Carrion review

Carrion is a reverse horror game, yes you read that correctly, a reverse horror game. You are not the hunted you are the hunter within this game. As an amorphous creature, you must wreak havoc on the people that have kept and experimented on you. Establish a foothold in the facility, spread your biomass as far as you can and kill anyone in your way. Waking within a testing container, you struggle to keep your rage as you see your captors all around you. You are smashing against the glass designed to hold you back, and over time you gain the strength to break free. Screams follow the smashing of glass as you realise the chain of power is in your favour. You use your body to form tentacles and start destroying and consuming everything around you; this facility will be yours.


Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23 July 2020


The enemies are typical, nothing out of the ordinary but that is okay, they are what you would expect to be within the facility. The humans will hear you if you are too loud and either investigate or run. You can use this to your advantage in many situations. Time and time again there would be what I would call “movie scene moments” as individual approaches a drainage pipe where you are lurking only to be torn apart in front of their colleges who either run or help. There is a sense of power that the game gives you, and it is a fun experience being the hunter rather than the hunted. What I found interesting with the humans within the game was the subversion of hope in the last stand. Typically, a human who is about to die and has taken it upon themselves to take the attacker down with them signifies a sense of hope. But being the attacker in this situation the game subverts that hope, it instead becomes futile as you continue your rampage through the facility. The game caters to your predator instincts, and there are frequently many ways that you can approach situations. Allowing you to stalk the humans as they stand there trying to find you, you can play to the horror aspect of the game.

The OST highlights this horror aspect well. With classic horror tropes of unsettling music and noises that accompany your rampage. Naturally, the sounds would make you feel scared, but as you are the monster, they make you feel that much creepier. You start to think more about how you are playing the game. It is a weird thought; Horror sounds make you more focused on being a monster.

However, enemies do get better. They start using machine guns and shields that make you think about how you’re going to approach a situation. In the beginning, you can launch into any room take a few pistol shots and destroy everyone in sight. Once they start brandishing shields that have electricity on them, you must consider how to use the space around you seriously. After all, you are an amorphous blob so you can fit anywhere. The change in difficulty is a jarring experience for the player. It makes you realise that you are not invisible, you learn that you are not as strong as you appear. I enjoyed this little aspect; it both serves to add difficulty to the game and applies a learning experience for both the player and the monster you are controlling. The monster is learning the rules of the world, just like the player. I thought that it worked quite well within the context of the game, I kept coming back to movies with monsters like this, and there is always a learning experience for them.

Trying to figure out how to approach the situation is quite fun.

The learning experience does not stop there. The monster/player also learns that as an amorphous monster that can gain more and more size, there is limitless potential. With three different sizes that affect how you play the game; the first being the smallest, which is the sneakiest, allowing you to be invisible and use a web to hit leavers form a distance. The second is the most useful, in my opinion, allowing you to break through barriers to get into new areas and still be a little sneaky if needed. The third is the overpowered broken destroy everything mode, allowing you to take a lot of damage, protect your body with a shield and shoot spikey tentacles all over the room devastating anything in their paths. The forms provide an exciting way to build puzzles within the game, with the ability to switch between them by either dropping off mass or picking mass up at specific areas. It is exciting and allows you to approach the game how you want. Do you want to be invisible and strike enemies from the shadows? Or do you want to be able just to burst into a room-filling it with your amorphous blob-like body and leave the enemies struggling to find room to fight you?

There is an attempt at a story with some flashback scenes that, unfortunately, takes you away from what makes the game enjoyable. In the flashback scenes you must take control of a human wandering through the same facility you are haunting. At the same time, I do appreciate the attempt to add a little story to the game. But I believe the game itself provides enough enjoyment that you do not particularly need it. 

