Exo One Review – Interstellar Highway Hypnosis

We all have those games that we put on after a long day. The kind that let you shut off your brain, immerse yourself in a cozy atmosphere, or simply provide you with the comfort of nostalgia. For me, those kinds of games usually include quiet, meditative, profound narrative experiences. Exo One fits this category perfectly. It’s a game where you navigate expansive and beautiful alien worlds in a shift that can change shape to roll or fly into the horizon. Now that it’s out on PS5, does this strange and beautiful sci-fi title take us to must-see worlds, or will you fall asleep mid-flight? Let’s find out. A Surreal and Meditative Experience Exo One is a unique title that may not be for everyone, but it can certainly be played by anyone. The game’s controls are simple and effective. Its gameplay is equally simple, with subtle elements that can improve your overall performance, but no real pressure to hit a high score or the like. The story overall is intentionally vague, but those who pay careful attention to the snippets of narrative between planetary exploration will find their efforts rewarded. During the opening of Exo One, you hear about a failed mission on the planet of Jupiter, one that claims the lives of several astronauts. You also hear about blueprints sent by extraterrestrials that provide plans for a new type of ship that defies all human explanation. As you descend into your first world, it’s implied that you are indeed piloting this ship. Some quick tutorials show how you can use the triggers to either increase gravity or flatten out the ship’s spherical shape into a disc that lets you glide like an interstellar frisbee. The gravity function, in particular, is useful when building momentum, as it lets you exponentially increase your speed to launch off the terrain. Once in the air, a quick switch to your disc form lets you soar. You have a “jump” button you can use as well to gain a little extra air, but you’ll primarily need to manage your momentum through careful application of the gravity ability and your disc form. This cycle of building up speed and soaring high into the sky is intoxicating, especially as you reach new worlds in your journey. Each planet is spread out before you, allowing you to choose how you navigate the path forward. In the distance, a bright blue beam shows your destination, but there’s no rush to get there. Instead, the game lets you sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights. Subtle details like the way sunlight breaks through the clouds or beads of water gather on the screen sell a sense of immersion in the world. Soaring high, only to turn downward to build up speed, lets you break the sound barrier in a satisfying display of both sound and a visual cone of fog that explodes outward from your ship. It all comes together to create a meditative gameplay experience perfect for … Read More

Arizona Sunshine 2 Review (PSVR 2) – Buddy Knows Best

Zombies and virtual reality go together like peanut butter and jelly, or in this case, like bullets and headshots. It’s a combo that makes sense, but it has been done plenty of times across all VR headsets. These days, if you’re a zombie shooter, you’ll need to do something different to stand out. The original Arizona Sunshine was one of the first zombie titles to make a splash on the VR scene. Still, it was followed by other heavy hitters like Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, so does Arizona Sunshine 2 once again take the undead crown on PSVR 2? Let’s find out. Injecting Life into the Undead It’s been a while since I played the original Arizona Sunshine, but there’s no need to stress if you haven’t experienced the original. You can jump into the new game and understand what’s happening. It has a refreshingly simple but surprisingly heartwarming story penned by Rob Yescombe, who also wrote The Invisible Hours and Rime, to name a few other titles in his resume. One thing that Arizona Sunshine 2 brings to the table to stand out is the irreverent tone of its story. The protagonist is a wise-cracking guy who doesn’t take things too seriously and refers to all zombies collectively as “Fred,” which I particularly enjoyed. This time around, though, our hero is not alone. Very shortly into the first chapter, you’re introduced to a German Shepherd dog named Buddy (or at least, that’s what the protagonist names him), who will be with you for the entirety of the game. Having a companion with you immediately makes Arizona Sunshine 2 feel fresh and interesting. It’s also impossible not to get attached to Buddy from the get-go. He doesn’t need any help during firefights with hordes of the undead, but he’s happy to lend a helping hand (paw?) and will tear apart zombies on your behalf. Issuing commands to Buddy is as simple as holding a button on the left controller and pointing to zombies for him to bite or as part of environmental puzzles where he can lend a hand. He’ll also act of his own accord during fights, with surprisingly capable AI that helped me survive more than a few scraps. Most importantly, you can pet him. Excellent interactivity lets you rub his face and ears with your hands and have them react realistically. You can also put any hat you find on him and yourself, which is a nice touch. Buddy’s character immediately gives the story emotional weight, and it’s clear through the dialogue that the bond between him and the main character deepens as they navigate through various environments and set pieces in search of Patient Zero, who may hold the key to a cure for the zombie virus. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Still, the combination of humor, genuine heartfelt moments (like playing fetch with Buddy), and constant companionship helped me immerse myself in the world of Arizona Sunshine 2. From a gameplay perspective, Arizona … Read More

