It feels so gratifying to play a game that wears its inspirations on its sleeve yet feels so confident with its own ideas and execution.
Pizza Tower offers some of the most mechanically dense platforming in its genre. Every level and move you can pull off is so perfectly calculated to encourage the act of speed. What's that? You're bumping into too many walls that make your speed come to a screeching halt? Well just run up them, doofus. You'd think the high you get from going at such blistering speeds would wear off eventually, but each level offers something so different and unique that they become endlessly exhilarating to master.
Combos feel so satisfying and invigorating to chain together with the barrage of moves you can pull off, combat quickly becoming a mad dash towards the next enemy to pulverize or the next batch of ingredients to grab. Bosses contrast the main gameplay by requiring the player to be calm and methodical in their methods to successfully dodge the attacks, yet bosses remain fast paced and never let up on their assaults.
Pizza Tower is practically everything I look for in a 2D platformer: extremely speedy platforming, borderline insane animation, engaging yet challenging bosses, and a well fleshed out moveset. However, that is not even mentioning how Pizza Tower practically begs the player to be replayed. With how every level feels so fun to blast through, having to do so while chaining a massive combo throughout the level, finding all the secrets and collectibles, and doing two consecutive laps on the big rush from the end of the level to the beginning asks the player to use all of their acquired skills. It's brutally challenging, yet unendingly rewarding to finally pull off the golden run.
If Pizza Tower taught me anything, it's that we need more games where you play as a fat greasy Italian man.
This review contains spoilers
Why do we enjoy video games?
Sure, it can be an easy question to answer with the response of “because they’re fun and entertaining,” but Moon: Remix RPG sees a little bit more within this simple question.
Taking place from the perspective a young boy sucked into a video game, Moon: Remix RPG is a very unorthodox game at times being frustrating, obtuse, or convoluted, but it’s a game bursting at the seams with love for its medium. The beautiful art style, the diverse soundtrack, the engaging gameplay, and the unique story and set of characters have hooked only the most patient of players to the very end. There’s a very nice, warm feeling you get whenever you save an animal, obtain someone’s love, or make a connection between the many varying locals and characters to progress little by little through the grand yet small world of Love-De-Gard.
But for as much as Moon: Remix RPG is about love, there lies a deep cynicism beneath the surface.
The hero of Moon is a violent, blunt, and tongue and cheek portrayal of the typical RPG protagonist who is tasked to defeat the moonlight-eating dragon. Although he only appears a handful of times throughout the game his presence is always felt, being the very same person to slaughter the animals you try to save and becoming a general public nuisance to the people of Love-De-Gard. However, while we see him as the villain of this game, Moon sees him as anything but.
One of the ugly truths about Moon is its practice of predeterminism. The illusion of choice may rear its head in Moon, but how many animals you save, how much love you accumulate, what characters you interact with, and what music you listen to all lead to the same ending. The hero is programed to always remain triumphant and slay the dragon, and as he approaches the misunderstood dragon with a few slashes, he destroys everything you know as the screen goes to black.
It’s an off-putting ending, one that comes off as deeply cynical. Luckily for us however, Moon is just a video game.
As your mom tells you to stop playing video games and go to bed, you are transported back to the real world. Then, Moon: Remix RPG gives you something you’ve never had before: a choice that matters. Do you continue this never-ending cycle of predetermined fate? Or do you stop playing video games, and open the door to the outside world?
Moon: Remix RPG asks the question: “Why do we enjoy video games?” The answer is not their predetermined nature, but it’s the experiences we gain over our hours long adventures, it’s the connections we form with the characters, it’s the ability to go out into the world and share our passion and love with the rest of the world. Art has the power to change the world around you, to make what was fake become a reality. But in order to do that, you have to open the door.
This review contains spoilers
(Thank you to Cold_Comfort for basically buying me this game and to ConeCvltist for editing this)
The human mind is not something most can really comprehend. Its ability give life to the inanimate, to birth languages & actions, and to remember is something that most of us take for granted. Despite our own lack of understanding of ourselves, humanity has pushed on: we’ve explored space, made interplanetary discoveries, and created technological wonders. Gestalts & Replikas are shot out into the vast emptiness of space to explore the furthest ends of the galaxy for thousands of cycles. If they succeed, they get to rejoice in their successful expedition, but if they fail, they will have to accept the natural forces that fate has pushed upon them. And yet, the mind still goes unquestioned.
