Star Wars: Battlefront Classic Collection Review - Fire Away

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I spent many a weekend afternoon playing the first two Battlefront games back in 2004 and 2005, my friends and I sinking hundreds of hours into our repeated efforts to conquer the galaxy, recreate battles from the Star Wars movies, and theorize why the video game version of General Grievous was so much stronger than his movie counterpart. Heck, my hope that we'd one day see a Clone Wars animated series that focused on exploring the clones' individuality was born from Battlefront 2's wonderfully narrated 501st Journal. Now that I think about it, much of my love for Star Wars can be traced back to the first two Battlefront games. But that doesn't change that their dated mechanics and the unbalanced nature of their unrewarding tug-of-war matches don't hold up two decades later. And Aspyr Media does not address these issues in Star Wars: Battlefront Classic Collection, a collected pack of the two games, leaving them feeling like relics of a bygone era that aren't worth playing in this shape today.

Pandemic Studios' Battlefront and Battlefront 2 (not to be confused with EA DICE's 2015 Battlefront and 2017 Battlefront 2) are both shooters that focus on Star Wars' Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War periods, seeing you step into the boots of ordinary soldiers who participate in the conflicts. Mechanically, both games play very similarly to one another, though Battlefront 2 adds to the first with space battles, playable heroes (who are notable characters from the Star Wars movies like Yoda and Darth Vader), and a more story-driven campaign that ties into Revenge of the Sith.

The 501st Journal is still great.
The 501st Journal is still great.

Each army features four standard soldier archetypes. You've got your assault rifle-wielding standard trooper, long-range sniper user, heavy-hitting rocket launcher demolitionist, and a support soldier who excels at short-range combat and fixing up vehicles. Beyond those four, each army has additional special units--the Republic Clone Army has the jetpack-equipped Jet Trooper, for example, while the CIS has the roly-poly Droideka. Because the main units all handle the same for the most part, you don't have to learn entirely new mechanics for each class, while the more specialized troopers add a bit of distinct flair to each army. I like it--it makes it easy to pick up both games while also ensuring the gameplay doesn't grow stale quickly.

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Open Roads Review - Quick Trip

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I once read in a very profound article published in a very prestigious magazine (okay, it was a TikTok) that "daddy issues" make artists while "mommy issues" make writers. I can't attest to the science--or lack thereof--behind this statement, but as a writer born into a long line of guarded women who wielded pens as weapons, I can absolutely relate.

As such, I have a particular fondness for mother-daughter stories and the catharsis they can offer. When I heard the team behind Gone Home would be tackling the subject in their upcoming game Open Roads, I braced for a beautiful cross-country journey that would inevitably hit too close to home. However, while Open Roads has moments of relatability that are powered by solid dialogue, charming characters, and nostalgia, I was ultimately left underwhelmed by the walk-and-click exploration game. With a runtime too short to truly pull players in and an abrupt ending that leaves things feeling hastily resolved, Open Roads feels more like a pit stop than an adventure.

That's not to say the game's premise isn't interesting. Open Roads begins shortly after the death of the Devine family matriarch, Helen, and follows her daughter Opal and her granddaughter Tess as they cope with loss and what to do next. Throughout the entirety of the game, we play as Tess, a 16-year-old high school student who is every bit as strong-willed, cheeky, and hopeful as most 16-year-old girls are. On top of her grandmother's death, Tess is also processing her parents' recent separation and the loss of her home, as she and her mother lived with Helen but were not given the house upon her death.

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Pepper Grinder Review - Short And Spicy

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It only takes a glance to understand Pepper Grinder's inventive gimmick. A small girl named Pepper--a pirate by trade--wields a drill named Grinder that's roughly the size of her entire body. The gear allows her to grind through soft surfaces with ease, complete with the ability to launch out of the surface with a leap. That might have been enough to carry the game by itself, but what's most surprising about Pepper Grinder is its sheer variety. Though it's short, that brevity helps to make the campaign a no-filler thrill ride that continuously pushes the boundaries of its central mechanic.

