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Tunic Is A Special Game

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Tunic Is So Much More Than a Zelda Clone

Tunic is an Isometric Action-Adventure game that is clearly inspired by old-school Zelda games; the main character, a fox, is donning his best Link cosplay, you wake up and must find a weapon and shield, and solve a fair amount of environmental puzzles.

As someone who recently beat their first Zelda game, ever; the Switch remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (post coming soon), I had been keeping an eye out for a modern version of an old-school Isometric Action-Adventure game to play before I dive into The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. The opening moments of Tunic reassured me that I chose the correct game, but the longer I played, the more "wait, what?" moments I uncovered.

Tunic Has Numerous WTF Moments

The first clue that there is more to meets the eye in Tunic -- the statue save points. Upon resting, the fox's health was fully recharged, and all the enemies respawned. Later on, after I had acquired some potions and a magic staff, resting at a statue subsequently refilled their charges. Okay, so Zelda and Soulsborne cross-over; that's not so weird.

There are plenty of games taking influence from the 'Souls' games these days; typically the whole everything respawns when you die, and you need to grab your soul from your point of death. Don't die along the way of your retrieval, unless you want to lose them forever.

I don't need Soulsborne elements in every video game.

While I love From Software games, such as Elden Ring, I'm not always in the mood for the pressures of the systems in these types of video games, due to the extreme punishment for dying. Luckily, Tunic is not nearly as harsh on the player, as you only lose a small number of coins you have discovered upon death, and successfully recovering your spirit leaves you with no loss of currency. One caveat to this system in Tunic (and Souls-like games), I have found myself simply running past enemies when I can (with caution as enemies in Tunic will follow you across the world), as some of the combat encounters in Tunic are pretty brutal.

Alas, these elements have not been a deterrent from me playing more of Tunic. In all honesty, I'm thinking about playing Tunic whenever I'm not.

Tunic Gets Weird, In A Special Way

Things started to get weird in Tunic when I found an item that was essentially a page of an NES-style instruction manual, mostly written in some odd, rune language. As I continued to play and encounter more secrets, I was reminded of two games; Fez and Journey.

You really need to study the instruction pages in Tunic, trust me.
You really need to study the instruction pages in Tunic, trust me.


Fez, unfortunately, is one of my biggest gaming regrets. I did not play Fez back when it was released in 2012 (I haven't played much until this week); I regret not being part of the zeitgeist around Fez, as there was a big gaming community effort to figure out all of Fez's secrets, as it is chock full of them.

Initially, I thought there was just some in-game language that the community was deciphering, but I learned there is much, much more to solve in Fez; I’m not going to get into details because, in the coming weeks, I’m going to experience Fez for myself (without spoilers).

Fez is full of secrets.
Fez is full of secrets.

Tunic has the same elements of mystery and wonders that Fez radiates. Now, I found a few posts where people have apparently, already deciphered the language of Tunic; so while I can’t speak to their accuracy, fully translated instructions and in-game dialogue seem to be out there.

But looking at these spoilers would be a disservice to the game, as Tunic is meant to be discovered blindly.

Discovery is built into the game. Yes, with the aforementioned instructions manual that you’re piecing together, the language that you can attempt to translate; but it’s not just these elements, there are so many secret paths and passageways, almost hidden in plain view, to discover!

In the first hour of the game, this was almost enough for me to stop playing the game, as I found a secret passage that brought me to an area before I even found the sword. I was in an that I was not “supposed” to be just yet, and boy, was it brutal.

Tunic Pro Tip - Get the Sword!
Tunic Pro Tip - Get the Sword!

Later, when I had more of a handle on the game, I would gasp out loud when walking in a certain direction while hugging a wall led to a dark, hidden passageway with a chest at the end. Lowering a bridge to open a shortcut back to the main path was extremely satisfying (more Dark Souls elements).

I have been wholeheartedly enjoying engrossing myself in the world of Tunic with zero help.

To simply call this game an isometric Zelda-clone with Dark Souls elements would be a huge insult to Tunic.

Hopefully, I can complete Tunic without any help, as unfortunately, I couldn’t keep myself from walkthroughs with Link’s Awakening; the final Dungeon and final boss fights were just a little too much. The Dungeon moreso, as I started to get fed up after walking around for nearly 3 hours one night, not understanding what I missed to advance the puzzle.


Journey is an extremely special game for me; I'm so happy that I have this blurb saved on my "Best of 2012" list.

“What an experience this game was. I played through it in one sitting, then immediately played through it 2 more times. I even came back a week later for that trophy and played it again. Amazing world, look, feel, music, everything. Just an amazing experience.”

Credit gla55jAw - Best of 2012 List

Tunicgives off the same vibes as Journey does, and it’s very much because of the lack of communication from the game. In both, I examine the environment and decide, “I need to go there and explore.” The music, vibes, and honestly, emotions I took from said combination in both games are, unreal.

Journey is an amazing experience.
Journey is an amazing experience.

The whole instruction manual system plays towards this feeling of wonder. Yes, it is a way that Tunic is communicating with the player, but just barely.

It’s not a tutorial, a concept that games have (in my opinion) gone too far with. How many times are games still introducing concepts 2 or 3 hours into your playtime? In Tunic, as pages are found in the environment, we staple them together and they’re extremely helpful at explaining the game's concepts and systems, even if they’re mostly not in English. What's wild to think about; you could have stumbled upon some of these techniques or secrets before unlocking the related page.

