Review of Madden NFL ’20 — Leather or laces?

For the kids, August means it’s time to go back to school.  But for fans of sports games, August means it’s time for another game of virtual pigskin.  The 30th iteration of EA Sports’ iconic Madden NFL franchise has stepped onto the gridiron, bringing with it some obligatory tweaks and things that might remind you of features from older titles.  So without further ado, let’s take the field and discuss where Madden ’20 completes its passes and where it loses a few yards.

Commander in Kansas City Chiefs

This year, the folks at EA heavily hyped up how much more important each of the teams’ star players are in terms of their stats and statistics, meaning that the difference between them and lesser-known players is bigger than ever.  That might sound like a weird thing to advertise regarding sports games, but it’s not something to sneeze at.  On the field, the controls for things like catching and blocking are tighter than they were last year.  As for game modes, one has been added/brought back and one has been sacked.  The “Longshot” mode has been replaced by “Face of the Franchise: QB1.” After the College Football Playoff, you enter the NFL Draft and it’s on from there.  This mode is basically supposed to bring back memories of the “Superstar” mode that has been absent since Madden 25.  Also, this mode includes ten officially-licensed NCAA teams, which might be foreshadowing a future return of the NCAA Football series (I ain’t gonna bank on that, though).  Unfortunately, existing modes like Franchise and Ultimate Team haven’t had any highly-noticeable upgrades, but at least they’re not broken or unrefined.

The Colts of personality

Not much has changed within the graphics engine, but the animations and physics look a lot smoother than they did last year.  What stood out to more than the graphics was the much-improved chatter from all the players on the field.  Another change with the audio is that the soundtrack only contains songs specifically composed for the game by a variety of well-known artists.  It’s mainly full of rap, which isn’t my favorite genre, but you’ll be satisfied if that’s your cup of tea.

Don’t get mad, get Madden

It may hit the uprights here and there, but Madden ’20 is still a fun game of football that manages to complete the passes that matter.  Whether you’re an adamant sports gamer or a member of a family of football diehards, this year’s installment is another well-produced dose of gridiron goodness for both newbies and veterans of what is probably the most influential franchise in all of sports games.

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Review of Mischief Makers — Shake-shaking things up

If there was anything the Nintendo 64 was knee-deep in, it was platforming games. Not only was Super Mario 64 an absolute masterpiece in the genre, but there were a handful of second and third-party platform gems in the 64-bit console’s library. And no matter how obscure a game may be, you know it has a strong cult-following when lots of gamers request it to be re-released on a digital marketplace…Which brings us to a 1997 2.5D platformer called Mischief Makers, developed by the fine folks at Treasure.

Stop and shake it

To set the scene, the Planet Clancer is faced with the growing possibility of war, not to mention the Emperor is tricking the inhabitants, known simply as Clancers, into doing indisputably evil things. The brainwashed Clancers kidnap one of the planet’s visitors, that being the robotic mastermind Professor Theo. Luckily for him, the professor’s robotic assistant Marina Liteyears witnesses the capturing, and she sets off on a journey to not only bring her creator to safety, but also protect Planet Clancer from all of the threats that are about to unfold.

Every level puts your 2D platforming skills to the test. And thankfully, Marina has plenty up her…Robots have sleeves, right? Marina can perform both normal and long jumps, and the C buttons grant her special moves like rolling, sliding, and even boosting herself in any direction. However, these moves are afterthoughts compared to the game’s emphasis on grabbing and shaking the many objects and NPC’s you’ll come across. Grabbing things in mid-air and launching yourself towards platforms far away from you will become very vital as your journey progresses. Along with a truckload of platforming playgrounds, you’ll be faced with a handful of boss fights against rogue Clancers and other cold-hearted villains.

Shaking, not stirring

For a 1997 N64 game, Mischief Makers is full of good-looking level backgrounds, well-animated characters, and above-average cutscenes that some gamers may have thought the N64 just couldn’t pull off. In terms of sounds, you’re not gonna hear a lot of voice-acting (Although it was performed well) due to the console’s limitations, but you’ll still be treated with plenty of well-composed songs that are very fitting for each level and boss fight you go through.

