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

Disney Mirrorverse Review - Shattered Dreams

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At first glance, Disney Mirrorverse looks and sounds like a child making up a story on the fly with action figures. Characters from all across Disney's catalog--heroes and villains alike--come together to fight off a malevolent force that threatens all of reality. These characters aren't their usual selves, trading in their children's movie personas for something with a little more edge. It's a bold and interesting choice, something never seen before from this group of characters, and this world's mere existence is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, the boldness of Mirrorverse comes at a cost, literally, as the idea is buried beneath crystalline loot boxes, microtransactions, and convoluted progression. What could have been a whole new world for Disney is instead just the latest run-of-the-mill mobile game.

Disney Mirrorverse is an action-RPG set in the titular Mirrorverse, where enemies called the Fractured are growing in power. You battle these hordes with teams of three heroes called Guardians, chosen from the 44 characters who make up the roster. Each of the 44 fills one of four archetypes, Melee, Ranged, Support, and Tank, which informs how they fight. These classes are standard fare: Melee Guardians use swords and other handheld weapons, Ranged heroes rely on magic and projectiles, Tanks stay in the enemy's face while soaking up damage, and Supports heal teammates, debuff enemies, and more. You get new Guardians through Crystals--Mirrorverse's version of loot boxes that are both earned through gameplay and purchased with in-game and real-world currencies. Crystals come in multiple forms, some highlighting specific Guardians or guaranteeing specific ranks, and are opened with typical loot box theatrics via the in-game shop.

As a longtime Disney fan, I cannot stress enough how cool it is to see these characters in this new light. Belle from Beauty and the Beast steps out of the library as a powerful mage, wielding a staff powered by the magic rose itself. Her villainous counterpart, Gaston, has gone full Game of Thrones wildling with his massive bow and shoulder-spanning wolf pelt. The lovable bear Baloo dons his Disney Afternoon-era TaleSpin garb and uses a giant plane propeller as a broadsword. Not all characters receive such revolutionary designs--Elsa is an elemental who controls ice, for instance--but even those that don't stray as far from the source have their charm.

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Capcom Fighting Collection Review: Family Feud

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Capcom Fighting Collection feels like a family reunion. Ten games reside in this digital banquet, ranging from all-time fighting game favorites to a few relics of the past. They all play exceptionally well, particularly online, and each one is an arcade-perfect port. The main issue with the collection is balance, as half of the offerings are centered around a single series: Darkstalkers. While those games are good--the previously Japan-only titles are particularly appreciated--a little more variety in this collection would have pushed it up a tier or two. As it stands, it's a little too much of a monster mash.

This isn't to say there aren't a few well-known, non-Darkstalkers games in the collection as well, as it showcases the breadth of Capcom's arcade 2D fighting game history. Both Hyper Street Fighter II--the 2003 port of 1994's Super Street Fighter II Turbo--and 1996's Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo are included in Capcom Fighting Collection. While each title has been ported multiple times since its original release--SFII is available pretty much everywhere, and although not as ubiquitous, Puzzle Fighter II Turbo has also appeared on more console generations than you'd think--this collection marks the first time the games have been sold together. Both play exactly as you remember them here: Hyper SFII is the classic one-on-one fighting game starring Ryu, Chun-Li, and more, while Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo replaces fighting with gem-matching in a format similar to Columns from Sega.

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