Games

Grimvalor (mobile review)

This game is also available on Switch.

This review is the mobile version as stated in the title. Grimvalor is a 3D 2D side-scroller in the vein of metrovania but due to its dark, gloomy, and despairing environment it falls under darkvania. You play as a lone warrior sent to figure out why misfigured monsters and entities are encroaching on your land’s borders. To that end, you are equipped with a sword and an axe with possible, optional, hidden weapons. You can jump, and you can dodge in addition to your movesets.

The game is very clearly trying to copy dark souls, down to the message that plays in red when you fail “You died.” Unlike dark souls, you get to keep all your souls or xp/currency gained during a run. This helps alleviate some of the difficulty, allowing you to increase your stats with ease. You can also acquire trinkets that give various boons, such as slowing time during a perfect dodge, that allows for an easier experience. Its normal playthrough is challenging while still being fair to the player and incentivizing skill. The bosses are hard but reward patience and timing your attacks. The storyline is simple but still provides a bit of intrigue. Overall, the normal playthrough is hard, but fun.

Now the problems arise in new game plus, where you are offered the opportunity to play through the game again with new pathways and new equipment. And to further your stats. The developers promised new challenging enemies but in reality, all they’ve done is take the same enemies, cranked their health up, given them armor and massively increased their damage output. They did not give any new enemies that required thinking or skill to beat. They’ve introduced enemies that require you to grind areas over and over to pump your stats up so you can cheese through them with raw power. In addition, bosses are now purely an exercise in frustration. Now not only do you have to fight a boss, but the boss will endlessly spawn armored units. I gave up in frustration at an act 2 boss in new game plus. You have to fight 3 different armored units then 9 of em total, and just when you think it’s over, you have to fight a boss who once you chip away 1/5 of its health will summon all those units you just struggled to face. It’s incredibly lazy development. To merely pump up the amount of enemies without offering new ones with new attack patterns. And the worst part is if you die, you have to go through all that again. And speaking of having to go through something again, this game commits the cardinal sin of unskippable cutscenes. You’re forced to watch the boss be summoned every time.

Do I recommend this game? Honestly, no. It’s a hard game with no reward. The storyline offers no resolution to its plot. It merely forces you back into the thick of things again. Its new game plus exemplifies the lazy programming and development of the creators. It’s a dark souls clone that fizzles and sizzles out in its execution. I do applaud them for having a relatively bug free experience. Avoid this title.

Games

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time (Switch)

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the entirety of Samurai Jack, my knowledge of the story is what the game offered.

Let’s start with the good: combat. Since this is an action RPG with hack and slash elements, the core gameplay loop is the combat. And if that is not good, or entertaining, then the entire appeal of the game will suffer. Fortunately, that core loop is quite solid in its presentation. You wield Jack’s magic sword and through combinations of light and heavy attacks, inflict carnage on your enemies. There’s also dodging, blocking, parrying, and counter attacks. It reminded me of Bloodbourne in that regard. To unlock new attacks, you have to upgrade your weapons at the store using gold. However that is not enough, in addition to upgrading the level of your weapons, you also have to level up your skill tree to unlock the moves themselves. The skill tree is quite large and features three trees: physical, spirit, and combat. You would think that physical would improve your sword damage but you’d be wrong. For some inexplicable reason, it falls under spirit. In fact, that tree is the best of them. During my playthrough on normal, I had nearly maxed that tree and had the other two half full.

What bugged me a lot in the game was that certain interactions were so painful to pull off. I had begun to question if they tested the game thoroughly, and upon reaching the credits, I was surprised to only see 5 quality assurance testers. That explains a lot of the problems. They simply didn’t play their own game enough to discover all the issues. For example, you can unlock the ability to jump super high if you hold block and then hold down and release jump. Yet on numerous occasions, Jack would not do that. It became a game of trial and error with me pressing these buttons hoping Jack would jump high. I’d say maybe half the time, it would work successfully. Another glaring issue is how utterly useless parry/block is. The amount of times I would get stun locked into an enemy combo while Jack is blocking is ridiculous. I’m holding block and the enemy is just destroying my health. Or, I would try to parry but it just wouldn’t work. I got roughly 26 parries on my playthrough. Same goes with counter attacks, time it perfectly and it wouldn’t matter because the enemy can somehow block it. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that some enemies will take hardly any damage unless you’re using the correct weapon type against them. And if you’re like me, you’re broke and out of weapons because they have durability and all of them have broken. The worst bit is the game encourages you to break your weapons because that is the only way to gain massive amounts of bushido. Bushido is used to upgrade your skill tree along with another resource which drops from defeated enemies.

The variance in enemies is nice enough for a game of this length. The issue comes in the final stage with what can only be described as lazy game development. Instead of giving us unique encounters, the final stage is you vs 50+ mobs of enemies of everything you’ve faced so far. This was fine in 1993 when Doom came out, but not in 2020. And the final boss, Aku, is such a disappointment. He was the easiest boss in the game. All that build up, and he’s a joke. The boss you fought just before him, Demongo, is easily three times as hard. What I did enjoy about the bosses was that you can’t hurt them unless you find their weak points or if you manage to counter. Like I said, I rarely countered because I could only successfully pull it off against bosses which are few. Depending on well you did during a stage, you’d get a point score and some extra gold for the next stage.

The scenery was enjoyable, and I’m sure fans of Samurai Jack will recognize many of the locations. The graphic style of the game was essentially cartoon and it worked well. Story was easy to follow along and was welcoming enough for even newcomers, such as myself, to make sense of what’s going on. I played on the switch, and despite my problems with the game, I had no game breaking bugs or crashes like I do on other switch games.

Overall, it was a fun if not short experience; my playthrough was 9 and a half hours. There is replayability if you wish to grind out the skill tree, and there are extra missions unlocked after beating the main game. If I had to compare it to another game, it would be the first God of War. Even the chests reminded me of that game. I recommend this game if you’re a fan of Samurai Jack, or if you’re just looking for a fun hack n slash game on the switch. This game is available on all platforms, and PC, and I find there’s much better titles on PC/other consoles than to get this. But for switch? Definitely get it.