On my vacation, I wrapped up three games. Considering I generally wrap up about 7-10 games a month, this isn’t really an increase. In fact, while in the mountains, I only played my Switch a few times and two of the three games I finished on my vacation were bookends.
Gears of War 2 – Xbox 360
I’m currently replaying the Gears of War series, this time in co-op with my son. Gears of War 2 was an interesting one to return to coming off of Gears of War Ultimate Edition. Gears 2 looks like an 11 year old game and while I remember it looking super impressive when I first played it, it’s a bit muddy today. The details just aren’t as sharp and the game is fairly dark in color. Even though the game is no longer a looker though, it still plays pretty great. Where the original Gears was more closed arena based, Gears 2 goes bigger with everything with larger battlefields and set pieces. It still retains the core cover based shooting but the larger moments help build the conflict out in a way that the original wasn’t really able to do. Wrapping up Gears 2 again was fun but I do wish that they’d go the Ultimate Edition route and give the game a much needed makeover.
Fantasy Strike – Nintendo Switch
I’m not a huge fighting game guy but I hadn’t played one in a while and when I got a chance to get a review copy of this one, I decided that it was worth a go. Fantasy Strike is a simplified fighter. There are four standard moves, light attack, heavy attack, throw, and special attack, each having a ground and air variation. There is also a super move, that can be activated when a meter is filled. And finally there is a counter move, that you perform by… not doing anything. I’m serious, the throw counter (Yomi Counter) is activated by not touching anything when a character goes for a throw. It’s weird and I was never able to really get it to work. Regardless, Fantasy Strike plays a bit like an Intro to Fighting Games. It’s fine and I enjoyed the character designs, like the giant panda that can summon slot machines that can drop bombs or buffs and a lesbian painter that weilds her paintbrush like a sword. I can’t see myself playing a ton more of it, but it worked as a fine time waster as I’m sitting around waiting to do whatever we’re going to do next on vacation.
The Forbidden Arts – Xbox One
I’m a big fan of platformers so when I got the chance to review a new fantasy based action-platformer, I jumped at the chance. The Forbidden Arts is that fantasy based action-platformer. It’s evidently been in Early Access on Steam for a couple years now but it just made its debut on consoles and… it’s a little rough. The game is generally a straighforward action platformer, except it has level design that tries to be very Metroid like, presenting a labryinth to explore and find the exit. Unfortunatly the design doesn’t do a good job of signposting where you are to go or what you need to do to advance. I mean, I’ve been playing platformers pretty much since I started gaming 35 years ago and if I’m spending an hour running around a level trying to figure out what to do and then I look on YouTube to discover that others also were struggling in the same areas, only to stumble across the solution to advance, I feel that is bad design. Worse though, were the boss fights that require a specific strategy to achieve victory but the strategies aren’t logical. Generally in most games, when they give you a power, you utilize that power in some way in the next level and most times it is vital to defeating the boss. Not so in The Forbidden Arts. Sometimes your powers matter, sometimes they don’t, rarely do the solutions to beating the boss seem fair or fun. Add in that the game has glitched achievemens, including the one you should get for finishing the final boss, and I came away less than impressed.