Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

I am Scouse Gamer 88; an amateur Liverpudlian game reviewer making his opinion heard about as many video games as possible. Scroll through and read all my video game reviews from A to Z. All my thoughts and opinions on some of the very best and very worst games released!

Throughout my career, I have reviewed a great of games; be that AAA mainstream titles or independently developed indie hits. In my 30+ years, I have had extensive experience playing every kind of game. Ranging from critically acclaimed beloved titles to forgotten flops.

I take great pride and put great care into what I do, and I hope you enjoy reading my reviews as much as I writing them!

Mira’s Brush: First Impressions

Last year, whilst scouting social media platforms and crowdfunding sites for new indie game prospects, I came across a unique-looking 8-BIT title on Kickstarter that was subsequently funded and is due for release in the near future. Mira’s Brush, developed by Duckbill ProDucktions and published by Angel Star Studios, is an 8-BIT 2D side scroller with puzzle elements whereby players must platform and paint their way through levels in order to advance through the game; the best way I can describe the game’s premise is if Super Mario Bros had mechanics similar to Okami. 

I had an interview with the game’s lead designer last year, Blake Speers:

 

https://scousegamer88.com/2020/02/11/qa-with-blake-speers-miras-brush/

 

Who explained to me where the inspiration for this title came from and described in-depth the arduous development cycle that game has had in order to get it to where it was at the time and to get it to the point of which the game was finally put on Kickstarter, where it was then successfully funded. The game is now available via Steam Early Access:

 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1493880/Miras_Brush/

 

And so I decided to write about my first impressions of the game, about its finer points, and where I feel it could indeed need some improvement before its full release in the not too distant future. Here are my thoughts on the current build of Mira’s Brush

 

 

Graphics

First of all, the world of Chromaland is as wonderfully varied as any other well-established video game universe with a lot of wonderfully outlandish enemies and locations ranging from tropical summer landscapes to icy snow worlds to outer space. In many respects, this game looks to be the labor of love that Blake talked about in our interview, and the conceptual design certainly promises this. However, in its current build, I did find a few inconsistencies with certain textures in certain locations, and a lot of the text around the game giving players instructions still looks quite basic compared to the dialogue text, so that would be something else that would need sprucing up before the game releases, otherwise, it would end up looking fairly unprofessional compared to other games. Regardless, the visual design of the game overall holds great promise for this game.

 

Gameplay

What holds greater promise than that, however, is the gameplay premise. The game involves both precise platforming to advance between each level and backtracking through said levels in order to find hidden items throughout. It has potentially more gameplay value than the average 2D side scroller, as well as providing a higher sense of challenge compared to others with elaborate strategies needed to defeat bosses and solve puzzles. The puzzle-solving element, in particular, reminds me somewhat of Fez, in that the game doesn’t hold the player’s hand throughout, and there is a certain degree of lateral thinking involved in uncovering hidden areas and even advancing through the game normally. 

 

 

Controls

The only problem I found with the game’s control scheme is that it can be tricky jumping on and off of certain types of platforms, namely the huge stars in the second level, due to their changing dimensions, and it can seem unfair to those playing who should have a well-timed jump, but end up falling due to unforeseen inconsistency in the trajectory of their jump as a result. Again, this is something that would need to be addressed before release, but otherwise, the control scheme is as fluent as what is needed. 

 

Lifespan

With a multitude of levels and areas to explore throughout the game, it also has the potential to last far longer than the average 2D side scroller, depending on how much there is to do and how much there is to explore overall. Given the types of games that went on to influence this title and the number of side quests I’ve seen so far, I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how long a game can be made to last.

 

 

Storyline

The story of Mira’s Brush follows the story of Mira, a painter who is hired to save Chromaland from the evil Colonel Blump and his minions, who has arrived to invade the land and sap it of all its color. The basic premise of the game is quite typical of many video games, but what keeps this interesting is that there is a quite strong comedic element to it in the personalities of each quirky character to find along the way, as well as the game is littered with cultural references, namely to classic painters of the renaissance era and more modern contemporaries such as Bob Ross. 

 

Originality

Even at first glance, the game’s level of uniqueness is quite prevalent. It plays out like very few side scrollers I’ve ever played, and the world of Chromaland has its own sense of charm, mystery, and unique design that was everything I was hoping it would be when I first discovered it for myself. With a lot of the basics having been ironed out before release, it does have the potential to make waves throughout the indie community, and I’m very much looking forward to the game’s full release.

 

 

Overall, Mira’s Brush promises an immersing and wonderful gaming experience, and a lot of the hallmarks to be expected are here; it looks great, it plays out great, and the indication is that the final product will be truly something special.

