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"Where the Witcher 2 sputtered to a halt, The Witcher 3 is always in a crescendo, crafting battle scenarios that constantly one-up the last, until you reach the explosive finale and recover in the glow of the game's quiet denouement. But while the grand clashes are captivating, it is the moments between conflicts, when you drink with the local clans and bask in a trobairitz's song, that are truly inspiring." - Kevin VanOrd [Full review]
"Though the straightforward and fetch-quest-heavy main story overstays its welcome, the option of joyfully adventuring through a rich, expansive open world was always there for me when I'd start to burn out. Even if the plot isn't terribly interesting, the many characters who play a part in it are, and along with the excellent combat and RPG gameplay, they elevate The Witcher 3 to a plane few other RPGs inhabit." - Vince Ingenito [Full review]
"The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt encompasses what I hope is the future of RPGs. It stands out for its wonderful writing, variety of quests and things to do in the world, and how your choices have impact in interesting ways. Usually something is sacrificed when creating a world this ambitious, but everything felt right on cue. I still think about some of my choices and how intriguing they turned out--for better or worse." - Kimberley Wallace [Full review]
"Wild Hunt is a grand adventure that feels distinctly of its time. It manages to set new standards for video game technology while accentuating the fleeting nature of technological achievement as an end unto itself. It is a worthy exploration of friendship and family, mixing scenes of great sorrow with scenes of ridiculous lustiness, tempering its melancholy with bright splashes of joy and merry monster guts. Come for the epic showdown between good and evil; stay for the unicorn sex." - Kirk Hamilton [Full review]
It is more than its thematic turbulence that makes The Witcher 3 extraordinary, actually. Excellence abounds at every turn in this open-world role-playing game: excellent exploration, excellent creature design, excellent combat mechanics, excellent character progression. But the moments that linger are those that reveal the deep ache in the world's inhabitants. In one quest, you reunite two lovers, one of which is now a rotting hag, its tongue lasciviously lolling from its mouth. In another, a corpulent spouse-abuser must find a way to love two different lost souls, each of which test the limits of his affection. Don't worry that these vague descriptions spoil important events: they are simple examples of the obstacles every resident faces. On the isles of Skellige and in the city of Novigrad, there is no joy without parallel sorrow. Every triumph demands a sacrifice.Every horse Geralt has owned is called Roach. Talk about an identity crisis.
As returning protagonist Geralt of Rivia, you, too, face the anguish of mere existence, sometimes in unexpected, unscripted ways. The central story, which sees you seeking your ward and daughter figure Ciri, as well as contending with the otherworldly force known as the wild hunt, often forces this anguish upon you. But it was my natural exploration of the game's vast expanses that proved most affecting. At one point, I witnessed a woman sentenced to death, doomed to starve after being chained to a rock. It's a chilling sentence, of course, but it was only later, when I accidentally sailed past the tiny island where her corpse still rested, that the horror of her punishment sunk into my heart. The Witcher 3's story did not script this moment; it was merely a passing detail that might have been lost in the waves or overlooked in favor of the harpies circling overhead. Yet there she was, a reminder that my actions--actions that felt righteous and reasonable as I made them--allowed this woman to rot in this faraway place.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings touched on similar repercussions, but The Witcher 3 makes them personal. Political tensions run as hot as they always have in this series, and your decisions still divert the paths of barons and kings in intriguing ways. But where The Witcher 2's focus on plot came at the expense of characterization, the sequel gives the wartime struggle great heft by giving Geralt intimate connections to every major player. The connection between Ciri and Geralt proves to be the story's strongest driving force, but Ciri is not a damsel to be rescued, though it may seem so at first, especially in this particular world. This is a place where women struggle to find respect as political candidates, as armorsmithing masters, and even as proper members of a functioning culture.
You can always count on a sorceress to get the job done when you're in the middle of a somersault.
Roasting a crowd of witch hunters is not only satisfying on its own terms, but has a sweet justice to it: the first steps you make in the city of Novigrad lead you to a witch-burning in progress.