For example, instead of just hoarding a consumable item I found inside a treasure chest (which is what I would typically do), in Tunic, I just say screw it. I see this one is labeled a bomb, let’s test it out on this group of enemies and see what happens. Now I know that this one consists of AoE damage, and this one is a status effect. Awesome.

I didn't think I'd encounter a game in which I would experience that special sense of wonder and emotion again, as I felt with Journey. But alas, here I am with Tunic.

Tunic has been a one-of-a-kind experience so far, and I truly, hope you check it out! I can’t wait to finish the game and see how it all plays out. Look out for a full review in the future.

Let me know if you checked out Tunic or will be. I can't believe this is a free Game Pass game. I’m really excited to see what everyone thinks about this special game.

If you have more isometric Zelda-like games I should check out, I’d love to hear them, as well (3D Dot Game Heroes is on my list)! I took a quick look at Death’s Door recently and I am looking to play that next after, Tunic. It seems more Zelda than Dark Souls, and that sounds good to me.

See the original post & Video on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!


The Elden Ring Diaries | Part 2

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Well, it’s been almost 2 weeks, and a lot has changed from my initial Elden Ring experience.

I’m now 35 hours in at level 58, and boy, this really is the game that keeps on giving! I’ve expanded my map quite a bit and have even defeated not one but two ‘big bads’; Godrick the grafted and Rennala Queen of the Full Moon.

Elden Ring Diaries Part 2

Moonveil Katana Experience

Yes, I am now a Moonveil katana user; I’ve mostly kept away from walkthroughs and YouTube videos as to not spoil myself in the experience that is exploration in Elden Ring, but I just couldn’t get past the feeling that the Twinblade wasn’t the best option for my spellcaster build. Don’t get me wrong, I actually think the Twinblade is an awesome weapon or I guess weapon type to use, but since I focused on raising my Intelligence, it just didn’t seem like the best weapon to use for my playstyle. I feel like the full potential of a Twinblade, requires it to be used two-handed, as the combos just feel better and of course, there is a damage boost.

Getting in close and 2-handed didn’t really play towards my style. I would spam Rock Sling until a boss or strong enemy would get stunned, switch to 2 handed as I’m running in, and hope I have enough time to land a critical blow; otherwise, I combo for a few attacks and run away, hoping I didn’t queue up 1 too many attacks because if I did, I was most certainly being countered.

So, yes, I looked up a good weapon that scaled well with Intelligence; lo and behold the Moonveil katana. I had no idea it was the PvP Meta…but I don’t really care. I haven’t touched PvP yet, and probably won’t — it was never really my thing in From Software games.

This sword changed the dynamic of the game for me. I removed a shield from my left hand, now my staff was a permanent fixture in my left hand. I would now study the enemies for a bit, deciding if I should run in for some light attacks with the Moonveil or keep my distance with Glintstone Pebble or Rock Sling.

As I leveled and received some better armor, talismans (specifically the Assassin’s Cerulean Dagger, which upon a critical hit, restores FP), upgraded my gear and leveled my flasks — I now felt comfortable using Transient Moonlight more liberally. If you didn’t know, Transient Moonlight is Moonveil’s skill, a sheathing of the sword while holding L2. Following up with R1 shoots a short-range horizontal magical wave and R2 shoots a medium-range, vertical magical wave, typically stunning enemies (and most bosses), allowing for a follow-up critical. Combine this with Assassin’s Cerulean Dagger, and gain a hefty amount of FP upon landing a critical.

Moonveil Katana Disadvantages

Moonveil Upgrade Material

While I’ve managed to upgrade the Moonveil to +5, I haven’t found any higher material, yet. This is a bit of a disadvantage as I have other upgrade materials to take standard weapons up to +15.

Ashes of War

Since Moonveil cannot be equipped with Ashes of War, I haven’t really messed around with them at all. Transient Moonlight is the only skill available, and it’s been nearly 20 hours with this weapon. I won’t complain too much, it’s really fun to use and katanas are sick. I just haven’t really used Ashes of War at all; when I found the Twinblade, I immediately equipped an Ash of War that scaled with Intelligence to make it stronger.

Elden Ring Sorcery Spells

I’m still waiting for a sorcery spell to really wow me. I have quite a few, but still mostly just use Glintstone Pebble and Rock Sling, with the occasional Glintstone Arc for mobs.

Interestingly enough, as I continue to upgrade my Intelligence (currently 36), I find myself using Moonveil more and more, as its damage is really starting to outpace even my S scaling Meteorite Staff.

35 Hour Elden Ring Thoughts

Wow, though, so much has changed; 35 hours is a long time to play a game, and I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of Elden Ring. I doubt I’m even close to halfway through the game, even at this point. I’m really enjoying my time with it. I still can’t believe the world the From Software created with the Lands Between. I am still finding more catacombs, caves, NPCs, secret areas!

One of the most memorable scenes for me — I warped to roundtable hold, it was dark, no NPCs, and I was invaded. After defeating the invader, I got Edgelord’s armor and I think a weapon. I was wearing that for a while because it looks so badass.

What a world.
What a world.

I’ve seems some complaints about no quest logs, and I’m starting to understand that a bit. There are so many little things thrown at you in Elden Ring, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. Blaidd (the half-wolf guy) for example, I finally found him and started his quest. I kept remembering that I needed to use the Snap emote somewhere in some woods, so I warped and rode around to different forest areas for a while until I heard the howling.

