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VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action for Switch Review

Lo, many moons ago I encountered VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action in the wild and was intrigued by a game that mixed narrative and…well…mixing drinks. The retro-inspired game from Sukeban Games and Ysbryd Games originally hit the gaming world back in 2016 and has accumulated “Overwhelmingly Positive” reviews on Steam.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game on PC and the unique game mechanics (which were mimicked, somewhat, in The Red Strings Club, which I’m working through at the moment). The game also was fantastically inclusive, portraying LGBTQ+ community members, sex workers and other members of society equally well.

 

Yes, even mysterious women that are part cat.
Yes, even mysterious cyborg women that are part cat.

 

 those new to the game, it is a narrative game from the perspective of Jill, a bartender at a struggling chain bar. As the nights wear on, multiple characters arrive and give some of their background, comment on current events in the city, and evolve one way or another. What you serve also influences gameplay, making it somewhat of a choose-your-own adventure style game.

The only “gameplay” is creating from a set list of drinks as requested, or implied, by the characters (yes, there is beer). This is where the Switch version took some getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, I could mix a drink just as capably as I could using my mouse and keyboard.

The game lends itself well to a small screen, with the text still being very readable and the drink making interface still easy to use. The tactile aids available on the Switch also added a nice element that just isn’t available on PC.

My verdict is in, and VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action for Switch is a worthy addition to your Switch library and highly recommended.

Platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC, macOS, Linux
Price: $14.99
Studio: Sukeban Games
Publisher: Ysbryd Games

(Brewelist received a key for the game to review)

PAX East 2016 – Axiom Verge, Chasm and Mages of Mystralia

Saturday I got not one, not two, but three games to check out.

Thinking I wouldn’t need the whole hour to take in Axiom Verge, Chasm and Mages of Mystralia, I approached the booth expecting to spend a few minutes on each and then call it a day.

What I found instead were three different but equally immersive experiences.

I started with Axiom Verge, which is out now for PC, PS Vita and PS4 and will be coming to Xbox One and Wii U (which was the platform I played it on at the show). The game, which is referred to as a “metroidvania” action-adventure does definitely resemble its Metroid predecessor. In the game, you emerge from a large egg structure after surviving a horrible science accident.

Well she looks intimidating...
Well she looks intimidating…

The game is an impressive feat as it was developed by one guy. I failed enough that it was time to move on to my next quest…

Chasm, graphics-wise, is a little bit more grown up than Axiom Verge and will be out later this year. Also along the “metroidvania” vein of gaming, you’re investigating the disappearance of villagers in a game that kind of reminded me a bit of the mechanics of Aladdin for SNES.

Nothing quite like a nap under a creepy tree.
Nothing quite like a nap under a creepy tree.

Unlike the games of our youth, the title from Bit Kid, Inc. has a procedurally generated environment, lending itself to many replays as you investigate the environment over and over.

I’m eagerly awaiting its release and look forward to getting my hands on the completed product later this year.

As my private session with these games was drawing to what I believed was the end, I was escorted back into the magical press area where I would be shown Borealys GamesMages of Mystralia. The plot is described as something like Harry Potter, in which a young girl named Zia discovers she has magical powers.

Ice Lizard was no match for my magic missile.
Ice Lizard was no match for my magic missile.

Another highlight is that Ed Greenwood, writer for the Forgotton Realms world for Dungeons and Dragons will be writing the story, which was still in a fledgling state for the sake of gameplay.

The graphics reminded me quite a bit of early Playstation titles and a little bit of Epistory (which you may recall from an episode of the Brewelist podcast…).

One of my favorite aspects of the game was the spell crafting system. I found it to be pretty intuitive and powerful. My favorite cocktail of doom was 5 fire orbs that home in on your enemies and then explode. It was so powerful, in fact, that I broke the build. A couple of times. Not that I was counting. (If you guys are looking for a bug tester, I’m sure I can break a few other things for you before the release…just saying…).

After playing through the demo, there were some pretty sweet areas of the game that have not yet been revealed to the public.

The game was shown for the first time at GDC and is expected to be released in 2017. I can’t wait to get my hands on it again. And, judging by the fact their booth was mobbed, there appear to be a lot of other people who feel the same.

I would like to thank Dan Adelman, my guide and the PR guy for all three of these titles, and Patric J. Mondou who hooked me up with the preview stuffs for Mages of Mystralia.

TL;DR

Title: Axiom Verge

Developer: Tom Happ

Platforms:  Windows, MAC, Linux, PS4, Vita with Xbox ONE and Wii U coming soon

Available From: Steam, Digital Distribution

MSRP: $19.99 USD

Title: Chasm

Developer: Bit Kid, Inc.