That is the main struggle with Carrion. There is a lot of pacing problems that I faced; for example, areas do not repopulate over time. Usually, this would not be an issue, but there is a lot of backtracking within the game. Rooms feel empty and make an already dull task that much more boring. The negative to the map is that there is no real direction; you feel like you are just exploring and hoping that you find the next area. At the same time, this can be an advantage in this style of games, unfortunately with Carrion if you combine that with the lack of repopulation. You end up just searching through the map regularly to desperately to get back to what the game does best and leads to weird pacing issues within the game. You have a bloody and fearsome fight to the death. Then you are left to travel through empty rooms where the game is reliant on just its movement being fun, which it is! But his is not enough to fill those slow moments in. The fun becomes few and far between towards the middle/end of the game, and it slows it down to a point where playing can become a chore. 

Overall, the gameplay is enjoyable and allows you to be a little creative with how you tackle situations. But the lack of repopulation and direction within the map itself leads to moments where you are just searching for the action. The game is an enjoyable play, but I would love to see some more enemies while you are roaming areas you have cleared. I understand that technically you have killed everyone, but maybe they could put SWAT-like teams who search the map for you. Or have them attack some of the nests you have made, forcing you to other areas of the map to defend yourself. There is a lot of good here, but also a lot to be desired. It is a fun game that works with its premise very well, and you will get enough out of it! It is currently on Gamepass, so if you have a moment, I recommend trying it!

Oirbo Preview

Oirbo is a 2-D platformer that takes the titular character to a metroidvania-inspired monolithic spacecraft. Which you must explore to discover its secrets and history. I’ve followed the development of this game for sometime via Imagination Overflow’s Instagram and it’s really nice to finally have some gameplay to further increase the anticipation for this game.


Developer: Imagination Overflow
Publisher:
Imagination Overflow
Genre:  
Metroidvania Platformer
Release Date:
TBC
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Switch


You are introduced to the titular character, a wonderfully hand-drawn robot who must face the threats of the spacecraft. Oirbo must explore the spacecraft discovering why its such a hostile place and collect upgrades to reach new heights. Each part of Oirbo can be upgraded, with various tools to help you progress. Initially, with his dash and jump, you must find new ways to take down enemies and use the environment to its advantage. The controls in the game are well mapped and pretty easy to get used to with few interactions. I’m expecting more buttons to be used in the full game as you earn upgrades.

Upgrade panel of the menu

You really get the feeling of weightlessness in Oirbo as when you jump you will slowly come down, giving you plenty of time to change the direction or alter your jump. Although this makes platform jumping easier, fast-moving enemies can be slightly tricky to land on top of, especially when dealing with multiple.

Most of the enemies are presented as obstacles or part of puzzles rather than actively aggressive in the game, making you think about how to interact with them and how they can benefit you in your progression. There’s one particular AI that got me a bit excited. A couple of minutes into the game, you are met with hornet-designed robots who harmlessly float around the platforms. However, once one is attacked, you are chased by a swarm until you can find cover. I thought this was a charming touch.

The health system ĺThe health system can be easily exploited by continually respawning enemies as they offer you a bar of health upon their destruction. There were many times I was caught farming to refill my health gauge. With the layout of the health bar, it would be interesting to see whether Imagination Overflow intends health to disappear between checkpoints when three bars are lost permanently. This would certainly add another level of difficulty to the game. These checkpoints are few and far between which again adds to the challenge of the game. Upon losing all health, you are respawned at one of these mechanical repair points.

Oirbo is undoubtedly an exciting and beautifully hand-drawn game. There is a particular element of cuteness to the game that seems shrouded in mystery as you travel through the spacecraft. With some attractive AI designs and some challenging puzzles, I think Oirbo could be an excellent game, and I’m excited about the full release. I am certainly excited when this hits Xbox, Switch and Steam soon. You can follow Imagination Overflow on Instagram and Facebook to keep updated.

The Steam Game Festival: GhostRunner Preview

First up in my Steam Game Fest preview series has to be GhostRunner from One More Level. A hardcore FPP slasher which requires you to build up momentum to avoid your enemies and slash them down. I got my hands on the free demo last week, the demo only last around about 10 minutes or so but it’s got me excited to get this game later this year.


