Category: Editorials

Yono and the Celestial Elephants: Review

As you play and as the world is revealed to you, you will discover that there’s a lot of depth to the plot – if not the characters – and that there’s a whole host of philosophical conundrums beating, like a steady counter-rhythm to the playful platforming.

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Whoo boy. Cool Patrol is a great, but uneven album.

Ninja Sex Party: Cool Patrol Review

On top of all this, there’s the problem of “Danny Don’t You Know.”

To put this into perspective, I want to be quite clear that I’m on board with that song. So on board, in fact, that I think it’s the VERY best song they’ve ever done before. There’s such a quiet sincerity that flows from the lyrics to the music to the tone of the song that it feels sort of oddly out of place with the rest of the album. It’s oddly difficult to marry this quiet, sincere side of the band to the prior side, which is mainly about sex and drugs and rock and roll and hilarious one-liners.

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BattleTech – Stomping the Yard – A Review From Scroo

Big stompy robots aren't anything new. BattleTech has been around for a long time containing a huge library of the the titanic war machines and thousands of pages of lore to go along with them. Things started back in 1984 when a studio called FASA launched a table top miniatures war game called BattleDroids. According to the WIki, Lucasfilm took ownership of the word "Droid" and the game was renamed BattleTech. The board game took up loads of space and a lot of time to play; days sometimes. Read more

Games For Dads: Kirby: Star Allies

Games For Dads is a column featuring new or recent games that I feel are ideal for being played and enjoyed together by parents (dads, in my case) and their kids.

Welcome back to Games For Dads! It's been a few years now, since my first and only entry. At the time I had kind of assumed that the coming years would be rife with great Nintendo titles for me to enjoy with my son. Since then, my wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family (who I look forward to gaming with in the coming years), but I haven't seen nearly as many must-play co-op experiences from Nintendo as I'd expected. There were one or two, to be sure (Yoshi's Woolly World is definitely worth a mention), but between the relatively quiet closing year(s) of the Wii U, and the fairly sparse opening year of the Switch, it's mostly just been titles with pretty lackluster co-op options (if any at all), or Switch ports of stuff I could have covered already on the Wii U (Mario Kart, for instance).

Yoshi aside, (I chose not to cover Mario Kart because my son isn't that big into racing games yet), there's been shockingly little else worth mentioning. Until recently, that is. Last month, Nintendo (and HAL Laboratory) gifted us with what is arguably the best original couch co-op multiplayer game to come to the Switch so far, as well as one of the finest Kirby games ever made.

It should go without saying that Kirby games are always family-friendly. Boys and girls of just about every age seem to adore the little pink puffball. Even with my son having grown a little bit older and more discerning, Kirby: Star Allies was still an instant hit for him. I picked the game up on a Friday and he basically played it for the entire weekend, only stopping to take breaks when he was hungry or his parents asked him to.

More friends means more chaotic fun to be had.
You've Got a Friend In Me

Every new Kirby release in recent years has done a good job of bringing some unique new feature to the table that has helped to differentiate it from past titles. Kirby: Triple Deluxe had a power-up that bestowed Kirby with the ability to inhale extra-large items, including obstacles and sometimes even scenery; Kirby: Planet Robobot introduced various fun little mechs for Kirby to tool around in. Kirby: Star Allies features a mechanic that, though similar to something that had previously been seen in Kirby: Super Star, has been significantly revamped and improved upon here - the ability to create friends.

Unlike the single pal you could have in Super Star, and only by swallowing and then dropping an enemy, in Star Allies you can instantly make multiple friends just by throwing hearts at them. Once hit by a heart, most enemy types will instantly convert into computer-controlled allies (hence the title). What's more, you can have up to three of them at any time.

The "make friends" mechanic is pretty ingenious as it offers a quick and easy way to assemble a fairly varied, super-hero team style crew of helpers to assist you. Additionally, the game offers local same-screen co-op for 2-4 players. That means you can recruit up to three real-life buddies (or family members) to play as any, or all, of your virtual ones. Meta Knight, indeed! While his sister is a bit too young still (and his mom doesn't play many games outside of Tetris and Dr Mario), I can tell you that my son and I had quite a blast playing it together, just the two of us.

Curling stone Kirby!
With Your Powers Combined

In addition to the fantastic four-player friending frenzy, Star Allies also brings back an improved power-combining mechanic similar to the ones found in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Kirby: Squeak Squad. What it allows you to do is combine just about any two powers in the game. So, for instance, crossing parasol with sword creates a splash sword. Beam and bomb gives you zap bombs. What do you get when you cross a staff with fire? A fire staff, naturally! And those are just a small portion of all the possible power pairings; there are literally dozens of others that are discoverable throughout the course of the game.