Another Fisherman’s Tale Review – Losing Your Head (And Your Hands)

When I think back to my favorite PSVR titles from the original headset, A Fisherman’s Tale comes up pretty quick. The game had an incredible concept for puzzles and a charming, inviting atmosphere that made it easy to get lost in the world. Now we have Another Fisherman’s Tale on PSVR 2, a sequel that promises to be bigger and more complex than the original, with an entirely new set of mechanics compared to the first one. Much like a real fisherman’s tale, this one gets bigger every time you tell it. Is that enough to top the ingenuity of the first game? Let’s find out. Certainly a Taller Tale Than it’s Predecessor While I had seen some of the trailers for Another Fisherman’s Tale, I went into the new game without much knowledge of how it would differ from the first one. For those who didn’t play the original, I sincerely hope they port it to PSVR 2, but in the meantime for comparison’s sake I’ll offer a quick description of the differences. In the first title, you played as the titular fisherman living inside of a lightouse. The premise of the first game was the you had an environment around you to work with, as well as a replica of the area directly beneath you on a table in the middle of the room. The game used this environment within an environment hook in spectacular ways, allowing you to manipulate something smaller than yourself to enact change in the larger version in real time. While the scope and size of the original was fairly small, this mechanic was unlike anything else I’d seen in VR at the time. It stood tall with the greats. Another Fisherman’s Tale offers a different approach, and one that’s at least 4 times longer than the first game, but this time around the mechanics may feel a little more familiar, though still unique in their own way. The game begins with narration from our fisherman and sets up a small story on a tropical island where you can get your bearings and learn the ropes. The premise this time around is that you can detach your head and hands from your body to solve puzzles. Now, keep in mind, your character is a wood puppet so while this concept may sound like a horror game, it’s still very family friendly. In fact, the tone of the story is one of my favorite elements. Yes, the dialogue tends to go on for a while, which I know some may find instrusive, but I liked the style and voice acting for the narration a lot. The game also introduces a meta element to explain why you’re playing as a puppet, who is telling the story, and more. It was an excellent addition that added depth to the world and some fun explanations for how things work. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say, the story this time around does a great job of … Read More

Mia and the Dragon Princess Review – The Bones of a Great Pirate Adventure

I am one of those gamers who have really enjoyed the resurgence of FMV games in recent years. One of the most recognizable brands in this space are the folks at Wales Interactive, who have done a significant number of these interactive films over the years. I myself played many of their early titles, like The Bunker, Late Shift, and The Complex. There have been many more since. The latest in their interactive film collection is Mia and the Dragon Princess, which stars a barmaid in London who comes across a woman that doesn’t speak English and is on the run from police. The two quickly become embroiled in a pirate treasure hunt over 100 years in the making. It’s the premise for a fun adventure, but do all the pieces come together, or should this FMV game walk the plank? Let’s find out. A Strangely Compelling, but Uneven, Adventure Mia and the Dragon Princess opens with a well-animated introduction recounting the tales of an ancient princess and a pirate who, after gaining huge amounts of treasure, were separated. The princess was given a wrist device to find the ultimate location of her share, but otherwise their legend faded to history. We jump forward to modern day London, joining a barmaid name Mia who is working at a local pub. While doing her usual duties, Mia comes across a women named Marshanda who is dressed in a hospital gown, sporting a wrist device, and on the run from the police. If this isn’t enough, she doesn’t speak a word of English either. Together, the two navigate a delicate situation at the bar, where the owner of a restaurant upstairs, and a powerful thug, starts roughing up the owner to convince him to sell the pub, which has been in his family for generations. The combination of pirate legend and crime drama makes for an enticing premise right off the bat. Marshanda’s wrist device and her connection to he pirate treasure also make for a compelling mystery. Like many of Wales Interactive’s games, you mostly watch the events of Mia and the Dragon Princess play out, but you’ll get opportunities throughout it’s 1-hour run time to make decisions that affect the story. These decisions always come in pairs, and while they have an effect on your personality traits via several stats you can see when making choices, the game offers a story map right off the bat to show you which path you’re on, and which decisions you’ve made in prior playthroughs. For some, this may be too direct, but I appreciated the knowledge because it let me see vastly different outcomes in my three total playthroughs during my time with the game. While the choices are binary, and the overall story can take one of two distinct paths, the individual decisions do lead to some surprising changes and deaths or lack thereof as you experiment with different options. All of that being said, the game has a number of endings, … Read More