An unexpected surprise — I went down what I thought was just another puzzly catacomb with a boss; well I found the Ainsel River – a huge underground tunnel system with giant ants, and a lightning Dragonkin Soldier boss at the end.

I found the Ainsel River because I was having trouble in Raya Lucaria Academy, so I decided to run around the map a bit until I found some new areas for leveling. I did not expect to find such a huge place! I was there for a couple of hours.

I keep saying it, but there are just so many cool things to find in Elden Ring.

  • The creepy Latin singing siren/ harpy things.
  • I was walking around a cliffside and found a weapon and there was this object that just felt off nearby, For the hell of it, I smacked it with my sword and an NPC cried out to stop and revealed themself! I just opened a new questline.

There must be more of these NPCs hidden as shrubs in the environment. How many have I walked past?

What an experience Elden Ring has been. I started this diaries series so I can look back at this all later down the line. I truly believe I’m undergoing one of the greatest game experiences of my life, and I want to document it.

I’ve been pretty much playing it every single day, if only sometimes, just for 20 or 30 minutes. It just feels nice playing it at my own leisure and taking my time with it; as it’s really designed that way. Struggling too much in one area? Pick a direction and explore there for a few days.

When I finally went back to Raya Lucaria Academy, I wouldn’t say it was a cakewalk, but it was a much more forgiving experience than the first time around; even if I wound up summoning in the Rennala boss fight. I have no shame in summoning. I typically give bosses a handful of goes; if I’m getting one-shot, I bounce. If I’m close but need some help after 7 or 8 tries, I summon and move on with my life.

I’m excited to see where Elden Ring takes me in the next week. I didn’t mean for part 2 to take nearly two weeks, but I honestly just wanted to keep playing.

In Part 3, you’ll hopefully see me around 50 hours. Check out my Elden Ring Diaries Part 2 video if you haven’t. Let me know how your experience in Elden Ring has been thus far.

See the original post & Video on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!


The Elden Ring Diaries | Part 1

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I didn’t have much hype for Elden Ring until a few weeks ago when I finally managed to grab a PlayStation 5 and a copy of the Demon’s Souls remake. Demon’s Souls was my introduction to the From Software Soulsborne experience back on PS3, and have played every game since (I hated Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice). I was casually playing Demon’s Souls here and there (as casually as you can play a Soulsborne game), and stopped because I wanted to save the punishment for Elden Ring.

Welcome to the Elden Ring Diaries Part 1

Elden Ring has been quite the experience, thus far. I had planned on each entry in this series taking place after 10 hours of gameplay, but I just can't put this game down. At the time of this writing, I clocked in at 14 and a half hours and level 35.

I spent nearly an hour on class selection, as I want to experience Elden Ring without too many spoilers or walkthroughs (although YouTube loves to suggest weapon and armor location videos to me), but I did want to make the correct class selection for my preferred playstyle, so I looked up some guides.

I wound up choosing a prisoner, as it seemed the best base for a hybrid caster/melee build. In Dark Souls, I always play the same type of character: heavy armor, sword, shield, and pyromancy. In Elden Ring, I wanted to make sure I experienced more of the game than shield turtling. Art Vandelay will be built with Intelligence and Dexterity, so I can use magic and still dish out weapon damage.

Early Hours of Elden Ring

The early hours of Elden Ring were not what I was expecting. I was overwhelmed by the open world of the Lands Between. The night before Elden Ring's release, I loaded up the Demon's Souls remake and actually put in a few hours, making legitimate progress; learning the layout of the Tunnel City (2-2), and memorizing the shortcuts. I longed for this structure in Elden Ring during my early hours with the game. Yes, you do get this structure with Elden Ring's "Legacy Dungeons" but I had trouble at the gates of Stormveil Castle; entering the castle this early was out of the question. A giant and slew of knights pushed me to explore the map, as I was way too weak to advance past them.

Art Vandelay and his trusty horse, Torrent.
Art Vandelay and his trusty horse, Torrent.

Once I started unlocking sections of the world map (via map fragments), my experience began to shift. I started to explore Limgrave. This opening area is no joke, as I was: invaded on the river (and even helped by a summoned NPC, Yura), nighttime brought haunting screams of agony (from either underground or men on crucifixes). running around cliffs unveiled a merchant, and a short ride away, a tomb to explore.

This has all been an amazing experience. I am only 14 hours in, but Elden Ring is already shaping up to be the best open-world game I have ever experienced. There is something new to legitimately find around every corner of Elden Ring.

The Lands Between is not a barren wasteland; you never are a minute or two away from finding a new boss to battle, a hidden crypt to explore, or an NPC to converse with. The ability to fast travel to any Site of Grace was an amazing design choice, as the world truly feels completely open. There have been many times I ran out of flasks deep in a dungeon and just decided to come back later after I leveled up a bit. Why struggle for hours when I can easily travel across the map, choose a direction, and see where I end up? Nearly every time, I find something fascinating.

Scattered notes of other players around the world (a staple of From Software's games) help dramatically; pointing out an object of interest, or boss is just around the corner. I had grown used to messages at every treasure chest containing mentions of "trap". As with every Dark Souls game since my first encounter with a Mimic-- I hit the chest with my weapon before opening it, as you can never be too sure. You could imagine, when to my surprise, one chest opened to reveal black smoke, a teleportation trap that sent me across the world (an area I was way too under-leveled for). I laughed out loud.

Elden Ring is a special game.

When I get bored with one area, I just continue my aforementioned process. For example, after leveling up a few times in one area, I decided to test my luck again against the Tree Sentinel (for probably the 30th time). I finally felled him!

