Sunday, 22 July 2018

Asylum Reviews; Nidhogg 2 [Xbox One].


Nidhogg 2 is finally out on Xbox One, bringing us all of the gameplay we know and love from the original, but with a whole load of new tricks up its sleeve. And with two brand new, exclusive levels you've got even more reason to try it out if you haven't already. Some people felt that the first game was too basic: you went head to head with another player and using your fencing sword - otherwise known as a rapier, would battle it out very similarly to what we have on offer here. But with a single weapon, people felt it needed more. So that's what we got: you now begin each level (and after each death) with either your rapier, a broadsword, a dagger, or a bow and arrow, each with their own pros and cons. All can be tossed at your enemy, as an extra way of utilising them, but once you've tossed it, you then need to roll over another weapon otherwise you'll remain unarmed (and vulnerable) - but don't worry - you can always stomp the opponent to death if you have to!

First of all, we have Arcade Mode where the aim is to get to your side of the scrolling-screen the fastest when up against your enemy. You can fire arrows at them, stab them or chop them with your sword (or throw any of your weapons at them), in order to slow them down, allowing you to run past to advance further to your winning side. Or, you could just jump over them and force them to chase you! There are small boxes along the top of the screen that fill as you progress towards either your side, or the opponent's, where ultimately the winner will be gobbled up by the fabled Nidhogg, a huge grotesque worm. Playing the game alone is fun, but nothing extra special. Two-player is where it really shines.


Playing up against a real-life opponent with some couch co-op is the best part of Nidhogg 2. Screaming in frustration as your friend takes you down repeatedly, making it look like child's play to win, meanwhile you can't even advance a single screen on your side. A single game can vary from being just a couple minutes in length, all the way up to the double digits. It's a frustrating, yet satisfying back and forth between the two players, as you try to one-up and out smart each other.

We got the wee man involved and he instantly fell in love with the game. The challenge of going up against someone in such a fast paced environment, and with such a simple premise to the game, he was hooked. It also has a lot more replayability as a co-op game, since you can continue to challenge other friends and family, whereas in Single Player it can be beaten in as little as an hour - leaving you no real need to ever go back aside for multiplayer.


There's also an even more chaotic Tournament mode, which allows up to eight players to face off. Cheats can also be utilised, adding another fun layer to the game - you can choose to set it to low gravity, or limit what weapons can be used or even add a timer to make it more of a panic to get to your side before the time is up.

And of course, I can't exactly review this without mentioning the graphics. Vastly different from the original Nidhogg, Nidhogg 2 ditches the simple pixel sprites from before for bulging lumps of brightly coloured flesh. The backgrounds and environments have taken a turn for the gross as well, with some people feeling disappointed in the new look. Frankly, we found the new look to be quite fitting with the humour of the game and feel that it wouldn't quite be the same without these disgustingly hilarious characters. The settings are varied and interesting to look at and the soundtrack is also fantastic, fitting really well with the game.


Overall we'd recommend people to check out Nidhogg 2, particularly if you're looking for a good couch co-op game for having friends over. We gave it the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

Have you played Nidhogg 2? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Asylum Reviews; Agony [Xbox One].


A hellish survival-horror, Agony was developed by Madmind Studio and published by Playway after being funded via Kickstarter back in 2016. Fun fact - the Kickstarter campaign was started on Halloween, which is quite fitting given the tone of the game. The game raised a total of $182,642 (Canadian dollars), and had an original expected release date of March 2017, so at just over a year late, it ended up pretty par for the course in terms of Kickstarter games.

In Agony, you'll begin as a tormented soul down in the depths of Hell. You have no memories of your past, and you must find a way to survive. The only thing you remember is that hell is under the power of the Red Goddess, so you must find her to get freedom. Special powers allow you to control or possess weak-minded demons, which helps you to progress further in the game. There's also a lot of fetch quests plus puzzles, but these can often feel quite repetitive and used as filler to pad out the 9-10 hour game play time. 