Women, as it happens, are also this story's strongest force. If you have played a Witcher game before, you know many of them already. The most powerful of them are former members of the Lodge of Sorceresses, few of them outright likable, and each of them defiant in the face of death. In certain circumstances, you take control of Ciri herself, and she wields swords just as capably as a witcher does. (Her phantom dashes also bring a zippiness to her sections that Geralt lacks.) The occasional dose of gratuitous toplessness sometimes proves to be a needle scratch, particularly in a sauna scene that seems to have been constructed specifically to get you up close and personal with a woman's anatomy. In other moments, however, the nudity is a natural element of a scene's sensuality, such as the tutorial scene that features Yennefer and Geralt sharing a relaxed intimacy that surpasses the obvious physical connection.
The Witcher 3 is enormous in scope, though "big" is just a descriptor, a statement of neither good nor bad. It is fortunate, then, that The Witcher 3 does not subscribe to the "make a big world and fill it with copy-paste content" design philosophy. Instead, it finds a nigh-perfect sense of balance between giving you things to do and allowing its spaces to breathe. You follow a path not just because there's a question mark on your map, but also because it must lead somewhere new and interesting. The intrigue builds naturally: Every quest is a story of sadness or triumph waiting to absorb you, asking you to make decisions that change the landscape in various ways. You won't always know what the consequences are; some decisions have noticeable, game-altering repercussions, while others barely draw your gaze. But the consequences are there, and you often notice them, even though the game doesn't go out of its way to call attention to them.The Bloody Baron shows intriguing personal growth over the course of his story. No relation to the ghost at Hogwarts of the same name.
Of course, story quests, side quests, and monster-killing contracts typically involve the same set of activities: killing, talking, and activating your witcher senses, which reveal footprints and scent trails and turn Geralt into a particularly violent private investigator. It is the details that keep every task as inviting as the one that came before. It might be a change of scenery that turns an otherwise typical contract into a clash for the ages: you pull out your crossbow and shoot a screaming wyvern out of the sky with a well-placed bolt, then plunge your silver sword into its heart, all while a fire rages in the outpost beyond and lightning bolts tear across the dark sky. It might be fear that disrupts your state of mind: you search for spirits as you trudge through a murky swamp, lighting the mist with the green light that emanates from your magical lantern. The Witcher 3 makes grand gestures and small ones, too; you may battle werewolves and match wits with kings and barons, but hearing an angel-voiced trobairitz sing a plaintive ballad is a stunning show-stopper.
The writing can be best described as "lusty." Many of the land's inhabitants serve a god, but their gods have no apparent problem with them making murderous accusations and shouting obscenities. It's fitting that these people would turn to the gods yet curse them in turn, given fields ravaged by battle and littered with bloated corpses. There are a few moments that reveal the screenplay's seams: some of Geralt's lines may not make sense if you choose them in a particular order, for instance, and Geralt is concerned only with money and prefers to stay out of politics, except for when he's not like that at all, because the plot demands as much. But at least the witcher's signature dry growl remains intact, and the rambunctious Irish and Scottish accents that pervade particular regions may inspire you to head to the pub and grab a pint.Burn, bandits, burn!
As cutting as some characters' wit may be (Sigismund Dijkstra's sarcastic barbs make him one of the game's foul-mouthed delights), you do most of your cutting with the blades sheathed on your back. The Witcher 2's combat was overly demanding at the outset, but The Witcher 3 is substantially easier; I recommend, in fact, that you choose a difficulty level one notch higher than the one you would typically choose, presuming you don't default to the most stringent one straight away. Even when things get easy, however, the combat is always satisfying, due to the crunchiness of landing blows, the howls of human foes scorched by your Igni sign, and the fearsome behavior of necrophages, wandering ghosts, and beasts of the indescribable sort. It's easy to get sidetracked and outlevel story quests, but even lesser beasts require a bit of finesse; drowners attack in numbers, for instance, knocking you about and making it difficult to swing, while winged beasts swoop in for a smackdown and require you to blast them down with a flash of fire, a shockwave, or a crossbow bolt.
The familiar magical signs return in The Witcher 3. Geralt is no mage, but he still calls on the powers of magic to assist him in combat. Character advancement is substantially improved over the previous games, providing not just passive improvements to your magical trap and your force-push technique, but also altering their very behavior. Casting Igni, for instance, initially produces a brief flash of flames. Certain upgrades, however, allow you to spray a stream of flames for as long as your energy supply supports it. Roasting a crowd of witch hunters in this way is not only satisfying on its own terms, but has a sweet justice to it: the first steps you make in the city of Novigrad lead you to a witch-burning in progress. How appropriate that you turn this punishment on the same factions that would rid the world of sorceresses and their cohorts.