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Fur Fighters (PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 & iOS)

Developer(s) – Bizarre Creations

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Games

Designer(s) – Jeff Lewis

Producer(s) – Brian Woodhouse

ELSPA – 11+

 

Released originally on the Sega Dreamcast, and subsequently re-released on the PlayStation 2 as the Viggo’s Revenge edition, Fur Fighters is a third-person shooter 3D platformer hybrid brought to consoles by Liverpool-based developer Bizarre Creations, and whilst not performing particularly well financially, was universally praised by critics at the time of it’s released and has since gained somewhat of a cult following as one of the most overlooked games of the sixth generation. In my opinion, the praise was well-deserved. I remember watching video reviews of the game at the time, but I never got round to picking up a copy at the time of its release. But after finally getting my hands on it and finishing it in full, I wasn’t disappointed. 

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The game makes use of cel-shading, which was still in relevant infancy at the time with games such as Jet Set Radio, XIII, and the original Sly Cooper making waves in the early 2000s. The environments are quite varied and the character design is just as so to match. In terms of technical quality, it is about on par with most of what players can come to expect from a late fifth generation or early sixth generation game. Being cel-shaded, it didn’t stand out in terms of a technical marvel, but it comes with its own unique conceptual design, which brings a strong sense of charm to the title. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

A third-person shooting 3D platformer, the objective is to traverse through various different levels and hub worlds shooting enemies and procuring collectibles scattered throughout the game, including tokens and rescuable baby animals. It has an element of Donkey Kong 64 to it, in that the player can take control of several different playable characters, whose abilities must be utilized to progress through certain areas of the game; for example, the dragon character Tweek can glide to reach otherwise impassable ledges, and the penguin character Rico can swim through bodies of water to reach different areas. There is a fair amount of variety to be had in this game, and whilst it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the best 3D platformers ever released, such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, does relatively well to stand on its own two feet. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is faultless, provided the player picks the right control scheme; particularly in the Viggo’s Revenge edition. The default control scheme almost makes the game unplayable, however, with the movement controls being nigh-on impossible to get to grips with. It made me thankful that there was mercifully an auto-aim system for when enemies attack. In my opinion, the best control scheme to go with is the Beginner 2 control scheme; it makes life ten times easier whilst playing. I found it confusing, however, that the developers chose to associate the control scheme with the game’s difficulty because to me, a bad control scheme shouldn’t exist for the sake of adding to the difficulty, simply because it doesn’t; it just adds to the game’s frustration. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

Lasting around 30 hours, more intrepid players looking to collect everything within the game will not be disappointed. There is plenty on offer for players who want to make the experience last as long as possible, and I was pleasantly surprised myself that there was more to play for in this game than meets the eye. I went in expecting this to be a much more generic gaming experience than what I eventually got, and the game’s surprisingly long lifespan is the main reason why. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

What isn’t so great about this game is that the plot is pretty typical. The evil General Viggo has kidnapped the families of the Fur Fighters and the team resolves to defeat Viggo and get them back. Given that each of the Fur Fighters has his/her own personalities and traits, I would’ve thought the developers would’ve found a lot more room for characterization and plot than what was ultimately included, but I was unfortunately wrong. Luckily, the added voice acting in Viggo’s revenge edition and the fact in and of itself that the different characters do have outstanding personalities and traits keep the story from being overly terrible, but there was definitely room for elaboration in this respect. 

 

Originality – 7/10

The game stands out to a fair enough extent, but the main reason why it doesn’t stand with the best of the best 3D platformers is that it doesn’t do enough to stand out; maybe this is the main thing that hurt sales of the game at the time since it’s easy to make the assumption that this game is a lot less than what it actually is. It’s unfortunate, but to play devil’s advocate, there are also reasons why this game remains a beloved diamond in the rough in the eyes of many other gamers. It’s not a completely generic game, but there are a fair few things that could’ve been worked on to give the extra push it needed at the time in my opinion. 

 

Happii

However, that being said, Fur Fighters is still a very worthwhile title. It has great gameplay elements, it’s conceptual design is just about better than good, and I would recommend at least one playthrough of it. 

 

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Dont Die Mr Robot SG88 Header

Dont Die Mr Robot (PS Vita, PS4, iOS & Switch)

Developer(s) – Infinite State Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Interactive Entertainment, Infinite State Games & Digerati

Designer(s) –  Charlie Scott-Skinner & Barry Island

PEGI – 3

 

Developed by small indie outfit Infinite State Games based in Bristol back in 2014, Dont Die Mr Robot is an arcade game similar to the classic titles of the late 70s and most of the 80s, which is straightforward to learn, but exceedingly difficult to master. I’ve sunk a ridiculous amount of hours in this game, and for good reason; it’s just as addicting and as fun to play like the arcade games of old that it was inspired by.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The game takes place in a world known as the electro-abyss, where flashing lights and darkness go hand-in-hand with one another. The settings are most reminiscent of Pac-Man complete with fruit and a yellow-colored main character. Where this game stands out, however, is in its surprisingly diverse variety of enemy designs. The variety gets a lot more apparent the more the player progresses as well, with different types of robots with different kinds of attack patterns designed to throw the player at every turn.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The concept of Dont Die Mr Robot is simple, as is what is outlined at the beginning of every game by the announcer; get the fruit, avoid the enemies. Fruit blows up when collected, killing almost any type of enemy within the blast radius. Bonus points can be attained by collecting the coins that enemies drop when killed, or by merely brushing up lightly against enemies. There are several different game modes to perpetuate even more variety, including a time trial and even a mission mode. What a lot of indie developers have done whilst having made games of the same ilk as the classic arcade titles of old is to add more than what can be expected in order to keep things fresh and give players more to play for past the satisfaction of exceeding a high score, and Don’t Die, Mr. Robot is no different; that’s part of why I like this game so much. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme is perfect, presenting no problems to players with its simplicity in basic design. But at the same time, it also leaves a great deal of scope for players to hone their abilities and become as proficient at the game as possible, as more time will be spent trying to master the game as opposed to learning how it’s played. The learning curve involves finding out how to approach each game type and trying to develop specific strategies in order to take each stage as it comes; it’s especially hard, as in arcade mode, everything is procedurally generated and each playthrough presents a new challenge each time. 

