Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Adventure Pals Review

Browsing the recent release lineup for a co-op game to play together, my wife and I happened upon The Adventure Pals. The promotional art and trailer featured a boy riding on a cute cartoon giraffe (my wife’s favorite animal), so of course we had to check it out. Did we make the right call by picking out a game based on aesthetics alone? Some thoughts:

Adventure Pals is a 2D platformer with RPG elements about a boy and his pet giraffe set in a wacky cartoon world. While the boy has fairly standard moves (jumping, wall kicking, and sword swiping), the giraffe gives him the ability to swing from grapple points, fly by spinning the giraffe’s tongue like a helicopter rotor (yes, you read that right), and quickly swim underwater (I had no idea giraffes are amphibious). When playing in co-op mode, the second player controls a set of characters equivalent to the first player’s (i.e. a girl with a very giraffe-like unicorn pal). Each player also has a pet rock that gathers items for them and protects them from spikes).

  • When it comes to visuals, The Adventure Pals has charm and personality in spades. The goofy but cute look may be reminiscent of Adventure Time, but each of this game’s characters and enemies have a fun and unique design all of their own. The world design also looks fresh off a Saturday morning cartoon.
  • To complement the wacky visuals, there is equally bizarre and humorous writing and scenarios. Throughout the adventure, the titular pals reunite a farmer with his pig (that is also his wife), rescue elderly people that have been turned into hotdogs, and intervene in a conflict between dinosaurs and sentient pieces of toast. Seeing what weird thing would happen next was definitely part of the fun.
  • The Adventure Pals controls very well. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of the characters movesets. After a level or two, my wife and I were comboing up jumps, wall kicks, grappling, and ziplining to fling our characters around the map with ease. In general, platforming just felt good. Most combat can be gotten through just by mashing the sword swipe button, which is totally fine for this type of game.
  • Everything explodes. You may have noticed in some of my previous reviews (e.g. Just Cause 2), I like a game that lets you blow things up. The Adventure Pals delivers with exploding enemies and explosive barrels that can be launched into groups of enemies. Setting up chain reactions to take out enemy mobs instead of fighting them head on was very satisfying.
  • While getting from point A to point B in a given level is often straightforward, finding the optional collectables (i.e. cupcakes and stickers) provides an opportunity to really explore every little nook and cranny. Many of the levels seem simple at first but their intricacies become apparent if you take the time to find everything.
  • Collecting the cupcakes unlocks new hats for your human character and costumes for the pet rock. These ran the gamut of cute, funny, and weird. This was more than enough justification to scour each level thoroughly.

  • During our adventure, we ran into a few glitches that caused us to have to restart a level or deliberately kill our characters to reset a stage. For example, in one instance we locked our characters inside a room and in another case, clearing an area of enemies was supposed to trigger an event but nothing happened. These issues were infrequent enough to have minimal impact on our experience but were still a little jarring.
  • With all the chaos and explosions on screen, it can sometimes be hard to keep track your character’s location, especially with two players. Many of our combat deaths could be attributed to losing our characters on screen, or confusing one player’s character for the other.
  • Even though this is a 2D game, it seemed to put strain on the Nintendo Switch in some of the later stages resulting in frame rate drops and lag. There were only a few areas in the whole campaign where this came up, but it’s a shame that it was an issue at all. I’m not sure if this issue is Switch-specific or comes up on other versions of the game as well.

Overall, The Adventure Pals is a satisfying co-op 2D platforming experience that sets itself apart with quirky appeal. While I didn’t try it single-player, it may be a little too simplistic to play solo, but for those who have a partner and love cute cartoon creatures, The Adventure Pals comes highly recommended.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: About 10 hours (100% completion)

Adventure Pals is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PS4. If you’d like to listen to the game’s sound track while also supporting this blog, check it out on Amazon Music using the following affiliate link: Adventure Pals Soundtrack

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Beyond Oasis Review

 In an effort to fulfill the promise I made in my “Sega Gap” post, I decided to make my last game of #ARPGAugust something from the Sega Genesis library. After playing several other great games in the action RPG genre this year such as Blossom Tales and Ys, the bar was set quite high. Here’s how it faired:


Beyond Oasis is an action RPG that was originally released in 1994 for the Sega Genesis. In the game, the protagonist, Prince Ali, finds a golden armlet that gives him the ability to summon magical creatures. He travels around the kingdom to find new creatures to summon and hunt down his nemesis who wields the power of the silver armlet. The game has been a part of many Sega classic collections; I played it as part of the Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classics package on PC.

  • This game’s graphics look very sharp. The world features a bright color pallet and the large sprites feature a nice level of detail and distinct animations.
  • Rather than just slashing a sword like most ARPG characters, Ali has diverse arsenal of moves. In addition to sword swipes, he can punch, kick, perform areal strikes, and equip several types of swords, bows, and bombs. In combat, the way he moves reminds me of an arcade beat’em up game.
  • The summon creatures are Beyond Oasis’s defining feature. I liked that summoning requires using a feature of the environment that corresponds with the creature’s element. For example, summoning the water sprite requires aiming the golden armlet’s beam at a water feature. However, this isn’t just limited to the obvious lakes and streams, any source of water will work, even tiny drops of water coming from a cave ceiling. Similarly, the shade spirit, that’s summoned from mirrors, can be summoned off of other reflective surfaces, such as enemies wearing shiny metallic armor. Figuring out how and when to summon each creature and using their abilities to solve puzzles, is easily the most interesting part of the game.