The Witcher 3 finds a nigh-perfect sense of balance between giving you things to do and allowing its spaces to breathe.
Loot has a huge role to play in the game, thanks to the high degree of armor and weapon customization. Different armor sets in particular are a joy to uncover, making Geralt look more and more hardened as you progress. In many role-playing games, hunting for treasure is more of a chore to be marked off of the to-do list than a pressing adventure of its own. In The Witcher 3, discovering a diagram of new and improved chest armor is a cause for celebration. Geralt can get a shave and a haircut (and delightfully, his beard grows back over time), but otherwise, you cannot customize his physical appearance; new armor means a new look, and with it, a new visual attitude. Geralt's look evolves from that of a battered soldier, to robed battle wizard, to wisened commander, all on the basis of the game's exquisite armor designs.
The Witcher 3 also benefits from its hugely expanded potions system, which allows you to quaff potions during combat--though as always, witcher potions are dangerous, and Geralt can only have so many in effect due to their rising toxicity. Between gear diagrams and potion ingredients, I became a digital hoarder, a trap I typically avoid in role-playing games. Again, it comes down to balance: your inventory fills rapidly, but for the most part, this is not just "stuff" for the sake of "stuff." I knew that the ingredients I collected would allow me to create a potion that in turn let me dive for treasure without being annoyed by pesky sea-dwelling drowners. I knew that I could break down those horse hides I collected into armor components the local smith needed to make me look even mightier.In Velen, the wind blows particularly violently.
From one hour to the next, the compulsion to examine the landscape grows. Some of the joys that arise in the wilds are quiet ones: you mount your horse Roach and trot over the hill in time to see a rich sunset, always a treat in The Witcher 3, whose saturated reds and oranges make the sky look as beautiful and as blood-sodden as the meadows beneath them. You discover a boat and embark on an impromptu voyage through the islands of Skellige, taking note of the ship wreckage that mars the beaches and cliffs. The music swells, and a soprano intones a euphoric melody that accentuates the peacefulness. The peacefulness is always broken, however--perhaps by a journey into a dark dungeon where your torch lights the pockmarked walls and a snarling fiend waits to devour you, or by the shout of a boy crying out for your assistance.
At the time of this writing, I have only played the PlayStation 4 version, as it was the only version provided for advance review, but it is undoubtedly beautiful, though prone to occasional bugs and visual glitches. Solving a quest's subtasks in a particular order caused the game to stick at a perpetual loading screen. Roach decided to stop galloping and lurch ahead in a weird way for minutes on end until I quick-traveled away and returned. Geralt's hair blew in the wind, even when he was indoors. It's jarring should you enter an area after quick-traveling and the citizens have yet to pop in, including quest-givers.Silence, creature of the sky! I am here to slaughter you!
These distractions stand out in part because The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is otherwise incredible and sumptuous; the little quirks are pronounced when they are surrounded by stellar details. And make no mistake: this is one of the best role-playing games ever crafted, a titan among giants and the standard-setter for all such games going forward. Where the Witcher 2 sputtered to a halt, The Witcher 3 is always in a crescendo, crafting battle scenarios that constantly one-up the last, until you reach the explosive finale and recover in the glow of the game's quiet denouement. But while the grand clashes are captivating, it is the moments between conflicts, when you drink with the local clans and bask in a trobairitz's song, that are truly inspiring.
[UPDATE: We've re-published this story today, May 12, to include The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt]
CD Projekt Red's open-world RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt recently receive a perfect 10 out of 10 review score here on GameSpot. And it's not often that a game gets a 10/10, so it's an understandably big deal. After all, since 1996, just eight games have earned that rare rank. In no particular order, they are:
Review date: October 13, 2014
"Bayonetta 2's combat is so expertly constructed, and its presentation so joyously insane, that you'd have to try so very hard to get bored of it all." Read the full review.