Developer: One More Level, 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher:
All In! Games
Genre:  
Hardcore FPP Slasher
Release Date:
2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One


Set in a grim cyberpunk world, you a cyborg assassin must ascend tower-city to take on the tyrannical Keymaster. The Dharma Tower is humanity’s last hope at survival, but the Keymaster shows little regard for his subjects and chaos assumes in the fight for resources. The demo takes places during the tutorial phase of the game, where you must escape the prison, presumably at the bottom of this tower. On your way, you must rescue the whisper.

The demo shows off some of the basic skills which are available in GhostRunner you can wall run, jump, slash, dash and even manage to slow time to dodge your enemies. You must combine these skills, to not only slay your enemies but also build up speed. You must always be moving. The enemies can lock onto you, and one-shot means your down, so the stakes are high. The skill in GhostRunner is very much based on your reaction times and choices made under pressure.

The press release states, “As the most advanced blade fighter ever created, you’re always outnumbered, but never outclassed.” This is very much the case, your move set feels flawless, as you can quickly come out of time and slash down your enemies. Despite its frustration, you the player must look around for different ways of taking down the multitude of enemies.

I really enjoy the cyberpunk setting, and GhostRunner has a stunning version of it. Combining it with a slashing game takes it away from the shooters that are typically associated with the genre, makes it something different. While the combat is somewhat akin to what we’ve seen before, it is still enjoyable, and I really enjoyed the sword vs gun take on the cyberpunk world. However, it feels like the sword is used as a ranged weapon, due to the speed of your character.

I’m certainly excited to see what other skills you can have in your arsenal to progress the game. In the demo it is said that your hardware is damaged, so it’s going to be interesting to see what your fully able cyber warrior is capable of.

With further delays to Cyberpunk 2077GhostRunner may be the perfect cyberpunk filler to keep you going till November. With an absolutely stunning setting, some excellent combat and hopefully a phenomenal story, GhostRunner can be one of the top releases of 2020.

Steam Games Festival: Grounded Preview

Since Obsidian announced Grounded back in April at the Xbox Series X event, we’ve been super excited to play the game. Steam Games Fest offered us a 30-minute preview at the brand new survival game that will be released on 28 July 2020.


Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher:
Xbox Game Studios
Genre:
Survival
Release Date:
28 July 2020
Platforms: PC, Xbox One


Taking influence from Honey, I Shrink I Kids and The Ant Bully, Grounded introduces you to four characters, all of who, have been shrunk and wake up in a garden. It seems that you are on a search for a way to get back to full size and return to normal life. Of course, the garden now presents new threats, ants, ladybugs and spiders. You must lead these characters to survival through day and night of the garden.

You can play as a group of four, selecting one of the characters, to aid your journey or you can choose to play alone. I’d assume that the enemies are levelled depending on the number of players, therefore meaning it is not any more challenging to play on your own if you wish. You must maintain your hunger, thirst and tiredness levels to ensure you are ready for all the dangers that come your way. But you must be careful to make sure you are eating the rights foods and drinking from the right source to make sure you stay healthy and avoid poisoning.

Grounded is a very cartoonish game but looks incredible as you get overshadowed by the common grass and critters that lay within. The scenery allows you to climb up and down while you can use objects such as dandelions as a parachute to move freely around the garden.

Obsidian has done an outstanding job with the AI, with each creatures having its own behaviour. Ants, for example, tend to sniff around you rather than an attack on first sight and only do if you attack first. While mites will only attack in dark places. Grounded is a fresh take on the survival genre, moving away from forests and zombie Apocalypse but managing to create that feeling of danger and anxiety but in a more child-friendly manner.

I love the building mechanics in this game. You must collect items around the garden which in turn give you new recipes to aid in your survival. Things such as plant fibre, sap and rock pellets all give you new tools, and it’s a pretty simple menu system. Selected into different groups, medical and food, crafting tools and weapons, it is straightforward and accessible.

