Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A NEGATIVE Batch Of Brew

Playing Oddworld: Soulstorm is as arduous as Abe’s quest to liberate his Mudoken brethren from slavery. Each step is a supreme test of patience as you methodically guide your followers through challenging hazards, sweating over the fact that one slip-up could unravel all your effort. If you enjoy putting up with that old-school challenge, you might love this journey. However, if you’re a newcomer or a fan that believes this style of platformer hasn’t aged very well, turn back now. Soulstorm doesn’t do enough to modernize the series’ tedious gameplay, and a litany of severe technical hiccups spoil Abe’s attempted comeback. A reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, Soulstorm’s gameplay remains largely the same: you recruit and guide followers through 2D platforming stages littered with dangers. As charming as the classic Oddworld games are, they can be frustratingly difficult and that hasn’t changed much in Soulstorm. Most Slig enemies and other hazards mow Abe down instantly, and I was infuriated by how little wiggle room I had to correct course when things went sideways. Abe drops so fast that it makes the health meter seem like a cruel tease. While playing Soulstorm, I often felt like I was walking on eggshells because of that high price of failure, retracing every step, re-recruiting every Mudokon, and carefully guiding them through a gauntlet of foes is soul-crushing when it all falls apart in seconds. Dying to unexpected perils, like being suddenly gunned down by off-screen enemies, feels cheap and happens way too often. A crafting system serves as Soulstorm’s biggest addition, but it doesn’t feel necessary. You must repeatedly gather the same ingredients every time you die (by searching lockers, trash cans, and fallen foes), which wore me down in a hurry after repeatedly replaying certain sections. The crafted tools themselves, like proximity mines, smoke screens, even a flamethrower, do add a welcomed element of flexibility and improvisation to gameplay. Dropping smoke screens to create hiding spots anywhere is nice, but I wished I didn’t have to make these items myself and grew tired of digging around the same spots over and over.   Even when Soulstorm’s difficulty eases up, the gameplay is bland. The action feels largely the same from previous games in the series, and that formula doesn’t evolve significantly beyond the first few hours. Even the more interesting sequences, like facing down a giant mech aboard a speeding train, are far too punishing to be fun. I’m glad that Abe controls better now (he even has a double jump), but the controls still have a mushy unresponsiveness that makes entertaining actions, like possessing Sligs, feel like a hassle. The controls also lead to additional deaths because Abe doesn’t act as swiftly as you need him to, especially during the ill-fitting, overly demanding combat arenas that pit you against waves of baddies while you try to protect fleeing Mudokens. Soulstorm would be a tough recommendation for anyone outside of diehard fans if it performed flawlessly, but I encountered several progress-sabotaging bugs (even after installing the big day-one patch) that should scare off even those players. When I died, Mudokens sometimes failed to respawn alongside me even though my tally indicated they were still alive and under my command. That meant I lost out on turning in followers that I’d spent ages trying to safely liberate, which negatively affected my overall quarma – a vital metric in determining which of the four endings you get.  Abe occasionally gets stuck in environmental geometry, forcing a restart. At one point, I fell into an infinite loop. One escape portal permanently vanished once I reached it, forcing me to abandon followers. A gun in a late-game turret sequence failed to shoot despite working fine in previous segments. After multiple restarts, I randomly discovered that clicking the right stick “fixed” the weapon for some reason, allowing it to fire. I spent over an hour trying to lead a large group of followers through a particularly challenging area, but once I opened the exit door an invisible wall prevented me from moving forward. I was forced to restart this entire, lengthy sequence twice before the exit worked properly. Soulstorm’s gameplay pushed my patience to its limits, but these bugs sent me over the edge and made me nervous every time I started a new level. “What on Earth is going to screw me over this time?” I regularly asked myself. Soulstorm’s faults are a shame because its narrative and presentation brought a smile to my face. Abe and his pals are goofy, delightful underdogs I couldn’t help but root for. The enjoyable story is packed with heart, and the cutscenes look great. I wanted to welcome Abe into a new generation of gaming with open arms, but Soulstorm fails to make a case for why its brand of cinematic platforming works today. In fact, Soulstorm only reaffirmed that Abe’s past adventures are best viewed with rose-colored glasses.
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    Crash 4 dev shares top 10 skins to celebrate launch on PS5