Review date: April 28, 2008
"Yes, this is another GTA game in which you'll likely spend the bulk of your time stealing cars and gunning down cops and criminals, but it's also much more than that. GTAIV is a game with a compelling and nonlinear storyline, a game with a great protagonist who you can't help but like, and a game that boasts a plethora of online multiplayer features in addition to its lengthy story mode. It's not without some flaws, but GTAIV is undoubtedly the best Grand Theft Auto yet." Read the full review.
Review date: August 9, 1999
"Yes, it is a fighting game, a genre with a fairly limited scope, but insofar as fighting games go, Soul Calibur is mind-numbing perfection. Namco has taken the best and made it considerably better. The level at which the company has done so is practically unprecedented. Think state of the art. Absolutely brilliant in all aspects, as far as games of this type go, Soul Calibur is the undisputed king of the hill. It is essential in any gamer's collection." Read the full review.
Review date: May 21, 2010
"Everything is so well designed and so entertaining that it's easy to get sucked into this world for hours. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is so phenomenal that it's difficult to imagine where Mario could possibly go in the future. But that's hardly your concern now. Mario proves that he is still the king of fun." Read the full review.
Review date: October 29, 2001
"The Tony Hawk series has always had style. The first game reinvented a genre and set off a series of clones and pretenders that still flood the market today. The second game refined the formula, but its higher level of difficulty and steeper learning curve turned off casual players. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 brings it all together in one package that makes everything before it almost unplayable by comparison." Read the full review.
Review date: January 6, 2000
"With Square agonizing over every detail of its flagship property, the Chrono Cross team was apparently left mostly to themselves. Consequently, the game shares an all-out enthusiasm and joie de vivre found in the best 16-bit titles -- back before games became multimillion dollar properties that had to answer to glaring shareholders. Chrono Cross may not have had the largest budget, but it has the largest heart." Read the full review.
Review date: June 13, 2008
"Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the most technically stunning video game ever made. It's also a fine example of storytelling prowess within its medium, combining gameplay and narrative so slickly and beautifully that it's impossible to extricate one from the other. It's likely you will emerge awestruck from your first play-through, wishing the experience would continue yet nonetheless satisfied with its conclusion. It's difficult not to sound hyperbolic when discussing MGS4 because every part of its design seemingly fulfills its vision, without compromise. There is no halfway." Read the full review.
Review Date: November 23, 1998
"The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the real thing. This is the masterpiece that people will still be talking about ten years down the road. This is the game that perfectly exhibits the 'quality not quantity' mantra that Nintendo has been touting since the N64 was released. In a word, perfect. To call it anything else would be a bald-faced lie." Read the full review.
You can read more about exactly what GameSpot's review scores mean in this post, but we also wanted to let Senior Reviews Editor Kevin VanOrd answer some of your other big questions about review and how scoring works:
How long have you headed up GameSpot's reviews, and how did you get here?
Kevin VanOrd: I've been heading up GameSpot reviews since 2011, but I actually started at GameSpot in 2006. I was originally hired to be tournament coordinator! Back then we held tournaments that culminated with an episode of Tournament TV, a show that Rich Gallup hosted when I first started. Lord, it seems so long ago. I had been a moderator in the GameSpot forums for years, and was also freelancing for GameSpy, so it was a smooth transition, even though for me, it was a big deal, since I was moving from Maryland across the country.
The first time I'd ever been to San Francisco was for the job interview. The second time was the day before I started at GameSpot, after three days of cross-country driving. Little story: I stopped on the drive across the country, somewhere in Indiana, to get a pumpkin latte (this was in September), and spilled it in my car. Ever since then, my car has smelled like pumpkin.
Sadly, tournaments stopped being a thing, and Jeff Gerstmann brought me over to the editorial team full time, though even before that, I'd written some GameSpot reviews. Jeff, Alex Navarro, and Greg Kasavin had vital roles in molding how I wrote and how I wanted to grow as a writer.
What makes a game a 10, and has that definition changed over the years? Does a 10 mean it's "perfect"?
A 10 is a game the reviewer thinks is so phenomenal that it deserves a place on the shelves of everyone that plays games. GameSpot has used different words to describe a 10 over the years. When I started at GameSpot, a 10 meant "perfect," which to us meant that it couldn't have been reasonably expected to be much better than it was. When we switched scoring systems to .0s and .5s, a 10 became "prime," though in retrospect, that's a pretty silly word, all things considered. After we re-launched the site in 2013, we started using the word "masterpiece," but in time decided that "essential" might be an even more appropriate term.
