Quick look, Review

Review: Blaster Master Zero

Game: Blaster Master Zero

Developer: Inti Creates

Publisher: Inti Creates

Platforms: 3DS, Switch (reviewed)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2017 (Jap) March 9th, 2017 (US EU)

Price: $9.99

Blaster Master released for the NES back in 1988. As I wasn’t even a thought in the 80’s I didn’t pick up the Sunsoft title until sometime in the late 90’s. My number one memory of Blaster Master was its difficulty. I mean, maybe I’m overplaying it, I was a kid after all. I don’t recall getting past the third or fourth area in the original. So when Blaster Master Zero came out on the Nintendo Switch, I couldn’t wait to dive in, once I was done with Zelda of course.17362773_1482790535066635_1101775072318594247_n

Blaster Master Zero keeps the more absurd parts of the original titles setup. You play as a young man named Jason, who on some future mutant infested version of earth, stumbles upon a frog he names Fred. Fred jumps down a hole leading to a massive underground facility. In said facility, Jason locates Sophia III, a tank with some impressive firepower, along with a mysterious girl named Eve. With Eve and Sophia III, Jason begins his journey to find Fred, and inevitably stop the evil mutants.

Zero has that old Metroid feel, that I love. You’ll move across a 2D plane both in and out of your tank in search of mutants to fight and upgrades for both Jason and the tank. Upgrades and maps for each area are usually found in caves that can only be entered while on foot. Once you enter these zones, you’ll shift to a top-down perspective that is, unfortunately, Blaster Master Zero’s greatest weakness.17457383_1482790215066667_1579743541823612364_n

I never thought the top-down segments of the original Blaster Master were especially fun, and that remains true in Zero.  Don’t get me wrong, the sprite and environment designs are nice but the gameplay is unchallenging and sort of dull. You gain a vast amount of weapons throughout your journey and the way weapon use is tied to your current hit points forces you to fluctuate your weapon use, but the enemies aren’t very challenging. I’d much rather play more in tank mode, and unfortunately for me, only about two out of the nine bosses are fought in Sophia III.

The early parts of Zero are essentially an exact remake of the original game as far as I can tell. As I progressed through later areas with ease, I started to wonder if later areas had been dumbed down. After some research, It seems entire areas had, in fact, been retooled. Mostly beneficial improvements were made, the map is a bit more guiding about your next objective but you have access to no mini-map, so it doesn’t feel too coddling. Checkpoints are also more abundant, fall damage is still very punishing outside of the tank, so be careful.

For anyone with familiar with the Inti Creates Megaman inspired game Gunvolt, the inspiration in the art is clear as day.17362565_1482790915066597_3499186190672335031_n

Blaster Master Zero is a fun adventure in nostalgia. It gave me an opportunity to finish a game that has evaded completion since I was in elementary school. It doesn’t feel challenging in the way the original did but it is certainly a step up from that horrid Wii version Blaster Master. For $10.00, it’s a fun game to fool around with once you’re done with Zelda, but nothing phenomenal.  If the Switch had a larger library I probably would’ve abandoned Blaster Master Zero about two hours in, I’m glad I didn’t though, and if you have any love for the original it’s worth a look.

Score: 7 out of 10

 

 

 

 

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Review

Review: Owlboy

Game: Owlboy

Developer: D-Pad Studios

Publisher: D-Pad Studios

Platform(s): Microsoft Windows

Release Date: November 1st, 2016

MSRP: $24.99

When Owlboy was first brought to my attention, I found myself racking my brain. It was a name I knew I had heard before and there was a good reason for that, the game in question has been in development for nearly a decade. It’s one of those titles you’ve almost certainly heard about sometime over the past few years but can’t put a finger on where or when.

 

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You sound just like my dad

 

After a night of research, I came to the simple conclusion that a friend simply must have mentioned it to me in the past but Twitter was abuzz with news on the game, so I figured what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. After all, I love a good old school platformer, and the character design seems downright adorable. After my first hour with Owlboy my one fear that a game that’s been in development for nearly ten years could be a broken mess, however, it seems D-Pad Studios time went into polishing up what turned out to be an amazing experience.

In Owlboy you play as Otus, a young owl in a not so great situation. You see his teacher and mentor is a kind of a jerk. He along with some of the other owls in training, often mock Otus for general incompetence and for being mute. Poor Otus just wants to make everyone in the village proud, but bullies will be bullies.

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Buck up pal

 

Otus’ journey begins when he is swept up into the adventure of a lifetime. Getting a hold of three ancient Owl relics before the evil pirate Maelstrom and his crew can get a hold of them to use as weapons. The plot is full of twists and turns, so I won’t spoil that here, but I will make mention of a few things Owlboy does incredibly well.

For starters, Owlboy’s character animations are second to none. They really help you get a sense of each characters personality for example Otus himself will often stare at his hands a twiddle his thumbs evoking his timid demeanor while Geddy, Otus’ first ally and friend can often be seen flailing his arms in a panic(Geddy is a bit of a coward).

Storytelling, as well as pacing, is another element that the team at D-Pad Studios nails. Owlboy doesn’t take its time getting you swept up in it’s 8 to 10-hour story. I’m not ashamed to admit I beat the game in roughly two sittings. Owlboy follows a rather linear path but keeps you interested most of the way through. It’s puzzle filled Zelda-like dungeons blend in seamlessly with the story-driven path and creates a feeling of intimacy I haven’t felt with a game in a while. It’s hard to put down.

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That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me

 

Gameplay comes as platforming with a twist; Otus can fly which would typically make any platforming scenario a breeze but Owlboy’s incredibly vertical design and use of moving obstacles and variables like wind currents make for some interesting play. Otus has a basic spin attack that can be utilized simply to stun enemies but must rely on his allies to attack. Otus will gather three allies with unique combat abilities on his journey. Otus can carry his allies while in flight in order to take down enemies. Each character is equipped with a unique firearm, the first of which, Geddy carries a basic pistol for taking down enemies but later introduced characters like Alphonse feature more distinct weapons that will also help Otus with environmental obstacles.

So should you pick up Owlboy? If you’re looking for something to scratch that old-school, itch while still expereincing something entirely new and unique I’d say yes. For a completely excellent platformer, I’d say it’s worth the $25 price of admission. D-Pad Studios, if you’re reading, I’d like a sequel now.

Score: 8 out of 10

 

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