In terms of replay value, Mischief Makers‘ length depends on how long you are willing to explore each level and whether or not you can succeed at the bonus tasks in the special events. If you’re good enough, you’ll be able to find all the gold crystals, one of which is found in each level. The amount of gold crystals you have at the end of the adventure determines how long the ending will be, so you’re gonna need a lot of patience and platforming prowess if you want the full experience.

No tomfoolery, no hijinx, just mischief

Just because a game falls under the radar due to its console’s heavyweight-filled catalog doesn’t mean it’s a meaningless game, and Mischief Makers strongly proves that. It doesn’t fit into the same league as heavily-revered platformers like Super Mario 64, but if you’re looking for an obscure platformer with an entertaining (And sometimes funny) plot and a deep pool of replay value, Mischief Makers will not disappoint you. Also, I don’t recommend taking a shot for every time Marina says “Shake, shake!” Alcohol and robotics don’t mix!

Review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — Did you say “chocolate?”

Remember the 2005 film adaptation of the classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That movie was heavily hyped up before it came to theaters, and for good reason. Tim Burton was in the director’s chair, Johnny Depp portrayed the internationally-famous Willy Wonka, and it was the first time since 1971 that Roald Doahl’s masterpiece came to the big screen. The film itself was a dark and quirky remake, but I found it to be a well-made piece of cinema full of hilarious one-liners and catchy musical numbers. And as I saw in its heavily-replayed commercial, the folks at Take-Two Interactive and High Voltage Software were turning this into a videogame that combined puzzles with action-platforming. Not gonna lie, this game kinda became a guilty pleasure in my library, and it’s my job to tell you about all the interesting features in this game’s…Inventing room, so to speak. Television-Chocolate goggles at the ready!

Sideways, longways, slantways

The beginning of the story is not surprising if you’ve already seen the film, although the plot as a whole has been tweaked for the purposes of the game. Charlie Bucket dreams of visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and the notorious candy man ironically announces that he is allowing five children to do just that, as long as they are in possession of a golden ticket hidden in a random Wonka Bar. Quickly, four tickets have been found, meaning Charlie has only one slim chance to make his dream a reality. And then out of nowhere, a $10 bill flies in and leads the boy to the local candy store. By some miracle, Charlie finds the final golden ticket and rushes home to gear up for the journey that awaits him. He chooses his Grandpa Joe as his chaperone, as the latter used to work for Mr. Wonka before the factory closed down. The tour seems to start off swimmingly…But just like in the movie, four of the five children end up in danger and cause huge problems within the factory due to their self-indulgent behavior. It’s up to you and Charlie to travel through many prominent rooms, solve a variety of puzzles, and repair the giant factory from all the issues that are about to develop.

Each level tasks you with doing some action-platforming and puzzle-solving through the factory’s most important rooms. You won’t be able to handle all of the incoming tasks by yourself, and who better to help you than the miniature assistants known as Oompa-Loompas. They’re pretty much this game’s equivalent of Pikmin, and are able to perform tasks like picking up important items, knocking candy out of trees, fixing leaky pipes, and repairing electrical devices. As the adventure goes on, you’ll be given special candy that will help you reach high places and do combat with machines gone rogue.

Everybody give a cheer

The graphics don’t do anything mind-blowing, but as long as you have the Xbox version, the resolution will be high and you’ll hardly encounter slow framerates. Each room in the factory looks very well-made, as do the character models. The game’s camera might occasionally interfere with your ability to admire how breathtaking the factory is, but it’s not a broken camera by any means.

I’ve probably said this about the majority of games I’ve reviewed on this site, but I’m gonna say it again here — I absolutely adore the audio in this game. Nearly all of the actors and actresses from the film reprise their roles, and the script is nearly identical to that of the movie. One thing to note is that Johnny Depp was not available to reprise his role as Willy Wonka, but James Arnold Taylor does a very nice imitation. I feel this version of Mr. Wonka is wise rather than over-the-top, and I don’t mean that as a complaint…Just giving my honest point of view. But what I love more than the voice-acting is (You guessed it!) the music. If you’re expecting a Danny Elfman score filled with Oompa-Loompa dances, you’re not gonna be satisfied, but you still get a laundry list of incredible songs courtesy of the talented Winifred Philips. The melodies are either really cheerful or on the dark-and-moody side depending on the room you’re in and the task you’re faced with, and all of them fit perfectly considering how up-and-down the film is in terms of emotion.