Platforms:  Windows, MAC, Linux, PS4

Available From: Nowhere right now, unless you supported their Kickstarter or Pre-ordered

MSRP: ???

Title: Mages of Mystralia

Developer: Borealys Games

Platforms:  PC and Consoles

Available From: Our Dreams (We’ll keep you posted)

MSRP: ???

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PAX East 2016 – 20XX: The Return

20XX from Batterystaple Games has been out for a bit and is still in early access. However, it’s grown up quite a bit since the last time Brewelist reviewed it.

 

Like…a lot.

 

Mechanics and graphics have changed and there are some new bits to explore (like bonus rooms that make me want to throw my controller but that’s another story for another day).

Screenshot courtesy of 20XX/Batterystaple Games

I wondered why there was ALWAYS an update for the game but now I know. The developers have been working hard to put out a new update every two weeks to improve and add to the game.

 

If you’re not familiar with 20XX, it’s a Megaman-inspired roguelike side scroller that will brutally punish you for failing but provide you with that delicious nostalgia that keeps us all going. (Overheard at PAX: “I like it more than Mighty No. 9.”)

 

I played the newer build and EVERYTHING looks different. The BOSS battles are even different. It’s still challenging but is less buggy and more fun. And it might tide you over if you backed Mighty No. 9 and are still waiting for that to happen…

 

The team plans to continue to release new content and hope to have it out of Early Access soon. Which means buy it before the price goes up (even though it’ll only be around $15).

 

TL;DR:

 

Title: 20XX

Developer: Batterystaple Games

Platforms:  Windows

Available From: Steam

MSRP: $11.99 USD (price will increase when it leaves Early Access)

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PAX East 2016 – Read Only Memories is a Must Play

Looking for a cyberpunk mystery that recalls a simpler time in gaming?

Read Only Memories from Midboss, LLC may be your answer.

The story follows you as your home is infiltrated by a very talkative ROM named Turing. Your distant friend is missing and Turing needs your help.

Neo-San Francisco is the setting of this tale and promises many colorful characters as you try to unravel the mystery. The retro graphics reminded me quite a lot of early SNES games and I appreciated the simplicity.

The game was originally funded through Kickstarter and, as I was informed, has 70 drink recipes that can be created in real life. (Anyone else think this warrants a Brewelist episode?) The game will soon be brought to mobile platforms (Dubbed the Type-M Edition), PS4 and Vita with 2064: Read Only Memories.

ROM_SS_02
Screenshot from Midboss, LLC

It will include new characters, animations and full voice acting, the first public build of which was available for me to play in demo form at PAX East. While it took a little bit of time to play through it I thought the puzzles and clues were approachable and the brief taste of the game leaves me wanting to play more (so expect a full review in the very near future).

The game was available at the Playism booth, who will be providing localization for the Japanese market, where I feel it will do quite well.

The game is currently available on Steam, Humble Store, GOG and itch.io. The 2064 edition will be a free update once released so you have nothing to lose. Do it now!

TL;DR:

Title: Read Only Memories

Developer: Midboss, LLC.

Platforms:  OSX, Windows, Linux (PS4, Vita and Mobile coming soon!)

Available From: GOG.com, itch.io, Humble Store and Steam

MSRP: $19.99 USD

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PAX East 2016 – The Real Future of Virtual Reality Has Arrived, 3D Scanning and I never knew a keyboard could do that

Just as important as the games on display is the technology that helps our favorite titles run. At PAX East 2016, many of the new and trendy technology was on display for us to get our hands on.

If you were a product of the 80s and early 90s you may have remembered Virtual Reality, or at least the huge bulky and expensive machines at arcades (remember those?). Nintendo even attempted to get in on the game with the ill-fated Virtual Boy console.

With the Oculus Rift (who was also at the show) making waves from their Kickstarter, other manufacturers have gotten in on the game such as Sony with the PS4 VR headset and the HTC Vive. Less expensive alternatives exist that make use of the mobile phones you already have, like the Google Cardboard.

I had the opportunity to check out the PS4 VR setup when I demoed Thumper, a title billed as “rhythm violence” built by Drool, a studio started by two Harmonix alumni, Brian Gibson and Marc Flury.

Most of the VR action takes place on the headset while the game is controlled by the controller and streamed from the PS4. You’re a metallic space beetle fighting an evolving entity. As you progress, you navigate an increasingly complex series of patterns. If you fail, the stakes are a bit higher as this will quickly wear down your armor and lead to your demise.

