heart of China, and of course the rose colored glasses of nostalgia make this game far more acceptable to modern players who likely never even saw the troubling parts of the game, or just plain forgot them. I didn’t hate Space Quest IV, but I don’t think I ever need to play it again. Still, it was pretty pioneering in the comedy themed point & click genre, and its later CD-ROM release contained full voice acting, helping to propel the series into the stratosphere through its casting of Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens as the narrator. Despite the couple of things I took issue with in Space Quest IV, I can easily recommend it to anyone who is a fan of point & click adventure games, however it does feature those signature Sierra deaths, so save early, and save often. Now, take it away Mr. Owens…
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