It turns out Grinder is a pretty versatile tool, even regarding its most basic function. You can burrow through the ground, which immediately feels natural and smooth. At the same time, you can't simply turn on a dime with an instant about-face like a typical platformer--you have to handle turns by curving an arc out of your drilling path. Additionally, when you pop out of the surface of the dirt, you won't gain much distance unless you jump just before breaking through. Those little touches give the core mechanic a sense of finesse, imitating the feeling of a playful dolphin--or at least, a dolphin video game like the classic Ecco.

Once you get the hang of it, drilling through soil and leaping out of the surface in a perfect arc, only to catch another piece of soft ground in the distance and continue your digging, feels thrilling and acrobatic. The drillable surfaces are nicely differentiated from hard environmental pieces, so you quickly learn to read a level and see the path through it, evoking a feeling similar to performing a great run in Tony Hawk. Collectibles like gems are scattered strategically throughout the stages to both subtly guide your eye along the path, while also sometimes setting traps for your greed.

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MLB The Show 24 Review - Base Hit

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A lot of people will tell you that Hank Aaron is the greatest to ever play the game of baseball. Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, is one of those people, and it's easy to see why. You only have to look at Hammerin' Hank's stats--755 home runs and 3,771 hits in Major League Baseball--his outstanding consistency across 23 big league seasons, or the fact that he achieved all of this after such humble beginnings. Growing up, Aaron had few opportunities to play organized baseball. In fact, he had few opportunities to even use the right equipment. Instead, a young Henry Aaron would take his mom's broomstick and use it as a makeshift bat to hit bottlecaps--it's no wonder he ended up being so good.

I knew of Hank Aaron's incredible career, but supplemental details like this are part of what makes Storylines such a captivating and enlightening experience. If last year's game was all about introducing this brilliant and groundbreaking new mode, then MLB The Show 24 is more about fine-tuning the existing framework. This isn't an uncommon approach for annual sports games, and while Sony San Diego's latest baseball sim might not seem as fresh or exciting as last year's offering, it still plays an excellent game of baseball while possessing a tangible reverence for the sport's rich history and inherent romanticism. Players are more than just stats and numbers, after all.

This is where Storylines comes in, and it's once again the highlight of the whole package. Like any good TV series, MLB The Show 24 returns with a second season of The Negro Leagues, exploring an era of baseball that has often been overlooked and forgotten. At launch, there are four stories to play through, shining a spotlight on the aforementioned Henry "Hank" Aaron, as well as Josh Gibson, Walter "Buck" Leonard, and Toni Stone, with more set to arrive in forthcoming updates.

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Princess Peach Showtime Review - Drama Teacher

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Princess Peach, the prototypical video game damsel in distress, has had limited success with her own solo adventures. On the rare occasion that she's playable, she has typically been a sidekick in a larger adventure, like Super Mario RPG. Though she did land a starring role in Super Princess Peach, the game and its core mechanic—in which her powers were defined by wild mood swings—were a miss. Princess Peach Showtime is the latest attempt to make her own story, with nary a Mario or Luigi in sight, and this time she has come more into her own as an adventurer. More importantly, this solo outing seems primed at introducing new players to a wide variety of game genres. While veteran gamers will likely find the pacing too lethargic, it's nice that Nintendo is making such a clear overture to welcome new players.

And when I say that there's no Mario or Luigi, I mean at all. Nintendo's most iconic characters aren't even present in the intro, when Peach receives an invitation to come see the Sparkle Theater in a land occupied by Theets, little yellow creatures with bulbous noses. Upon arrival, the theater is taken over by a sorceress named Grape and her Sour Bunch goons, who kick out Peach's loyal Toad companions, misplacing her crown in the process, and proceed to corrupt all the plays. Peach finds a guardian of the playhouse, a fairy named Stella, who accompanies peach by taking the form of a ribbon in her hair. (When Peach puts her hair up into a ponytail, you know it's getting serious.) Stella is Peach's default weapon, letting you use a whip-like motion to magically change objects and enemies in the environment, and it's also the enabler for Peach's various transformations.

When Peach steps into a corrupted play, she finds a spark that lets her take on the role of its hero. These are broad archetypes like Swordfighter, Cowgirl, and Detective, and the 10 costume types allow for a broad range of different gameplay types. Once you've found your costumes in the first version of a stage, future stages of that type will start you with it already equipped. Each floor has four plays to conquer, after which you'll fight a boss and gain access to the next floor. It's all very easily understandable and flows nicely.

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