How does one deal with the acceptance of their death? It's recommended to have your Replika assist you in the swift process of death, but what if they too, fail? Would the human mind persist and prosper? It's an unlikely situation but the persistence of the mind has proven to be strong within the exploration of the infinite universes, and the creation of the complex yet refined Replikas. Our natural instinct to reject death would have the human grow older and older with every passing cycle, crying out for someone for comfort while staring into the cold face of death, their wails creating a beautiful symphony, one that contorts the perception of reality around themselves, corrupting the minds who can't take its wonderful composition, and creating twisted masses and amalgamations of flesh left to writhe where they shouldn't. A song that cries out for someone to fulfill a long forgotten promise, to dance to a long forgotten song. They project their memories onto others in desperate search for someone. The infinite vastness of space quickly becomes claustrophobic in the confines of memory, leaving those who haven't succumbed to the memory's symphonic nature cursed to relive the same day
Remember our promise. Keep our promise. Make our promise.
If I was in this situation I would simply walk away.
In 2013, a little game called Rayman Legends was released, and a 7-year-old me (this is the part where you comment on how young I am) would fall in love with the game’s release. The sheer variety in the game’s art style, music, and levels had me dumbfounded. I would play the hell out of the game’s demo on my Xbox 360, and when I finally got my hands on the full release, my love grew for it even more, and it stands as both one of my favorite platformers, and one of my favorite games of all time; and is a wonderful showcase of what video games can accomplish. In 2017, a tiny game called splasher was released, although I wouldn’t hear about it until this year when a friend of mine mentioned it to me. They mentioned that the team who made Splasher comprised of the same staff that worked on Rayman Legends, which made it an immediate must-play for me. Sadly however, I ended up disappointed by Splasher.
One thing that you immediately notice is the artstyle of the game. While it does have some charm due to looking like a high-tier Newgrounds or Xbox live arcade game, it's hard to deny that it lacks polish. Loading screens not having any animation, assets sliding around during cutscenes like someone dragging around a .png in an image editor, and other little tidbits throughout the game rob it of its charming artstyle. Game performance is also pretty poor, with lag spikes happening every so often, and even a game crash on my end. What also doesn’t help Splasher’s case is the fact that it takes place all in one location, a laboratory. There is an attempt made to spice up the level variety, but in most cases it’s a basic aesthetic change that feels at odds with how the levels are laid out due to a lack of flow between these themes. The level layouts also force you to go back and forth between multiple points within the hub worlds, which can get grating real fast.
Ink is the main gimmick Splasher, letting you traverse the levels in more unique ways and help solve puzzles for collectibles. However, the ink is also something the game never really nails. Throughout the game, your collection grows as you collect the 3 main types of ink. The progression of giving you this ink overtime rather than giving you all the abilities at the start. This is a common motif in games that I’ve never really been a fan of, because it personally makes me feel as if I’m playing two thirds of the game with an incomplete moveset and makes the earlier levels less fun as a result. The game never uses the ink to its fullest potential either, since after a level or two after getting a new type of ink, it becomes apparent that the level design can only think of the same few scenarios to use the ink in. It comes off as very repetitive as a result, and I think changing the layouts of the levels slightly or allowing for more experimental ways to play around with the ink would have been for the better.
The gameplay is another very noticeable downside to Splasher, with its fast and slippery movement, a lack of control in the air in certain circumstances, and a jump that feels like its arc was cut in half. These issues wouldn’t be much of a bother if the game were made for it, but Splasher takes inspiration from the more modern design philosophy of platformers to be more difficult, like Super Meat Boy, Celeste, or The End Is Nigh and it doesn’t gel well with the level design, making the difficulty seem like an afterthought. I found multiple points where deaths felt cheap or even unfair, resulting in many restarts within big chunks of the levels. The number of times I had to slow down in the middle of a fast jump to land on a platform was absurd and ruined the overall flow of the game. However, the gameplay really starts to take a nosedive when these issues are combined with the ink mechanic. Aiming the ink uses the same stick that you use to move, with no option to stay still while doing so. This is used to create a ‘think on your feet’-type of pace to the game, but since you go so fast this causes more issues than anything else, and the amount of times I found my ink would just not aim correctly resulted in handfuls of deaths that really tested my patience.
