All posts by stellar.ice

NCG Reviews: Overcooked 2 (PS4, Switch, PC)

Team 17 is bringing Overcooked back with more kitchen madness! Jump into your food truck and find a way to defeat the un-bread!

Story

After reading the necro -nomnom- icon and accidentally raising the un-bread, you must hop in your food truck, hone your cooking skills, and defeat the un-dead bread monsters!  The story isn’t pertinent to the game, but the jokes and humor help set the overall tone for your kitchen journey.6-2

Gameplay

If you’ve played Overcooked, then you already have a feel for how Overcooked 2 will work. What I really enjoyed about Overcooked 2 is that it’s not a re-skin of its predecessor.  There are more features to the game, and more ways to utilize what you already know.2-3

Features

The throw feature is a new addition to the game.  You’ll have to figure out how to launch foods across the kitchen and chasms (and other obstacles) to ensure your team mates can cook/cut ingredients.  Throwing adds another layer of strategy to game as players learn how to send food to areas and players that can’t be reached.  Thrown food can  be caught directly,  land on a surface, or, of course, land in your hand knocking something important out of it.  The throw feature is limited to food, so you can’t throw dishes around the kitchen.  The plates would break, you know?

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Unfortunately, you can’t make your chef swear across the kitchen when you’re frustrated (*!@#$@*#$*@#$%@*!), but you CAN communicate what your chef is thinking, feeling, or doing.  This is especially helpful for online modes where you can’t yell at your friend sitting next to you.

Stages

Not only are there new game mechanics, but there are new types of levels with a variety of menus.  Dynamic levels force players to change their strategy and work around the level.  This means switching tasks between chefs and figuring out how the kitchen moves.  The complexity of the menu also poses a new challenge.  Overcooked did not require a variety of dishes to be made, but rather the dishes to be made in a complex environment.  In Overcooked 2, you really have to pay attention to not only your environment, but to what needs to be plated and which ingredients are required.  You’ll have quite a few errors if you’re not paying close attention.1-6

Dynamic levels create a new chaos, but in addition to a variety of stages, you get special levels if you meet specific requirements in a stage.  It’s like a special unlock feature! You’ll likely be looking at walkthroughs in a week or so to unlock the secret levels.  Or, you can see what you come up with on your own.  Whatever floats your boat.

Online

Overcooked 2 doesn’t require your friends to all be in the same room.  Instead, you can play online! This is a fun feature in case your friends are way across town and don’t want to come over (boo to those types of friends!).  This mode, however, can be particularly difficult if no one is using a headset.  Overcooked is a game that requires a certain level of communication that does not happen within the game.  Yes, you can tell your teammates what task you will take on while playing, but when the timer is ticking, chaos ensues!

If playing with friends is not an option, you can also jump online and play against strangers.

Graphics/Audio

This time around, the graphics and audio weren’t really beefed up.  Instead, the focus was the mechanics and game play.  Graphics do look a little bit nicer, and there are a couple new tunes to the sound track.2-6

Verdict

Pros:

Team 17 did a wonderful job incorporating new mechanics and levels to the game.  It’s enough to make the game feel “new” but it’s not a complete overhaul of the original title.  There’s enough balance that new players can jump in and learn the game, while veteran players can still feel challenged.

New modes, such as online and arcade mode, give the game a different dynamic.  You’re not limited to only couch co-op; you can now play with chefs across the world!

Cons:

While the new online feature adds another game dynamic, it’s difficult to communicate with other players.  You do have the emote option to share what your chef will be doing, but when the clock is ticking down it’s difficult to stop and alert your teammates. Although, that is part of the challenge.

Even though there are a variety of new dynamic stages and complex menus, the game can start to feel too easy.  What I enjoyed about the first title was that the challenges weren’t exactly explained to you. You break the challenge down as you play and adapt to what needs to happen in the kitchen.

I would rate this game an 8 out of 10.

Score

The game isn’t perfect but it’s a fun addition to the series.  Have you played Overcooked? How do you and your friends/family get when you play the game? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

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NCG Review: Pixel Junk Monsters 2 (PS4, PC, Switch)

I’m not a Pixel Junk junky, but I have to admit, Pixel Junk Monsters is one of the funnest, yet most infuriating games I always find myself jumping back in to.  I was thrilled to see a follow up was coming out.  Does Monsters 2 exceed it’s former counterpart?PJM2_SS10

Gameplay

Please note: the game calls them “chibis” but I will always, and forever, call them tiki babies.  This term will be used throughout the rest of this review. Just saying.