  • Boss battles at the end of dungeons tend to be pretty dull. Most of them just consist of running around to avoid the enemies special attack, and then running in and spamming the attack button while they recharge. In some battles, I just abused healing items so that I could play sloppily and not worry if I got hit.
  • This game is viewed from a 3/4 top-down perspective but has segments that require precision platforming on tiny moving platforms. Also, Ali’s movements are very slippery. Thus, neither the game’s camera nor controls are set up for platforming, making these segments incredibly frustrating. I save-scummed my way through them.
  • While the summon creatures are fun to use for puzzle solving, they don’t control very well. Once summoned, they wander around on their own and the player has to wait for them to get into the right position before triggering one of their special moves. This was workable for puzzle solving, but made the creatures of little value in combat.
  • The story of this game is extremely bare bones, more comparable to an NES game than Beyond Oasis’s 16-bit contemporaries. Basically, because Ali found the Gold Armlet, it’s his destiny to gather the summon creatures and defeat the wielder of the Silver Armlet. Dialog in the game consists of short choppy sentences that don’t give the characters much personality. There is one noteworthy plot twist toward the end, but that lack of character personality or progression caused it to have little impact.
  • One of the reasons I was excited to play Beyond Oasis is that the soundtrack was composed by Yuzo Koshiro, who also composed the music in Ys series (which I absolutely love). I’m not sure what went wrong here, but I found that the music in Beyond Oasis sounded very out of place, at times to the point of being irritating.
Ultimately, the problem with Beyond Oasis is that it’s not deep enough for an RPG or adventure game, but not tight enough for an action game. With the exceptions of its summoning mechanics and graphics, the game feels more primitive than competing games in its genre that had come out before it such as Ys, A Link to the Past, and Illusion of Gaia. Despite, the game’s short length (< 7 hours), there were several points where I strongly considered dropping the game, putting Beyond Oasis firmly into sub 3-star territory.

Completion Time: 5 hours, 51 minutes

In stead of picking up Beyond Oasis, I would recomend picking up the similary named action RPG, Ever Oasis, for the 3DS. If you'd like to get this overlooked late-3DS gem while also supporting this blog, you can use this affliate link: Ever Oasis - 3DS 



Saturday, September 8, 2018

Dragon Con 2018

After having such a great time at last year's Dragon Con (highlights), we returned this year along with over 80,000 other geeks. I didn't do as much video game related activities at the Con this year as I did last year, but there were still a few interesting things to note:

Japanese Arcade

This year's Japanese Arcade featured some new additions. While gamers like to joke about Konami not making games anymore, they are still alive and well in the arcade scene; there was a wide variety of arcade games on display here, with many of them being by Konami.  Here's a rundown of some of the games I got to play:

Dance Evolution - Older dancing games like Dance Dance Revolution used buttons on the floor to track dancing moves. New ones like Dance Evolution use Xbox Kinect technology to track a player's whole body allowing for a wider variety of moves. I was terrible at this game, much like I am at actual dancing, so perhaps the simulation is too accurate?

Bishibashi Channel - Last year I got to play an older version of Bishibashi. This new version adds a rotating pad to the controls in addition to the buttons. Thus, the spastic collection of mini-games can get even weirder, like this foot-tickling one, for instance.

Scotto - This one felt like some kind of high tech fusion of beer pong and skeeball. The player bounces ping pong balls off of the white panel at the front of the cabinet into the goal basket. Depending on the game mode being played, you either have to rapidly bounce balls directly into the basket or accurately bank the ball off the glowing pads and then into the basket as directed on the screen. I did pretty well when I played this one; turns out those seemingly useless skills I developed playing drinking games in college came in handy!

Gunslinger Stratos 3 - In the West, people don't often think of Square Enix when they think about arcade games, but in Japan, it's another story. I had seen older versions of Square Enix's Gunslinger Stratos when I was in Japan several years ago, but this was my first opportunity to play it myself. It's a 3rd person arena shooter in which the player holds a lightgun in each hand while moving the character around using the analog sticks and buttons on the back of each gun. I only had the time to play it once, so I spent most of my time just trying to get the hang of the controls. Characters can jump and flip through the air and stages have a lot of verticality to them, so it seemed like some really fun arial battles would be possible if I had more time to get down the fundamentals.


I didn't see quite as much video game-related cosplay on the convention floor this year as I did last year. However, I did get to attend a gaming cosplay competition and visit a costume exhibit. For some of these events I didn't have the best vantage point and was reliant on my cell phone camera, so I apologize for some of the images that came out blurry or grainy. Anyway, here are some of the gaming costumes that stood out to me:

Silver Knight from Dark Souls
Ahri from League of Legends
Bastion from Overwatch
Skull Kid from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Junkrat from Overwatch
Monster Hunter
Gengar from Pokemon (kid's level of the contest)

Fallout Power Armor
Purple Wizard from Diablo 3

Blood Elf Paladin from World of Warcraft
Bunny Hutch Party: Shy Guy Bunny
Bunny Hutch Party: Bomberman Bunny
Overall, we had another great year at Dragon Con and are already looking forward to returning next year! I'm planning to attend some more gaming-focused cons in the future, so look forward to posts about those as well!

If reading this post has caused you to want to step up your cosplay game in time for Halloween, you can pick up costume supplies while also supporting this blog by using this affiliate link: 
Amazon Costume Department