I don't think any piece of art or entertainment could be considered perfect. Even the games that are largely considered to be the best ever made aren't beloved by everyone. But I do think that a 10 should be rare. It should mean that the game has something so meaningful to offer that you simply can't ignore it. Something that will remain with players for years to come.
A review is obviously just one person's opinion, so how do you deal with conflicting thoughts on a game, both for high and low scores? What if someone else on GameSpot thinks a game deserves a much higher (or lower) score?
10s are a big deal, right? But in some sense, we want every score to be a big deal. We want every score to be carefully considered. And yes, we have all sorts of arguments about games, because we're not a hive mind! The text is the primary consideration, and it must argue the score. What makes the game so special, or not special? If it's boring, or exciting, how does it do that? Some games have a greater impact on one person than another, and it's up to the critic to express his or her thoughts in a way that really sells that score.
But the entire editorial team has the opportunity to go over the review, and sometimes, being devil's advocate is an important role to have, and it's a role that I am happy to take on. A very common email exchange with a freelance author might be: "Are you sure this is an 8? Are you sure this game is truly great? Because it sounds pretty good, but I don't know if you're selling that 8." The author might then say, "Hey, you're right, this really is just a pretty good game," or she might say, "Man, this game is absolutely great; what do I need to do to really get that across?" The author is always the owner of his own work, but the rest of the crew still helps to ensure the review is all it can be.
You talk a lot with publishers, developers, and PR, so how do you make sure that reviews remain unbiased by those relationships?
Most of my interactions with PR people come down to, "Hey, we're sending you review code," and me replying, "OK, use the usual address." My own bosses are usually the people that have the most face time with PR folks and publishers. These days, most reviews are actually assigned to freelance critics who typically don't have any direct contact with PR people. When reviews are done in house, we try to assign them to people who have not previewed the game to any significant degree. This is one of the reasons why I personally don't do a lot of previews...so that I can go into reviews as fresh as possible. My bosses essentially function as shields: they absorb the business side of things so that I can focus on just the games.
In the end, where reviews are concerned, it's the game that's important. If a reviewer feels, or I feel, that there is some kind of conflict, the review is assigned to someone else. That's pretty rare, though. My managers deal with the primary business aspects, and I do my best to not know what that stuff entails. For me, I mostly just assign reviews as games come in, and coordinate the logistics of that process.
What are the plans for GameSpot's reviews in the coming year? Any big changes in store?
I don't see anything big happening for the time being, but it's hard to tell! We're at the mercy of a business that's much bigger than us alone, and as games change, so to does the way we cover them. When I started, we never reviewed free-to-play games, for example. Imagine if we had held to that rule! Right now, however, my focus is on always improving the reviews themselves, both in terms of how they are written and in terms of honing our critical eye. I'm really excited by how much deeper game critics are willing to go nowadays with their analyses. And I hope GameSpot can be a positive force in that overall discourse.
Do you have more questions about reviews on GameSpot? Leave us a comment below, or use the site's messaging system to contact us directly!
The Evil Within's final DLC, titled "The Executioner," will be available from May 26 and will allow players to take control of The Keeper, an enemy that appeared in the main campaign.
Interestingly, the DLC adopts a first-person perspective, instead of the game's usual over-the-shoulder third-person perspective. As The Keeper, players will have access to a wide-range of devastating weapons and return to the Victoriano Estate "for a rematch with the most iconic adversaries of The Evil Within."
The previous DLC for The Evil Within, The Consequence, completed the story of Juli Kidman that began with The Assignment. The Assignment, The Consequence, and The Executioner are included with The Evil Within's $20 DLC pass.
The Evil Within was released in October 2014 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3.
The 24 tracks listed below come by way of music magazine Rolling Stone.
There are a good number of classic rock tracks for fans who enjoyed the earlier games. But, to reflect the changing musical landscape since Guitar Hero first debuted a decade ago, Activision has added what might be considered non-traditional songs, such as Ed Sheeran's "Sing" and "Bangarang" from Skrillex.