Originally rated by the ESRB as Adults Only, the developers had to slightly tone down the gore of the game in order to grant it a Mature rating instead, to ensure that they would be able to fulfill their promises to backers of the Kickstarter campaign. A patch to restore the original version was discussed but caused further controversy, so it's still up in the air as of now.

Considering all of the gore and nudity throughout the game, I'm surprised to hear that this is it "toned down". The gore, whilst initially quite gruesome, felt tame by the end as there's just so much of it. All of the naked boobies, bodies completely ripped to shreds, rotting foetuses and full blown orgies also were not as unexpected as I felt they should have been, which took away some of the effect. These things were to create a sense of shock, and dare I say it - horror - when you come across them, but instead you're just completely desensitized to the inclusion of it all in the game, pretty quickly.


The environments are extremely well detailed, and you can tell that a lot of time and effort has gone into making each and every location look as creepy and hellish as possible. You can feel the pulsating blood coursing through all of the bodies and flesh making up the architecture. It's impressively done, but it is all done to such a high-level of creepiness that it does detract away from itself in a way.

Enemy design, in comparison, is quite tame and boring. Fairly bog standard quality enemies which was definitely quite a disappointment. You've got the whole of hell to play with, and come up with all of these crazy ideas, yet these are the enemies we're landed with? Enemies are pretty damn strong, most times killing us in just a few quick hits after spotting us - and believe me, it's easy to be spotted - which can completely kill all of your drive to play the game for a while as checkpoints are so few and far between (and crazily well-hidden) that a pointless death will often rob you of a good 30 minutes to an hour of work.


Once you're killed, you have a short amount of time available to find yourself a new body to possess in order to keep going, otherwise it's back to the last checkpoint for you. This info isn't clearly given to you as a player, meaning that without this knowledge, you're likely to succumb more than what would really be necessary.

Sound design really adds to the creepiness of the game, and the general atmosphere leaves you on edge and constantly tensing up in preparation for various jump scares that can catch you off guard. I feel that without the creepy noises and slight changes in music to determine when an enemy was near really caused an anxiety spike, and helped the game out a lot in terms of scariness - without actually being an overly scary game, per se.


Overall, we enjoyed Agony, but didn't find it as great as we'd hoped, so we decided to give it the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Eh... *shrug*

Have you played Agony? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Friday, 15 June 2018

Asylum Reviews; Moonlighter [Xbox One].



The basic premise of Moonlighter is fairly straightforward. You work your way through dungeons, killing monsters and gaining loot. This loot is then either sold through your shop, or used to upgrade your stuff. The pixel-art style immediately appealed to us, as well as the rogue-lite gameplay. Everything is colourful, and a joy to look at. You play as Will, an "adventurous shopkeeper" who runs his own business in the small village of Rynoka. Five ancient gates that were discovered nearby each lead to different worlds. You must interact with the villagers to determine what stuff they'd like to buy, so that you know what to hunt for in these realms, to stock your shop.

These five "dungeons" (with three levels each) must be completed in a set order, so you might be worried that you'll blast through all of Moonlighter pretty quickly, but no, its rogue-lite play style means that each time you enter a gate, the layout and enemies are completely randomised, giving you tonnes of replayability as well as unlimited access to potentially new, rare items to sell to the villagers of Rynoka, or use to craft new items and equipment.


Making your way through these dungeons can be quite a challenge: the combat isn't the smoothest. You have only two types of moves, as well as the ability to dodge and whilst the animation of an attack is still in play, you are unable to change direction quickly which can often leave you open for attack. Movement, at least on Xbox, is tied to the left analog stick, and attacking with the A button. We both felt that utilising the style of twin-stick shooters would have vastly improved the combat.

Entering the final gate, which is locked by four keys (hidden behind each of the other gates) is Will's ultimate goal to becoming a hero. Will's grandfather hopes that restoring your late father's shop will breathe life back into it, and the village, so searching for all of the finest loot helps serve his goal too.