 

Originality – 7/10

An arcade game with as much variety in gameplay as Dont Die Mr Robot cannot be overlooked in terms of originality. It does indeed have its influences where its basic premise is concerned, but it’s just as wonderfully varied as most of every other modern arcade game I’ve played over the last few years, including Titan Attacks, Ultratron, Curses N’ Chaos, Pix the Cat, and Resogun. It’s always refreshing to see developers keep the classic way of playing video games alive, whilst at the same time, giving old and new players a new challenge. 

 

Happii

Overall, Dont Die Mr Robot is an innovative, addicting and exceedingly tense, and fun game to play. I highly recommend it to either old-school gamers looking for a new challenge, or to newer-generation players looking to get a glimpse into how we used to play games back in the day. 

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Ender Lilies Header

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Live Wire & AdGlobe

Publisher(s) – Binary Haze Interactive

Director(s) – Keisuke Okabe

Producer(s) – Junichi Asame

PEGI – 12

 

Released last month to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a Metroidvania title, unlike most others. Combining dark fantasy with Japanese anime, it presents players with challenging gameplay reminiscent of the Dark Souls series and incorporates beautifully twisted mythology that results in a roller coaster of emotion from beginning to end. Some time ago, I had written a first impressions article on this game:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/02/01/ender-lilies-quietus-of-the-knights-first-impressions/

And I summarized my astonishment at just how good a game the developers seemed to be promising players. After finally finishing this game, I was anything but disappointed.

 

Graphics – 10/10

The game’s visuals make use of 2D sprites and environments similar to many modern-day Metroidvania classics such as the Ori games and Dust: An Elysian Tail. Albeit, Ender Lilies has a much darker atmosphere than either of the aforementioned games combined. Taking place in the sorrowful environments of Land’s End, the world had been ravaged by an evil entity known as the Blight, causing death and destruction throughout the world. Each location across the game is suitably scary and ominous, but at the same time, the game presents players with a feel of simultaneous beauty and melancholy in elements such as the soundtrack and certain other environmental designs. It’s rare that I’ve played a game that has such a stark contrast between eloquence and darkness as Ender Lilies does.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game is a 2D Metroidvania with RPG elements. Throughout the game, the player acquires more abilities to advance to otherwise impassable areas, in lieu of Metroidvania tradition, but new abilities in combat can also be learned throughout in the form of defeating both the main bosses and a series of sub-bosses that offer lesser, but strategically valuable abilities that can be used in accordance with either each situation in combat or for the purposes of exploration, and there’s certainly a lot of exploration to be had in this game. Backtracking is an important feature of this game, with players being able to discover many new and even secret areas within the game. But most prominent of all is the level of challenge that it presents players with. It’s not quite on the same level as Blasphemous in this respect, but it’s most definitely not a game for the faint of heart. Oftentimes, I found myself wondering whether or not I was in a more advanced area of the game than what I ought to have been, only to realize that I was completely on course to finishing it at almost all times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As is needed in a game like this, the controls also pose no problems thankfully. If there had been any issues, it would’ve caused bigger problems than what it would in a game of reasonable difficulty, since Ender Lilies is a lot more demanding than the average Metroidvania. But any slip-ups where this game is concerned will be down to the player. It takes a great deal of skill and experience to advance through this game, but thankfully, the controls will not slow players down. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last a total of 22 hours, give or take, which for a Metroidvania is a reasonable amount of time to last. It’s nowhere near on the level as what Hollow Knight can be made to last, but this puts it on par with the average 2D open-world title at least. With any luck, the developers did leave scope for expansion in the form of either a sequel or DLC because this is a series that is most definitely worth continuing after one game, but only time will tell on that one, unfortunately. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Ender Lilies focuses on a young white priestess named Lily, who after waking up in a derelict church, discovers that the world has been ravaged by entities such as the evil Blighted creatures and the Rain of Death. Aided by numerous incorporeal allies, who are the last remaining remnants of individuals who were affected by the Rain of Death, Lily resolves to put an end to the curse and thus restore Land’s end to its former glory. As I commented in my first impressions article, I noticed similarities early on between this game and Shadow of the Colossus on the thematic level, as the game seemed to perpetuate the same feeling of bittersweetness throughout. Having played through it in its entirety, I stick by my initial assessment. The game takes the player through a whirlwind of emotion that will have them on the edge of their seats as they discover the backstory of each ally acquired throughout the game and ultimately discovering the fates of Lily and Land’s End

 

Originality – 7.5/10

Although the idea of a Metroidvania RPG had been perpetuated before on numerous occasions, the elements that make this game stand out among most other Metroidvanias, as well as other games in general, is in the atmosphere that it presents throughout, as well as it’s beautifully distorted mythology. Eldritch horrors litter Land’s End throughout, the game provides players with a wonderful contrast between beauty and horror, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a video game, making it truly an unforgettable experience that players will savor for a long time. 

