RKGK / Rakugaki Review - Paint This City

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There's initially something so tantalizing about RKGK / Rakugaki's bold usage of color in its anime-inspired art style. From the jump, the game's story seems rambunctious and absurd in the best possible way, accompanied by gameplay where split-second decisions reward your well-timed jumps and dashes with brief explosions of color. As the game continues, however, the aesthetic of each level begins to run together and the underlying narrative loses steam, leaving only the platforming challenges to evolve in any meaningful way. So even though the story doesn't leave a lasting impression, your acrobatic escapades through each level do, carrying the game to gratifying heights.

In RKGK, you play as street artist-turned-rebel Valah, who is set on taking her city back from Mr. Buff, a rotund megalomaniac set on enslaving the populace with hypnotizing billboard screens and an army of robots. With spray paint cans in hand, Valah does battle with Mr. Buff's robotic minions in an assortment of third-person 3D platforming levels, returning to her home base between each mission to talk with her allies or switch outfits.

Each level of RKGK is a self-contained gauntlet of shifting platforms, explosive traps, twisting rails, and breakable containers that Valah must double-jump over, dash past, grind through, or smash. Enemies populate each level but are easily overcome with a quick spray of Valah's paint--it's not all that challenging or rewarding to take them down. Some provide an additional challenge by shielding themselves or releasing area-of-effect attacks, but nothing that comes close to stopping Valah, even on the harder difficulty where she has less health.

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Harvest Hunt Review - Running In Crop Circles

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There's something timelessly scary about cornfields. Their impenetrable depth and intimidating height can quickly disorient anyone who stumbles into one, leaving them desperate to find an exit path, and turning a simple field of grain into the setting of a horror story. Villainous Games leans into this universal truth as the centerpiece of its folk horror game, Harvest Hunt. Pitted against a ceaseless monster hellbent on corrupting and consuming a village, it's the game's interlocking systems that make it worthwhile, even when the creature leaves something to be desired.

In Harvest Hunt, you're tasked with amassing enough ambrosia over five-night-long runs to secure your village's immediate future. The deeper you get into a harvest season, the higher the requirements and tougher the tasks may become. The game leans into some light deck-building elements like so many similarly designed games have as of late, but these cards are varied enough--no matter if they're beneficial or detrimental--that they remain interesting after several hours of play.

Played in first-person and presented with stylized visuals that borrow Rare's no-straight-lines approach paired with a rustic but comic-booky layer on top of it all, the mood is strong. A foreboding night sky hangs over the randomly generated farmlands, combining with the plethora of cornstalks, creaky footbridges, and uninviting ponds to form an initially intriguing whole. It's a world that makes you feel unwelcome and disoriented, adding a compelling creepiness to a game with a relatively simple gameplay loop.

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Hades 2 Review - Witching Hours

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Just like the first game, Hades 2 has launched first in early access, allowing developer Supergiant Games to delicately tweak and balance gameplay, as well as add new content before its full launch. Hades 2, however, feels like a complete product right now. With satisfying combat that has far more depth than its predecessor ever managed, it raises the question: what’s left to refine? It's significantly larger than the first game too, with more areas to explore, different routes to take, and a much bigger story to tell. If it wasn't for its (currently) missing ending and a few placeholders here or there, Hades 2 could already emphatically be declared as a brilliant successor to one of the greatest rougelites out there. Hades 2 improves upon its predecessor in every way, making it a masterfully crafted sequel.

Instead of playing as Zagreus again, you play as his sister Melinoe, who was born after the events of the first game. Her family has been lost to the underworld, after the titan Chronos usurps the throne and takes over Hades' domain. Melinoe, saved from the unknown fate of her family, has been raised to realize one simple goal: Death to Chronos. With the help of her mentor, fellow titan Hecate, and a cast of new and returning gods, shades, and all those in between, Hades 2 sets out strongly from the get go with a story that is gripping to watch unfold between runs.

For all of its improvements, Hades 2 doesn't initially look or feel that different. Melinoe moves with the same speed and grace as her brother, albeit with some slight changes. Unlike Zagreus, Melinoe is far less dash happy, with a longer cooldown between each of her evasive bursts of speed that's initially awkward to get used to. This is offset by a greater emphasis on maintaining speed through sprinting, which you engage by holding down the dash button right after executing it. This sprint provides the same degree of damage-avoidance, but feeds into additional offensive options too. And some enemies are designed specifically to punish a reliance on just dashing to encourage a shift in mindset. This sprint can also be upgraded with boons in a similar fashion to your standard attacks, letting your sprint shock foes with Zeus' lighting, or knock back entire groups of them with the powerful waves of Poseidon. This tangible change is a taste of how Hades 2 approaches evolving a strong, established formula by making small, sometimes experimentative, changes that have a profound effect on the way you approach gameplay.

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XDefiant - Before You Buy

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XDefiant - Before You BuyXDefiant (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S) is Ubisoft's new competitive FPS centered around iconic Ubisoft titles. How is it? Let's talk. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6
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