Strayed Lights Review – Parry, Dodge, Ponder

Some games are made with atmosphere in mind, focusing solely on story and exploration. Others are more interested in slick combat and intense challenges. There are, of course, games that blur the lines between these two, but often it’s pretty easy to look at a game and figure out which way it’s leaning. Strayed Lights isn’t so easy to parse. On the surface, it looks like your typical narrative exploration game. A story told without words, in a gorgeous world, with little to no combat, and maybe some puzzles to keep things interesting. That’s not the case. Strayed Lights does tell a story without words, and it does have a visually arresting style, but its most unique element is that it brings in fast-paced, time-sensitive combat focused on parries. Does this create a hybrid experience above the other indies in this space? Let’s find out. Superb Combat in a Shallow World Strayed Lights is an interesting beast, and I say that for a number of reasons. For starters, the beasts themselves in the game (your character included) are quite interesting. They have an almost Disney-like quality to them that reminds me most of Ori and the Blind Forest. This is especially true of the bosses, which are bombastic in size but also have an air of innocence beneath their menacing surface. Standard enemies are more amorphous, looking like vague shapes of creatures but built of glowing stones and arranged like golems. In either case, it’s a world that has a visual identity from the moment you begin, and color is more important than you think. I usually open my reviews with a story analysis, but in this case, Strayed Lights leaves almost everything up to you. There is no spoken dialogue, nor are there tangible narrative threads for you to pull on. It’s clear that there’s some sort of corruption across the land that you need to cleanse, but deeper elements are cryptic to the point of being too ambiguous in my opinion. The concept of cleansing a land, of healing broken spirits, is nothing new. It feels like there could have been more to this story here, specifically around your ability to change colors, and the symbolism that such a mechanic offers. Despite this, don’t go into Strayed Lights expecting a story that will knock you off your feet. It has moments of genuine emotion, but it’s all too vague to ever establish a strong connection. While Strayed Lights does a good job of building atmosphere and intrigue, but both of those things wane quickly when you realize that the environments are fairly surface-level, beautiful as they may be. Traversal is simple, platforming is light, and alternate paths do exist (and reward you with collectibles and upgrade points), but it never goes any deeper than that. Despite this, I cannot stress enough that there are moments of genuine awe though, specifically when you’re looking at ancient ruins or watching the local fauna flee from a tyrannical creature. Much like … Read More

Across The Valley Review – Functional Farming

When I think about farming games over the years, my first thought is always Harvest Moon, but my second thought is immediately Stardew Valley. Yes, there are numerous others, and versions that focus on being realistic sims, but there’s something truly captivating about building up your own farm. Harvesting crops, taking care of livestock, maybe even building a life of your own? It’s relaxing and addicting in equal measure, when done correctly. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I heard about a farming VR title for PSVR 2. Across the Valley is here, but does it deliver the farming dream in VR, or would gardening in my backyard be more fun? Let’s find out. The Foundation of a Great Farming Sim I’m honestly surprised I haven’t done more farming in VR. The various responsibilities offer plenty of interaction for a virtual reality experience. Planting seeds, watering crops, tilling the fields, caring for livestock, it’s all there. Across the Valley does bring all of these things to the table, and more, but it does so without much fanfare. The game starts with a simple menu that offers several interactions, but there’s no context for how you came across this farm, or other people to interact with. Settings are pretty barebones as well, only allowing for transportation. This type of movement is helpful for those new to VR, but as a veteran I always look for the option to move freely as I find it far more immersive. That’s not an option here. Even after a few patches, Across the Valley has some bugs that are hard to ignore. The most recent patch fixed an issue where teleportation and snap turning could result in your ending up in a different place than the developers intended when you move around. The solution here was to disable snap turning for the time being. I sampled this prior to publishing the review, and it does fix the aforementioned issue, but the trade-off is that you need to physically turn around in place when leaving an area like the fields. It’s not difficult, but I still am of the mind that free movement would allow for more immersion. Putting that aside for a moment though, let’s talk about those first couple days and weeks of farm life. The game issues tutorials via books placed at teleportation points around the farm. For example, when you head over to your fields, there’s a book near the tools that you can open and read to learn how they work. The same goes for the building that houses livestock like sheep, chickens, and cows. You’ll find a book inside your house too that explains how the upgrade table works, the job board, and the bed. It’s not a bad setup, but the first night on the farm can be a little confusing since you won’t have a grasp of what’s going on. In fact, you spend that first night fumbling around until you fall asleep and then wake up … Read More