Another example -- I was getting a bit creeped out by the environment I was exploring, so I traveled back to Stormveil Castle, and managed to unlock the next site of grace, all while more easily defeating the enemies along the way.

I'm really interested to see how I keep up with Elden Ring. I find it very easy to get overwhelmed with these Soulsborne games; I am not someone who shy's away from breaks when this feeling sets in. I'll take a day or two off from the challenge until I feel the desire to load the game up. Even after spending over 100 hours in the first Dark Souls, the end game was too much for me; my last break was my final break.

Will Elden Ring's ease of exploration allow me to keep playing for days, weeks, or months at a time, without the need for breaks?

You'll have to check in for Part 2. Instead of every 10 hours, I will just add a new entry every week.

See the original post & Video on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!

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Infernax | Game PASS or PLAY This 8-Bit Metroidvania

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Infernax is a retro-inspired, 8-bit, side-scrolling action platformer. I’ll throw the phrase Metroidvania out there because it includes those elements, but the word on the internet is that this is the version of Castlevania II Simon’s Quest should have been, with a dash of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Personally, I’ve never played any of those old games. I started with a Super Nintendo (SNES) and those games were, unfortunately, never on my radar.

After recently watching the Castlevania Netflix series, I started playing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow on the Castlevania Advance Collection, and fell in love. Always looking for new games to check out, I found Infernax free on Xbox Game Pass.

After recently watching the Castlevania Netflix series, I started playing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow on the Castlevania Advance Collection, and fell in love. Always looking for new games to check out, I found Infernax free on Xbox Game Pass.

Duke Alcedor the knight returns home after The Crusades to find his homeland has now been infested by monsters, demons, and the undead. Controlling Alecdor you battle your way across the map (towns, dungeons, bosses, and tons of secrets), and as you progress you gain: new abilities, spells, weapons, and armor upgrades while also leveling up your damage, health, and mana through gained experience.

Your progress is sometimes halted due to no way to advance…or so it may seem. I mentionedMetroidvaniaearlier because as you gain new skills (high jump, long dash) you can return to these areas to continue your adventure. Luckily the game world isn’t too large so backtracking isn’t too much of a pain (I also completely missed unlocking a teleport spell that would have made this less of a hassle).

Infernax gameplay is solid. Alcedor controls really well; his attack and jump feel great!

Infernaxis attempting to emulate NES-era games in this genre, and while these were design choices, I think it would have benefited from some minor quality-of-life improvements. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what they’re going for in a retro-inspired game, but there is a reason why I didn’t stick with playing many older games — the difficulty and frustration.

Many old games have a lack of instruction on what to do or where to go next, very basic map functions, etc.Infernax I felt, could have given us a bit more information. The map is great, but I would sometimes forget the location of important merchants or which town had the NPC with the new spell I wanted to buybut didn’t have enough gold for. It would have been nice to have a map that highlighted this information, but these were minor inconveniences that weren’t a deterrent to my fun.

Lots of this in Infernax.
Lots of this in Infernax.

Alcedor’s Holy Charge (dash attack) was my one negative, as I thought it was pretty annoying to use. Holding the attack button and releasing it when Alcedor glows allows you to unleash a horizontal mace attack that shoots Alcedor a bit too far for my liking. The majority of the later dungeons require the use of this skill and it very easily overshoots your desired landing spot, usually ending in an instant death due to falling into lava or water. As an attack, it would sometimes slide me right into an oncoming enemy attack, not killing them and damaging me in the process. I reserved this skill for platforming only.

Difficulty-wise, I didn’t find Infernax to be that difficult. I defeated the majority of the bosses in a single try; it was the dungeons leading up to bosses where I found difficulty (the platforming). There are some difficult runs to get through; moving platforms, spiked bricks, and enemies that LOVE to stand right on the edge and knock you into instant death-liquid. While I would get a little frustrated with these sequences, finally getting past them and on to the boss, actually felt quite rewarding.

And to be fair — I’m a filthy casual. I quickly moved from Classic difficulty to Casual. Classic, even though it’s the intended difficulty, I wanted no part of it and its: less save points, no checkpoints, lose your experience and gold upon death. Switching or Starting on Casual mode was the way for me, as it was the polar opposite (plus you start with an extra life).

The beginning of the game is a bit difficult on either mode, due to low health and low damage. The late-game was actually the opposite, as running around with the OP Holy Light spell, having max health, max damage, the best mace, and best armor in the game left me as a walking death-tank.

Infernax just always kept me interested. There was always a new sidequest line to do, a decision to make, a side-boss to fight. I haven’t had this much fun with a game in probably years.

Choice plays a big part in Infernax. Decisions you make put you on a path of good or bad and these are actually pretty significant, as they open or sometimes close different spells, questlines, and bosses.

I finished with a “good” run and then realized there were a few more quests to do that would allow me to see the Ultimate Good final castle, and face the true good-line end boss.

Infernax Secrets

Playing as Evil opens up an alternate weapon and spells. Plus you get to chill with cultists.
Playing as Evil opens up an alternate weapon and spells. Plus you get to chill with cultists.

Infernax has a lot of replay value since it has tons of secrets:

  • Multiple branching paths
  • Multiple endings
  • Unlockable characters
  • Cheat Codes
  • Easter-eggs

Game length was perfect for me; longer than I thought for my first playthrough at 8 and half hours (for the good ending). Luckily, Infernax throws you back into the world after the credits, allowing you to finish up anything you missed. I wound up finding a quest I missed and was able to complete the Ultimate Good ending, which gives you an additional dungeon, and alternative final boss to battle, topping my playtime out at around 11 and half hours.

