Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition was developed and published by Stage 2 Studios on Xbox One. It was released on May 13, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
When putting pen to paper on a fresh review, it’s often easy to determine the standard of a game based on how it compares to its peers, but that’s a major issue with Lifeless Planet, because, as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing else quite like it. Lifeless Planet is in many ways an interactive story, rather than a traditional video game. It features a compelling narrative about the lone survivor of a crash on a distant (seemingly lifeless) planet that is steadily revealed through audio logs and other records as the player progresses.
What immediately struck me about Lifeless Planet is how well it hides the fact that it is so linear. From the outset the player is made to feel like they are exploring a vast and limitless expanse, to the extent that each time the sun shimmers on a distant metallic object and guides them forwards, it feels more like a genuine discovery than simply turning the page of a book. Sometimes the clues are more obvious — like following a trail of green footprints — but most of the time the more obvious nods are woven into the narrative in a convincing enough way. Perhaps more questionable, however, are Lifeless Planet‘s core puzzle and platform game mechanics, so I was interested to see if the game stood up to extended play – let’s find out.
Ultratron was developed by Puppy Games and published by Curve Digital on Xbox One. It was released on May 8, 2015 for $9.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
If any long forgotten genre of videogames has benefited most from the advent of digital distribution and the influx of creative, independent game developers over the last few years, it must surely be the shoot-em-up. We’ve seen more or less every obvious take on the theme imaginable, yet I’m almost always pleasantly surprised by the next innovation or twist.
Ultratron is the latest twin-stick shooter to launch on the Xbox One and it promises a number of interesting features, including “unique retro-futuristic sound and graphics, player responsive difficulty, and a subtle system of tactics combined with classic gameplay.” At first glance, Ultratron looked like a fairly uninspiring arena based shooter, but I’m pleased to report that despite a few minor complaints, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China was developed by Climax Studios and published by Ubisoft. It was released on April 21, 2015 for $9.99 on Xbox One. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Going from a game that helped to define the open world genre to a stylized 2.5D side-scroller, the Assassin’s Creed franchise takes a sidestep with the Chronicles spin-off series. Its first game, China, fully embraces both the mechanical and stylistic shift. Set in 16th century China, the game stars Shao Jun, who returns to her homeland seeking revenge for the near elimination of her brotherhood many years ago. Her main goal is to assassinate members of the Tiger Templar group, but since she has little to no support in the region, stealth is more important now than ever.
Project Root was developed by OPQAM and published by Reverb Publishing on Xbox One. It will release on April 28, 2015 for $9.99. A copy was provided by Reverb Publishing for review purposes.
Shoot-em-ups are one of my favorite pastimes. There is an odd sense of satisfaction from seeing bullets fly by your ship (or equal equivalent) while shooting your own back and trying to survive. Failure occurs often, there is a thrill in seeing how long you’ll last before dying. In the old days, you’d coin feed an arcade machine until you (eventually) beat it. Nowadays, most shmups have reached niche status and rarely see support in the retail market. For every Deathsmiles or Akai Katana that sees a localization, there is another title like Eschatos and Ginga Force that fans hope lucks out with a region-free Japanese release. Occasionally, we saw XBLA shmup releases such as Triggerheart Exelica and Guwange, which are compact experiences. Project Root is one of the first shmups to reach the Xbox One and try something different: free roaming. As a fan of the genre and sub-genres like bullet hells, I was excited to try it.
Project Root can be fun. It really can be. However, the amount of time and effort to create that opportunity far exceeds the benefit. The game relies heavily on the player upgrading their ship to succeed, yet the experience system to level up for upgrades is atrocious. A majority of your experience will come from a first-time level completion bonus. If you can’t beat a level, you’re in for a miserable time. As is typical for progression systems, the other way to gain XP is to gradually fill the experience bar by killing enemies. The rate of gain, however, is slow, especially on the first few levels where you need it most. It takes one to two hours to level up once via killing enemies, and all of that effort is for a modicum of XP; it may not even be enough for the upgrade you’re pining for. Tack on having zero checkpoints and it becomes a frustrating sortie of trial and error. Adding salt to the wound, upgrades and progress do not carry over to other difficulties, so all of your hard work doesn’t matter if you want to try something harder or cruise through something easier. Outside of free roam, Project Root does nothing new or exciting to add to the genre. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone outside of the absolute diehard shmup fans that must have every shmup game.