 

Happii

Overall, Ender Lilies is most definitely one of the best games I’ve played of 2021; it’s a weird and elegant game that will give players a stern challenge and along with that an immense sense of satisfaction, but at the same time, leave them with a profound sense of wonder after experiencing the story. It’s exactly the game that those in the Momodora series should’ve been.

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Mages Defence Header

Q&A With Happy Eagle Games

Whilst browsing social media platforms for new video game prospects, I was approached by yet another indie developer looking to bring their game to a wider audience. Mages Defense, under development at Happy Eagle Games based in Brazil, is an action-strategy game with tower defense elements set in a fantasy world reminiscent of the works of Tolkein. The main objective of the game is to protect a crystal from dark creatures bent on destroying the world. Enemies attack in waves and to defend the crystal, players must place traps in increasingly strategic ways and use the magic of the mages to beat each wave. 

Wanting to know even more about this exciting and addictive-looking title, I proposed to the game’s project leader Felix Tedesco about the possibility of conducting a Q&A for the site to ask him some questions about the direction in which development has gone, and my go, and what players can come to expect with this game ahead of the launch of a Kickstarter campaign planned for October. Here’s what Felix Tedesco of Happy Eagle Games had to say about Mages Defense:

 

Mages Defence 1

What were the influences behind your game?

One of our first influences was that Orcs Must Die. Orcs Must Die is a 3rd person tower defense and we got a lot of elements from there and definitely this game shapes ours. The other game that inspired us was kingdom rush, another tower defense game that gave us a lot of new ideas…

 

What has the developmental process been like?

The process has been fun and positive. We committed so many mistakes, more than we can count, but all mistakes we made became part of us and we learned from them. Of course, we are going to commit a lot more, but we know that is part of the plan.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We intend to make a Kickstarter campaign in October to gather some money and finish our product. Depending on how the game goes on Kickstarter, we are planning to develop some new and unique levels and release the game early next year. Probably February or March…

 

Mages Defence 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

We think it was the fact that we are creating our own technique because it’s our first big game. We made a lot of mistakes in the process that made us much more ready for the next one. For the next game, we know how to avoid the mistakes we’ve made and that makes us stronger. We learn how to work as a team and to overcome problems.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The mechanics were the most challenging part of development. At the beginning of the project, we had some trouble making it fun, simple, and functional and even after making a lot of the game, we still needed to adapt and change some parts of it.

 

There was limited information on the Internet about Happy Eagle. Can you give a rundown of the history of the company, where you’re based and what prior developmental experiences you have?

We were acting in some game jams, especially here in Brazil. We made some small games and prototypes to train our abilities and gain some experience. The name came because we are focused on creating happy, fun, and positive games especially because of the world’s problems we had. We think the main goal of life is being happy and that’s why we are focused on creating a fun and colorful game. The eagle means that we want to fly as high as possible and we are going to do everything in our control to make it happen.

 

Mages Defence 3

How well has the game been received so far?

We just showed the game to a local community at the moment… The feedback is being pretty cool and helped us to build a new perspective of the game. Because of the feedback, we think it has a lot of potential, and we are making the best product we can! We are working on a great Demo that will be ready in October for our Kickstarter campaign.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We just have plans to bring it for PC right now. But we are open to new possibilities.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

We are reworking on the Boss fights. We planned something that we were pretty cool with in the beginning but when we build it, it wasn’t good enough. So we are making the fight with the bosses again. The initial idea was that the bosses would fight against the player 1 x 1. but now we are bringing the boss along the waves of enemies.

 

Mages Defence 4

Are you planning to make Mages Defense into a series, or are you and the development team looking to try something new following the release of Mages Defense?

Probably. We are going to try something new. At least this is our thought at the moment. Of course, if the game reaches great success, we are going to make Mages Defense 2 and grow our team.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

It was the most important thing! Their feedback made us change a lot of aspects of the game, including some parts of the mechanics making it more simple and easy to master. I think one of our difficulties right now is balance the game and the maps and the players are the keys to that.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Rockstar is my favorite company by far. I just love the idea of an open-world game where you can do everything and if I had the opportunity, I’d make a partnership with them.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Follow your dreams. Work with whatever makes you happy… Of course, that is not a possibility for everybody but go for passion instead of just money. Money needs to be the consequence, not the goal. If you are really committed to something, the money will come. Be Hunger!

