Tag Archives: Spike Chunsoft

NCG Review – AI: Somnium Files (Switch, PC, PS4)

Basic Info

“The mind never lies…

In a near-future Tokyo, Special Agent Kaname Date is on the case of a mysterious serial killer. Date must investigate crime scenes as well as dreams on the hunt for clues. From the mind of Kotaro Uchikoshi (Zero Escape series director), with character design by the Yusuke Kozaki (NO MORE HEROES, Fire Emblem series), a thrilling neo-noir detective adventure is about to unfold.”

TITLE AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES
RELEASE DATE Digital (PSN, NSW, STEAM): September 17, 2019
Retail (PS4, NSW) : September 24, 2019
PLATFORM(S) PlayStation®4, Nintendo Switch™, Steam® (PC)
PRICE Standard Edition: $59.99/ €59.99

Special Agent Edition: $89.99/ €99.99

PLAYER(S) 1 player
GENRE Adventure
WEBSITE http://spike-chunsoft.com/ai | Steam Store
RATING ESRB: M/ PEGI: 18 / USK: 16
LANGUAGE(S) English/Traditional Chinese text, Japanese audio/English audio
DEVELOPER Spike Chunsoft, Co., Ltd.
COPYRIGHT ©Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Licensed to and Published by Spike Chunsoft, Inc.

Story

A woman’s body is found with multiple stab wounds and missing her left eye.  She is bound to a merry-go-round in a long abandon amusement park. When the main character, Kaname Date, arrives he immediately recognizes the woman. Shoko Nadami, the ex-wife of his close friend and mother to the young girl he is housing.

You mission? Solve the mysteries around this murder. Can you find the truth behind the incident and capture the killer?90

Throughout the game you play as Kaname Date.  With no memories from 6 years prior and missing his left eye, Kaname Date encounters Boss.  Boss helps Date get hired at the Metro Police as a detective in the Advanced Brain Investigation Squad (ABIS) and replaces his left eye with Aiba, an artificial intelligence directly wired to his brain.  Aiba, who has been with Date for 6 years, assists him with his work as a detective by providing him with instant information, x ray vision, the ability to see long distances, and predict actions that will get Date out of some sticky situations.   Aiba also acts as Date’s avatar when he needs to “Psync” into another person’s consciousness within Somnium (the subconscious world of another character).  Along with Aiba, Date investigates Shoko’s murder to find her killer.c00

There are many twists and turns as you meet new characters and learn their connection and/or involvement in the murder. One story line, based on your choices in Somnium, will play out in a completely different way compared to another route.  Some characters will live in one line, and some characters will die in another.  Can you make it to the “true” ending?

Gameplay

AI: Somnium Files is a mash-up of visual novel and puzzle game.  The basic story line carries core elements of a visual novel, however, rather than reading text on the screen you’re given an opportunity to interact with the room and characters around you. This is all presented to you in a limited way (your character cannot get up and walk around the room or explore new areas on your own), but you have the ability to look around you and take in the environment.01

In additional to visual-novel elements, you’ll be presented with the ability to “psync”.  The concept of this is diving into the sub consciousness of another character and unlock a repressed/hidden memory, which you will need to do in order to further your investigation.  During the Psync, you need to solve puzzles to find the secret hidden in a characters sub consciousness.  In order to solve the puzzle you interact, through Aiba, with the items in an area.  Unlike the limited presentation of the “investigation” aspect of the story, you can control Aiba and move her through the Somnium space.  How you interact with the objects is the key to unlocking the “mental blocks” put in place.  A Psync can only last for 6 minutes (game time), but each interaction you make with an object depletes the remaining time you have.  There are TIMIEs you can use which will decrease the amount of time spent on an action but there are also Negative TIMIEs which will increase the time for your next interaction.  Interactions with the objects are not obvious and you’ll end up burning through time to find the correct interaction.  Fortunately, you get 3 retries but sometimes finding the right order of interaction will take you more than 3 attempts.  There are some actions you perform that will have a Negative TIMIE in order to progress so on your next action so you need to figure out how to maximize the use of your time.10

How you complete the puzzles in Somnium determines the path of story.  Based on which “Mental locks” you open, the story will proceed down that path. Not every Somnium puzzle has separate paths, but ones that have two will lead you down a different story line.AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190417131431

What really sets this game apart from similar titles is that you do not have to repeat the entire story to take a different path in the game.  Instead, you can go back to a “psync” and replay it. This increases the replay value and doesn’t make the game feel so tedious, which tends to happen with visual novels if you don’t know where and when to save.

