Saints Row Review - Open-World Nostalgia

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It's been nine years since Saints Row IV was released, pitting the 3rd Street Saints against an alien invasion that featured superpowers, time-travel, Matrix-style simulations, and the complete destruction of Earth. Where do you go after a game so ridiculous and outlandish? After a period of absence, rebooting the series sounds like a logical next step, and that's exactly what developer Deep Silver Volition has done with this new, stripped-back Saints Row.

It's still not "realistic" by any stretch of the imagination, but it is slightly more grounded. However, you still shouldn't envisage finding many of the modern trappings of open-world games. For as much as Saints Row differentiates itself from the bombast of its past few entries, it still closely resembles a game from the same era, leading to an experience that often feels stale and dated.

For the most part, this isn't something you could level at Saints Row IV's approach to freedom around character identity and gender, and this has carried over into the rebooted Saints Row. The character creator lets you design pretty much any person you want. There's a broad range of prosthetic options, various types of vitiligo, a number of sliders for body options that do away with binary gender selection, a choice of six distinct voices, and the ability to make an asymmetrical face, to name just a few of the available options. You can also hop back into the character creator at any point and change your entire look. This sounds like an insignificant feature, but it isn't always a given and speaks to Saints Row's focus on inclusivity.

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Thymesia - Before You Buy

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Thymesia - Before You BuyThymesia (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S) is a Souls-inspired action RPG with an emphasis on cool combat. Let's talk about it. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼▼ Buy Thymesia: https://amzn.to/3RbCLBh Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6 #thymesia

Midnight Fight Express Review - Streets of Rage

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Two of the characters in Midnight Fight Express are called Kyler Turden, a riff on the antagonist of Fight Club, and Chef Favreau, a nod to Iron Man and Chef director Jon Favreau. Its first act opens with a quote directly from the 1865 novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. If you're wondering why a game that's supposedly influenced by '80s action cinema includes references to things that are definitely not that, you're not alone. This does provide a good barometer for the game's tone, though--which is all over the place and never takes itself too seriously.

Midnight Fight Express's period-specific action roots are only really reflected in some fantastically violent gameplay, pitting a one-man army against a neverending slew of bozos, cronies, and crooked cops. There's very little to the game beyond its combat; Midnight Fight Express is essentially a modern beat-'em-up, ditching the usual side-scrolling 2D sprites for 3D fisticuffs and an isometric perspective. Its action is fast-paced and kinetic, only letting up when the story gets in the way, and the sheer breadth of motion-captured animations is both impressive and surprising for a game developed by a studio as small as Humble Games.

In fact, Midnight Fight Express was mostly created by one man: Jacob Dzwinel. Yet it's his collaboration with renowned stuntmen Eric Jacobus (God of War, The Last of Us: Part II) and Fernando Jay Huerto (Destiny 2) that really brings the game's wince-inducing combat to life.

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Soul Hackers 2 Review - Amateurs Hack Systems, Professionals Hack People

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From the very beginning, Soul Hackers 2 makes it clear that it's not interested in wasting time. Within the first two hours of starting up Atlus's latest JRPG, you'll have all of your main party members, know the focal points of the story, and have a grasp on almost all of the primary gameplay mechanics. It's a refreshing and stark contrast to the "slow-burn" kind of gameplay JRPGs are known for, and a very different approach than fans of the larger Shin Megami Tensei series might be used to. It's clear, then, that the goal of Soul Hackers 2 is to forge a new SMT subseries with a distinct approach to gameplay--a goal which it largely succeeds at.

In the future, mankind is stuck in a rut: Technological and social progress has stalled, and the human race faces a sort of global ennui. Beneath the outer fabric of society, however, groups of gifted humans who can communicate with the supernatural world work underground as "Devil Summoners." Some, like the Yatagarasu organization, aim to use their powers to protect humanity, while the nefarious Phantom Society aims for global destruction. In the middle of this conflict, Aion--a sentient AI born from the collective of networked digital knowledge--gives form to two physical "agents," Ringo and Fugue, sending them on a mission to rescue the world from certain destruction.

Soul Hackers 2, despite its name and numbering, bears only a few elements in common with the original Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers, namely a cyberpunk-influenced worldview, a villainous group called the Phantom Society, a character belonging to the Kuzunoha family, and the concept of interacting with the souls of the dead through "hacking." Ringo and Fugue are dismayed to immediately discover that most of the folks Aion has tasked them with protecting are recently deceased, and so Ringo re-imbues them with life through the "Soul Hack." This intertwines their souls with her digital lifeforce and bonds her to them for the course of the game, both story- and gameplay-wise.

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Cursed To Golf Review - An Ace In The Hole

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I'm standing on the tee of a familiar hole. A booming drive will fly over ponds, bunkers, and spikes before colliding with a golden idol to add four shots to par. But now that I have a variety of Ace Cards, I can follow a wildly different path. There's a column of TNT directly behind me that I blow up with a card before equipping another one that lets me change the direction of the shot in mid-air. I take out my wedge and pitch the ball into the newly created opening behind me. Before it drops into the water below, I redirect the ball through a narrow passage and into a small nook filled with spikes and a handy ricochet bumper. Then, I fling it backwards at the bumper, which allows me to redirect the ball for a third time. The ball soars through the small opening, bounces twice on the island green, and falls into the cup with the help of a bit of spin I added. A hole-in-one--my first in Cursed to Golf. The first two times I played this hole, it took me around five minutes and more than a dozen shots.

The magic of Cursed to Golf comes from the moments when you figure out entirely new ways to finish levels more efficiently and in mechanically interesting ways. Even though Cursed to Golf allows you to send your golf ball through portals, turn it into ice and thunder, or even transform it into a rocket, it captures the beauty of actual golf in a way that very few golf games have in the past--even "realistic" ones. Like real golf, each and every shot feels different, and, most importantly, the only limitation you have is your creativity and ingenuity. The freedom you're given to experiment throughout each level makes subsequent runs through the very same layout feel entirely fresh.

During the final round of a tournament, you're killed by a lightning strike and sent to Golf Purgatory, an underworld with a diabolical golf course operated by the Greenskeeper. To escape, you have to finish all of the 18 side-scrolling holes in a row without running out of shots. A roguelike structure sends you back to the beginning of the course if you fail during any of the levels. Gameplay is the focus here, but Cursed to Golf has witty dialogue, a rather heartwarming story, and a lighthearted tone despite the fact you're essentially trapped in hell.

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