Infernax gets a 5 out of 5, a clear Game Pass PLAY!

Berzerk Studio really created a fantastic game (with a fantastic soundtrack!). While not perfect (some BS platforming and lack of quality-of-life implementations), Infernax is just plain, awesome. I’m already thinking of running through my top 10 games of all time because I think Infernax will make that list! I can see myself playing through this on a yearly basis, which is big for me, as I have limited gaming time; I almost never replay a game. I’m eager to complete an Ultimate-Evil run and check out more Metroidvania 2D sidescrolling titles I may have missed.

Infernax is available for $19.99 on PS4, Switch, Steam, Xbox One, and Series X/S, and is currently on Xbox Game Pass. I think the price is fine, as there is a lot of replay value. If you ever see this on sale and don’t own it yet, I would say it’s a must-buy if this genre is your style. Limited Run Games is currently sold out on PS4/Switch physical copies, hopefully, they restock once it’s released because I need one in my collection!

Let me know if you checked outInfernaxon Game pass, and if you have similar games I should check out (as long as they’re not too difficult).

See the original post & Video Review on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!

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Viewtiful Joe Review | A PS2 & GameCube Forgotten Gem

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Viewtiful Joe is a beat ’em up platformer from Capcom. This video game was released for Nintendo GameCube in 2003 and PlayStation 2 in 2004.

Viewtiful Joe has become a hidden gem because Capcom has forgotten about it! Forgotten gem is maybe the better phrase to call it as no HD Remaster or Remake has ever been released.

I became reintroduced to Viewtiful Joe when I recently went through a retro video game haul -- "unboxing" the first bin of a stash of many PS2, GameCube, and original Xbox games that had been in storage for years (Blog & Video if you're interested). I decided to try out Viewtiful Joe over the other games in that pile because completion time was only around 8 hours, plus, it just seemed cool.

This stack is worth $762.50 according to!
This stack is worth $762.50 according to!

The game plays out more than just running from A to B to C with a boss at the end. There is platforming, puzzle-solving, and even some light Metroidvania-esq backtracking. Not to mention the unique combo system that includes both a button to slow down the action and one to speed it up.

Viewtiful Joe has a lot to offer. Multiple characters to unlock; including Dante from Devil May Cry! These aren't just palette swaps either, every unlockable character includes their own: playstyle, moves, and abilities, and shop unlocks.

My full review and thoughts as well as some similar games (I probably should have included PlatinumGames) are in a video review I created -- posted above.

I have to give Viewtiful Joe a 5 out of 5.

Henshin-A-Go-Go, baby!
Henshin-A-Go-Go, baby!

I had a ton of fun with Viewtiful Joe while working on this review. Honestly, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this forgotten beat ‘em up platformer. It’s so good that I’m torn about going into Viewtiful Joe 2 or seeing how I fare on higher difficulties/giving Dante a whirl.

I'm curious if anyone else has played Viewtiful Joe and if there are other beat 'em up style games I should check out? All feedback on my review video is welcome as well.

Originally taken from my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!


What's The Deal With Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance?

As Jerry Seinfeld once said — “What’s the deal with Dark Alliance?”

I wanted to like Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, I really did. R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden, Forgotten Realms novels were the vehicle that got me obsessed with the fantasy genre.

I’ve read the Dark Elf Trilogy three times and listened to the audiobook versions twice. I’ve read through the Hunter’s Blades Trilogy, (although it’s been years) and own a handful of Drizzt comics. Suffice to say, I’m a big fan.

I somehow missed out on playing any video game with Drizzt Do’Urden over the last 2 decades. I was hoping Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance would be a nice place to start, but it, unfortunately, is not.

Review scores looked bad. I watched some streams for a bit (shoutout to Nextlander) and it looked bland. But, Dark Alliance is on Game Pass, and even though Game Pass disappointed me recently with Conan Exiles, it's still a free game, so there was no reason for me not to give it some playtime. Plus, who doesn't love a loot game?

Gimme the loot. Gimme the loot.

The Notorious B.I.G.

I selected Drizzt as my character (obviously) and jumped into the tutorial, which is where I encountered my first (and pretty big) red flag. The combat feels...clunky.

The chaotic Good Drow Ranger in all his digital glory.
The chaotic Good Drow Ranger in all his digital glory.

There are a lot of enemies to battle in D&D: Dark Alliance, but the game doesn't give you a smooth way of dealing with them.

Attack controls consist fierce & light attacks, as well as aim (for ranged), block/parry, dodge, and 2 abilities locked on the Y button (press and hold). Basic combos are included from the start, with more available as you progress your character through their levels. This is nice variety; especially since each of the 4 separate characters, each have their own unique class and playstyle. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to justify playing the game.

The camera and enemies are where this combat system falls apart. If you're prone to button-mashing, don't expect to make it through any act of the game higher than the easiest (Adventurer) difficulty. Button mashing locks you into attack strings and your character is not responsive when you need block or parry, which is paramount to staying alive. There's no attack canceling combos, so if the enemy died or moved out of the way, you're stuck until your combo finishes.

