The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Review - Thrill Of The Hunt

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1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a horror landmark. It's gritty like no other, unflinching in its brutality, and downright terrifying as often as it wants to be. Bringing those same qualities to a video game adaptation of the movie milestone would be paramount, which is exactly what Gun Media and Sumo Nottingham have done. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (TCM) is every bit as nauseatingly tense as the classic movie, all while cleverly gamifying its scares in ways that are satisfying and built for the long haul.

Asymmetrical horror multiplayer games have been experiencing a golden age for several years now, but TCM is already my favorite of them. In TCM, a unique 4v3 setup allows each round to play out like an actual horror movie. What I didn't realize until I played it for review is that to properly balance this particular game, creating an even playing field isn't necessarily the best approach. Each round is a horror story, and its team of "victims" intentionally have the odds stacked against them, often coming down to just one Final Girl (or Guy) who might limp off the property to salvation. The high-stakes game of hide-and-seek is better for it.

A cast of five victims and five Slaughter family members, including two newly created characters who fit right into the world, make up the roster. While those playing the family have what are essentially class-based villains to pick from, the victims are closer in performance to each other, save for a special ability they each uniquely possess and starting stats that make up their various but customizable builds. As the victims start out in the basement impaled on meat hooks, the goal is simple and exciting in horror movie terms: Get the hell out of there. That encompasses first needing to climb off the hook, then unlocking an escape route, then traversing a labyrinthine and treacherous outside section no matter which of the game's three maps they're on, all while being hunted. Needless to say, survival is never easy.

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Stray Gods: A Roleplaying Musical Review - Worthy Of An Encore

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I've played plenty of video games over the years that have both rewarded and punished me for the choices I've made, creating this powerful sense of agency in the narrative. Those games feel like I have a hand in shaping the outcome of the story, one in which successfully navigating a tricky conversation is empowering and not quite finding the words for a tough heart-to-heart is devastating. Stray Gods: A Roleplaying Musical builds on that sensation but within the three-act structure of a musical. This combination is an impressive accomplishment, and it's incredible to watch how all those choices can build on one another, culminating in a finale that you helped shape. Together, it makes Stray Gods one of the most memorable gaming experiences I've ever had.

Set within our world--but one in which there's an ounce of truth to the myths surrounding the Greek gods, titans, and their multitude of offspring--Stray Gods starts off like your typical visual novel. Conversations pause in order to present you with a multitude of dialogue options, some of which allow you to gain additional insight into other characters while others push the story forward to the next scene. Almost immediately, you have a chance to flirt with your cute best friend and kickstart one of several different romances. There's comfort in this familiarity. And then the game quickly reveals what separates itself from its contemporaries: the music.

You can adjust the settings to remove the time limit when it comes to selecting choices during songs.
You can adjust the settings to remove the time limit when it comes to selecting choices during songs.

You actively participate in every musical number during Stray Gods runtime, of which there are many across its three acts. Like conversations in choice-driven visual novels and RPGs, each song can branch, and the effects of your choices impact not only the direction of that particular song but every performance that succeeds it. Choices are divided into three categories--Kickass, Clever, and Charming--informing both the method by which you're trying to convince someone of something, and how a song can transform. Kickass choices are aggressive and confrontational and make songs take on a more punk rock vibe, while Clever choices are thoughtful and strategic and lean into jazz. Charming choices, on the other hand, are empathetic and caring and create a more melodious tune. Though all of the songs might begin one way, they can drastically change depending on what you choose.

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WrestleQuest Review - Not The Excellence Of Execution

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Comedian and HBO host John Oliver once said "wrestling is better than the things you like." The same can't always be said of wrestling games, but WrestleQuest, a new role-playing game (RPG) from Mega Cat Studios, had the potential to give truth to that statement. Unfortunately, though, WrestleQuest is marred by a litany of issues. Some are directly tied to its gameplay mechanics, while others are related to its presentation. Together they mean that what could've been a promising offering for fans of wrestling has its charm wear off in a short span of time.

Your journey in WrestleQuest starts with podcast hosts regaling you of an exciting tale, one where athletes come from humble beginnings, taking on all challenges before reaching the big leagues. You're introduced to one of the main characters, the Muchacho Man Randy Santos, an obvious nod to Macho Man Randy Savage. With big goals and big dreams, Randy is joined by friends who are also seeking to prove themselves in the squared circle.

Soon thereafter, you meet Brink Logan and his siblings from the cold north. Without the pink and black motif, you might not notice that Brink is a reference to Bret "The Hitman" Hart, until he starts talking about being the "excellence of execution," along with moves alluding to the Sharpshooter and a getup akin to a mob hitman.

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The Expanse: A Telltale Series Review – Choices That Matter

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[Editor's note: This review encompasses episodes one, two, and three of The Expanse: A Telltale Series]

Within minutes of firing up the first episode of The Expanse: A Telltale Series, you'll be faced with a series of life-or-death choices. Though some choices may seem trivial at first, nearly all of them result in "[character name] will remember that" appearing in the top-left corner of the screen, leaving you to wonder what exactly will happen if that choice comes back to bite you a few episodes later. These kinds of narrative choices and consequences are a staple of the Telltale brand and, at first glance, one might mistake The Expanse for a clone of the studio's previous games, reskinned to reflect the appropriate franchise--but this couldn't be further from the truth.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Deck Nine Games--the studio that developed Life Is Strange: True Colors and is Telltale's co-developer for this project--has quite literally added a new dimension to the standard Telltale formula. In The Expanse, players can freely explore the three-dimensional game environment, a first for Telltale, as the studio's previous games provided very little opportunity for exploration and freedom of movement.

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Exoprimal Review - Prehistoric Warfare

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Multiplayer games can live or die based on first impressions, with many games putting their best foot forward by immediately showing off the variety of content they have. Exoprimal takes the opposite approach, only sharing a slice of what it has to offer for the first few hours of gameplay, risking people bouncing off due to a lack of content. It holds back its best moments and more interesting missions for anyone willing to put in the work. Intense and exciting surprises await those who put in the time to reach them--something that it's well worth doing.

Exoprimal is a 5v5 shooter, except that the majority of your time will be spent shooting hordes of AI-controlled dinosaurs and not the enemy team. Players race to complete a series of objectives, culminating in a final one that sometimes has PvP elements. Most missions follow this structure, with a few special missions taking place later in the story that deviate from this formula.

The gameplay itself is primarily about fighting off hordes of dinosaurs, utilizing your suits specific loadout. The different Exosuits can drastically change the feel of combat, with damage focused suits utilizing a regular machine gun, grenade launcher, or melee weapons. The tank and healer classes each have their own weapons and feel, but with the addition of either a shield ability or healing ability. But the difference between Exosuits, like the counter-focused tank Murasame and the machine gun wielding Krieger tank, is more than enough to make each suit feel fresh in combat. All this brings a nice variety to gameplay, with the shooting itself feeling solid and the different enemies and weak points rewarding accurate shooting.

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