Outriders: Worldslayer Review - Pleasantly Altered

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Every time I return to Outriders, I'm reminded of how intense and fast-paced its core gameplay is. You play a superpowered killing machine who can create small-scale earthquakes, set enemies on fire, or teleport behind troops hiding in cover and tear them apart with your mind. Worldslayer, the game's first major story expansion, mostly just offers more opportunities to use ridiculous powers and guns to blast more enemies. Though it adds more story, the really meaningful changes are of a smaller scale, adding more loot to chase and endgame content that improves the game overall. It's not the most thrilling of expansions, but it does leave Outriders in a better place, with more to do and more reasons to tectonically shift enemies into oblivion over the long term.

Those endgame improvements were some that Outriders needed. Where the game stumbled to some degree at its release was with extensive loot mechanics in what is otherwise an RPG shooter. Outriders encourages you to replay the game on tougher difficulties with a long tail of chasing down top-tier weapons and armor. But once the story is done, it's tough to stay interested. Though deep adjustable difficulty tiers meant you could challenge yourself and reap better rewards, the most lucrative place to play was in its repeatable endgame activity, Expeditions, which quickly started to feel a bit thin.

Developer People Can Fly has been making adjustments to the game since its launch in order to give fans more to do once the story is over, with those improvements culminating in Worldslayer. The expansion not only brings a few hours of additional story, it also adds significantly to the endgame, with new difficulty tiers, new skill trees to enhance your character, and new gear to earn. In other words, Worldslayer addresses Outriders' initial shortcomings with a bunch of new things to hunt down.

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DNF Duel Review - Here Comes A New Challenger

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Throughout the years, the fighting game has proven to be one of the most versatile genres. Much of that versatility comes through guest characters, from The Walking Dead's villain-turned-antihero Negan joining Tekken 7, to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's all-star cast. With DNF Duel, Arc System Works ups the ante on this idea, taking an entire game--Nexon's long-running MMO Dungeon Fighter Online--and building a fresh fighting game with it. The result is a solid brawler that, despite a mediocre story, boasts a varied roster, near-flawless online play, and a fighting system with plenty of options for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.

DNF Duel is set in the world of Dungeon Fighter Online, sure, but prior knowledge of that game is not required to jump into this one. The source material is mostly referential, serving as a backdrop for the overarching story and characters. Each of these characters is built from one of the MMO's playable classes. Some of the characters look like they were pulled from another fighting game; the Grappler, for instance, is a dark-haired, hand-to-hand fighter wearing a martial-arts uniform, which sounds familiar. Others, like the Ghostblade and the Berserker, stand out thanks to their incredible and intimidating looks. The Berserker's red eyes, spiky blond hair, and scaly red arm make him look like an evil Super Saiyan, while the Ghostblade is doubly scary thanks to the ethereal black beast floating over his body like a Stand from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.

The fighting system in DNF Duel is the epitome of "easy to learn, hard to master." Moves are performed by combining single directions with attack buttons, akin to the control scheme in Super Smash Bros. Normal attacks can be performed with no restriction, while special moves pull from a finite amount of MP seen in a blue bar below a character's health. MP restores over time, but using a move that requires more MP than is available will put the character into an Exhaustion state, delaying MP regeneration and weakening attacks for a short period. This sounds pretty standard and honestly, that's a good thing; it makes for a low barrier of entry for players new to fighting games. However, that simplicity sits on top of a slew of moving parts that increase the learning curve significantly.

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Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Review - More Than A Cherry On Top

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I've played through Cuphead dozens of times over the past five years, and each time I appreciate its hand-drawn artistry even more. I still find new visual flourishes that I had never noticed before--split-second facial animations and the tiniest of details on the myriad objects and projectiles that fill the stages of frantic boss fights. Somehow, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course easily surpasses the pure artistic beauty of the base game. The level of detail on display in the DLC's handful of boss fights is simply mind-boggling. More than just visually impressive, though, the new boss fights are more exciting, dynamic, and mechanically diverse. Coupled with a creative new playable character in Ms. Chalice and multiple interesting new weapons/charms, The Delicious Last Course is a triumph that expands on the base game in clever ways while also improving the original campaign itself.