Dodging will be your best course of action for keeping your character alive, but when locked onto an enemy, the camera zooms in so close, it's hard to see who is around you. There's also no way to quickly go from one enemy to another if they're not right next to each other. I found myself locking onto an enemy, only be out of range, as I watched my attack whiff and stamina deplete. The game presents itself as almost a Devil May Cry experience, but it is not even close.

As a solo player, I find Dark Alliance to have extreme difficulty curves. When selecting an act to play, you're given a Party Combat Power level with 6 challenge levels to choose from. In white, are recommended combat levels, but you can push into harder difficulties for better loot if you/your party think you can handle the challenge. The biggest reason why I'm not having fun with Dark Alliance is that the lowest challenge level, Adventurer is a cake-walk. Mobs and bosses fall to me, all while button mashing. But, as soon as I move onto a higher level, even if the game says my power level is high enough, I have almost no chance.

Playing as defensively and smart as possible doesn't help, as the game difficulty spikes up to brutal levels. Lowly goblins can lock you into un-blockable, un-dodgeable attack sprees that drain your health bar in mere seconds. Bosses are even worse. The second boss of the game, I attempted at Challenge level 2. I made it all the way through the 30-minute act, only to run into this boss, that no tactics seemed to work against. Over and over, for almost an hour, I cheaply died. I did not want to give up, because you do not keep any of the loot you found during the act unless you complete it in full. Run into a boss that you can't beat and want to lower the difficulty? You have to start the entire level over and lose out on potential XP and any of the rare or legendary loot you found along the way.

Eat Twinkle & Icingdeath, bitch.
Eat Twinkle & Icingdeath, bitch.

Can this be solved by grinding out early levels for experience and better loot? Probably. Are there more RPG systems to level up and unlock? Yup. Is the game fun enough for me to want to do this? No. Big, no.

Remember that boss I ran into that I couldn't beat? Well on about try 25, he glitched into the environment and his health bar disappeared and I won the battle. That should give you the information about Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance that you need to decide if you want to play it.

I thought maybe Drizzt wasn't the character to play solo, as he's pretty squishy, but the other characters feel absolutely terrible to control. I played a few acts with Wulfgar and he has some of the slowest attacks and sprint speed I've ever seen in a video game.

D&D Dark Alliance looks and feels like an Xbox 360, Xbox live arcade game that should be $10 or $15. It's definitely not worth the discounted $40 asking price.

I don't even feel it's really worth your time as a Game Pass game, especially if you have anything in your backlog waiting for you.

I won't call this a review, since I only have 5 or 6 hours of play-time. But I don't want to play any more of Dark Alliance. I doubt that leveling up Drizzt and unlocking new abilities and feats will drastically change my view of the game anyway. Play and most definitely, buy at your own risk.

If anything, this experience got me interested in both Forgotten Realm games and third-person loot games that I've missed, so let me know if you have any recommendations. If Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance wasn't $30, I would probably buy that right now...I'm tempted.

It was interesting watching Jeff's arc of emotions of this game in the Quick Look; going from this is fine, to this game is bad. I had the same exact experience.

See the original post on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!


Conan Exiles Is Now On Xbox Game Pass & It's A Pass From Me

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I had been looking forward to playing Conan Exiles. My reviews of Conan the Barbarian & Conan the Destroyer made me interested in learning more about the Cimmerian hero. I've been reading some of Robert E. Howard's stories and even some of the comics (they're good). I was happy to see that there were a few Conan video games out there, and just my luck, Conan Exiles is now on Xbox Game Pass.

Since I have Game Pass on my new Xbox Series S, I knew I would be trying Conan Exiles out no matter what, so I went in blind. All I knew was that it is a survival game. I've messed around with a couple of survival games over the years; Don't Starve is the one I played the most, as the early days of the PS4 did not have many games to play.

Conan Exiles originally launched in 2018 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, but it looks like an Xbox 360 game. Not a good start. After creating my character, I hit some of the buttons to figure out the controls, and what do you know? I leveled up a few times. Nice.

Turtles can be deadly.
Turtles can be deadly.

Your character starts with nothing but underwear, but very quickly you learn that about anything and everything you can see can be gathered for crafting: rocks, sticks, plant fiber, etc. Want to chop down some trees? Craft an axe first. Conan Exiles' early game loop is consists of: gathering, crafting, leveling up, keeping yourself healthy, and alive.

Roaming monsters and other survivors run towards you for attempted murder. You can choose to fight back or run away. Hopefully, you have good stamina control, because death and loss of your progress await if you don't. Death starts you over from the beginning of the game. Although, not as brutal as a game such as Returnal, as you keep your gained levels and recipes.

I played Conan Exiles for about 5 hours and then I uninstalled it. I gave it the old college try but sometimes you just know a game isn't for you. I'm generally a solo player and this just doesn't seem like a game I want to sink hours and hours into. Maybe the cooperative/multiplayer aspect of this game is a more rewarding experience, but it's just not my thing.

If you have Game Pass and you're interested in survival or roguelike games, maybe Conan Exiles is worth a look for you? At 100+ GB download, bad graphics, and meh gameplay...

Conan Exiles, while a Game Pass game, is a big pass for me.

See the original post on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!


A Fun Looter Shooter On Game Pass

Outriders is a looter shooter that starts out slow. The Prologue is long, boring, and devoid of gameplay; lots of walking with exposition. The game even crashed on me and I had to sit through the entire section, training included, again.

Maybe it was from having to replay the opening sequence of the game or the cheesy voice acting, but I quickly realized I do not care about this story, I just want to experience the game-play. Outriders is essentially Diablo with guns, hence the “Looter Shooter”. And what do you do in Diablo? Kill things for loot of course!