My son and I were only too happy to try and figure out all the different power combos as we played. One of our favorite discoveries was what happens when you cross stone with ice. A couple months ago, I had just introduced my son to the wonderful world of winter sports, thanks to the detailed television coverage of the PyeongChang Winter Games. So, you can imagine our excitement and surprise at traversing a level in our brand new Kirby game and then suddenly seeing him transform into a familiar-looking slip-sliding (enemy-smashing) curling stone.

Figuring out how to combine (and utilize) all the crazy power combinations is easily half the fun of Star Allies. What's also cool is that the ability to combine powers isn't merely limited to Kirby himself, as even his frienemies can get in on the fun. What this invariably results in is a delightfully chaotic ballet of different characters bounding all over the screen, hurling various elemental powers every which way. Moments like these are a joy to behold and kept my son and I endlessly entertained.

Star Slam Heroes, a mini-game in which Kirby charges up a baseball bat to see how far he can smack an incoming meteor.
Easy On the Eyes

So, even though Kirby: Star Allies does feature awesome AI/person-controlled multiplayer as well as slick new power combination options, it is a touch on the short side. My son was actually able to beat the game (with really not a whole lot of help) after only a few days. But, like past Kirby games, there are a couple of mini-games available from the start, in addition to a couple of extra modes that unlock upon completion of the game. Between these, the fantastic variety on offer in the main game, and also items to find and collect in every level, Star Allies does feature enough content to make it worthwhile.

As the first Kirby game to arrive on Nintendo's current most-powerful system, Star Allies is also pretty nice to look at. While Kirby games aren't typically known for pushing the envelope where graphics are concerned, they are always colorful. And this title does a great job of utilizing the Switch hardware to really make those colors pop. Even my little daughter seemed to be entranced by what she saw on the screen. (And I have a feeling that when she's ready, Star Allies will likely be one of the first games that she takes to.)

The music and stages are a great mix of the new and familiar​. My son played enough Kirby titles over the past couple years to feel right at home with Star Allies. The great thing about the Kirby franchise, one of the key reasons it enjoys such mass appeal and staying power, is that the games are so easy and inviting to pick up and play. Yet, a truly great Kirby game manages to be engaging and fun despite the familiarity and simplicity. That's what you get with Kirby: Star Allies - the perfect blend of old and new that is easy to learn and a whole lot of fun to play. Whether you're a longtime fan of Kirby or you've just been introduced, you're sure to enjoy this one. Kirby: Star Allies is a winner for kids and parents alike.

(This is a repost of an article that also appeared on 12/12 Games.)


[Images: Nintendo]

Vermintide 2 – The End Times Ain’t Done Yet – A Review From Scroo

Fatshark has done it again. So well in fact that within the first two weeks of release, Vermintide 2 sold more than 500,000 copies and has brought in more revenue for the company than the first title did --ever! Stay with me and I'll tell you what I think so far. Read more

The Real Problem With ‘Sea of Thieves’

Sea of Thieves is under a lot of heat right now from gamers and gaming journalists  alike. And not without reason. The game has been heavily criticized for a severe lack of content attached to a sixty dollar price tag. 

But no one seems to want to talk about the real reason why Sea of Thieves is problematic.

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Boats

And yes, I'm all the serious.

Now anyone who reads or watches our content here on Twinstiq (all eight of you) will know that I have a very deep bias against the demons of the sea known as boats. Now I want to be as forthcoming about this as possible, that way you know where I stand on the issue of the normalization of boating within gaming culture.

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Speaking of Boating Normalization, let’s talk about the absolutely disgusting rise of  boating within gaming these last few years.

For quite a while, Boats were largely an afterthought or extension upon a game and it’s many systems. Having little to no effect on the habits of the player. But as gaming fidelity rose, we saw better physics engines that could simulate the horrid movements of water more accurately. With this progression we saw game developers carelessly allow themselves to implement more and more boat-based missions. Eventually we saw games like ‘Archeage’ and ‘Assassin’s Creed 3’ have entire sections of the game solely devoted to what can only be described as boating propaganda.

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'Black Flag' allowed players to live out Pirate fantasies using virtual boats.

'Black Flag' allowed players to live out Pirate fantasies using virtual boats.

The reaction from the gaming community when Black Flag was released should be seen as disgusting to any decent human being. Gamers loved the Boating-Based gameplay, and no one ever questioned if it was good for their health. The "Pirate Fantasies" it allowed players to partake in took no issue in exploiting a lifestyle that was the result of 264 Pirate attacks irl the year the game was released (2013).

Sea of Thieves presenting a boat in a

Sea of Thieves presenting a boat in a "peaceful" manor

Now ‘Sea of Thieves’ is attempting to once again bring Boats to forefront of young people's minds. Thankfully everyone seems to hate how the game is nothing but an empty shell of promises that’s better off left alone, just like the boats it glamorizes. And while this should be a warning to all who think boating is just a “harmless hobby”, I have a feeling that another game down the line will try to corrupt the minds of young gamers and basically train them to use boats in harmful ways.