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

We are working on our other media. You can find us right now on Twitter:

 

https://twitter.com/CreativeFelix

You also can WISHLIST Mages Defense now On STEAM!

 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1528330/Mages_Defense/

Do you have anything else to add?

We just want to thank you for the opportunity to spread our game and thanks to everyone who is helping us to make the project more and more attractive! You are awesome!!!

 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Felix for reaching out to me and bringing this game to my attention, as well as agreeing to our interview. Mages Defense looks like a game that can potentially make for ours of addicting gameplay, and as a fan of the conventional medieval fantasy genre myself, I’m very much looking forward to learning more about the mythology behind it. In recent months, I’ve interviewed a number of indie developers originating from Brazil, including 2ndBoss Studios, Statera Studios, and Orube Studios, and the indie scene in the country is looking very exciting at the moment, and Happy Eagle is set to be another prominent example of which. I hope you guys are looking forward to the game’s Kickstarter campaign in October, and hope that you’re looking forward to playing this game as much as I am

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 The Addams Family Header

The Addams Family (Super NES & Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – Ocean Software

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software & Flying Edge

Designer(s) – Warren Lancashire

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

 

Initially released in 1992 by Software for fourth-generation hardware, The Addams Family game, based on the 1991 movie starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, received mixed reviews when it came out, (much like the film), is described as a boring Mario clone, or Mega Magazine even advising players to either “watch a tree, or grow something instead”. Versions for older consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even handheld consoles were also developed, but each of these versions is like their own games in and of themselves. 

With the original port, however, it’s interesting to me how the perception of an old game can potentially change over time. If I’d been reviewing back in the time of the Super NES, I may very well have had similar concerns to the likes of Mega Magazine, but even still, my overall opinion would have been very different, since not only do I enjoy this game a lot today, but I also played the hell out of it back when it was released. I enjoyed it thoroughly back then, and I still enjoy playing it now. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals differ slightly between both the Super NES and the Mega Drive version, but both versions do exceptionally well to capture the feel of not only the 1991 film but the franchise in general. It’s one of those games based on a license that tries to celebrate the license as much as possible, and I always enjoy a licensed game for that reason. The game takes place in and around the Addams residence, which is plagued by creatures of the night that Gomez Addams must contend with. Each area of the house is uniquely designed and differentiated from one another, giving it a strong vibe of classic Castlevania games. In particular, the portraits on the walls of the portrait gallery are excellently detailed in terms of technical performance, with the characters bearing striking resemblances to the real-life actors; not only that of Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester but also of Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Not quite a traditional 2D side scroller, the player has the option to come and go as they please throughout the Addams residence, giving it far more of a Metroidvania feel. The objective is to navigate the Addams residence and rescue each of the other family members; Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma Addams, Uncle Fester, and finally Morticia. Throughout the game, there are several secret areas to uncover along the way, as well as different power-ups to use in order to reach otherwise impassable areas or to give the player an edge in combat. There’s also a series of pretty challenging boss fights to contend with at the end of each area; and challenging is the right word for this game, as there are also many different platforming sequences that will test even the most hardened of platformer fans. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are also as fluent as any good platformer was at the time. Featuring other items to use throughout, it’s actually given more variety in terms of gameplay than the average side scroller, and therefore, more functionality in terms of controls than in other games of the same ilk. There’s so much in this game to differentiate it from others in terms of controls alone that it made me wonder how even reviewers at the time couldn’t recognize that back then. 

 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

The lifespan is even longer than the average platformer, clocking in at around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether or not the player decides to complete it to 100%. Of course, there would be other games in other genres that would blow this amount of time out of the water, and would only continue to do so going into the fifth generation of gaming, but there’s a lot to be said for a game like this that dared to defy convention, even if it went pretty much unnoticed at the time. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The plot of the story follows the second half of the films quite closely, Tully Alford, the Addams Family lawyer, has taken over the Addams estate and captured the remaining Addams family members, and Gomez resolves to rescue them. The plot element of the film concerning Uncle Fester is also present, as he has amnesia and he is cured of it once Gomez releases him. The plot is presented nowhere near as well as what it is in the original film, but it does a good enough job setting up the premise of gameplay.

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s very easy to overlook how quietly innovative this game was back in its time. It perpetuated a lot of the same ideas that the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did birthing the entire Metroidvania genre a full two years before the release of Super Metroid. It was even quite easy for me to take it for granted back in the day since I was unfamiliar with the concepts of gaming history and even the differentiation of gaming genres at the time, but as I’ve grown older and learned far more than I knew about games since, It’s made me appreciate truly how innovative this title was. 

 

Happii

Overall The Addams Family remains every bit as much of a joy to play today as what it was back when it was released. I highly recommend this game to any side-scrolling fan who may be either looking for a challenge or looking to try a silently original game that unfortunately fell through the cracks at the time of its release. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – SEGA AM7

Publisher(s) – SEGA

Director(s) – Emiko Yamamoto

Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore

PEGI – 3

 

Released as a Sega Genesis exclusive, unlike its predecessors Castle of Illusion and Land Illusion, World of Illusion is the third game in the series, which puts players in the shoes of not only Mickey Mouse but also his companion Donald Duck, offering two different experiences depending on which character the player chooses at the start. It was released to rave reviews back in 1992 with critics praising the graphics and multiplayer, but it also had one or two detractors in addition, which some labeled the single-player mode as dull or bland. 