With a golden ticket, it’s a golden day

It’s not one of the best movie tie-in games in existence, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not without merit despite its short length and imitations of established franchises. Even if you weren’t fan of the big-screen remake upon which it’s based, it’s still a satisfactory and charming game if you like platforming and puzzles. Just don’t try playing this game while simultaneously dancing like an Oompa-Loompa…That would probably be as safe as testing out the three-course dinner chewing gum.

Microsoft E3 2019

What will Microsoft be bringing for E3? Halo Infinite? A new console? Some new exclusives? Being one of the only major game studios to make E3 this year they have a lot  of pressure to bring it. So will they?

The presentation opens with a game trailer. Looks to be Obsidian’s Outer Worlds and the long awaited release date. October 25, 2019. Lots of dialogue and fun outer space shenanigans.

Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Sesua’s Sacrifice), recently purchased by Microsoft, revealing Bleeding Edge. I am getting a sort of Sunset Overdrive/punk feel for the game. Technical Alpha for the game starts June 27.

Next up, looks like a new Ori and the Blind Forest game. Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Feb 11 2020.

From the creators of Minecraft (the less controversial creators anyway) Minecraft Dungeons which will be coming in Spring 2020 along with 4 player local and online coop.

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, taking the stage. Phil has always been a man who talks about gamers and since he took over Xbox a few years ago, he has shifted the direction of the company to make Xbox more welcome to gamers of any kind. 60 games will be shown during the presentation, along with some detail on the the Cloud and Project Scarlett, Xbox’s new console.

EA’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order trailer follows. Uncharted meets lightsabers. I am so down.

Trailer for a horror game. Remnants of Alan Wake? Definitely getting an Alan Wake vibe with this one, the flashlight, the monsters. But no. It’s the Blair Witch. Coming August 30.

Cyberpunk 2077 with a pretty groovy cinematic trailer showing us a scene that is gory and ends with a nice surprise. Keanu Reeves is in this game. And Keanu Reeves is on the stage to give us the release date for the game. April 16, 2020.

Spiritfarer A cutesy building and adventure game. One that will be available via Game Pass on Day One.

Battletoads! Comes with a very cartoony style that I dig and of course 3 player couch coop. No word on release date yet.

The Legend of Wright. I am not sure what this game is, it could be absolutely brilliant or absolutely awful. My interest is piqued and it certainly looks like the most original game I have seen in some time.

Sarah Bond, head of Xbox Partnerships. All ID games show up on Game Pass on Day One. Arkham Knight, Metro Exodus, Hollow Knight, and The Borderlands: Handsome Collection come to the Game Pass today. She also touched on a few of the games that will be available for the PC Game Pass. Over 100 games at launch, including Imperator Rome, Football Manager 2019, and the Master Chief Collection, starting with Halo Reach. The beta for Game Pass starts today.

Next she brought up Game Pass Ultimate. Console Game Pass, PC Game Pass, and Xbox Live for 14.99 a month. And if you sign up today. it is ONE DOLLAR. And that will upgrade your membership for however much time you have left on your Live service. (Side note: Several new games were released on Game Pass today: Thimbleweed Park, Guacamelee 2, Shenmue 1 & 2, Bridge Constructor Portal, and much more.)

World premier trailer. Powered by Satellite data and Azure AI Microsoft Flight Simulator is back. This title was huge on PC and now it is getting a modern revamp and will be available on PC and console.

Not a surprising announcement but Age of Empires II Definitive, fully remastered in 4k with new quest lines. Fall.  PC

Wacky trailer up next. As Colorado and Colorado Springs are mentioned almost 130,000 times, I can only assume the state had a hand in the game. It’s a trailer for Wasteland 3. A series… I have yet to play.

Matt Booty, head of Xbox Games Studio. Talking about the studios Microsoft purchased. He introduces Tim Schafer the head of Double Fine Productions (Brutal Legend, Broken Age, PsychoNauts) Tim Schaefer introduces us to PsychoNauts 2.

World Premier: Star Wars. Lego The Skywalker Saga All nine films one game. It does not look like they are retreadeding the old games and that this is all new, but I could be mistaken.

Dragonball Project Z RPG.