Outriders isn’t a perfect looter shooter.

The first few hours of Outriders is a slog. Up until about halfway through the campaign: you very slowly gain new abilities, run into a lot of enemies who shoot guns (the most boring in the game), don’t really find loot that is exciting, all while experiencing some unfortunate, bugs. I can see many Game Pass players jumping off the game after a few hours, which would be a shame. I stuck with the game and I can attest, it gets much better.

At a quick glance, Outriders can be categorized as a Cover Shooter. The developer People Can Fly, worked on Gears of War: Judgment. Yes, you can take cover, but there really isn’t any point. Enemies bombard you with grenades and seem to be able to shoot through the cover your behind, anyway. Your character won’t recover health by hiding, either; depending on your class (one of four), to regain health, you really need to get up close and personal with abilities to survive. You quickly learn that the cover is there for your enemies, not for you. I found this out the hard way when I could not defeat a boss no matter how hard I tried because I actually forgot the cover system existed in the game.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with Outriders despite its shortcomings.

Despite all the issues I’ve mentioned so far, Outriders is a fun, looter shooter experience. I’ve played the entire game solo and it’s completely doable. As you progress through the game, you unlock additional World Tiers; difficultly levels that increase your chances for better loot. If your run into a section of the game you cannot get past, simply drop the world tier down. The mindset of most will be to “power through” difficult sections for the gamble of better loot drop. This can very quickly ruin your fun as you can literally spend hours attempting to get through one section of the game (or a boss) but, I’m here to tell you that there will be plenty of opportunities during the game for loot. So, just get through that section and keep having fun.

The looter shooter gameplay loop in Outriders is what keeps me coming back.

I didn’t expect to keep playing Outriders past completing the campaign, but here I am. Expeditions open up after completing the campaign; loot-driven timed challenge missions. I learned quickly that these missions are geared towards multiplayer, as crowd control gets nearly impossible on the higher difficulties for the solo gamer. Not wanting to give up on the game at this point, I decided to test out a new character. 22 Pyromancer levels later, here we are.

What keeps me coming back is the loot. Outriders does the whole looter shooter pretty well. The mods system allows you to keep aspects of your favorite gun or armor forever. Depending on the rarity of the equipment, gear can have 1 or 2 mod slots with mods of level 1, 2, and 3 (Legendary only).

As you find newer and higher level gear you can break down your gear and apply currently owned mods to any weapon. Gear with 2 mod slots can only swap out one of their mods, but find a new Legendary gun with better stats allows you to add the level 3 mod into your new weapon. Maybe you have been using a shotgun, but prefer Light Machine guns; when you find one you like, you can dismantle the shotgun for its unique mod and slot it right into your shiny new LMG.

The loot grind in Outriders is not simply for gear, but for mods., There is staying power to the grind.

Don’t skip the story or you may miss some of these dialogue gems.
Don’t skip the story or you may miss some of these dialogue gems.

I’m going to give Outriders a 4 out of 5 despite its bugs and early-game shortcomings.

I think this is a no-brainer if you have Game Pass and Series S or X. Stick through the first few hours because it really becomes more than a generic shooter once you start unlocking unique guns and more abilities.

Am I enjoying it because there really isn’t much else out to play? Could be. There’s just something to it. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have started and continued playing a second character. It’s surprised me, but it’s been one of those games you think about when you’re not playing it. Maybe I should dabble a bit more into Expeditions, that seems to be the way to unlock Legendary armor sets.

Have you been playing Outriders? Let me know what you think of it if you have been.

Check out my video review HERE!

See the original post on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!

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Game Pass Brought Me Back To Xbox

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In the great console war, I have always remained neutral. I have no loyalty and I'm fine with that because it's all about the games. Eventually, I grab the "other" console so I can play exclusives. Last generation, I went full Playstation following a love affair with the Xbox 360. Everyone had an Xbox 360 and when the next consoles were announced, my main group of friends went Playstation 4. I worked out because I prefer single-player experiences and the Playstation 4 has some of the best available. So what happened last week surprised even me; I bought an Xbox Series S.

I had been holding out for a Sony PlayStation 5; I know people who managed to grab them, but I have had no such luck. By the way, why is it that my phone sends me the Twitter PS5 stock updates 2 hours after the tweet was made? It's infuriating, but I digress. One of these tweets scanned across my eyes at the perfect time -- Microsoft Xbox Series S in stock at GameStop. Interesting.

We have plenty of Booster, though.
We have plenty of Booster, though.

Now, my purchase decision needs some backstory. For my birthday, I received a $100 gift card to the Microsoft Store. I had become a PlayStation 4 guy this generation; my Xbox One has basically been untouched its entire life, but this gift card could be used to test out this Game Pass thing I had been hearing so much about. I'd call it a happy accident. And what's that? Outriders, a game I wanted to play was coming to Game Pass on day 1 and the first month is only $1? Okay, Microsoft, I see what you're doing.

Having about half a year of Game Pass already paid for and looking over the list of games, both available and upcoming (MLB The Show 21) made ordering an Xbox Series S an easy decision.

If I had the choice would I have paid more for a Series X? Maybe? With my current hardware situation, the Series S made the most sense. My TVs are only 1080p and I don't really feel like upgrading right now. My PC setup includes 3 monitors, 2 of which are 1440p, which just so happens to be the maximum resolution of the Series S. I've wanted to start capturing gameplay more for my YouTube channel, so a console that can live in my office with my PC, makes me very happy. Hauling consoles and cables from a living room to an office is annoying to the point where I just do not do it.

