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Mushihimesama: Impressions (shoot'em up, shmup bullet hell)

Mushihimesama is an arcade classic Shmup (Shoot'em up) from 2004 by Cave Interactive, a studio well known for their bullet hell games.

Mushihimesama seem to live up to Cave Interactive's reputation, as it features some of the most bullet's I've seen on a a screen at once. Reflex based gameplay is the highlight here and your skill as a shump player will absolutely be tested. Having so much bullets on the screen the developers have done something very smart, and only a master of the genre could come up with. Make the character's hitbox smaller than the character model itself. The hit box is only about the size of the character's head. You may say "but that doesn't make sense, and would only confuse the player", but the reality is, in a good shmup, the player never looks directly at the character itself. Rather, the player will use his/her peripheral vision to track the character while paying attention to on coming dangers, almost like using a sixth scent. By designing the hitbox this way, it allows the peripheral vision to easily follow the character, while "feeling" their way around the bullets. It's simply brilliant and intuitive design on the part of the developers.

Aside from the hitbox design, the bullets are large, flashy, and purple and clear. There are no other purple elements in the game besides the bullets, which also adds to the excellent visual clarity of the game. The bullet's formations are also unique to Mushihimesama, beautiful at times, and most importantly, challenging and satisfying to bob and weave around.

While playing you'll also be be able to collect upgrades and bombs. Upgrades are pretty obvious, as they'll upgrade your offensive capabilities, but bombs are the real strategic element of the game. Not only incredibly powerful, but they'll also whip the screen of any on coming bullets, giving the player a short opportunity to breath, or to escape an unavoidable situation. Use the bombs sparingly and strategically and you'll rack up those point chains in no time

The game also features great music, audio, and for a 2004 game, it stands the test of time as far as visuals and presentation are concerned. Distinctly Japanese, and it's wonderful.

Mushihimesama also features multiple modes to play, from time attack, novice mode, and even arranged mode. Though they all play fairly similar, does offer enough variability for people who are really into the meta of the game to find intriguing and worth exploring.

So I've said plenty of praise for the game, and in my opinion, it deserves all of it, but what about the negatives? No game is perfect after all. Mushihimesama can be unstable at times. When it was originally launched, many people, including myself reported a crash on load. Luckily that's been patched out (mostly). I still experience crashes when I alt tab sometimes, but, they are very rare. The game also slows down when a lot of stuff is going on, and this is persistent no matter how amazing your PC is. The game can also be repetitive as well, since even with all the different game modes available it is the same content over and over again. You can finish the game first time through in about 20 minutes. Since the game is an arcade port, and in the arcade, the main punishment for failure is more quarters, that element doesn't translate as well when it's on PC. To be fair, Shumps are rarely about completing the game, and are made to be replayed. It's the points that matter when you're talking about the high end, and when you continue, it does reset your score to a degree. In the context of the genre, this is still a reasonable punishment for the player, though even with that said, does lose some of it's punch as a port outside of the arcade.

Overall Mushihimesama is a fantastic shmup and if you're a fan of the genre, I have no hesitation to recommend it. If you are a more casual gamer, who's simply curious to the game, $20 might be perceived as high for a lot of recycled content, but even with that said, that content is about as solid of a shmup can ever hope to achieve.

- Brilliant design on the character, the hitbox, and the bullets themselves
- Satisfying and at time gorgeous bullet patterns
- A fair amount of side content for the player to explore
- Hardcore shmup fans should have no problem falling in love with Mushihimesama

- A lot of recycled content
- Can be repetitive for more casual players
- Some technical limitations

Mushihimesama played: 4
Completion Status on Mushihimesama: Completed
This copy of The Mushihimesama was given by the developer

Fallout 4: Initial Impressions

We take an initial look and review our current experience to Bethesda's much anticipated Fallout 4. We'll be writing a full impression on the game when I have more time to play more of it

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Fallout 4 played: 4

Completion Status on Fallout 4: Incomplete

This copy of The Fallout 4 was purchased.

Brigador: Early Impressions

Brigador is a tactical isometric shooter where every thing in the environment is destructible. At the time of this review, the game is still incomplete but shows a lot of promise in it's well designed gameplay.