World Premier. 12 Minutes. This game looks fantastically interesting. A man is caught in a time loop. Interesting premise. Hopefully find out more soon.

Way to the Woods. You play a deer with a younger deer and wander through subways and stuff. It looks cute.

Gears of War 5 trailer with the best eyebrow lift I have seen in gaming. The game arrives on September 10th, but you can play four days early by preordering or being a member of Game Pass. There is a stress test on July 17th for multiplayer. And if you preorder or play during the first week you will get a Terminator: Dark Fate character pack.

New Elite Controller Series 2. More elite-er and probably more expensive than I could afford, but it does look very bad ass.

Dying Light 2. Spring 2020

World Premier. Lego Speed Champions expansion for Forza Horizon 4. I just got “Everything is Awesome” out of my head… annnnnnd now it’s back.

Pop Funko and Gear have joined up for a mobile game. No, I’m serious.

State of Decay 2 Heartland. New expansion to the game available today to owners of the game or Game Pass subscribers. Appears to have some branching story paths.

World Premier. Japan’s biggest MMO coming to Xbox with cross play. Phantasy Star Online 2.

Crossfire X, a PC legend, according to Microsoft will be coming to Xbox in 2020.

World Premier. Tales of Arise trailer and 2020 release date.

Followed by a Borderlands 3 trailer.

World Premier. Miyazaki and Martin. Two names that have me curious as hell about this game. Elden Ring.

And finally, Phil Spencer is onstage to talk about the next console. It will be 4 times more powerful than the Xbox One X, with a focus on smaller loading times and will come with a Solid State Drive. It launches in Holiday of 2020 and it launches with Halo Infinite.

So that was Microsoft E3 2019, what did you all think? Anything you are jonesing for? For this writer I am looking forward to Outer Worlds, 12 Minutes, Elden Ring and Cyberpunk 2077. It is a good time to be a gamer.

Review of Team Sonic Racing — What’s gonna work? Teamwork!

I know I’ve already said this in at least one review that I did, but I’m gonna say it again — I am a racing-game fanatic. Few things in videogames get my adrenaline pumping as much as fighting my way through a motor-filled hullabaloo. And after covering popular series like Daytona USA and Burnout, I thought I’d jump back in the cockpit to talk about this new racer involving everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog. Team Sonic Racing has finally taken the green flag, and has a whole bunch of tricks up of its sleeve in an attempt to both imitate Mario Kart and stand out in the garage. Let’s pull up to the starting grid and chat about this thing for a few laps.

Gotta drive faster, faster, faster-faster-faster

It’s not very often you find a story in a kart racer, but Team Sonic Racing has one under the hood. To set the scene, a mustachioed Tanuki named Dodon Pa has recruited Sonic and co. to race through a handful of prominent environments that make up Sega’s flagship franchise. Needing a well-earned break from sending evil robots to the junkyard, the blue hedgehog and his cheris bust out their lovely sports cars and accept Dodon’s invitation regardless of how “shady” they think he comes across as.

Of course, the story would bust a flat if the racing itself didn’t deliver the goods, but the racing is as tasty as all those chili dogs Sonic’s been cooking up for years. The team at Sumo Digital has incorporated a unique style of team-based racing that even Mario Kart hasn’t attempted. During team races, you’ve got a couple of teammates that you can slipstream and swap items with. Working as a team, doing some drifting, and pulling off air tricks fill up a Team Ultimate meter. When you activate a Team Ultimate, you and your teammates get a short period of unlimited boost, and you can even spin out your rivals by simply making contact with their cars. Combine all of the above with tight controls and a well-designed roster of tracks, and you’ve got an addicting arcade racer in front of you.

Turn the car into the wind

Like a loaf of bread, it’s important that a video game of any kind has good sound, and Team Sonic Racing passes that test with ease. The voice-acting is above-average and full of lines that may make you laugh out loud. But more importantly, the music in this racer will give you an adrenaline rush you’ll want to have in multiple servings. Notable artists like Crush 40, Hyper Potions, and Tee Lopes have done a stellar job composing new melodies and remixing a truckload of past bangers.

