Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate Review - Turtle Loop

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As strange as the idea sounds--teenagers who are mutant turtles, who also happen to be ninjas--Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a wildly successful franchise going back to its origins as a comic book in the '80s--so successful, in fact, that it spawned a legion of copycats, copy mice, frogs, sharks, and more. With that history of imitators in mind it’s funny to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinted Fates act as such a direct clone of Hades, just with a TMNT coat of paint. Unlike Street Sharks or Biker Mice from Mars, though, this does an admirable job of capturing most of what makes its inspiration great.

As is tradition, Master Splinter has been kidnapped, and it’s up to the four turtles to battle through four levels of roguelite action to get him back. Each run starts in the sewers, moving room to room as you clear enemies and collect power-ups along the way. When you die, you are transported back to the turtle’s lair to regroup, buy a few upgrades, and start again.

Splintered Fates was originally a mobile game, but it was built with modern high-spec devices and access to controllers in mind. As a result, its solid core gameplay loop feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. Delivering attacks before quickly dashing away to avoid damage generally feels fast and fluid. Intense fights near the end of a run can be a dizzying whirlwind as you prioritize targets and deliver blows in the small gaps in which enemies are vulnerable. Attacks quickly charge up a powerful special attack and a tool with a unique power, like Michelangelo’s taunt, which stuns and damages enemies in a small area of effect.

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Flock Review - Creature Comforts

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The creature-collector genre is dominated by Pokemon and filled out from there with many games heavily inspired by it. Through a certain lens, Flock is a creature collector, too, but if you go into it looking for a game very much like Pokemon, you won't find it. The task of filling out your Pokedex-like Field Guide by discovering a world of (mostly) fantastical creatures, each with their own physical and behavioral traits, is very much like the genre's titan, but beyond that, Flock is much more lax, not to mention charming and delicate. It's better described as a creature observer, and that novel approach winds up being very enjoyable.

Flock takes place in a gorgeously colorful wilderness called The Uplands. As the customizable player character and bird-rider, you and an optional co-op partner head into a small camp where your aunt and some pals need your help cataloging the many critters roaming the land. The entire game takes place on the back of your feathered friend, and the game's way of automatically adjusting your flight path vertically, while you do so horizontally, makes it all very easy to control. It feels light and fun in your hands, like going down a slide at the playground.

This child-like spirit is present throughout the game, from its candy-colored trees and plains to its small cast of characters who speak mostly in terms players of all ages can understand, but who occasionally pack a hint of something more grown-up in their musings. I found it similar to how characters on many Cartoon Network shows speak. It isn't trying to be subversive, like a Dreamworks movie sneaking in an adult joke; rather, it treats its audience with some maturity, expressed in the words characters choose. It's immediately inviting, and the game's soft music makes for a perpetually calming soundtrack that keep game feeling meditative and decompressing.

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Once Human - Before You Buy

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Once Human - Before You BuyOnce Human is an early access PC survival game with a sci-fi twist. How is it? Let's talk first impressions. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6

Zenless Zone Zero Review - Hacker's Delight

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Zenless Zone Zero (ZZZ) is HoYoverse's third game launch in four years. You'd think that HoYo's formula would get stale with yet another free-to-play gacha RPG dropping just 15 months after the release of Honkai: Star Rail, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The developer has managed to create another familiar but distinct gameplay experience by once again learning from past missteps to deliver a game that is both iterative and innovative at the same time. The downside here, however, is that ZZZ puts several new and interesting elements together but forces you to spend the most time with the least interesting of the bunch.

Zenless Zone Zero has more style and aesthetic excellence than both Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, all in a much smaller package in terms of world size and scale of locations. At this point, Genshin Impact's open-world has become almost too large and sprawling to facilitate a comfortable or compact mobile gaming experience, meaning it's best experienced on PC or console. Meanwhile, Star Rail is the exact opposite because its turn-based combat and auto-battle features are a perfect fit for mobile devices. Zenless Zone Zero sits squarely in the middle of those two experiences by combining roguelike puzzle dungeons, fast-paced action combat, and chill life-sim activities into one varied gameplay loop.

The story also deviates from what we've come to expect from HoYoverse. The world-building is still strong, but it's scaled back considerably. Instead of high-stakes conflicts with gods and higher powers, so far, Zenless Zone Zero has you follow the daily lives of two tech-genius siblings--Wise and Belle--as they find ways to make money legally and illegally. You get to pick which sibling you play as, but no matter who you go with, both remain in the story as characters who get regular dialogue. The main difference is that you choose what your protagonist says and control them while exploring the city of New Eridu.

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