Growing up, World of Illusion was the Illusion game I spent the most time on, and as a prerequisite, I enjoyed it very much back in the day. Nostalgia aside, I still enjoy playing it. In terms of quality, I put it in between the original two; it’s quite as good as Land of Illusion, but it’s slightly better than Castle of Illusion in my opinion.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The first thing to notice right off the bat compared to the other two Illusion games is that the graphics outstrip both of them on the technical side. Everything from the environments to the characters looks better than they ever had done before, showcasing in spectacular fashion what the Sega Mega Drive was capable of as the fourth generation was well and truly established. On the conceptual level, it still impresses, having been influenced by a number of Disney films such as Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and Sleeping Beauty to name but a few; similar to how Castle of Illusion was put together, but on a greater scale.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The gameplay also follows a very similar formula to that of Castle of Illusion, being a traditional 2D sidescroller offering two different adventures; one as Mickey Mouse and the other as Donald Duck. It’s nowhere near as open-ended as Land of Illusion is, but both playthroughs offer a very different experience to one another, as Donald Duck is forced to find alternative paths across each level due to him having different capabilities to Mickey Mouse. The multiplayer is also an outstanding experience to indulge in as it requires slightly more cooperation to progress through than in other side scrollers of the time. 

 

Controls – 9.5/10

The only minor fault I found with the controls, as I discussed in my review of Castle of Illusion, was the crawling mechanics. Whenever the player character crawls, it seems way too dragged on and nowhere near as fluent as a normal movement. But as I said, it’s only a nitpick; it doesn’t hinder gameplay to the point of it being unplayable, and regular movement is as fluent as it is in any of the best platformers released at the time. 

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Clocking in at around an hour, World of Illusion lasts about the same time as Land of Illusion despite its linearity, which for the time is pretty impressive in all fairness, especially compared to what is essentially a Metroidvania. It racks up around the average lifespan of a game back in its time, so it may seem like nothing compared to what gamers will be used to in this day and age, but for the time, it’s impossible to complain about too much. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of World of Illusion is almost identical to that of Land of Illusion. It involves Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck being swept away on yet another adventure, as they are taken by an evil magician in the form of Mickey’s long-standing arch-nemesis Pete. Again, like in the previous Illusion games, the cutscenes do as good a job as what could’ve been expected to tell the story as effectively as possible, but in the respect of the game’s story, it falls a little short in terms of uniqueness.

 

Originality – 7.5/10

The aspects in which this game doesn’t fall short of in terms of uniqueness, however, are in both the graphics and the gameplay. The conceptual design, despite the fact they were inspired by several different Disney films, still feels like it’s its own cohesive idea as opposed to it feeling like a mish-mash of different previously conceived elements. And although the game isn’t quite on par with Land of Illusion in terms of gameplay, it’s necessary to appreciate the fact that the developers tried something new instead of simply giving the players the same experience all over again.

 

Happii

In summation, World of Illusion holds a lot of nostalgic value to me personally, but in the grander scheme of things, it’s still a great game to play. The multiplayer is immersing, the graphics look great, and whilst the story isn’t very original, especially by Disney’s own lofty standards, there’s more than enough here on offer to make up for it.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Land of Illusion Header

Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Master System & Game Gear)

Developer(s) – Sega

Publisher(s) –  Sega

Director(s) – Yoshio Yoshida

Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore

PEGI – 3

Released on third-generation hardware well into the fourth generation, Land of Illusion was brought out following the immense success of the previous Mickey Mouse game developed by Sega, Castle of Illusion, and for the most part, received the same level of critical acclaim being considered an adored classic by most who played it. Out of the original Illusion trilogy, Land of Illusion was the one entry that I never got to play, as, at this time, I was firmly immersed in fourth-generation hardware, such as the Super NES and the Mega Drive; and it’s a shame that this game never saw a release on the Mega Drive, because a multitude of reasons, it is the best in the Illusion trilogy in my opinion; superior to both Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

Where the technical side of things is concerned, the game kind of looks like a mixture of both 8-BIT and 16-BIT visuals, seemingly going above and beyond what many gamers may have thought the Sega Master System was capable of. People who have never played this game would most probably take a cursory look at it and maybe too hasty to write it off immediately as a game that seemingly came to a generation too late. But the fact of the matter is Land of Illusion looks too good to be a third-generation title. The conceptual design is also even more of an improvement on what the developers did with Castle of Illusion to me, as it borrows elements from much darker Disney films than that of its predecessor; most notably The Black Cauldron, as the antagonist is The Horned King under the guise of a new villain, The Phantom. There are certain elements of certain levels that also look to be inspired by previous third-generation classics, such as Super Mario Bros 3 and Castlevania.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

