toejam & earl

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Switch, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: PC (Win, Mac, Linux), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

The honeymoon for nostalgia-fueled Kickstarter video game projects has long since passed. Older games and genres from the 80s and 90s inspired a treasure trove of multi-million dollar projects, to varying degrees of success. Despite the digital gold rush, I never expected one of these Kickstarter fruits to bear a new ToeJam & Earl game, let alone it be quite good.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is the fourth game in the bizarre but strangely memorable 90s series. But it’s also a triumphant recreation of the 1991 original, which has all the early trappings of a solid roguelike dungeon crawler, that happens to star a pair of funky aliens. While some gameplay elements are quite frustrating, Back in the Groove is dripping with 90s charm, lots of replayability, and fantastic co-op.

Read More

apex legends

Apex Legends is the Battle Royale You’ve Been Waiting For

Posted by | Feature, Opinion, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | No Comments

In the 2014 sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow (also known as Live Die Repeat), Tom Cruise is drafted into defending Europe from the violent alien invaders. He’s quickly killed in combat, but at the same time becomes infected with the aliens’ time loop powers. Like an action movie version of Groundhog Day, Cruise repeats the same day over and over as he goes through a montage of getting quickly, and often hilariously, killed. He eventually learns how to fight back, teams up with an awesome Emily Blunt, and saves the world.

When playing a battle royale game, I often feel like Tom Cruise in those early moments of Edge of Tomorrow. I drop down. I run around frantically. I die, mercilessly. Repeat.

But Apex Legends feels different. Not only does it have the most well-refined systems I’ve seen in the genre, but it makes me want to double down and improve my gameplay rather than throw my hands up in frustration. For the reasons I’ve listed below give Apex Legends a try, even if you’ve been entirely turned off by the explosively popular genre so far.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Most battle royale games feature a team mode where groups can join, survive, and win together. Apex Legends is built from the group up for three person squads. Teamwork in Apex Legends is easier and more enjoyable, even when playing with random strangers.

From the very start players draft their characters together, then drop into the world together. Squads should stick together – though not too close, and many of the character abilities foster teamwork and coordination, such as Lifeline’s ability to call in a supply drop, and Pathfinder’s ability to create a zipline for quick travel.

apex legends

Most importantly, squads can revive and even respawn their fellow teammates. Players enter a downed state when their health depletes and can be revived. Even if they’re killed, a teammate can grab their beacon and high tail it to the nearest respawn beacon, summoning them back to the fight. Some of my most memorable and thrilling survival stories have occurred after only one of us has been left alive to bring us back from the brink.

Should’ve Put a Ping On It

The intuitive ping system is incredibly clever. It’s the primary reason why playing with random squadmates ever has a chance of succeeding. With the press of a button, a squad mate can call out and highlight weapons, ammo, enemies, loot chests, and areas of interests. I can ping sections of my inventory to tell my squad I need ammo, body armor, or a certain weapon mod, declare an area to defend, and quickly yell out where and when I saw an enemy.

All of this is done without the need for voice chat at all. That’s particularly a huge plus for younger teens and concerned parents.

Less Players, More Action

Every match features 20 squads for 60 total players. That’s a significant departure from the 100-person matches of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. Yet even with almost half the players, the action rarely feels big and empty. Sometimes we drop in the corner of the Swamps and never run into a person until 20 minutes later. But usually there’s always another firefight around the corner.

The diverse Canyon map is filled with military bases, shanty towns, industrial walkways, steep valleys, and open desert. The map feels like the perfect size, and strikes a great balance between moments of quiet looting, tense exploration, and explosive firefights.

apex legends

Choose Your Fighter

Apex Legends takes a page from online hero shooter Overwatch in providing several unique character classes to choose from. Like Overwatch you can’t have more than one character on your team, forcing teams to balance their preferred play style. All eight current characters bring something unique and interesting, like Bangalore’s smoke bombs, Gibraltar’s dome shield (hello, Winston!), and Bloodhound’s Predator vision. Apex Legends does a fantastic job incorporating these characters and their abilities, without deviating from the core gameplay of grabbing weapons and shooting each other.

Apex Legends has been a pleasantly addictive experience. When matches go horribly wrong, as they often do, it’s over in minutes. And it takes less time than that to cue up the next match. Wait times are non-existent, and we’ve never experienced a second of lag or server issues. Releasing a complete (and free to play!) game that works right out of the gate shouldn’t be cause for celebration, but here we are.

I’ve adored my time with Apex Legends, despite having yet to win a match. I’m still Tom Cruise in the middle of figuring everything out. I die, a lot. But repeating has never been so fun.