Gotta Protectors: Cart of Darkness - Let's Protectorize, Guys!

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Retro-throwback is a popular aesthetic these days. Turns out, detailed 2D pixel art, jammin' chiptune soundtracks, and pick-up-and-playability are timeless. One under-the-radar series that's been rocking the retro aesthetic is Gotta Protectors, a multiplayer overhead action/tower defense/real-time strategy fusion that's earned fervent fans. Gotta Protectors: Cart of Darkness is the series' latest entry, and it's a frenetically fun and strategic adventure alone or with up to three companions.

The world of Gotta Protectors is one of those video game fantasy universes where hordes of monsters are always attacking, placing the kingdom in peril. Fortunately, the kingdom has Princess Lola and her magical banner that can heal and protect all of her subjects… except for herself. That's a pretty fatal flaw, but fortunately, she's got a guardian army: the Gotta Protectors, a motley gang of warriors and weirdos whose purpose is to keep Lola from harm (and quench her thirst for monster blood by proxy). And Lola needs to be kept safe from all harm, because there's one other power she wields: a shriek of frustration that can destroy everything.

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Teardown Review - Came In Like A Wrecking Ball

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Everything the light touches in Teardown is primed for you to destroy. Whether it's heavily plastered brick walls or fragile wooden sheds, Teardown gives you a variety of tools to make blowing up each little pixel a delight as you tear your way through its handful of carefully crafted playgrounds. It's a game filled with inventive ideas and a satisfyingly simple premise--even if it is hampered down by a campaign that suffers from poor pacing. Its premise, thankfully has enough depth to it that makes Teardown a destructive sandbox toy that is enticing to return to frequently.

Acting as a highly sought-after demolitions expert, your journey through Teardown's campaign takes you across the game's nine maps and peppers them with a variety of objects that drive its mayhem. You're mostly going to carry out intricate heists, although the criteria for success does change from mission to mission. One might challenge you to steal several computers that are all hooked up to an alarm system, while another revolves around destroying a variety of expensive cars by finding ways to dump them in water. Mostly, however, the objectives supplement a familiar pattern of play: Create a route through the map using your destructive tools so that you can carry out the heist before the alarms that you will trigger summon security to your position. Your limited movement speed and the labyrinthine maps ensure that you can't just brute force your way to a solution without carefully thinking about the route you're making between objectives, while the tools at your disposal methodically limit your options to create engaging environmental puzzles to solve.

Your ability to destroy each stage is limited by the tools you have. You start with just a sledgehammer and fire extinguisher, making it easy to break through wooden doors and put out fires but limiting your ability to charge through brick walls. As you progress, you unlock more powerful tools and weapons, including explosives, rocket launchers, shotguns, and pipe bombs. Each one has a limited number of uses, forcing you to carefully consider how you're utilizing each one in the context of your objective. It's consistently entertaining to just blow holes through walls with a shotgun or bring down a small office a few floors with well-placed explosives or map-specific construction vehicles, with Teardown's superb physics letting you carry out your delicate planning with consistent and repeatable results.

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Rogue Legacy 2 Review - Grand Lineage

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If you were to draw up a blueprint of the ideal video game sequel, it would be a schematic of Rogue Legacy 2. The latest roguelite dungeon crawler from developer Cellar Door Games retains everything that was captivating about the 2015 original while improving upon it with some fantastic new additions. If you played the first game, you'll notice there's an immediate familiarity to Rogue Legacy 2's crunchy combat and satisfying gameplay loop, yet it doesn't take long for new wrinkles to appear that significantly alter each run through its ever-shifting world.

The basic premise of Rogue Legacy 2 is identical to that of the first game. You play as a valiant adventurer who's sent to explore the ruins of a mysterious castle. Your ultimate goal is to find and defeat six unique bosses in order to unlock an imposing door that leads to the final area. As you gallivant across Rogue Legacy 2's six varied and increasingly treacherous biomes, you'll accrue golden coins by opening chests and vanquishing enemies. This wealth can then be used to purchase permanent upgrades like increased health, strength, intellect, and so on. Unfortunately for your intrepid explorer, however, they'll never get to spend this money themselves. Each time you die in Rogue Legacy 2, you return to the beginning of the castle as your previous character's offspring, inheriting all of the gold and upgrades they acquired before perishing.