The point of the game is to protect your tiki babies at your base from the swarm of monsters trying to attack them.  In order to do this, you must build an arsenal of defense towers to kill the monsters before they are able to get to your base and eat the tiki babies.

The game relies entirely on strategy. There are different types of defense towers that need to be used against certain types of monsters (i.e. ground, air, air/ground).  During the swarms, you’ll need to plan your line of defense and build based on the type of monster that will be coming or which monsters you know will be coming. Building is limited since you need to collect coins and gems in order to build the defense towers. You can collect these by wandering through the trees or gather them after a monster has been killed.  During raids, you will also need to upgrade your towers.  You can do this by using a gem you’ve collected from a monster or stand on a tower to level it up – the stronger the tower, the stronger the defense! You have to work between building, upgrading, and preparing for what is coming.

Two-player co-op was an option of PSP players who each had their own PSP, but Monsters 2 allows for co-op on one screen for up to four players! This can get slightly chaotic since players need to be within a certain proximity to player 1, but it allows couch cooperation -you definitely need to communicate with your team to know what you plan what you need to build next, where to upgrade, where to invest your coins/gems.PJM2_SS14

With the addition of up to four player co-op, there are new features to use within a level.  If you have enough gems you can purchase a fruit (during a raid) that temporarily buffs up your character.  On top of that, there are interactive items in the level, such as boulders, that you can use as a backup line of  defense.  The game also throws in some challenges at you for certain. For example, you won’t be able to collect coins from monsters throughout a raid.

Aside from the game play additions, there’s a really fun cosmetic feature that allows you to change the mask and shield of your tiki man.  You can purchase masks by collecting coins after completing a level.

Graphics

The most notable graphic difference from Monsters is 3D graphics which creates more dynamic levels.  Rather than an overhead view, you get to explore the area. Otherwise, not much has changed in terms of character or monster design.PJM2_SS9

Audio

What makes this game so easy to get in to is the relaxing audio track. The tracks are similar to the original Monsters which brings back waves of nostalgia (if you played the original).  The track will change when the final monster approaches, but not to the extent where you feel stressed to build your towers -only to defend your precious tiki babies!

Verdict

Pros: The game is addicting, fun, and easy to pick up.  Despite getting furious when your tiki babies get eaten, you’ll still jump back in to the level with a different plan of attack.

Cons: I know I shouldn’t complain much, but the new levels feel less challenging compared to the predecessor.  After about one unsuccessful raid (meaning only 1 tiki baby was eaten), it was easy to grasp where you needed to build and what needed to be leveled up.PJM2_SS6

Although there is an option for multi-player, only player one gets to modify their character with a new mask and shield.  It’s almost unfair if you’re stuck being player 2.

Overall, I rate Monsters 2 and 8/10.

Score

If you like Monsters, and Pixel Junk games, this is definitely worth the buy.

Do you have a favorite Pixel Junk title? Let us know in the comments!

NCG Watches: Hinamatsuri

What happens when a Yakuza, who is an avid porcelain collector, encounters a mysterious girl with telekinetic powers? Well, his apartment doesn’t survive, that’s for sure!

Hinamatsuri is a comedic slice of life story with some science-fiction/supernatural aspects.  The main character, Yoshifumi Nitta, is a yakuza member who encounters Hina when her pod randomly lands in his apartment.

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What makes this show fun to watch is the cast of unique characters.  Nitta is a yakuza member who honors his gang, but isn’t really that intimidating.  When Hina lands in his apartment, despite wanting to remain a bachelor, he takes care of her which, ultimately, places him in the role of her “father” or “guardian”.

Not much is known about Hina’s past other than she has likely come from another world, she has telekinetic abilities, she is generally pretty lazy, and she loves to eat Salmon Roe.

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More characters come into the story. Anzu is also superhuman like Hina and after attempting to battle Hina, and loses, she tries to return home. However, the device she used to go back to wherever it was she came from is broken! Unable to return home, she is taken in by a homeless community and learns the meaning of hard work – she becomes the complete opposite of Hina, who is quite spoiled. Anzu is probably the most endearing character since she takes the lessons she’s learned from the homeless community to heart.