Brigador is a challenging game to say the least. A player's first inclination is to shoot everything in sight, but you'll quickly learn that strategy will get you killed pretty fast. Your ammo is limited, your HP don't regenerate, and the game features a perma-death system. With out careful planning and strategic thinking, you'll become scrap metal in an instant. The game has a high learning curve, and an equally high skill ceiling. The game makes no concession to casual players.

The goal of the game is to enter an enemy territory, shoot out 3 of their cannons, and then get the hell out of there. It sounds simpler than it actually is. In any given map, there will be tons of enemies swarming to blow you up if you're not careful, as well as environmental hazards. Gas pipes, oil stations, and other things can easily blow up in your face ending your run. Then there are mud, tracks, and sand that will slow you down. Though there are hazards, the environment is completely destructible, allowing you to make your own path to the goals, avoiding the dangerous main roads.

Before even starting your mission, you'll be able to pick your vehicle, weapons, and special abilities. there are 6 different vehicles that are variations of 3 different types, tank, mech, and hover. Tanks have good Armour and speed, while mechs can use a powerful stomp, and hovers can strife and are the quickest, but they're balanced with low armour and HP. They all have their own unique characteristics and stats, and the same can be said about the weapons and specials as well. The game offers a fair degree of customization and experimentation, allowing the player to tailor their ship to their play style.

Brigador also features detailed but visually clear sprites in an isometric environment. The aesthetics have a classic PC look to it, and it's one of my favorite elements of the game. The art is interesting, full of nuance, and does a good job at communicating it's overall theme and atmosphere of a dystopian future. The sound design is also quite pleasing, with an appropriately futuristic OST and sound effects that has impact. However, since the game is in early access, some sound effects aren't implemented and is distracting from what is an otherwise polished presentation.

There's a lot of stuff to like about the game, it's presentation, it's skill oriented gameplay, and the destructible environments, however in it's current state, the game does feel incomplete. Currently, there is only one mode to play, endless mode, nothing to unlock, no stat tracking, and no story mode. So basically, the game is bare bones feeling very very beta. Of course it's in early access and these things are to be expected, but it is something worth mentioning for any one expecting a complete game. Bragador does not feel complete. There is a lot of room to grow and I am excited to see where it goes. One feature I really would like to see added is some kind of multiplayer. But until the game is further updated / released, it doesn't give much incentive for the player to keep playing, other than it's core gameplay, and maybe experimenting with different combinations of weapons and ships.

Overall, Brigador is a very promising game, that in my opinion, has the potential to be a cult favorite. All the game need to do now is to fill itself out a little. Give the player a reason to come back regularly. We'll see how it'll turn out once it's a full release, but so far, so good.

- Great classical looking visuals
- Challenging and rewarding gameplay
- Destructible environments
- customization

- Missing sound assests
- limited game modes
- Feels incomplete

Brigador hours played: 3
Completion Status on Brigador: N/A
This copy of The Brigador was given by the developer

Jotun: Quick Look

Jotun is an isometric hand animated adventurer. The game features great art and animation, and impressive boss fights. Though it may look like a brawler on first impression, it's not at all.

In Jotun, you play as Thora, who has to go through multiple levels of Valhalla to prove her worth to the gods. She can accomplish this by choosing which level to tackle, in which each will feature 2 stages, then a boss fight. The stages usually play out like a maze or a puzzle, where you'll be finding your path to the end while tackling environmental obstacles. There are some light combat scenarios sprinkled in between, but are often optional, or are set up more as a set piece to break up the stage, than an event to challenge the player's abilities. Once 2 stages are completed on a given level, the entrance to the boss is unlocked and from there, you're greeted with an impressive god like being, much larger than you in scale, and often has a challenge or "gimmick" that echoes the level that proceeded it.

The art is absolutely fantastic, and that should go with out saying. It's advertised as a hand animated adventurer, and the game certainly does a damn fine job at fulfilling that description. The animation quality is on par with classic animated movies of the past, while it's art design reminds me a little of old school Disney. It's beautiful visuals are complimented with an equally impressive sound design. The voice acting in the viking tongue is a nice touch to push the theme of the game further, while the music and sound effects are both appropriate and of a high quality. I love the OST of Jotun.