    Everybody’s favorite Bandicoot spins onto PlayStation 5 today with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. The dev team at Toys for Bob is thrilled about the improved graphics and performance, DualSense controller features, and all the other enhancements on the way. Of course, Crash and Coco also have a host of colorful skins fans can unlock by playing. To mark the occasion, I run down my favorite outfits from Crash 4, in no particular order.  Also, in celebration of Crash Bandicoot’s 25th anniversary, with the franchise’s original entry launching all the way back on the original PlayStation in 1996, players can enjoy the Bare Bones skins in Crash Bandicoot 4, available for free upon completion of the game’s second level. That, of course, is in addition to the Time Shattering skins that players can get first on PlayStation (pictured at the top of this article).* Through the Ringer Crash The inspiration for this one was how at the end of every Jackie Chan movie, there were always out takes and bloopers where you would get to see how injured Jackie would get pulling off these incredible stunts.  So, we thought it would be fun to award a skin upon completion of the main story, showing that Crash and Coco “went through the ringer” and came out the other end of this adventure a little worse for wear.  I think this one is hilarious, and the stickers the art team added to the casts push it over the top for me. General Rule Coco This Skin is one of the many skins we added in the game that touch on a reference or idea from previous Crash Bandicoot games, but with a fun, unique Toys for Bob spin.  The idea behind this one was a fun “what if” scenario – What If Neo Cortex Successfully trained Crash and Coco to lead his mutant armies? What would they look like?  The concept for this is just so much fun with the old-school evil villain details all over – I especially love the Neo Cortex “N” on the brim of the hat and Coco’s boots here. Chicken Suit Crash / Party Pony Coco The Chicken Suit Crash and Party Pony Coco skins were ideas that honestly came from throwing spaghetti at a wall, but we immediately saw them and thought they were hysterical.  As a set, I started to call them the “Party Animal” skins because they pair so well together.  That said, they almost didn’t make the cut as were originally planning on having every skin match up with the world setting that you unlock them in. We ended up having so many fun ideas that we freed up that restriction and immediately put these into production. Bright Now Crash I want to give a shout out to our friends at Beenox for this skin.  When I first saw the concept for this, I immediately fell in love because of just how cool it was.  They just knocked the retro future vibe of this screen way out of the park with this one, and the colors are mesmerizing.  This skin really pops on screen whether you are playing in the neon N.Verted mode or in the regular adventure levels. Warped Biker Coco One of our mantras when making Crash Bandicoot 4 was to not treat Coco as a side-kick, but to ensure that she had equal billing with Crash.  So when we had the idea of having Crash’s iconic biker outfit (from the Crash Warped game cover) as a skin, we jumped at the chance to imagine what it would be like for Coco to have been the cover star of that game and give her an iconic biker look of her own. Floater Crash and Coco Come on… do these need an explanation?  THEY ARE BALLOON ANIMALS! You can practically hear the squeaking just looking at them.  Fun fact… they have their own specific death animation.  Because really… how could we not pop them? Willy / Wanda the Wombat Similar to the General Rule Skin this is a look at what could have been. Some fans know that before he was called “Crash Bandicoot” he was initially thought up as “Willy the Wombat.”  That said, he didn’t really look any different, so we thought it would be a fun bit of speculation to dream up what a Willy the Wombat character would look like running alongside Crash Bandicoot.  We also then had a fun time imagining what Willy’s sister “Wanda the Wombat” would have looked like as well.  Who knows… maybe in an alternate dimension like the ones you explore in the game, these two are franchise mainstays. Thanks for taking this journey through the lovingly crafted skins players can unlock in Crash 4. On behalf of the entire team at Toys for Bob, we hope you have a blast unlocking them all, and enjoy all the other benefits of playing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Available now on PS5 and PS4. *Available upon completion of the game’s second level. Available on other platforms no earlier than December 31, 2021.

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