Keeping your shop stocked, and frantically running back and forth to adjust item prices to keep customers happy was surprisingly quite an enjoyable experience. It gave far more weight to the shopkeep side of things, instead of focusing mainly on the dungeon crawling.

As you bring more customers to the area, it will begin to thrive. New businesses will open and the village of Rynoka will start to boom. Customers will flock in the moment you open your shop each day, before perusing your stock and alerting you to their opinions on stock and pricing. You are able to upgrade your store to be able to hold more items for sale, encourage people to buy, etc. 


Enemies are not too varied, and feel very similar to each other, aside from a different colour. The bosses on the other hand are well designed, with far more variety and clear amount of time spent on their appearance. The score is very fitting for the game, with nostalgic, calming tunes. It's reminiscent of early Nintendo games, and I really loved the way the music tied in.

As well as the wide variety of loot you can collect whilst making your way through the dungeons, you may also come across cursed items. These items will show a small arrow, pointing in the direction of which item will be affected, meaning that some careful consideration is required when placing items in your bag.


Another thing we really liked was the ability to bring in employees to your shop, allowing them to manage the shop on your behalf. You can also accept quests from NPCs for items that they are looking for, in order to specifically track down particular loot when taking on enemies behind each gate.

Items gained from enemies, such as cores from the Golems can be sold at your shop for a high price, but not permanently. The customers are smart, and will quickly lose interest in certain items if they have no use/serve no purpose for them, so deciding when to call it quits from a dungeon based on the loot you've gained so far can be a guessing game sometimes.


Aside from a few niggles here and there, we really enjoyed Moonlighter, so we decided to give it the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

This was teetering on the edge of being a Gie it a Go! rating, however it just clinched that higher rating, and at just £16.74 on the Xbox Store, there's no excuse not to try it out.

Have you played Moonlighter? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Asylum Reviews; ONRUSH [Xbox One].


ONRUSH is like no other racing game you'll play this year. It's more vehicular combat than racing, but still has those chase your enemies to the finish moments of games typical of the genre. Teams of players take each other out in an aim to gain the most points during the race, and that defines the winner. No first to cross the finish line here.

Four game modes give players the choice to play as they like. Overdrive allows teams to score points by boosting - and to gain boost, you must take out enemy vehicles and performs tricks, whichever team reaches the target score first, wins. Countdown has you racing against the timer to hit checkpoints - and these checkpoints boost time. Once one team hits zero on their timer, the other team wins the point. Switch gives each player three lives and they must take each other out. With each death, you will respawn with a better, more powerful vehicle in order to give you a little bit of an edge, right up until you're wiped out completely. Finally, we have Lockdown which is "King-of-the-Hill" style, where teams must chase a zone along the track, remaining within the glowing area in order to gain points. Each game mode is really fun, and a Ranked mode is "coming soon" so this gives people incentive to keep coming back.


We encountered an odd bug whilst playing - although it looks like some other people online did, too - where loading into the main menu (even to begin with) would nil out the sound. The only fix we came across was to play with headphones plugged in, as nothing else seemed to work. You don't realise how much you rely on sound in games until you suddenly don't have it, so we'd have been even more gutted if there was no workaround at all. The sound, when it works, is glorious, with the crunching of vehicles annihilating each other, and the soundtrack is really fitting - especially when using your boost and doing tricks and flips along the track.

When playing, your team is easily identifiable as being all of the blue vehicles, with your enemies being orange. There are other white-outlined ones too, known as Fodder, that are AI vehicles you can take out in order to increase your boost. As well as your boost, you have a Rush meter. This is like a super-charged boost, that makes you all the more powerful when blasting round the tracks. The smashed up vehicles look great too, and seeing the million bits shatter everywhere after a particularly well-timed takedown is done perfectly.


As well as being a fantastic online experience, ONRUSH also has a Single Player mode which enables you to play against AI vehicles, to work your way through the Superstar Career to win the ONRUSH Founder's Trophy. Couch co-op would have been a great addition, as smashing apart the opposition with your buddy would be so much fun.