Hitomi is Hina’s classmate.  Drawn in by Hina’s nonchalant pace, her skills as a bartender are recognized.  Blackmailed by a Utako Sakura, bartender of Little Song, Hitomi is forced to live a secret life as an 11 years old bartender!

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Those are only a couple of characters that make this story so entertaining.  Other characters are introduced, and you’re pulled into a crazy telekinetic, yakuza, school life, bartender story!

The series, for the most part, is pretty episodic.  Everything happens on an individual basis but the stories are still connected.

I found this series to be a lot of fun.  Hina is a pretty terrible character, but this is acknowledged through the entire series.  I always get a little fussy when there is a problem that goes unsolved (i.e. Hina never goes back to where she came from, there’s no real explanation about her past), but the diversity of characters and story shorts overpowers that desire to know.

This is a fun series to check out if you have the chance. Definitely a quirky find.

Have you had a chance to watch this series?  Have you read the manga? Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

NCG Review: Happy Birthdays (Nintendo Switch)

Happy Birthdays is a Sandbox game that allows you to create life!  Is this title worth purchasing?

Story:

As mentioned above, Happy Birthdays is a sandbox game so you’ll be spending more time playing with the environment than in a story.  The overall premise of the game is that you were removed from your “real life” and in order to go back you must create life on the Cube. Happy Birthdays gives players enough of a “why” in order to proceed with the game.  Make life. Go home. You’ll mostly be focusing on achieving the missions the game gives you.2018061514201100-C7E6210BCC993E131C6B11EC9D38E3E4

Gameplay:

Happy Birthdays is a very straightforward game.  In order to create certain species, you must manipulate the environment and reach the ideal environmental conditions for species to thrive.  This entails raising and lowering the land and using select skills to nourish, extinguish, or preserve species.2018061514254000-C7E6210BCC993E131C6B11EC9D38E3E4

Building options are limited to only raising and lowering land.  You don’t get anything special when you move land X amount of times or discover new elements. Overall, there is very little direct reward for modifying the environment.  However, you will find yourself sinking hours into modifying the terrain while trying to meet, or maintain, certain environmental conditions.2018061514093400-C7E6210BCC993E131C6B11EC9D38E3E4

The game limits how much land you can alter at once.  You have an energy bar that depletes as you alter the terrain.  Once your energy depletes, you have to step back from the cube you are shaping and let “life” take place.  There are two modes: Micro Mode, where you are altering the terrain, and Macro Mode, where you view the world from afar and start time for the cube. Switching between modes allows you modify and then monitor the conditions of your cube. As time passes you will “witness” the birth of new species.  You will also be able to monitor the environmental conditions of the cube.

Graphics: 

What gives the game its charm is the simple graphics.  Creatures and plants are not overly detailed yet still maintain a distinct look.  You are reminded that you are not creating a “real” environment which is nice.   Real environments would feel stressful anyway.2018061514261600-C7E6210BCC993E131C6B11EC9D38E3E4

Audio:

You basically get one track throughout the game.  But the melodic piano of the soundtrack is really all you need while you construct your environment.

Verdict:

Pros

The game is designed for you to easily sink hours in to.  Wanting to meet the environmental conditions, yet shape your cube to how you want it to look easily takes up a chunk of time.2018061514254600-C7E6210BCC993E131C6B11EC9D38E3E4

On top of that, you gain an appreciation for the delicate details that have shaped the lives we live and the planet we live on.

Cons

While you can easily sink time into creating a unique environment on the cube, it’s easy to lose interest in the game itself.  Your tasks and how to achieve them are not necessarily clear.  After an extended amount of time with little to no achievements (because the game did not give enough direction, at least in my case), it becomes very easy to set the game down and forget about it.  Although I met the needed criteria, my planet became stagnant and I wasn’t really quite sure how to recover from it.

There isn’t much to control since you mostly raise and lower land, but if you accidentally overlap land spaces when raising/lowering you can create land too high, or too low, or with too much variation.  To go back and fix it feels tedious, especially because the controls make precision difficult when you have to manipulate 1 block at a time.2018061514272200-C7E6210BCC993E131C6B11EC9D38E3E4

I recommend this game when you want to sit down and create for hours.  It’s easy to lose yourself in shaping the land and altering the conditions of your cube. This isn’t a game you can put minimal time and effort  in to.

I would rate this game a 6 out of 10.

Score

What is your favorite sandbox game? Are you a fan of the genre? Let us know in the comments!