Ms. Chalice is a game-changer in The Delicious Last Course, so it's not too surprising that the DLC's story is centered around her. The Legendary Chalice, a ghost who granted players Super Arts abilities in the main campaign, wants to come back to life. To do that, Ms. Chalice, Cuphead, and Mugman must collect the ingredients for the Wondertart from the bosses scattered across Inkwell Isle IV. In the meantime, there's a temporary fix for her not-being-alive problem: the Astral Cookie, a new charm that can be equipped to play as Ms. Chalice. And playing as Ms. Chalice is a fairly significant departure, especially for someone like me who has played the original campaign so many times.

While Cuphead and Mugman are functionally the same fighter, Ms. Chalice meaningfully changes how it feels to go up against the assortment of larger-than-life bosses. The Astral Cookie charm gives Ms. Chalice three unique abilities: double jump, dash parry, and invincible roll. She also gets an extra hit point. Considering that Cuphead is largely played with three buttons (jump, shoot, dash), altering how any of those operate shakes things up. At first, I found playing as Ms. Chalice a real challenge; it basically felt like I was learning how to play Cuphead again for the first time. I often pressed the jump button again to parry like I would with Cuphead or Mugman and wound up taking damage. But when it clicked, I learned that Ms. Chalice is an extremely versatile and nimble character.

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Neon White Review – Heavenly Sprint

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Neon White is a curious amalgamation of Counter-Strike's thrilling surf maps, the time-trial-centric joy of Trackmania, and the anime-infused narrative of a visual novel--all sprinkled with a light dusting of Persona for good measure. It's also a first-person shooter/puzzle-platformer and one of the best games of the year. I've never played anything quite like it, despite being familiar with each of its influences. Not everything coalesces as one might hope, with the story's slow build interrupting the gameplay's rapid pace, but this does little to dampen the sheer, unadulterated glee that comes from traversing each of its 97 immaculately constructed levels.

At its most basic, Neon White is essentially a speedrunning first-person shooter. You play as the eponymous Neon White, a sinner from Hell who's given the chance to enter Heaven if he can rid it of a demon infestation. You'll glide, jump, and shoot your way through numerous celestial arenas, all with the end goal of reaching the finish line as quickly as possible--with the caveat that you also have to kill every demon along the way. Most of the levels are over in less than 30 seconds, but it's this confined sprint that proves so tantalizing. Reaching the end of a level is rarely ever difficult but the crux of Neon White lies in figuring out the best route through each one in order to shave off precious seconds and earn better medals and rewards.

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To aid you in this endeavor is an inspired mechanic called Soul Cards. These finite pickups give you access to a range of weapons that can also be discarded to activate one-off abilities. The Fireball card, for example, functions like a shotgun, letting you shoot a powerful blast that's most effective at close range. If you discard it, however--losing the shotgun in the process--you can perform a directional air dash that obliterates any enemies you phase through. Other Soul Cards include long-range rifles, SMGs, and more, with their abilities giving you additional traversal and offensive options, including a double jump, ground pound, and grappling hook. You can only hold two unique Soul Cards at a time so you're never overpowered, but you can stack up to three of the same type, giving you more ammunition and multiple chances to use these secondary abilities.

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Poinpy Review -- Moving On Up

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To simplify Poinpy, you could call it the opposite of Downwell. The comparison is relevant as both games come from creator Ojiro Fumoto. In Downwell, you make your way down a well shooting enemies and collecting upgrades as you fall. In Poinpy, you make your way up a well and collect fruit to feed the giant Blue Beast that is chasing you upward. In practice, though, Poinpy has mechanics and a style all its own that expertly gamifies an action anyone who has ever used a modern phone is familiar with: the downward swipe.

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Poinpy is the titular bouncy dinosaur-like protagonist creature that wouldn't look out of place in a lineup with Kirby and Yoshi. In the game, you are outrunning a giant Blue Beast who always lingers at the bottom of the screen, demanding s

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