There are eight different vehicle classe, each with their own abilities, which is good as it allows you ample time to totally get to grips with each one - instead of being a seemingly limitless amount that you'll never perfect. You can customise your vehicles, as well as your character with skins gained from Loot Boxes earned through levelling up (in both Single player and Multiplayer). You can also customise your tombstone, which other players can smash through once you die in order to gain extra boost.


In the end we gave ONRUSH the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

Have you played it yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Microsoft Predictions [E3 2018].

As with the EA Predictions post, I have left it right until the last minute to post out E3 predictions for Microsoft. This is purely down to thinking we have plenty of time, but with kids, who did we think we were kidding? We have precisely zero time haha. Anyway, we're really excited for what Microsoft may bring tonight.

Halo.
- We need to see some more Halo. If they can hit us with a trailer as epic and emotional as the Halo 3 "Believe" trailer, we'll be sold.

Fable.
- With Lionhead gone, the fate of Fable is still fairly up in the air. We really hope to see another instalment in the core games line.

Indies.
- Microsoft usually has a good line up of Indies shown and this year should be no exception. The next Ori game should be shown and no doubt many others will have a small glimpse teased to us all.

Gears of War.
- Expecting another Gears of War game, probably with a fairly soon release date.

Crackdown 3.
- More will be shown on Crackdown 3, gameplay, possibly a live demo.

Forza.
- Of course we will get some more Forza. It's been a staple of many of the past years.

What are you expecting/hoping for?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Asylum Reviews; Aragami: Shadow Edition [Xbox One].


Despite already owning Aragami on PS4, we'd never gotten around to properly playing through it due to simply having too many games to get through at once. It reminds us of the old Tenchu games, and really interested us due to it's beautiful Japanese art-style. With the release of Aragami: Shadow Edition, encapsulating the main game as well as the Nightfall expansion, for the first time on Xbox One, it was the perfect reason for us to finally dig in.

The game is mainly designed to be played as stealthily as possible, with enemies, the Kaiho, having the ability to one-hit kill you with the Light from their swords. They can also throw this Light from a distance, which can sometimes take you by surprise. When an enemy spots you, you can quickly try to kill them before they alert others in the area, however Aragami is sometimes pretty slow and stuttery in his movement when in an enemy's sight. Other times you can quickly kill multiple enemies in a row before they can react, but that's not as often. 


You can kill enemies in a variety of ways, including Stealth Kills, Aerial Kills, and utilising your upgraded skills to take out multiple enemies at once with the Shinen ability - pulling nearby enemies into a black hole, simultaenously killing them and hiding their bodies with ease. Frustratingly, other enemies who are within sight of this black hole engulfing their friends will completely ignore it, oblivious to the fact that their friends are now gone. In order to gain upgrades, you must obtain Skill Points, which you get from collectable Scrolls hidden around the chapters.

Upgraded abilities take away some of the impossibility of your plan of attack, wiping out Archers with the Kunai ability, and distracting a group of guards with Sakkaku (which creates a shadow decoy) and of course, my most commonly used ability: Banmoku, which reveals the location of nearby enemies (and once upgraded, will have them marked with a detection meter, which changes colour depending on if they are suspicious or not). Taking enemies out one by one whilst never being spotted feels great, although an enemy counter of some sort would have been a fantastic addition as finishing a level only to not be awarded the Oni medal is super frustrating when you thought you'd wiped out every last enemy. 


As with all games, and stealth games in particular: I'm a panicker. I get quite badly agitated after my first death, and will then fail repeatedly in a short time due to trying to rush. Each chapter can go on for quite a long time, and the checkpoints can be quite spread out, so if a silly mistake kills you/gets you spotted, going back to the last checkpoint can be quite a way back. 