Townsmen VR Review (PSVR 2) – Bow to Your Clumsy God

There’s an appeal to the “god game” genre that’s easy to understand. As early on as the days of the Black and White series on PC, I’ve always enjoyed being the omnipotent ruler of entire civilizations. Their entire existence is in the palm of your hand, what’s not to love? Enter Townsmen VR, a launch title for PSVR that tasks you with tending to and growing an entire village either on a series of islands in the story mode, or freely in a sandbox mode. Combat also comes into play, which should satisfy the RTS fans out there. Does it all come together to surpass its 2D counterparts? Let’s put on our PSVR 2 headsets and find out! An Excellent VR Title That’s Also Perfect for Impatient RTS Fans There are those who have criticized the launch lineup for PSVR 2, but I myself have more than I know what to do with. Townsmen VR is easily one of the best launch titles though, with an experience that slowly unravels its complexities over the course of several missions. At the beginning of the Townsmen VR story mode, you’ll find yourself floating over a wrecked ship and facing one of the characters in the game that can communicate directly with you. Despite his name, Sir Clunksalot is actually a quite capable advisor and kicks things off with an explanation of how to move your camera and interact with the world. Given the sheer amount of mechanics and options at play here, Townsmen VR showcases a remarkable ability to keep the controls intuitive throughout. Zooming in an out is as simple as pressing the side grips and pulling or pushing the environment horizontally, much like you would to zoom in or out on a smartphone. You also reach out and grasp the space in front of you to pull yourself around the world. Grabbing in two places and rotating lets you spin yourself as well. You can use the left analog stick to handle rotation as well, but I found the interactive controls more than adequate for getting around quickly. Nearly everything that’s not built or part of the environment can be interacted with as well. In the opening mission, this is as simple as plucking resources from the water and placing them on the ship for repairs, but the interactivity carries over nicely into the main portions of the game. If there are two things fans of this genre are used to, it’s being patient and navigating a lot of menus. Townsmen VR manages to circumvent both of these potential frustrations in creative ways by leveraging virtual reality to do things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do easily. Opening build menus is simple and quick with a flick of the analog stick, and using your hand as a 3D pointer, you can quickly click through and place structures or dive into their build options and commission add-ons and upgrades. Once you’ve placed the outline, you can physically pick up your … Read More

Ragnarock PSVR2 Review – Valhalla Calling

As someone who spent countless hours playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band (and even DJ Hero), to the point where I saw the walls moving, I love that virtual reality has brought back the rhythm game genre. We’ve all heard about Beat Saber and other big players, but what about a viking-themed rhythm game that has you playing war drums to encourage your crew to row faster? Welcome to Ragnarock, a VR rhythm game that debuted on other VR headsets, but has since made its way to PSVR 2 in time for launch. With a unique set of tracks and some excellent haptic feedback, does this game send you to Valhalla, or will you find yourself smashing the delete button instead of the virtual drums? Let’s find out! Easy to Pick up, Difficult to Master The best kinds of rhythm games are the ones that offer simple, easy to understand mechanics. Slash the colored blocks, ride the rails, tap the targets, etc. In this regard, Ragnarock welcomes new players with open arms. At a basic level, your hands are mallets and there are four drums in front of you. Beyond them, a crew with their oars at he ready. As the song begins, blue runes begin sliding towards the drums in front of you. Smash them as close to the beat as possible to score points. It’s a tried and true method that doesn’t require anything like strumming a guitar or performing any other action than smashing the drum at the right time. In addition to breaking runes as they pass over your drums, perfect hits will power up your special ability, which again is quite simple to use. When your mallets begin glowing with lightning, you can ring a cymbal behind you on either the right or the left (or in my case I like to do both at the same time). This sends bolts of electricity through your crew, hilariously showing their skeletons for a brief moment as they supercharge their rowing for a short time. This is important because your score is based entirely on how far your crew manages to row, with bronze, silver, or gold awarded based on distance when the song finishes. And that’s about it! Ragnarock is fairly straightforward as far as rhythm games go, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Songs have three difficulties each, but a number attached to each difficulty from 1 to 10 shows how much challenge you can expect at each level. One song’s easy is not the same as another. Interestingly, Ragnarock does not feature a fail state, which means that songs will continue unaffected even if you manage to fail all of the notes. I would have preferred this as an option, if only to keep me on my toes, but for those who get easily frustrated, your journey to Valhalla won’t be cut short if you’re having trouble matching the beat. Speaking of matching the beat, one thing I will say is that getting that … Read More