The patterns do resemble their Harmonix roots, so if you’re a fan of Rock Band or other titles in the genre, this will be an easy experience to pick up.

The game has already generated a lot of buzz and was one of several titles that were on display at the show for PS4. The headset itself will be available for the general public in October 2016.

Newegg also offered private demos of the HTC Vive, which is a headset with two Wiimote-like controllers that streams content from a PC. This provided more of the traditional VR experience where you are in a 360 degree environment and you are the controller. The game selected did a very good job of displaying the capabilities of the VR system and gave me a bit of a workout.

If you’re salivating at that prospect, prepare for the dream crushing reality – the HTC Vive currently has a list price of $799.99.

Their main booth on the Expo floor also gave showgoers the chance to play with the latest in PC gaming technology and some other fun peripherals to support their “Game like a Pro” campaign. The goal is to make you think of Newegg when you’re getting ready to build or upgrade your equipment so you don’t experience lag, performance issues or overall frustration with your hardware.

And while we’re on the topic of PC gaming technology, both Intel and Logitech had a presence at the show with some rather interesting tech I’d never seen in the wild before.

Intel offered “digital swag” in the form of doing a 3D scan of your likeness. In a week, I’ll be able to use the file to import my image into Fallout 4, Skyrim, FIFA and potentially other games so that my protagonist can look just like me. Cool huh?

Logitech unveiled a wall of keyboards that were programmed to show a video. Their keyboards had an impressive array of functions, the most compelling of which was the game profiles that can be imported to support your favorite titles.

The intention of this feature is to highlight only the hotkeys and in some games, even blink so you can quickly reload, heal up or perform some other function.

We’ll be looking forward to how the new VR evolves and I’m eager to get my hands on my 3D scan and a new Logitech keyboard.

As cool as the VR is, I’ll also be waiting for that to get a bit cheaper but it won’t stop me from longingly gazing at what can be done on it.

Thank you to Drool, Newegg, Logitech and Intel for sharing these experiences with us.

naught awakening 1

Brewelist Advent Calendar Day 23 – Naught Reawakening and Silversmith Brewing Black Lager

On the 23rd day of Advent, we bring you Naught Awakening and Black Lager from Silversmith Brewing! This episode of the podcast goes through an unusual pairing of craft beer and indie game. Enjoy the episode below and let us know what you think!

Grab the game on STEAM or on Mobile devices and the brew exclusively at Silversmith Brewing.

Check our Facebook page for updates, along with our Twitter and Instagram. We also have an UnTappd account where you can see what we’re drinking; and you can catch us on iTunes for your listening pleasure.

Any ideas you have for a game to play and a drink to go along with it? Email us: brewelist@gmail.com.

Stay Thirsty and Play Indie!

~Casey and Jackie

mr-jump

Brewelist Advent Calendar Day 22: Mr. Jump destroys your life, in a good way

You know those games that you become addicted to instantly but they are extremely frustrating to the point where you want to throw your controller at the screen but then pick it back up and beat the level? That’s the same thing that happens when you play Mr. Jump for the first or the fiftieth time. It’s an extremely fun game, but it’s brutal. It took me a long time to beat the first level and I’ve been stuck on Level 2 for weeks. Why do I keep playing it when I can’t get anywhere? Because there is a beauty in the simplicity of a game where a guy just jumps around and avoids spikes and pitfalls. It hearkens back to a simpler time in gaming where you didn’t have to invest 60 hours just to get to the end. You pick it up, you get pissed, you cheer when you beat a level, and you go about your day. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Publisher: 1Button

Genre: Platformer

Where to get it: App Store

Platform: iOs

Rating (out of 10): 9/10

rocket league

Brewelist Advent Calendar Day 17: Rocket League

I’m not usually a sports game player. I have never owned a Madden or NBA 2K game. I believe outside of Tecmo Superbowl and the Mutant League series, I don’t have any vast knowledge of that genre in gaming. All of that being said, I had heard the hype surrounding Rocket League and I knew that I had to play this game. It looked like a ton of fun in the videos and with the port to PS4, I tried it out. Let me just say, that I was instantly addicted and couldn’t stop playing. The colors are bright and vibrant, the gameplay is fast and furious, and the fun-factor is through the roof. Psyonix is constantly adding more features and DLC to the game. They recently even added the DELOREAN from Back to the Future!

Get this game for yourself, get it for your friends and family, and pair it with anything brew keeps you excited and happy!

Publisher: Psyonix Games

Genre: Sports!

Where to get it: Steam, Playstation Network, soon coming to Xbox One

Platform: PC/Mac, PS4

Rating (out of 10): 10/10