"Guitar music is broader than it's ever been--so we're reflecting that in the range of music on offer," Guitar Hero Live creative director Jamie Jackson told the magazine.
Check out the list of songs below, but be aware that this is just a sampling of the "hundreds" of songs Guitar Hero Live will offer through its main soundtrack and online mode, Guitar Hero TV.
Guitar Hero Live is in development at DJ Hero studio FreeStyleGames for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Wii U. The game launches later this year, alongside Rock Band 4. No songs from that game's soundtrack have been announced yet.
Looking for a deal? Microsoft has announced this week's list of Xbox Live deals for Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners, featuring markdowns on Destiny, Gears of War: Judgment, and a few Saints Row titles.
The full list of discounted games and add-ons this week is listed below. All deals are good through May 18, while an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required in all cases except Destiny for Xbox One.
Square Enix's video game division, called "Digital Entertainment," posted yearly revenue of ¥111.9 billion ($932.7 million), up 18.4 percent from last year.
Meanwhile, operating income was ¥17.3 billion ($144 million), which represents an even more dramatic increase of 61.3 percent compared to the prior financial year.
The publisher cited "strong" sales of catalog titles, which was particularly important since Square Enix also noted that it released fewer console games during the fiscal year compared to the year before.
In terms of smartdevices and PC games, Square Enix said Sengoku Ixa and Dragon Quest: Monsters Super Light "continued to show strong performance." Meanwhile, smartphone games like Schoolgirl Strikers, Final Fantasy Record Keeper, and Kai-ri-Sei Million Arthur also did well during the year.
What's more, Square Enix said MMOs Final Fantasy XIV and Dragon Quest X "have been making favorable progress," though no other details were divulged.
Looking to Square Enix's current financial year, two of the company's biggest games are Rise of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 3, both of which are due out this fall. Other high-profile in-development games include Final Fantasy XV, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Dragon Quest Heroes, and Star Ocean 5.
Overall, Square Enix--which also runs various non-gaming business units--posted revenue of ¥167.9 billion ($1.4 billion) for the year. That's up 8.3 percent. Profit, meanwhile, rose a healthy 49 percent from ¥6.6 billion ($55 million) to ¥9.8 billion ($81.6 million).
In Toren, you direct a small girl known as Moonchild to the top of a crumbling tower. Like the tower of Babel, it was built by people seeking great power who were punished severely for their hubris. Mankind's last hope is a girl trapped inside the tower, doomed to die and be reborn endlessly until she can scale it and slay the dragon that shares her prison. It's a web of myth and mysticism where each individual thread is vaguely familiar but has been woven into something distinct and original.Dragons never breathe nice things, do they?
Moonchild starts as a toddler stumbling around the overgrown lower level, but the endearingly uncoordinated flopping of her limbs gives way to composure and poise the farther she progresses up the tower. The enchanted sword that takes all her strength to first lift is soon wielded with ease. Aspects of Moonchild's maturation are handled very well, including her evolving design, with one notable exception. In her awkward preteen stage, her childhood dress tears into a convenient deep V-neckline with straps slipping away from her shoulders and three large round gaps in the cloth exposing the majority of her back. This is not what happens when someone outgrows a piece of clothing, and considering that the player saw this same character toddling around in baby bloomers about thirty minutes prior, this phase of her costume evolution comes off as somewhat creepy.
The actual act of climbing the tower involves solving relatively simple environmental puzzles, fending off assorted enemies, and exploring optional dream sequences where Moonchild's mentor explains her situation and some broader philosophical musings about the nature of mankind. This is where the your experience can be seriously derailed; if you skip these optional (and easily missed) sequences, it becomes quite hard to follow the plot. You'll never want for those lofty chin-stroking tidbits, though, even though they're some of the least interesting things the game has to say.Kind of a Princess Mononoke meets Frozen thing going on here (and I'm into it.)
Storytelling gripes aside, the hands-on feel of playing isn't great either. The best illustration of this comes in the form of the shapes that Moonchild must fill with sand during her dreams. Each dream has at least one of these to complete, and to do so, you hold down the interact button and direct her around the shape's outline. The game very weakly snaps her to the path, but it's incredibly easy to stray. It's even easier if you disregard the warnings and elect to play with a mouse and keyboard instead. (Don't do this. Seriously.) These sand tracings are the most annoying part of the game; even when you perform well (controller and all), it looks like Moonchild has spread the sacred sand with as much care as a toddler spilling cereal all over the kitchen floor.