However, you must build an adequate shelter to survive through the tough nights in the garden. This requires more abundant building materials such as grass and weeds, these don’t fit in your backpack. Instead, you must carry planks back to your base and store them for use. As you can only carry five planks at a time, the game introduces a unique building mechanic, where you can partially build parts of your structures dependent on the materials you have and then come back at a later time to finish them. For me, this is such a fantastic mechanic, as you no longer have to horde millions of items around with you to complete a piece of a wall. This a welcome change from games such as Fallout 4, where fitting anything in your backpack based on weight meant that often you were left stranded without the necessary resources such as health and water.

Obsidian has made sure that Grounded was accessible for all by including an arachnophobia setting, meaning that those with the phobia can still play the game. It also states that players who chose this setting will not lose out on the lucrative rewards that Spiders give as high levelled NPCs.

Treachery in Beatdown City Review

Treachery in Beatdown City is an over-the-top take on an American city which is plagued with several issues. On the surface, it is a tribute to the 80s beat-em-ups and wouldn’t go amiss in any arcade collection. From the off you can tell it offers so much more than its arcade appearance suggests, it manages to blend beat-em-up and RPG combat mechanics to create a fun experience while simultaneously tackling some contemporary issues. It is arguably one of 2020 most relevant games. 


Developer: NuChallenger
Publisher: NuChallenger
Platforms:
PC (Steam)
Genre:
Street Fighting Thriller
Release Date:
31 March 2020


The game opens up to a cinematic trailer for the game explaining that the president, Blake Orama, has been kidnapped by the Ninja Dragon Terrorists. The city succumbs to a scramble. Where the corrupt millionaire mayor doesn’t know what he’s doing, disbands the police to make his security force. With a lack of power now, the police chief calls on the only three people he knows who can solve the situation; Lisa, an MMA fighter and Boxer; Bruce, a Jeet Kune Do fighter and Brad, a former pro-wrestler. You’re able to rotate between the three to utilise their unique skills, move sets and banter.

Each character comes with their strengths and weaknesses which are effective against the different types of enemies. Which leads to a more focused and strategic take on beat-em-ups as you must consider which combos can effectively take down your foe. While in-fight mechanics mean you can use RPG elements to pin together a combo of different moves, considering your fight points and action points, taking into consideration that counter-attacks cost action points as well.

The game keeps the high amount of combat you face but introducing new moves as you progress. These can help develop your combos and make it easier to instigate more powerful moves learnt earlier on. While certain combos can boost stats, Bruce’s combo of wing strikes and a jab is commonplace in the way I approach his fights due to that combo increasing accuracy, which allows you to get over the harder combos inflicting some severe damage. While Bruce’s ‘toe kick’ increases the chances of successfully executing a grapple move, which is Bruce’s speciality and often quite challenging to execute early fight.

NuChallenger has done an excellent job of balancing these characters strengths and weaknesses out to add challenge to the game. For example, Brad, who is ineffective early fight due to his grapple speciality having higher health, so he can focus on counters and small jabs. While the introduction of ‘Revenge Fights’ force the player to play as one of the three against enemies, you may not have chosen to fight with that character. ‘Revenge fights’ encourages the player to approach the fight differently than they may have done previously. Following these fights, you are rewarded with new moves.

The enemies you fight are over-the-top parodies of societies worst, racist guys who flinch at the sight of black people, corrupt cops, social media-obsessed students and bikers who think they own the road. Every person you fight has it coming for them, often needlessly provoking the crew. One guy feels threatened and gets defensive when Bruce, a successful businessman and stoke broker, tries to pet his dog. At the beginning of the game, one of the gym members assumes Lisa is a janitorial staff member, based on her Hispanic ethnicity. Everyone is the worst in a way that makes it enjoyable to fight back. Racism isn’t the only issue brought up in the game; others such as the gig economy, self-important companies and the addiction to social media.

While your characters are standing up for what they believe, they are far from innocent of overreacting in certain situations. There is one scene where a character is asking “what is wrong with you people”, where Bruce responds in shock at the term ‘you people’ and engages in a fight. Although the game tackles contemporary issues in quite a hilarious and smart way throughout the most, at times some of the gags can become quite monotonous and often repeated.