Not bad. Could use a faceplate.
Not bad. Could use a faceplate.

I've been enjoying my first days with my X Box Series S playing Outriders (loading is so much faster than the Xbox One!). Will I buy a PlayStation 5 when given the opportunity? Maybe? I had the opportunity to buy a PS5 bundle from GameStop and I passed. Sony is just in a weird place with PS5. There a lack of games right now and they have made some recent questionable decisions. I'm going to enjoy my Game Pass games and Xbox Series S for now. This combination is one of the best I've seen in gaming history.

Have you jumped into the Next-Gen of consoles yet? Did you switch allegiances? I really did not see this coming for me. Interested if anyone has done the same.

See the original post on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!


Busted Out My PS2 To Try The Original Gungrave, Before I Re-Watch The Anime

Gungrave is a video game I’ve always wanted to play; not because I heard it was a must-play game but because the Gungrave anime is one of my all-time favorites.

It’s been years since I’ve watched the Gungrave anime, so I figured it would be fun to play the games before jumping back into the show.

Published by Sega, developed by Red Entertainment, and created by Yashuhiro Nightow, the creator of Trigun, Gungrave was released on the Playstation 2 in the US on September 17, 2002.

Yashuhiro Nightow’s recruitment was pretty cool;

“I was attending a convention in America and was approached by Red Entertainment, who asked if there was a certain type of game I was interested in making. I told them what kind of game I wanted and that’s how Gungrave was born.”

Does Grave remind you of anyone?
Does Grave remind you of anyone?

Gungrave does share similarities with Trigun; huge guns, deformed and exaggerated bodies (never been a fan of this) and sci-fi elements.

What exactly is Gungrave?

Gungrave is a 3rd person shooter with an emphasis on killing waves of enemies as stylishly as possible. The beginning of each stage literally starts with KICK THEIR ASS!

Kick his ass Sea Bass!
Kick his ass Sea Bass!

The back of the box reads:

Nightmarish boss battles.

Super powered special weapons.

Disposable enemies and destructive environments.

Dramatic original animation weaves a dark story of revenge.

There are some story elements; Beyond the Grave is on a mission of revenge against Harry McDowell and the Syndicate. In between levels you can get some story bits by way of in-game cutscene and some optional dialogue with NPCs. There isn’t much to it, though.

Having not played a Playstation 2 game in a while, I was reminded that old games did not hold your hand.

Unlike modern games, there are no tutorials or instructions on how to play or what the on-screen gauges represent. You must read the manual to learn all of this.

Remember instruction booklets?
Remember instruction booklets?

That being said, there isn’t too much to Gungrave; You want to shoot everyone and everything in the environment as that builds up your beat count, which in turn, builds up your special weapon demolition shots. This is extremely important to do because you only have two attacks otherwise. A slow melee attack and your guns, on the SQUARE button. There are 4 demolition shots in the game, with 1 available from the start and the rest unlocked as you progress through the game.

Grave’s basic attack consists of tapping SQUARE to shoot; There is no ammo or reloading, so keep pulling the trigger. You will find yourself tapping this button thousands of times throughout the game — Luckily there is an option to set shooting to rapid-fire, so you only have to hold the square button down shoot.

The Artistic Bonus is your combo meter, it displays how cool you were in defeating enemies. While playing through normal difficulty, I didn’t pay too much attention to this, but to rank high on harder difficulties, keeping this bonus going will be paramount.

Gungrave's gameplay reminds me of an arcade combination of Devil May Cry and Max Payne with styling taken from Trigun and Suda 51 games (high-contrast anime).

I say arcade because there is no upgrading or exploration in this game. You shoot and kill waves of enemies until you reach a boss and repeat that cycle until the credits roll.

  • Shooting while standing still enters Grave into Burst mode – where Grave shoots unlimited amounts of bullets as fast and stylishly as possible; spinning, jumping, behind his back, anything that looks cool.
  • Hitting L1 brings a targeting reticle on a close-by enemy and allows Grave to shoot and strafe.
  • X lets you jump. Adding a direction from the stick lets you jump and shoot, ala Max Payne.
  • There is unfortunately no camera control on the right stick, as with modern games. Tapping L2 has Grave perform a 180-turn to flip the camera around. I do not miss these controls at all.

Gungrave’s gameplay is simplistic; although boss fights require learning attack patterns and timing dodges.

When completing the game, you are given an overall score, a cool rating and level grades. The game is meant to be played over and over again to get the best scores/ratings and unlock some extras, most by beating on the harder difficulties.

I’m excited to play Gungrave: Overdose next!
I’m excited to play Gungrave: Overdose next!

I finished with a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, and including deaths and restarting sections of the game or bosses, my total playtime clocked in at just over 2 hours on normal difficulty.

Gungrave isn’t a great game, or even really a good game. If I bought the game for $60 back in 2002, I would have been disappointed. Saving birthday and Christmas money, only to buy a game that could be beaten in one sitting isn’t exactly great value.

I don’t think Gungrave is worth playing in 2021. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy and play Gungrave, especially with it going for $20-$50 dollars on eBay. The boss fights have some charm, but the outdated controls, basic gameplay, and quick levels just don’t give good value for time and money.


I am actually still looking forward to playing through Gungrave: Overdose next, as I heard it is better in every way than the original.

See the original post on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!

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