Aaru’s Awakening was developed and published by Lumenox on Xbox One. It was released on April 21, 2015 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Lumenox for review purposes.
Despite having cleared every level and obtaining all gold medal times in a day, a strange sense of self-doubt looms about my opinions on Aaru’s Awakening. Indeed, this title contains some fantastic features and tries a few things differently from many other games on the market. However, Aaru’s Awakening holds questionable design choices that have left me disgusted and passively angry. After all the trials and tribulations, I’m fed up with this game. As a platforming experience, this title falls somewhere between too difficult for casual play but easy enough for enthusiasts.
Infinity Runner was developed and published by Wales Interactive on Xbox One. It was released on April 22, 2015 for $6.99. A copy was provided by Wales Interactive for review purposes.
Is it possible to hate a game that you really enjoyed playing? Infinity Runner makes the case for that paradox. The production value is pretty awful, the difficulty level is ridiculously frustrating and it doesn’t add anything new to the genre, but I still enjoyed my time with the game.
Infinity Runner is an endless runner like the games you see on smartphones such as the mega-popular Temple Run. You’re constantly running forward, and the controls are limited to strafing side to side, jumping and sliding. There’s a few new ideas here, but otherwise it’s basically like a smartphone game on a console, with only slightly better graphics.
Goat Simulator was developed and published by Coffee Stain Studios and Double Eleven on Xbox One and Xbox 360. It was released on April 17, 2015 for $9.99. An Xbox One copy was provided by Coffee Stain Studios and Double Eleven for review purposes.
One might look at Goat Simulator and wonder why on Earth they would want to play a game as a goat. After all, it seems like a rather mundane life, filled a lot of grass eating and standing around, but the goat’s life in Goat Simulator is anything but mundane. I found myself attending rooftop parties, riding roller coasters and getting into fights all while laughing hysterically at the ridiculous bugs physics that surrounded me. After spending a day in the life of a goat I was asking myself if I could somehow become a goat in the real world because clearly goats are having way more fun than humans.
State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition review (Xbox One) State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition was developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios. It is scheduled for release on April 28 and will cost $30 for new players or $20 for those owners of State of Decay on Xbox 360. A copy was provided by Undead Labs for review purposes.
Anyone who reads XBLA Fans’ reviews regularly will know that many of the games we cover are remakes, remasters and re-releases. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from somewhat rushed, cynical cash-cows, to incredibly rewarding nuts-and-bolts reduxes like Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty.
As a big fan of the original State of Decay, you can imagine how intrigued I was to see how this particular remake panned out. State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition (YOSE) exists between the two extremes of remakes, with a tempting value proposition aimed at both new and returning players, yet it delivers almost nothing new or revolutionary.
We Are Doomed was developed and published by Vertex Pop on Xbox One. It was released on April 17, 2015 for $9.99. A copy was provided by Vertex Pop for review purposes.
Do you love the Geometry Wars series but just wish there was less to do? Well, then you’re in luck! We Are Doomed takes the same twin-stick shooter formula, the same polygonal graphics, the same wild visual effects, the same electronic style soundtrack, the same multiplier score system and adds…well, nothing really. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.
In We Are Doomed, you pilot a little polygon ship around a dark playing field with the left stick, while blasting away other geometric shapes with the right stick. This formula has become a genre unto itself ever since Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2005 (although the genre really goes all the way back to the arcades of the ’80s). It’s very fun and pretty addictive. But with so many twin-stick entries in recent years, these games really need some original ideas to stick out from the crowd.
Tower of Guns was developed by Grip Games and Terrible Posture Games and published by Grip Games on Xbox One. It was released on April 9, 2015 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Grip Games for review purposes.
Tower of Guns is another in a series of recent roguelike games to reach the Xbox One via the ID@Xbox program. At first glance, it’s is a throwback to old school first-person shooters in both design and gameplay. While unexciting to start with, Tower of Guns grows on the player with the strange charm of its story mode and the straightforwardness of its objective. After that, it will make you rage. Roguelike games tend to spawn enemy and room patterns that will eventually kill the player in brutal manners. In some games, defeat can be deflating and cause the player to not want to play again. Meanwhile, Tower of Guns is a fantastic game for players who refuse to lose and find motivation in trying until they win. Even if you lose, progress is made toward unlocking new guns and new perks to use for future attempts to finally beat the tower. It’s a win/win for all (not a guarantee). So what do I like about the title? Take a look below.