However, this should overshadow a game that has brilliantly combined beat-em-up and RPG combat mechanics, while simultaneously bringing light to contemporary issues. I enjoyed the action movie take on the brawler and would like to see the story concluded. It’ll be interesting to see how NuChallenger looks to do this and see if they’ll continue to do it hilariously and cleverly.

Minecraft Dungeons Review

Minecraft Dungeons is an Action-adventure game that is inspired by older Dungeon Crawlers and set in the Minecraft world. With the limitless possibilities of the Minecraft world, I was eager to find out what they could do with Minecraft Dungeons. The evil Arch-Illager has been rejected by his people, wandering alone he is rejected by the villagers and stumbles upon the Orb of Dominance, he seeks vengeance. Alone, or together with friends, you must save the villagers and stop the corruption spread by the Arch-Illager. Fighting through the hordes of the undead, through caves of spiders and even through banquet halls, you will find new weapons and powers that will make you unstoppable. Not that you were not in the first place, just more… unstoppable-er?


Developer: Mojang Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 26 May 2020


Minecraft Dungeons, when first booted up, surprised me. There was an accessibility menu before you even start. The accessibility options were not in the depths of the in-game-menus, no it was there instantly, ready to welcome anyone that wanted to play. I loved that there was a welcoming embrace before you even started. We see this more and more, video game developers focusing on accessibility options, and it is beautiful. More, please! The accessibility is also within its gameplay; it is not over complicated and is a great place to start with ARGPs.

As previously mentioned, the game is accessible and an excellent entry point into the ARPG genre. The mechanics of the game are barebones and straightforward; there is no over-complication. You do not need to worry about classes, because there are none. You have three slots on your character that are for a Melee weapon, a ranged weapon and Armor. That is it, besides your relics which act as abilities. The game provides a fluid movement for players to experiment with different types of weapons and skills, leaving you with the freedom to experiment. The game, while yes, is simple it does offer a little bit of depth, however not much. Each piece of equipment (Minus relics), can be enchanted with points you earn from levelling up. The enchantments vary per item, but you can enchant weapons and Armor with some impressive abilities.

For example, my favourite weapons in the game were the duel sickles. They were fast and could dish out high DPS. Two enchantments that I used were Gravity, which pulled mobs towards you and an ability that created lightning strikes when I hit something. I stood still started to hit everything got pulled into me and died an electrifying death. It made me feel mighty! While the enchantments are fun, there isn’t anything to write home about, they do their job very well and synchronize well enough. The best thing about enchantments is that you never have to commit to them. You do not ever lose the points that you spend on enchantments, as when you find a better item you can scrap your old item for some emeralds and the enchantment points you spent will be returned. This is a great feature, its helpful to newer players, they never misspend points because its impossible. It allows players to experiment with any item they find. It also means that once you are bored with a specific type of weapon, you can find a new kind and enchant that. You are never bound to a particular playstyle.

However, I will mention that the ranged options, specifically the crossbows, are over-powered. You can stand at a safe distance and spam shots into mobs, they have tried to nerf this with an ammo system. But unfortunately, through enchantments, this gets nullified very quickly. The character will automatically aim for you. Also, some crossbows are automatic, therefore, making the system effortless and broken. With the enchantments for crossbows, bosses just become a joke, stand far enough away from them, and you can continuously rain arrows upon them, making the more difficult modes easy.

Unfortunetly the AI within the game are easy to manipulate. Enemies will just run directly towards you. There is no need to approach them the majority of the time. As for ranged enemies, you can stand behind pillars and they will repeatedly shoot at you, line of sight does not appear to be something they try to get. This means it is quite easy to run and hide to get some health back, the enemies never present much of a threat. Although, there is some interesting mechanics that they have tried. For example, the spiders will shoot their webs at you and it will trap you for a moment. Once you are trapped they pounce on you, honestly if they were not so easy to kill, it would be terrifying.

The game takes place over a single map and once you have completed that map you are then tasked with replaying the map at a higher difficulty. The great thing the developers have chosen to do is include difficulty sliders within each difficulty bracket so that you can play each mission at a level that suits you. This was great, and I found that the recommended difficulty was decent enough, and the enemies provided some challenge. However, this creates artificial content. I dislike when games have a very short campaign and try to get you to replay it by making it difficult. It doesn’t add anything for me, at all. That goes to say, the campaign is concise, and we had finished it within a few hours.