My favorite part of the game is easily the boss fights. They are impressive in design as well as in scale, often towering the player. Think Shadow of the Colossus kind of scaling, but in 2D hand animated form. The bosses also draw elements from the stages that you've completed in order to reach it. The ones I've defeated were very satisfying to fight.

Though there is much I liked about Jotun, there was one thing that really frustrated me. It's inconsistent level design. This is not to say all the levels and stages were unenjoyable, some were actually very smartly designed in it's puzzles. However, the ones that I didn't enjoy frustrated the ever living hell out of me. Back tracking, confusion, paths that lead back to the beginning, and the feeling that it's there simply to pad out the content before reaching the real treat of the game, the boss fights, these were all issues I drew from the game.

Though I feel like some of the levels I've played over stayed it's welcome, my overall experience with Jotun was definitely positive. It's eye catching art and animation, it's impressive sound design and boss fights were definitely highlights.

- Great art and animation
- Impressive boss fights

- Inconsistent, sometimes frustrating level design

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Jotun hours played at recording: 4

Completion Status on Jotun: incomplete

This copy of Jotun was given by the developers for review

The Beginner's Guide: Impressions First 10 min pure,

The Beginner's Guide is a surreal and immersive narrative about Davey Wreden's (Stanley Parable) developer friend, and why he retired. The way the game takes full advantage of what a medium like video games have to present is interesting, and smart.

So let me get this out of the way first and for most "Hold W to game". That's it. It's even less "gamey" than the Stanley Parable. I want people to understand this before even considering the Beginner's Guide. There's no mechanics, there's no real choice, it's very much a linear hour and a half trip being lead by Davey Wreden as the narrator. With that said, The Beginner's Guide really can't be told in any other form than through a video game.

The Beginner's Guide: Impressions + First 10 min pure, (gameplay, and review) Relevant information and links below The Beginner's Guide is the follow up to Davey Wreden's Stanley Parable.

Since the story is about Davey's developer friend, it takes you on an interactive tour through his friend's past games and levels. The game's aesthetics and concepts progressively get better and complex over time. The game is also very forth wall breaking, immersing the player into the narrative as a character in this story itself. Davey will often make reference to you, as you play through the game. It's a surreal experience, and it certainly breaks all sorts of video game norms.

If you're looking for a unique experience or just like really well told stories, The Beginner's Guide is an easy recommendation. However, if you're looking for a game, even for an off beat game, The Beginner's Guide might disappoint. As mentioned above, there's really no mechanics to speak of, other than hold W to game. In Gone Home you have to look for keys and can interact with objects all around. In The Stanley Parable you have a pseudo fail state and an Easter egg hunt for all the endings. Even in most other "Walking Simulators" you have some kind of puzzle, or obstacle along the way. Not in The Beginner's Guide. There's only 1 puzzle in the game, and that's solely there as a story element. There are dialogue choices to be made, but they have no significant (or any) effect on your game. It's very much a guided tour through an interactive narrative. It's also relatively short at an hour and a half (I finished it at exactly 91 minutes). But if you're able to focus on the quality of the experience the game tries to deliver, and willing to let go your previous conceptions of what to expect from a video game, The Beginner's Guide is top shelf material.

Overall The Beginner's Guide is a story that could only be told through a video game, yet ironically is one of the least "gamiest" game I've ever played. The story is surreal, immersive, and certainly something to be experienced for fans of great narratives, but the title of "video game" will be controversial to some on this one.

- Amazing Story
- Good use of the medium
- Surreal and immersive

- Hold "W" to Game
- Less incentive to replay than The Stanley Parable

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The Beginner's Guide hours played: 1.5

Completion Status on The Beginner's Guide: Complete

This copy of The Beginner's Guide was purchased on Steam

A Fistful of Gun: Impressions

Fistful of Gun is a top down arcade shooter that's best enjoyed with friends online or off, though it does support single player as well. It features quick round gameplay, a varied skill ceiling and some eye catching pixel art.

The premise is pretty simple. Pick from a large variety of characters, who all play very different from one another go out and shoot a bunch of stuff and dudes as the title would suggest. There are 2 main modes with a single and multiplayer variant to them. Arcade mode has you going round to round clearing the screen and at the end of the round you get to pick from an assortment of randomly generated upgrades. In story mode you can play either as a hero, or a bandit. As a hero you'll avoid innocent NPCs while shooting out the baddies. You'll get upgrades if you can find a store keep, or if you're lucky from barrels and crates. While if you play a bandit, you'll be doing similar except you'll be shooting every one, innocents be damned, and collect all the bounty from from your massacres. The balance to playing the bandit is, every one will shoot you on sight, and store keeps are rarer, as they tend to fear and run from you. 