Visuals/Graphics and Audio

Most visual novels can be very bland and fall flat when it comes to animation and graphics, however, the all dialogue of the game is voiced over which makes the story that much more engaging.  Characters are also animated when talking, moving their arms, making facial expressions and simple gestures, and this is a nice touch since it brings the characters to life.13

Verdict

Pros: Unlike most visual novels, the game doesn’t fall flat.  The story line itself is enough to keep the player intrigued and curious to know all the secrets of the game. Although frustrating at times, the puzzles are challenging.  You’re given hints on what you need to do, but finding the next action isn’t obvious. Although graphics aren’t “triple A” status, the animation and voice overs give enough to the player to bring the story to life.  While in Somnium, when performing an action, rather than the game telling you you’ve made a bad choice, the dialogue between the characters becomes ridiculous, either with Date and Aiba mocking each other or making jokes at Date’s expense.

Cons: The only real qualm I had with the game is the lack of opportunity to save before jumping into a Somnium puzzle.  Save points in games are incredibly important to me because I have to jump on and off of a game (hours of sit through game play? Not in my adult life!).  Sometimes a “Psync” will just start (it will be obvious when it does but almost unexpected) and I do not have the chance to save the game before jumping in.  You cannot save before or during a “psync” so I’m either stuck putting my game in “Sleep Mode” until I can play again, or hope that AutoSave will take me back where I left off.

I would rate this game an 8 out of 10.Score

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and even though the Somnium puzzles took me a few attempts, I found myself going back to unlock different story lines without much hesitation or feeling “too drained” to keep going.

Have you heard of this game? Will you pick up this title? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

NCG Review – Steins;Gate Elite (PS4, Switch, PC)

Steins;Gate Elite is a remastered version of the original titled. Based on the original game, 80,000 lines of text and over 7,000 anime scenes were analyzed in order to piece together this Elite version of the game.

I attempted picking up the original Steins;Gate visual novel, but struggled to make it through to the end.  Can players find themselves making it to the end of the Elite version?

Story

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Okabe Rintaro AKA Hououin Kyouma is a mad scientist set to oppose “The Organization”.  Most of this is part of his own self-created delusions, but his lab mems (lab members) Mayushii and Daru go along with his flow.  After discovering the body of Makise Kurisu at a conference about time-travel, something strange happens to Okabe when he makes it back to the streets of Akihabara.  After sending a text message to fellow lab mem, Daru, about Makise Kurisu’s death, Okabe finds himself alone on the streets of Akihabara. As the people come back, Okabe notices that his memories of the events at the Radio Kaikan building, where the conference took place, do not seem to match those around him.  Instead, the Radio Kaikan building has been closed down because a satellite has crashed into it and Mayushii, who attended the even with him, has no recollection of being inside of the building.

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It isn’t until Okabe finds Makise Kurisu, alive and well, that he starts questioning what has happened.  Events start to unfold after the re-appearance of a mysterious self-proclaimed time traveler (who no one remembers from 10 years prior), strange phenomena occurring with the use of the latest gadget “Phone Wave (name subject to change), and a living breathing Makise Kurisu.  What has happened to Okabe Rintaro? This story has a very clever use of time travel theories and the butterfly effect.  If you haven’t watched the series, you’ll find yourself wondering how the events unfold, diverge and reconnect together.

Graphics

Deviating for normal graphic novel story telling, Steins;Gate Elite incorporates anime into the overall game play.  Rather than looking at a static figure and dialogue, you experience the scene as though watching an anime.  This approach to visual novels makes the story so much more engaging! I struggled to stay awake while playing the previous game. The Elite version just feels more satisfying to play.

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My only gripe about this transition from static to moving is that the overall style of the original visual novel is removed.  The hand-drawn representation and unique look is removed in the Elite version and comes off very bland. I would have liked to see the original style in-tact.  This, of course, makes sense since scenes were taken from the anime itself.