Perpetuating many of the same gameplay elements as seen in Castle of Illusion, Land of Illusion is another 2D side scroller whereby the player must traverse, explore, defeat bosses and take on the game’s end boss. What separates this game from Castle of Illusion, however, is that there’s a small Metroidvania element to it, allowing for players to backtrack to an extent with newly acquired abilities to reach otherwise impassable areas. There’s even a sidequest whereby there are a number of stars to collect throughout, giving the game slightly more replay value than the average side scroller. The boss fights throughout also provide a nice balance of challenge for players. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The biggest problem I had with the game is only a minor one, which is that the jump mechanics can seem a little inconsistent, and as a result, gameplay can be hindered to a small extent unnecessarily. The same problem exists in the next game in the series, World of Illusion, but to a lesser extent. However, the jump mechanics are nowhere near as bad enough to be able to call the game unplayable by any means. Like the last game, the controls are as fluent as what is needed to be for the most part. 

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Land of Illusion can be made to last around an hour, which though was the average lifespan for a game in the fourth generation, is actually quite impressive compared to other third-generation titles. The amount of backtracking the game warrants makes it slightly longer than the average 2D side scroller that was a mainstay in the industry at this time, and it does fairly well to stand out on its own as a result. Of course, other games have been released by this time that lasted considerably longer like A Link to the Past and the Final Fantasy games, but for what is a very retroactive experience, it succeeds to deliver.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The plot of Land of Illusion is extremely similar to that of Super Mario Bros 2. Mickey is reading a book one day only to fall asleep and awake again in an unfamiliar and fantastical land whereby he must recover a stolen magic crystal in order to help the inhabitants of a small village protect themselves from an entity known as The Phantom. Along the way, the player encounters several classic Disney characters to rescue, and along the way providing a greater deal of substance in the story and more memorable moments than Castle of Illusion. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Although it was released arguably three years too late, the fact of the matter is the game stands out for all the right reasons regardless of its late arrival on the Sega Master System, and for a game that at first glance would seem completely outdated, is immensely impressive. It’s amazing what developers have been able to do with basing games off of a pre-existing license before and after Land of Illusion, but very few developers took that concept to the heights that Sega took many Disney franchises in the realm of games, and this game stands out as yet another shining example of that.

 

Happii

 

Overall, I was surprised to find out that I would end up enjoying Land of Illusion more than any of the other Illusion games. It’s got a great deal to play for, for its time, the story is much more involved than in previous game, and although it seems to be Castle of Illusion that seems to get the accolade of the classic Mickey Mouse game, the fact of the matter is that Land of Illusion is in many ways superior. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Genesis, Master System, Game Gear & Saturn)

Developer(s) – SEGA (AM7)

Publisher(s) – SEGA

Director(s) – Emiko Yamamoto & Yoshio Yoshida

Producer(s) – Stephan L. Butler

PEGI – 7

Released in 1990 to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim and later receiving a remake in 2013, Castle of Illusion was ported to several Sega consoles in both 8-bit and 16-bit and became one of the breakout exclusive games on Sega consoles before Sonic The Hedgehog was released in 1991. To me, it stands out as one of the earliest examples of how to do a licensed game along with the many other titles Disney throughout the fourth and fifth generations, including Chip N’ Dale, Duck Tales, Aladdin, and Toy Story, even spawning its own series of Illusion games before the release of Mickey Mania

 

Graphics – 8/10

The technical quality of the graphics depends of course on what system the game is being played on. For the best in this respect, the Mega Drive or Sega Saturn versions of the game are preferable, albeit the Saturn version stayed in Japan. However, all ports of the game perpetuate the same wonderful diversity in level design that even matches that of the classic Mickey Mouse cartoons that had come before it such as Steamboat Willie and The Mad Doctor, borrowing elements from the cartoon as well that of other Disney films on addition, such as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White & The Seven Dwarves. Throughout, the game also presents a stark contrast of happy and serene settings at the beginning and dark and gritty settings towards the end.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

A traditional linear 2D side scroller, the player must traverse across five different levels and collect a series of gems by beating a number of bosses at the end of most levels. Once all the gems are collected, the player can then challenge the game’s end boss and rescue Minnie Mouse. There’s also a small combat element as players can collect project apples to attack with, similar to Aladdin, and the boss fights throughout become evermore creative; the final boss in particular somewhat reminding me of the final boss fight against Dracula in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

 