GTA VI Exposed in One of The Largest Video Game Leaks Ever

Grand Theft Auto VI is one of the most anticipated games in the history of the industry. Over the course of a weekend in mid-September 2022, a hacker published authentic and in-progress footage of GTA VI. This GTA VI leak is one of the largest in video game history, spawning immediate discussion, disappointment from the developments, and anger from publisher Take-Two Interactive Software in equal measure. Join us as we look at what was leaked and what it means for the game’s development. Rockstar Speaks Out on GTA VI Leaks The last leak of this magnitude was perhaps the Last of Us: Part II, which saw much of its story’s surprises thrown out into the internet prior to its release. These types of things don’t happen very often, so many were quick to cast doubt on the authenticity of the screenshots, videos, and other assets. Turns out, the leaks are indeed real. Rockstar has issued an official statement on the matter, but employees also spoke to Bloomberg and confirmed that the footage is real, though the final version will be far more polished. Over the weekend since the leak, Take-Two has been quick to issue takedowns to websites like YouTube and Twitter, but it’s still possible to find the leaks as of this writing. The hacker posted videos on an online forum, claiming they were also behind the recent Uber hack that also happened in the last week. A Message from Rockstar Games pic.twitter.com/T4Wztu8RW8 — Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) September 19, 2022 Our coverage of the GTA VI rumors has been verified by some of these leaks as well. GTA VI Leak Confirms Protagonists As part of the leaks, people have spotted the protagonists of the new game, confirming the two main characters, one of whom seems to be a Latina woman. This is significant because the series has never had a playable female protagonist up until this point. The leak seems to also confirm the Vice City setting we reported from prior rumors. Despite this development, Rockstar has said that the game’s development will not be affected, as some suggested. It may be difficult to find additional footage as time goes on, but as someone who saw some of the videos before they were taken down, I can say that the game is looking very impressive for being in such an early state. If you do explore the internet in search of the leaks, keep in mind that this game is early in development, so you’re going to see missing textures, placeholders, code, and the like. Games are not meant to leak like this, but we will keep an eye on this story as it develops. To keep up with the latest developments on GTA VI, stay tuned to PS5 gamers! If you saw some of the leaks yourself, let us know what you think in the comments! Article by – Bradley Ramsey Insert date – 9/19/2022

Opinion: Are Gamers Real?

I found myself at the center of a debate recently. An argument between two others began with one person stating that any real gamer knows that PlayStation is the best console brand to pick from. This was an obvious attempt to spark the never ending console wars. The person that comment was directed at, didn’t offer the rebuttal I was expecting. Rather than playing into the hands of the PlayStation Fanboy, he went on to say that there is no such thing as a Gamer and that people need to stop labeling people that enjoy video games.    Their argument escalated while more and more people jumped in to make their points. It was interesting to read and I was staying out of it until a friend of mine tagged me and asked me to drop my thoughts on the matter. Granted, at the end of the day, it’s all opinions no matter how hard people want to claim it as facts. So, after entering the debate, I decided I would share my opinion here as well.    Is there such a thing as a Gamer? My answer is yes, Gamers are real people. Is being called a Gamer a label? Yep, It surely is a label. And what do labels do? They identify something you know what it is. It makes life easier. Not all labels are a good thing, but I personally think the label of Gamer is a good thing. Some of us like to use that label to easier explain our passion. Yes, we Gamers tend to be passionate about video games.    So what makes one a Gamer? Well, there are several things that can be factored in here, but I’m going to keep this fairly simple for the ones in the back. Simply put, if you like and play video games, that would classify you as a Gamer. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that, but it can also get much deeper when explaining why we like and play our video games. I’m not going to explain all of that, but I am going to continue with explaining just a few other personal opinions of mine.    Now that I’ve simplified what makes a Gamer, I want to throw out that Gamers are not restricted to one game type. Gamers are also not expected to play every single game made, let alone like them all. You can like ice-cream and not enjoy every flavor. Just because someone enjoys playing Call of Duty and doesn’t play much else, doesn’t make them less of a Gamer. They just have their favorite game all picked out and that’s ok! I personally play all sorts of titles and genres, but I also have some friends that only play Fortnite. That doesn’t make them any less of a Gamer to me. It just means if I decide I want to play Fortnite, I’ll have a friend to join me.    Now, the console wars. This may be … Read More