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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    Archenemy Review: Kinetic, Colorful & Refreshingly Original Superhero Take

    Rating:  8.5/10 Cast: Joe Manganiello as Max Fist Skylan Brooks as Hamster Zolee Griggs as Indigo Paul Scheer as Tango Amy Seimetz as Cleo Glenn Howerton as The Manager Written, Co-Story & Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer; Co-Story by Lucas Passmore Click here to digitally pre-order Archenemy! Archenemy Review: We’re in an age in which superhero movies and comic book stories remain all the rage on both the big and small screens, but admittedly even as the adaptations remain mostly quality or entertaining, even I’ve felt a bit of the comic book fatigue in my content viewing. So when a film as intriguing, as colorful, as subversive and as original as Archenemy comes along, I’m reminded of how exciting the world of superheroes can be, even if it’s not based on an actual comic book. Max Fist (Joe Manganiello) claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to Earth, where he has no powers. No one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster. Together, they take to the streets to wipe out the local drug syndicate and its vicious crime boss known as The Manager. The story surrounding Max and his past is one that often feels very unique, with displaced and disheartened heroes having been seen before in the pages of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan, but never in such a way as Max’s case. He’s not just disheartened by his past but also by being trapped in a world he’s unfamiliar with, and having no one to turn to. Writer/director Adam Egypt Mortimer’s approach to how the world sees Max and how Hamster learns about him is also brilliantly played out through the story as we really are left to wonder for much of the film if he is actually who he says he is or just a poor and delusional man. With his powers taken away from him due to the hole in the universe he punched himself, according to Max, it makes it that much harder for one to believe his tales and though he makes plenty of attempts to prove it to his young follower, it plays out in the “blink and he misses it” formula that works to further test audiences’ judgments on Max. Given the more indie nature of the production, especially in comparison to Marvel and DC’s $150+ million budgets, Mortimer finds a workaround to bringing the world of Max’s home planet to life by utilizing colorful and vibrant comic book-style animation and it works entirely. It not only allows the filmmaker to ensure all of his live-action material looks as stylish as possible with the money he has, but it also creates a shared visual language between animation and the real world that works marvels. Alongside the skillful and well-paced storytelling, there’s also a marvelous sense of humor that runs throughout that prevents the film from plunging into the overly-serious and boringly-dour depths of Zack Snyder’s DC Comics efforts, of which Manganiello has previously been a part of. From the erratic nature of Paul Scheer’s coked up Tango to Glenn Howerton’s deliciously evil Manager, and even Manganiello’s ability to bring some self-aware levity to Max, there’s plenty of moments worthy of chuckles or laughter that keep the proceedings just light enough. The performances in the film also shine, be they comedic or serious, especially in Manganiello, Howerton and sure-to-be-breakout-star Zolee Griggs. Admittedly, Griggs’ Indigo feels somewhat familiar and underwritten at times, a typical big sister doing crime to get her and her brother out of the ghetto and in a better life, but the 23-year-old star brings a real heart and charisma to the character that enlivens her and makes her a compelling center to the story. Archenemy may fall short of some viewers’ expectations with some occasional uneven writing and steadier pace than other comic books outings, but thanks to stylish direction, a unique and intriguing concept, brilliant animation and stellar performances from its cast, it continues Mortimer’s win streak and proves he’s far more than just a horror director.

    Archenemy: RLJE Films Acquires Action-Adventure Starring Joe Manganiello

    Archenemy: RLJE Films Acquires Action-Adventure Starring Joe Manganiello RLJE Films has acquired the North American rights to the action/thriller Archenemy ahead of its world premiere at this year’s Beyond Fest. The film marks the third collaboration between RLJE Films and SpectreVision, after Mandy and Color Out of Space. RELATED: Joe Keery is a Madman in Spree Red-Band Trailer Written and directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (Daniel Isn’t Real) from a story by Mortimer and Lucas Passmore (No Good Heroes), the film stars Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Skylan Brooks (Empire), Zolee Griggs (W-Tang: An American Saga), Paul Scheer (Black Monday), Amy Seimetz (Pet Semetary) and Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). “We’re excited to be back in business with SpectreVision after the incredibly successful releases of Mandy and Color Out of Space,” said RLJE Films Chief Acquisitions Officer Mark Ward. “With Joe Manganiello’s strong performance and Adam Egypt Mortimer’s innovative direction, we couldn’t have asked for a better dream team to showcase Archenemy at Beyond Fest and in theaters and various platforms in December.” In Archenemy, Max Fist (Manganiello) claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to Earth, where he has no powers. No one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster. Together, they take to the streets to wipe out the local drug syndicate and its vicious crime boss known as The Manager. RELATED: Color Out of Space: Shudder to Stream Nicolas Cage Film Archenemy was produced by SpectreVision’s Daniel Noah, Lisa Whalen, and Elijah Wood along with Kim Sherman, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Joe Manganiello, and Nick Manganiello. Archenemy will be released in theaters, On Demand, and Digital on December 11, 2020.

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