If you’re gonna make a kart racer, you’d be mistaken big-time if you didn’t include good multiplayer, and you will find plenty of fun multiplayer in Team Sonic Racing. 12 players can be in one lobby, and those slots are allowed to be taken by someone playing via split-screen (Four players per TV). You’ll also find a variety of race types including solo races, team races, King of the Hill, Ring Challenge, and Traffic Attack. And if you want your ride to stand out, you can earn new paint jobs, horns, and attribute upgrades.

A way-past-cool racer

It can be difficult to make a game look unique in a heavily-flooded genre, but Sega and Sumo Digital have managed to put the pieces together for this exhilarating kart racer. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the most famous anthropomorphic hedgehog, you should take Team Sonic Racing for a test drive if you’re adept at arcade-style racing games. Put down the chili dog and keep both hands on the wheel!

Review of That’s You! — The first hurrah in Sony’s PlayLink lineup

Few things in this gigantic world are as humorous as us trying to introduce our relatives to today’s technologies — Smartphones, Skype, DVR’s, social media, you name it. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles have all gotten the hang of at least most of the above; But sadly, I can’t quite get their attention with videogames. Now maybe if I teach them to play a videogame using a phone instead of normal gamepads, there’s a chance we could find some sort of sweet spot, if that makes any sense. And yes, such a preamble is needed because of what game I’m commencing to review.

That’s You is a humorous PS4 party game that’s part of Sony’s PlayLink brand, a lineup of games that are played on mobile devices via an app downloaded from the app store that players have access to; In fact, this is the very first game of the PlayLink roster, and one of my personal favorites. Before the game begins, every one of the two-to-six players must download said app on their mobile devices, type in their name, take a selfie, and choose a card to use as an avatar; The host must then choose the number of rounds (Each taking place in a themed location) and how personal the minigames within said rounds will be, and then the hilarity begins.

There are several different types of minigames, each revolving around answering questions, snapping and drawing on photos, mimicking or drawing on images given to you, and completing phrases; The players vote on which submitted response is the best, and those in the majority vote score points. If you have one, you can drop a joker and double your points, but it can’t be reimbursed just because you voted incorrectly. In the final round, everyone takes selfies of themselves in a required pose and modify each other’s pictures in a series of challenges; If the game is close, there’s always the chance you can use one last joker and score the overall victory.

If you wish to add your own content into the game, you’re in luck; You can write your own questions and create picture challenges, both of which are converted into a Question Game. This feature is a haven for those who are adept at adding even more humor to an already-super-funny game.

As a whole, this is a clever PlayLink game that has provided lots of laughs for myself and my close friends, and I have hope that those who read this article will buy it and get the same results; If games involving smartphone controls have your attention, That’s You is a hidden PS4 gem that will appeal to and put many smiles on even the most inexperienced players.

Review of Tetris 99 — If Tetris and Fortnite had a baby

It’s safe to say that ever since Fortnite appeared, pretty much any game company is thinking of hopping on the battle royale bandwagon; And up next on the diving board is Nintendo. But instead of adding a 100-player mode to Splatoon 2, the Big N has chosen to launch a 99-player version of everyone’s favorite puzzle game. If stacking colored blocks and competing in battle royales are your jams, Tetris 99 delivers both in spades.

If you’re a newcomer, you’ll be pleased to hear that the mechanics are not only very easy, but very addictive; You move blocks to the bottom row of the grid, change how they are lined up before they hit the ground, fill an entire horizontal row, and try to last as long as possible before your grid overflows. In multiplayer matches, completing rows will send Garbage Blocks to your opponents; These blocks cannot be shifted around before they land in your rivals’ grids, which gives you a chance to pull ahead or catch up.

Being a battle royale game, the only mode available for play is the titular Tetris 99 mode; It’s up to you to place as high as possible, as there is an obligatory leveling-up system. They say you get what you pay for, and in this case, you’re getting this game for free if you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. And despite being a free download, there are no microtransactions to be found in here. Yes, the package may be thin, but a free 99-player puzzle game for online subscribers is a really nice treat on Nintendo’s part.

This review may have been short, but when you’re reviewing a puzzle game that only has one mode of play, a short-and-sweet review won’t really be a surprise. Tetris 99 is nowhere near a full-blown Tetris game with arcade and local-multiplayer modes, but it still holds its own as a battle-royale puzzle game, and that’s all it’s supposed to do. If you’ve paid for the Switch Online service and you have the memory to spare, go ahead and download this if you’re adept at puzzles.