It's not really fair to compare Splasher to the team’s previous work on Rayman Legends. Splasher has its own unique gameplay, design, and is overall going for something completely different but even disconnecting it from Rayman, it still feels disappointing. I hate being negative about something that very clearly has a lot of passionate people working on it, but Splasher had too many kinks that I think could be ironed out before it could have been something truly great. I hope the team is able to make a sequel to this game that can address these issues and turn it into something truly worthwhile (which I have hope for because I’ve heard the studio’s other game, Tinykin, is pretty good!), but for now, Splasher remains a disappointing first go for the studio due to its overall lack of polish, variety, and engaging gameplay.
(special thanks to my friend ConeCvltist who helped me out a ton making this review)
This is actually a more "first impressions" type of review than anything else. Jackbox games, as party games, are meant to be replayed and I have only played each of them once. So my thoughts could definitely change in the future but for now heres the games and my thoughts on them
Fibbage 4 - In Fibbage 4 you gotta try and trick people in to picking your answer for a prompt while also not falling into anyone else's question. 1 truth, all lies. I love fibbage, so this was a guaranteed solid pick. Lying is fun especially about stupid things so bringing that into form with a party game turns out really well as well as making for some really fun trivia, if you couldn't guess by this being the 4th iteration of the game. I think this has to be my favorite Fibbage presentation-wise, it's all very clean and has more variety than other fibbages. One minute you'll be going from France to a TV watching a movie on VHS. The final round is also my favorite in fibbage, the whole 2 questions, 1 lie gimmick is fun, although a bit confusing on the first go round. Very solid time, definitely deserves to be a staple of jackbox. 9/10
Roomerang - From the perspective of a TV sitcom, you get a role to play as, decide how to react in situations, and try not to get eliminated. Right off the bat this has the potential to be one of the funniest jackbox games ever, with the right people. If you like to role-play even a little bit, this is the game for you. The roles can be chosen for you but I think what elevates it is that you can make your own roles, which is a really good addition, totally adds variety to your responses. Taking them more as what-if questions for the role your character has was also a good move to, makes it stand out mode from the other question and response games of Jackbox like Quiplash. The TV sitcom presentation is also way better than other attempts like Devil and the Details. I do think being eliminated off the show is a tad too punishing, one elimation can throw off the entire game for you, especially when how many people can be eliminated and whos the one chosing elimination varies throughout the game so it kinda boils down to luck at a certain point. Still, this one's insanely fun and I look foward to playing it again and again. 9/10
Junktopia - You've been turned into frog, and in order to back to being human you gotta pay a wizard, but to do this you go to your local thrift shop, buy an item, and sell it. It's simple and funny which sometimes is all you need. I love how they capture the feeling of striking gold at the thrift store. hey! not all of them will be winners but you might see a cool cow with sunglasses and the body count of ten trillion. The final round sucks hard tho. It's just you naming your collection of items, and since it can be a game deciding point it just seems lame considering all your doing is just slapping a name on two items. 8/10
Nonsensory - On a scale of 1 to 10, how does this make you feel? that's the question this game asks, whether it be drawings, answers, and more. It's a fun premise, being giving a scale and having to make something that fits on the scale is cool on paper. However, it can be clunky in practice because it's really hard to decide what the difference between a 3 or 4 for a prompt could be. More than any other game in the pack this game will give you the most chances to screw you over. Some prompts such as "Draw the scale of an office chair to a toilet, 80% office chair" is feasible, but "Draw the scale of a waitress to a princess, 80% waiter" is really tough and can screw both the author and the players if done improperly. When it works, it's pretty fun, but when it doesn't it REALLY doesn't. It's also not helped by the fact this games tutorial is nonexistent, they really do throw you right into it, and for such an already tough to parse game it wasn't for the better. 6/10
Quixort- In 2 seperate teams, you gotta rank things in a list, that's all there is to this one. What the game makes up for with a lack of complexity is the team dynamic. They've been doing more team games in jackbox and they prove to be really fun experiences for the most part. This one is no exception, the ranking aspect gives way for so much debate and interaction with your team unlike any other jackbox game yet. My only major problem is the lack of variety. You get to chose between 1 list or 1 mystery list, so if you get 1 choice you wouldn't do well on you have to risk it with what could possibly even worse. I feel like 1 more revealed prompt for a total of 3 could have balanced things out more but it's a minor blemish on a simple but really fun time. 8/10
Conclusion - This is definitely one of the funniest jackbox packs yet. Junktopia, Fibbage 4, and Roomerang all have the potential to be laughing riots with the right groups of people, while Quixort balances out with a more interactive play session with your buddies. Nonsensory dampens things out a bit for the pack, but it still doesn't deny the great quality this pack has.