Controls – 10/10

The controls, in addition, pose no problems as even in these days gone by when the game was first released, the 2D side scroller had long since been mastered by developers and have remained a staple within the industry. Future games in the series would pose a couple of minor problems in this respect, notably the crawling mechanics in World of Illusion, but the controls in the original game are as fluent and as easy to get to grips with as any good side scroller released at the time. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be completed within around 30 minutes, which whilst being nothing by today’s standards, was at that time, about the standard lifespan of a traditional side scroller. Of course, the Metroidvania and RPG genres would spawn games lasting tens or even hundreds of hours throughout the late 90s, but this is the type of game that warrants multiple playthroughs.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The plot of the game is relatively straightforward; typical of plat threads in games at the time as a matter of fact. Mickey Mouse must save Minnie Mouse who is imprisoned in the Castle of Illusion by an evil sorceress named Mizrabel. There are a fair few cutscenes in the game, which were a somewhat new addition to platformers at the time following games like Chip N’ Dale and Mega Man 2, and they helped to keep things relatively fresh in the circle of side-scroller games being released at the time. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Though the story of the game may not be a particularly standout feature, everything else about this game makes it stand out to an unbelievable extent. Its contemporary settings and style of gameplay mixing side-scrolling and light combat elements make it an extremely memorable title still beloved by gamers of the old generation and among those who played the 2013 remaster. It’s highly regarded as one of the best titles on the Mega Drive, and it’s no wonder why.

 

Happii

Overall, Castle of Illusion is one of the best side-scrollers released in the early stages of the fourth generation and remains a fan favorite among gamers for good reason. It’s an insanely enjoyable game, and it comes highly recommended by me. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Heavenly Sword Header

Heavenly Sword (PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Ninja Theory 

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director(s) – Nina Kristensen, Tameem Antoniades & Andy Serkis

Producer(s) – Matt Hart

PEGI – 16

Released in 2007 following a slew of questionable launch titles for the PlayStation 3, such as Lair and Genjo: Days of the Blade, Heavenly Sword was a game that helped to shed light on the appeal of the console early on and can be seen as an earlier example of how cinematic video games came to evolve into what they are today, excelling in the story and doing fairly well to impress in terms of gameplay at the same time. It received a mixed reaction from critics at the time, but in my opinion, whilst not being among the best titles on the system in the end, certainly does hold up well enough.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The game’s visuals, whilst not doing exceptionally well to stand out conceptually, certainly stood out technically at the time, and as such, it did an exceptional job of displaying what the PlayStation3 was capable of on the graphical level in the console’s infancy. Motion capture was used extensively on the project for each of the actors to interpret facial expressions as well as possible, including from the motion capture master Andy Serkis. For the number of enemies that also appear on the screen at any one given time, the developers took care to make sure the frame rate didn’t drop as dramatically as what players could’ve possibly come to expect. It doesn’t hinder gameplay too much.

Gameplay – 7/10

Speaking of gameplay, Heavenly Sword is a linear hack n’ slash game similar to games like God of War and Darksiders, complete with a variety in weapon types, special abilities, and quick-time events. Indeed, the game does require a certain degree of strategy to deal with different types of enemies, in that swift attacks must be used to best fight against agile enemies, and powerful attacks must be used to best fight slower and heavier enemies. The principle is prevalent throughout the entire game, especially in the boss fights. There are also instances in which the player controls an alternative character, who wields a bow, and they can use the PlayStation 3’s SixAxis controls to steer arrows toward enemies, which I particularly enjoyed. 

Controls – 10/10

Although the small drop in frame rate can hinder the game to a small extent, the game’s control scheme itself poses no problems. Again, it was quite impressive to me how the developers implemented the SixAxis controls as well as the conventional controls. Everything moves as fluently as needed and the controls pose no unnecessary complication either.

Lifespan – 5/10

Clocking at around 4 hours, the game’s lifespan falls short of even hack n’ slash games that had come and gone before it. The game excels in technical visuals, gameplay, and story, and these are the aspects in which the developers showed off the budget, but for me, it would’ve been better spent making sure the player had as much to do in the game possible for as long as possible as opposed to being left as what a linear and one-dimensional experience it turned out to be

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Heavenly Sword centers around Nariko, a young warrior of a small tribe fighting against the forces of a relentless ruler named King Bohan. Nariko’s weapon, the titular Heavenly Sword, is actually a divine relic and a form of sentient life which Nariko suffers from an inner conflict with that culminates as the game progresses, similar to how the ring of power works in Lord of the Rings. She makes it her resolve to master the sword and use it to liberate her clansmen and drive King Bohan back. The story blends together elements of comedy, tragedy, and drama, and makes for a particularly engrossing experience in this respect. Andy Serkis’s performance as King Bohan, in particular, is outstanding, with excellent acting and well-written dialogue to compliment him. Though his character is nowhere as conflicted as his portrayal as Monkey in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the intentions of King Bohan are made clear from the start, and Andy Serkis flawlessly conveys it. 

Originality – 6.5/10

Though the game certainly stands out in terms of story, it fails to stand out to any great extent in the respect of either gameplay or conceptual design, and the experience suffers somewhat as a result. The main focus on a game should always be on the gameplay and making that stand out more than any other element of the game, and it’s evident that wasn’t the case with Heavenly Sword. It feels very much like the story was the primary concern of the developers, and although the gameplay is not terrible by any means, it could’ve been better given more of a focus.

However, for as many criticisms I have cited over the course of the review, Heavenly Sword is a game with a moderate amount of variety, and is still pretty enjoyable to play regardless. Its story is worth experiencing a single playthrough for, and it seemed to set the precedent for more games that were even more enthralling in terms of story on the PlayStation 3. 

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)