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Gameplay

Graphic novels follow the same formula.  You are presented with dialogue, and when the protagonist needs to make a choice, you choose between 2 or 3 responses.  In turn, these responses determine which kind of ending you’ll get.

Steins:Gate is unique in that, rather than a pop up of multiple responses, the outcome of your story is determined by how you respond to other characters via text message.  This is a creative device since so much of the story is based around the usage of cellphones and text messaging.  Choosing a response, or lack thereof, can set you down your ending path.

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Steins:Gate Elite uses a very similar mechanic to the original.  However, the responses you will need to make will not align with the original game since new communications between characters have been added; this makes the game feel a bit newer and less like the original but still maintains the original story and pattern.  Elite adds new animations and scenes for each character route.  This will have you going back to see the variety of ways the story could end.  I am aiming for a Mayuri route! Needing to check the cellphone is a bit more guided.  When I first jumped into the original Steins;Gate I didn’t even look at messages because I didn’t realize you were supposed to! This takes away from the exploration aspect, but it also emphasizes the relevance of the communications, which wasn’t very clear in the original title.

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Verdict

Pros: Steins;Gate is definitely one of my favorite series.  I like all of the characters, and although the series is very harem, it’s not overly fan-servicey and sticks to the main plot.  The exploration of time travel through these characters is unforgettable.

Using animation for the story telling aspect is basically what I have wanted for every visual novel I have played. This is a win, hands down.

The addition of new animations to unlock and different story routes are what brings you back to the game; you want to get all endings.  The new animations are going to keep me hooked since I want to see scenes that were not in the anime.

Cons: While I really like the animated story telling, the overall style of the series is lost.  I felt the characters were really beautiful in the original title, but their overall design was lost in the transition.  I guess some sacrifices needed to be made.

I would rate Steins:Gate Elite a 9 out of 10.  Sure, you know what you’re expecting, but the Elite version is a new approach to visual novels that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Score

 

 

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!

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PixelJunk Monsters 2 Demo for Switch coming soon to NA and EU

Sure, Switch players might have felt a little left out when the demo for Pixel Junk Monsters 2 was delayed, but the wait is almost over.  The Switch demo will release in NA on May 25th and the EU May 30th – the same day of release.

Unfortunately, if you were planning on getting the DLC immediately, there will also be slight delay.  No official release date has been announced for the DLC, but it will be out “as soon as possible”.

DLC packs will be:

  • Golden Outfits Pack – Free until June 7, Dress up Tikiman in golden outfits and masks!

  • Encore Pack – $4.99, Take on a new stage, Encore Peak, with the new missile tower!

  • Danganronpa Pack – $4.99, Enroll in a new challenge with the new Danganronpa-themed Hope’s Peak Academy stage and the new Mana tower! A certain headmaster has filled all the monsters with despair, and even Tikiman can get some beary familiar masks for himself!

Are you a fan of the PixelJunk Monsters game?  Do you have a favorite PixelJunk game? Let us know in the comments!

PixelJunk Monster 2 announced for PS4, Switch, and Steam

Publisher Spike Chunsoft and developer Q-Games have announced PixelJunk Monsters 2. The tower defense sequel will launch digitally for PlayStation 4, Switch, and Steam on May 25 for $14.99.

Here is an overview of  PixelJunk Monsters 2:

About the PixelJunk Series

In 2007, Q-Games released PixelJunk Racers. Since then, the series’ popularity has grown internationally and Q-Games has released several celebrated PixelJunk titles with genres ranging from arty platformers to hard-core side-scrollers.

About PixelJunk Monsters 2

In the acclaimed tower defense series’ first ever official sequel, play as Tikiman and build towers to defend your Tiki Hut from the monster hordes. The sequel brings with it four player online co-op, new and sometimes quite explosive fruit bombs and on top
of that the game has been fully re-imagined in beautifully detailed 3D. Get ready to defend your Chibis again in this fun and addictive game for all the family.

Key Features

  • Local & Online Play – Maximize the fun by playing with your friends on the couch or with up to four players online!
  • Close Encounters – Multiply the suspense by toggling your POV from top-down to an in-your-face view!
  • Fluid and Detailed Graphics – Immerse yourself in an all new world like never before as the HD animation breathes life into Tikiman and the unique maps!
  • The Mask Makes the Tikiman– A mask for any occasion! Customize Tikiman with different masks and shells.