At the start of each run, you're asked to select from a trio of potential heirs, all eager to venture off into what is usually certain doom. Sometimes these progenies arrive with randomly generated traits that can benefit or hinder them. Sir Timothy II, for instance, was an heir of mine who had hollow bones that made him fall slowly, whereas Lady Jane suffered from a functional neurological disorder that rendered her unable to attack for a few seconds after sustaining damage.

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Bugsnax: The Isle of Bigsnax Review - Secret Menu

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I find it interesting how much The Isle of Bigsnax mimics the entirety of Bugsnax itself. On the surface, it's just another area of Snaktooth Island, the game's original setting, to explore--even if this one is technically not on Snaktooth itself. When I'd finished exploring and completed all of the new missions, my initial thought was "that's it?" However, much like Snaktooth itself there is more than meets the eye in this update, What seems like fast food quickly becomes a multi-course return trip to the world of Bugsnax, including a brief taste of future additions to the menu. The longer you eat, the better this meal gets, but you will need to have patience in order to get to the good parts.

The Isle of Bigsnax itself is called Broken Tooth, though calling it "the isle of big snax" is a perfect descriptor. The inhabitants of Broken Tooth are all massive Bugsnax, grown to mammoth proportions, and you're again trying to capture them all, although they're impossible to trap through the normal means employed in the base game. Two of the 11 unique Bugsnax to this island--the Bunger Royale and the Deviled Eggler--are retreads of previous 'snax; the rest are brand new to the Bugsnax ranks. There's Spaghider, a spaghetti spider with a meatball for an abdomen; Cheddorb, a rolling cheese ball with googly eyes; and Millimochi, a slithering set of mochi balls that follows you around as you try to complete tasks, among others.

To capture these new creatures you'll have to resort to other means: Shrink Spice. Canisters of this spice are scattered throughout the island, and picking one up starts a 30-second countdown. At the end of that countdown the canister explodes, and any Bugsnak in its vicinity shrinks, allowing players to use normal traps to catch it. I like the idea of an added obstacle, and I like the idea of Shrink Spice. It's only found in specific places around Broken Tooth, and you can only carry one jar at a time. This isn't something like, say, the sauces in the Sauce Slinger where you can carry 20 at a time and reload whenever you see a plant. Shrink Spice is more precious, more finite, and therefore more important. Limiting the resource like this was a good idea, as it makes the resource seem crucial to success, and finding it near a big Bugsnak you haven't caught before is much more impactful. If you were able to throw it around on demand like Ketchup or the other sauces that are used in the base game, this new biome would have been much too easy.

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The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe Review - A Sequel In All But Name

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It's incredibly bold to hide away a sequel to a game in an expanded re-release of the original experience. But when it comes to something as enjoyably strange and hilariously obtuse as The Stanley Parable, it makes sense--in fact, my belief that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe would be anything else seems fundamentally foolish in hindsight.

Ultra Deluxe is as intriguing to play as the original game, perhaps even more so today given that its message is directed toward the modern-day gaming landscape. Some of the nuances will be a bit lost on you if you weren't playing games or at least paying attention to the space back in 2013, as it relies on having a grasp of how the conversation surrounding games has evolved in the past decade. But, it's an entertaining experience regardless of if you have that context or not.

Though it's presented as a kind of director's cut of the original, Ultra Deluxe feels more like a sequel that exists within The Stanley Parable. You're still kicking things off by embodying the role of Stanley, an employee with the meaningless role of sitting in a drab office and staring at his computer screen all day, pushing the buttons on his keyboard that he's told to. And then one day his screen stops telling him what to do, gifting him with the freedom to listen to the overbearingly haughty narrator that oversees his every move or to do as he wishes instead.

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