The ‘Blocky Minecraft’ aesthetic was at first a concern for me, but when within the game, it looks beautiful. The characters move fluidly, and all look as if they belong in the world. The aesthetic is colourful and exciting. Building a sense of wonder and prompting you to explore the world. The game will always point you in the right direction so that you are never lost. But for those who choose to adventure more, you are rewarded with secret levels hidden away and chests containing powerful loot.

The game boasts a relaxing and carefree mood, despite the actual gameplay being quite chaotic at times. The music is honestly great, composed by the same artist of the Minecraft main series C418 and a few tracks from other composers. It accompanies the aesthetic of the game beautifully and lends from the Minecraft playlist. The music produced some nostalgia for old memories within the Minecraft world. The music also builds a sense of wonder; after all, you are still exploring caves and fields full of treasure and danger.

Corrupted by evil… Driven by vengeance… The Arch-Illager made all bow before him… And if they did not bow… they would fall. – Introduction Cutscene

The story is, unfortunately, unimaginative. For a franchise that boasts a beautiful affinity to help a person explore their creativeness, the game seems to forget this. It is very generic, and half of the time, you never honestly know what you are doing in terms of the story. While yes, the game does a great job at highlighting objectives and pointing you in the right direction. Sometimes you stop and wonder “why on earth am I destroying a buffet?”. The game does have introduction cut scenes, but as stated, if you are not the host of the world, you will rarely see them. The final boss ‘The Arch-Illager’, has not been done any justice, and although his fight is pretty exciting and enjoyable, his story is lacking. However, the game hints to another story brewing so we can only hope that they build on a character that is interesting, just not fleshed out.

The DLC problem

So, I’m going to run you through the first time I loaded Minecraft Dungeons. I got into a party with some friends, and we all started at the same time, we did our introductions, got to our hub, and I sent the invites out. As everyone was joining, there was a huge map that served as our mission selection, I loaded it up in massive anticipation of the So, I’m going to run you through the first time I loaded Minecraft Dungeons. I got into a party with some friends, and we all started at the same time, we did our introductions, got to our hub, and I sent the invites out. As everyone was joining, there was a huge map that served as our mission selection, I loaded it up in massive anticipation of the adventures waiting, and I saI would say a small message, but let us be fair, it is quite significant.

TWO NEW MAPS COMING SOON!

Paid DLC advertised on the main map of what could be an offline experience, on day one. Well, there we have it. We all know what is coming, a bombardment of DLC to the game to bolster its lack of content. Now DLC is not a bad thing, but the announcement so early in its lifespan is concerning. The main game is relatively short. And while yes, you can argue there is some length if you complete the game on all three difficulty settings. For a stand-alone experience of the story, there is not much, and it is lacking.

Upon finishing the game, I noticed that there were so many biomes and bosses from Minecraft that were not within the game. Now that’s fine, and they don’t have to be. But seeing that the new DLC is introducing two new biomes in the form of maps, this has me concerned. Are they going to take every aspect of Minecraft and resell it as DLC within Minecraft Dungeons? Mojang has announced there will be free content coming, so we only have to wait and see what they do. 

Minecraft Dungeons for me was a fun experience, the gameplay is enjoyable and can at times get hectic. The ease of combat and enchantment management was relaxing. The way that the game manages a non-commitment style to the weapons and armours to choose is great for people trying the genre for the first time. I can’t help but comment on the potential that they have used the base game to introduce people to the genre to make the game more complicated in the future. Not that it needs it! I do not see a problem with the lack of depth within the game. My primary concern comes from a lack of content and the DLC announcements. The new DLC should boost the game, and we have to wait and see how they manage their free updates.

For achievement hunters, the game is a breeze for the full gamerscore. It just requires you to complete it on the three difficulties. The rest you will unlock through natural gameplay.