Make no mistake. Boats are violence. And video game boats are nearly guaranteed to have an effect on real life boats. According to a Fox News article that I will not link to and you should not Google, Boating in video games makes your child more likely to become a boat.

And this should clearly have cause for concern. According to the US Coast Guard, 2016 saw 701 boating related deaths. “The highest number of yearly boating fatalities in the last five years.” 

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That’s almost nearly about approximately roughly around twice as many as the 371 rifle deaths the FBI reported for the same year!

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The trend between increased boating deaths, and boats being normalized in video games are so obvious that it’s irrefutable by any logic. And unless we want to see more games like ‘Sea of Thieves’ bring Boats into the limelight of gaming culture, we need to be diligent. Despite negative reviews, people have not rejected the lure of this boat porn. Despite the sheer amount of hate the game has been receiving, it has still topped sales charts. This is highly concerning. 

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We have too oppose boats in video games at every front. That is why I have never, and will never play ‘Sea of Thieves’ or any other such “Boat Games” that may rear their ugly head.

We’re Losing Our Internet Freedom – [Fifth Update] Pai is still Lying

Okay guys this is about Net Neutrality and this shit is important!

[Update 3-21]

I've been seeing a lot Net Neutrality articles lately and a lot of them concern FCC chairman, Ajit Pai himself. From news that the NRA has given him an award for, "Protecting free speech" and "saving the internet". To the possibility of Pai being sued for using "The Harlem Shake" in one of his propaganda videos without permission. And the much more positive news of several US states filing their own bills in order to impose Net Neutrality rules on ISP's regardless of what the repeal says.

I just read a piece from ArsTechnica that made me come here for another update because I feel it's worth sharing with you all. The article calls Pai out, a few times in fact, for just outright lying and presenting old information as new and factual all thanks to the new rules -Which, by the way, haven't been imposed yet. I don't know this guy keeps getting away with spewing sewage in the street and calling it gold.

Here's a link to the article from ArsTechnica   I highly suggest reading it and it's comments.

[Update 2-26]

Today is the 26th of February and tomorrow the 27th the last major stand against the  repeal of Net Neutrality will take place. Fight for the Future is an advocacy group that has put together a hashtag #OneMoreVote in a last ditch effort to bring people together in order to appeal the death of Net Neutrality. In a quote taken from Polygon- "Only one more vote in the Senate is needed to take the case to the House of Representatives, where cosponsors can vote to block the repeal of net neutrality. If unsuccessful, net neutrality will be repealed in April."

This is it folks. Our 60 day grace period since the official FCC vote to repeal is up. Telecomms are already changing policies and if something isn't done, we're just a few days from the new rules taking effect. Check out the links above and get the info you need to get into the fight if you haven't done so already.

[Update 1-24]

Burger King

Weirdly, Burger King has jumped on board the no repeal train with a really good neutrality analogue. Anyone who still may not understand exactly what's going to happen to the internet should watch the video below. In said video you'll see B.K. playing the role of a telecom who is imposing the new Whopper Neutrality rules upon its customers and it's a pretty entertaining and insightful spot.


[Update 12-15]

As you likely know by now the FCC has voted in a three to two vote to end Net Neutrality. This in itself is a nightmare. But thankfully for those of us who want to keep Net Neutrality alive and kicking we still have a glimmer of hope in this sea of darkness. Read more

Media Club: Doomsday Clock Review (First Two Issues)

You can not make a sequel to Blade Runner. It will be terrible and taint the original. Turns out you can make a sequel that’s better and improves the original knowing where the story goes.

You can not write a sequel to Watchmen or have them interact with the proper DC characters. It will be terrible and very clearly go against one of the biggest themes of the story. Well it turns out you can write it so the characters slowly get introduced to the idea of someone as Powerful as Doctor Manhattan, while leading into a story that so far feels so much like the original series that it’s almost eerie. 

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Geoff Johns has been a highly acclaimed writer in the comics world for a long time, and with good reason. He is able to perfectly capture the voices of so many varied characters and what makes them tick. So it really shouldn't have been a surprise he could do the same with Watchmen. Despite it’s nearly otherworldly status in the medium, Watchmen suddenly begins to feel incomplete after the first two pages of Doomsday Clock.

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Not only does Gary Frank manage to meticulously recapture Dave Gibbons’ art from Watchmen, but the classic nine panel grid and its varied forms are straight out of 1988. The language and mannerisms of the characters and how they move, talk, and emote on the page all show how Johns and Frank have done more than their homework on this one. And you have too. There is so much baggage that comes with committing sacrilege that a writer can’t afford to skip homework when doing something like this.

Fortunately this is not the first time Geoff Johns has committed sacrilege in the eyes of the comic book community, and it’s always created some of the most iconic stories in the medium. And yeah, it would be naive to think Doomsday Clock was going to be any different. And after just nearly two issues, it is clear w may be in for his best work yet. We’ll find out in a year if him and Frank stick the landing, but at this point it’s at least clear they know how to recapture what made Watchmen, Watchmen.