I wish my problems with Toren ended there, but I can't leave out the times that I somehow managed to wedge Moonchild in places where the camera steadfastly refused to follow, the times when she simply slipped through the floor geometry and fell into oblivion, the times when Moonchild's arms froze in place while her legs continued to animate normally, the times that her sword hit foes with so little effect that I kept attacking, not realizing that they were already dead, the times that I took a jump too early but the game graciously floated me over to the destination platform as though I'd triggered some sort of moon gravity mode, the time that I fought the dragon, fudged the timing, and darted back to regroup before it could perform its “you're too slow” instant kill... only for the game to snap Moonchild back into its talons anyway.Disclaimer: Your sword may vary.
And yet Toren is not without its charms. In spite of some conspicuously low-quality models, it's a delightful thing to look at: its colors are vivid, its world is small but detailed, and it doesn't shy away from dramatic use of its camera and lighting effects. A couple of the dream sequences elicited quiet gasps as I proceeded through them, and even the credits (which feature painted illustrations unfurled to a vocal version of the game's beautiful theme) are worth watching.
For all the problems, it's easy to recognize the flashes of something special in Toren. It's a loaf of homemade bread, proofed and kneaded, laid in a pan, and sprinkled tenderly with rosemary but unfortunately pulled from the oven a few minutes before it could pass the toothpick test. However complex the recipe, Toren just feels undercooked.
Henk sets off on his pint-sized adventure sprinting along plastic orange ramps--like the ones for toy cars--and wooden blocks, leaping and butt-sliding toward the goal line--oh yes, butt-sliding. Holding down a button causes Henk to fly (literally) on the seat of his pants. Sliding down inclines builds up speed, and a comet-like trail of flame jets off Henk’s plastic-molded posterior, growing longer the faster he moves. You burn through loops and bounce off walls while rushing past checkpoints as you complete a brief tour of the floor of a child’s bedroom--the entirety of which is complete with jumbled clothing drawers, posters, and scattered video game cartridges. Despite his appearance, Henk moves through each level at an energetic pace, all to the tune of a jumping soundtrack.Real men wear tutus.
Action Henk is a fast ride and pure speed-running bliss from start to goal. It feels like Sonic in his glory days. Though the kindly faced Henk doesn’t quite parallel the blue blur’s devil-may-care attitude, he nearly matches the blistering speed with his stride. Many levels last less than a minute, but as you make your way around the track, you notice other pathways and ramps just out of reach. They all lead you to the same point, and yet the promise of more even speed makes the desire to reach them all the more enticing. There are tricks that only experience can teach--for example, hopping just before a declining ramp increases the speed of your butt-slide, rewarding you with more air time than ever before. Soon those other areas become attainable, opening up steeper slides and more death-defying jumps--all of which amounts to gaining even more of that gratifying speed and fewer moments of slowdown.
Completing levels nets you medals of bronze, silver, or gold, which are collected to unlock new areas. The setup is similar to that of some mobile games that require a certain number of stars or other related items to unlock gates. But the rules here are not nearly as strict. New sections open up quickly, and unlocking the final section is possible only several of hours after starting. It does make sense: this is a game whose conceit is unrelenting speed, not throwing out road blocks. Because of this playability, I felt myself running through older courses again because I actually wanted to, just for the fun, and not out of any sort of obligation. It cuts down on a lot of the undue stress usually presented by games that make it difficult to unlock new missions. If you’re having trouble with any of the levels, you can race against a bronze, silver, or gold ghost, who will show you the way.
Though the kindly faced Henk doesn’t quite parallel the blue blur’s devil-may-care attitude, he nearly matches the blistering speed with his stride.
There is still some stress involved. At the end of most sections, you face a tough boss challenge. These races can require a lot of patience and restarts as they test your speed-running skills. The final section missions, however, are the most difficult. Some of them can be downright sadistic in their challenges. Earning a gold medal in every level of a section unlocks a touch bonus mission to collect coins. The medal also unlocks the rainbow medal ghost, as well as the ghost for the top player of the level--both of which are the hardest challenges you can face. Beyond that, the game does suffer from some minor issues. A few levels tend to lag in spots, while the level select menu sticks on occasion.