I liked to explore the maps to make sure I'd gotten all of the enemies as you get medals for completing: Oni for killing all enemies, Kami for no kills, and Yurei for never being detected. This means you'll need to play every level at least twice in order to get all of the medals. Whilst exploring on one of the chapters: Mausoleum of the Fallen, I came across a glitch which allowed me to bypass a door and end up outside of the map. I could run for miles through trees, and work my way around some of the exterior of the castle, but the only way back in was through a slightly open portcullis that I could aim my shadow leap through. This however advanced me a little on the map, meaning I then had to backtrack a bit to ensure all of the enemies had been wiped out.


Enemies are not very varied, being either Light soldiers roaming the map waiting to get you with their sword, or archers, aside from the "Boss" type characters. They don't have much in the way of individuality between them, so I would have liked to see a little bit more variation in their character design, but this is a common thing with games on the cheaper end of the scale (and even some big-budget ones) so it's not something that bothered me too much whilst playing.

The story, while not too extravagant, did keep me interested and wanting to know what exactly was my purpose as an Aragami. You are summoned by the astral projection of Yamiko, a girl held captive by the Kaiho, in order to help free her by collecting her talismans. Memories and flashbacks are experienced by Aragami as the story goes on, and makes you wonder if there's more to your summoning than first thought. Sound design is fantastic too, with fitting music throughout. Enemies are fairly silent in their movements however, which could have been doing with being a little louder in order to add an extra layer for keeping track of nearby guards.


The contrast between light and dark is done really well, which it should be considering how important the shadows are to your character. You fleet from shadow to shadow to work your way through the map - staying in the light too long will drain your "Essence" and make you more noticeable to enemies, so sticking to the darker areas makes all the difference.  It's also an interesting situation to have to enemy side be that of "Light" and you, the good guy being dark, which isn't very common. The art is gorgeous, and I really enjoy looking at all of the locations throughout the game: the Japanese architecture, and the beautiful backdrops.

The newly added Nightfall expansion is no different, still absolutely gorgeous and adds an extra four chapters to the Aragami story. These take place directly prior to the events of the main game, and fill in some of the gaps. There are two new playable characters, Hyo and Shinobu with all new Powers, who are searching for the Alchemist. You can also choose between playing single-player or online co-op, which is a fantastic addition, and adds a fun new element to the game.

In the end, we decided to give Aragami: Shadow Edition the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

Have you played Aragami: Shadow Edition? What did you think about it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Saturday, 9 June 2018

EA Predictions [E3 2018].

With less than five minutes to go until EA's E3 2018 Press Conference, we thought now would be as good a time as any to give a little run-down of what we're expecting (and/or hoping) to see.

Battlefield V.
- Already announced, EA will obviously be going into more detail with Battlefield V.

Definitely more Star Wars.
- EA has already killed Visceral Games, so open-world Star Wars games are left hanging. Battlefront II suffered some poorer reviews in the beginning, and EA have been trying to right those wrongs, but something new and fresh may just be what we're needing from EA with Star Wars.

Anthem.
- Due to launch in 2019, Anthem was officially announced at last year's E3. We expect there will be more information, as well as a decent amount of gameplay. Bioware have been hit with some negative press recently due to the Tweets of two employees (although I think one has now been terminated?) mocking the death of John "TotalBiscuit" Bain. Despite the comments being strictly denounced as not being the views of Bioware as a whole, a lot of angry fans called for boycotts of Anthem. I'm sure they will be looking to gain some public support after this.

EA Sports Line up.
- We know what to expect here. Even with the addition of things like story mode in FIFA, this section always plays out fairly similarly each year. FIFA, NFL, Madden, these will all get a significant portion of the conference.

Indies
- Really hope to see more from EA in terms of Indie games. Unravel was a favourite of ours, and we'd love to see something else that gets such a positive reaction.

What are you expecting of EA's Press Conference? 
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Asylum Reviews; Nidhogg 2 [Xbox One].

Nidhogg 2 is finally out on Xbox One, bringing us all of the gameplay we know and love from the original, but with a whole load of new ...