The game's flow is pretty fast paced, some rounds only taking seconds to complete, though there will be a variety different events that may take more time. The game also runs on a limited continue system, and it's very possible to get a game over in your first few runs. It plays a lot more like an arcade classic than a modern game. Permanent gameovers, no quick save or loads, and a limited life counter are rarities in this age of gaming. Because of this, the game does benefit from faster paced style of gameplay, but that also means the game is short, can be potentially repetitive to some. 

The game is a lot of fun, but there are some issues I take with it. Though the character selection is fantastic, and I love how each character are so drastically different from one another the game can feel a bit samey after an hour or two. Even with the character variety you will be shooting and dodging over and over again, with only a handful of random events that help mix things up. To be fair, the game does help alleviate some of the monotony not just with character selection, but also with game mode variety as well. The game's controls can also be an issue at times. Some characters just play better on the keyboard and mouse, while some better on the gamepad, this is mostly due to the huge degree of divergence in the characters' play style. Though this is certainly something to be admired about the game, it also does require the player to have an encumbrance of hardware ready at hand to fully enjoy the game to it's max potential. Also be aware, during our time with the game, we also ran into some bugs as well, some gamebreaking, but since the writing of this review, I have noticed dozens upon dozens of updates. It's very possible they're patched out.

Overall A fist full of Gun is a really interesting top down arcade shooter. It's not perfect, and can be repetitive for some, but it does have a lot of potential, especially if the continue to support the game with more maps, and events, as that's what I think is lacking the most.

- Great Pixel Art
- Excellent variety in character selection
- Variable skill ceiling
- Very fun with friends online and off

- Lacks variety in events
- Requires both keyboard and gamepad to be enjoyed appropriately
- Some re balancing required

Albino Lullaby: Impressions

Albino Lullaby is an interesting title. It's a first person horror game adventure, that promises no jump scares! That's great for people like me, who enjoy horror games, but not the jump scares.

Mechanically Albino Lullaby is a pretty simple game. Walk around taking in the sights, collecting notes, and try not to get creeped out too much. Later on the game will introduce some minor stealth and combat mechanics as well. The game is really a lot more about the experience of it's atmosphere and story much more than it's mechanics.

The game's visuals is probably one the high points for Albino Lullaby. The textures have this pencil sketch look to it, the environments and characters are both beautiful and creepy at the same time. The game utilizes Unreal 4's engine for some pretty impressive lighting and rendering. The visuals are complimented by it's audio, with creepy background noises, subtle musical cues, and impressive voice acting. The game's presentation is spot on with what it's trying to achieve.

Though I certainly enjoyed the game greatly, it's not with out it's faults. My number one compliant has to be it's performance. Though the beginning half of the game runs relatively well with above 60FPS consistently, the second half is mired with tons of frame drops. The end part of episode 1 is so bad, that my frames dipped below 10FPS and I couldn't finish it because it was just torturous to put myself through it. The game also suffers a bit from poor difficulty scaling. The first half was mostly a "walking simulator" but the game all of a sudden injects such a challenge level, that I went from a relaxing (albeit creepy) walk in the park, to having to restart a section a half dozen or more times, then it teeters off back to easy mode. These are my biggest complaints about the game. The difficulty scaling didn't mire my experience too much, but the performance issues prevented me from completing the first episode. It should go with out saying, it definitely impacted my experience negatively. Luckily for us, performance issues can be patched out, and hopefully it will be in the near future.

Overall Albino Lullaby is an episodic game that seem to have a ton of potential. It's gorgeous in it's visuals, creepy in it's atmosphere, and features some damn good voice acting and dialog. It's really too bad about the performance issues, but at the time of this impression, it is a major negative factor. Luckily, I still found a lot of enjoyment out of Albino Lullaby. Here's hoping for some optimization patches soon.

- Amazing art design
- Great dialog and voice acting
- Atmospheric

- Terrible optimization on the 2nd half of episode 1
- Awkward difficulty scaling