Though reaching the final "Hard as Henk" levels is possible in only a few hours, there is still a lot of extra content to experience and discover. Completing challenges such as boss battles unlocks new characters and skins--the Sonic costume for Henk with his belly bursting through the front is an easy favorite. Action Henk is a community-focused game, and includes tools to build and share your own custom level and download other users’ levels from its Steam page. I tried a few of the higher rated tracks, many of which are great. Some send you through enough loops to make your head spin, while others are designed for pure speed. Action Henk also has an online racing mode, but I wasn’t able to give it a whirl, as the developer kept it offline for advance review copies.Getting too close to the floor causes it to turn to lava.
Completing Action Henk will set you back only several hours, but you will be at the edge of your seat for most of that time. The speed is immensely satisfying, and earning those precious gold medals after replaying levels feels good. It’s a heart-pumping adventure starring action figures and toy tracks, so give yourself a break and come play.
Seaven Studio's Inside My Radio is a hybrid of Thomas Was Alone's geometric platforming and the beat-dependent movement of 2012's criminally underselling Sound Shapes. On a surface covered with blocks set against old-school backdrops, you explore levels through rhythmic jumping, dashing, and smashing. Beyond basic left/right movement, you can only perform more complex actions in time with the rhythm of the level's music. Featuring rock, electronic, and even reggae tunes, Inside My Radio forces you to become one with the soundtrack's tempos in order to avoid the varied obstacles in the environments themselves.
If you're wanting a game that is perfect for a chill evening where you want to relax with music and a video game, Inside My Radio is worth the spin.
Much like Sound Shapes, Inside My Radio successfully cultivates a sense of synesthesia in players--the ability to experience music with your senses beyond hearing. It's partially achieved through the core mechanical loop of the game: overcoming environmental obstacles through rhythm. If you can't find the tempo of that level's track, you aren't going to get very far. But once you discover the song's groove, you begin to feel a sense of oneness between the music and your platforming. Well, you do if you have any rhythm. I don't, but even I began to get the groove of Inside My Radio once I took a couple deep breaths and focused on the sound.
But it's more than mechanical design that creates the multisensory musical experience. The environments react to the music. The dub level has trees that grow and unfurl in time to the beats. The most devious platforming segments require an understanding of the beat to conquer. The puzzles work around the polyrhythms of the most complex tracks. Every element of Inside My Radio feeds back into the music. Music becomes the mechanics. It becomes the art. And when you learn that this guitar riff means the fatal electric platform is going to disappear before it even happens, the game has accomplished its goal of creating an immersive sonic experience.
Inside My Radio has an actual plot as well, though it's fairly nonsensical and mostly serves as an excuse to have the characters you control explore these varied worlds--including what appears to be the literal inside of a radio, a dance club, and the abstraction of a Rasta/electronic fusion. The game also relies on an unnecessary preponderance of pop culture humor/meme references that fall a little flat in its storytelling. The jokes rarely seem to serve a purpose beyond "Aren't we clever for knowing this bit of cultural ephemera?"
And despite the great soundtrack and the trance-inducing interplay between music, game art, and mechanics, the platforming and art are merely good. Your dash mechanic is key to traversing many of the game's obstacles, but it feels loose and imprecise, which is rarely a major issue but becomes frustrating when it does rear its head. The art can become a phantasmagoric, psychedelic delight, but the game also embraces staid, bland cyberpunk electroscapes that feel rote by the end of the game. Boss fights against a cyber-spider crop up at the end of the game, and they are more aggravating than hypnotic. Inside My Radio also suffers from the inclusion of an occasional puzzle where you might not even realize you're trying to solve a puzzle at first, and it interrupts the musical momentum of the game.
Inside My Radio never quite reaches the synergetic highs of its most obvious peer, Sound Shapes, but it's still an entrancing experience. Although the main campaign is very short (it takes less than two hours to complete), the Time Attack mode adds legs to the game for those who wish to truly master the game's levels. If you're wanting a game that is perfect for a chill evening where you want to relax with music and a video game, Inside My Radio is worth a spin.