Tag Archive: twin-stick shooter

Spelunking in the sand

When you have as much history as Tomb Raider, it’s always a big risk to deviate from the gameplay that’s defined the series and helped it last as long as it has. But four years ago, that’s just what Crystal Dynamics did when they decided to take Lara Croft out of the third-person action-adventure world and introduce her fans to some old-school, twin-stick-shooter gameplay.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light ended up being a huge success as an ancillary adventure, smoothly blending the puzzle-solving from the main series with top-down shooting and co-op. So, it’s no surprise that while we wait for Lara’s next big action-adventure, Crystal Dynamics decided to revisit their spin-off and give it a sequel.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris starts off with our titular heroine doing what she does best: discovering relics and ruins. Lara’s searching for the Temple of Osiris in Egypt—a long-lost pyramid dedicated to the Egyptian god of the dead. She’s not alone, however, as she’s racing against Carter Bell, a young upstart in the field of archeology. Edging out Lara, Bell grabs Osiris’ fabled staff upon entering the tomb, ignoring Lara’s pleas for caution, and unknowingly breaking the magical seals holding back Set, the Egyptian god of war who murdered Osiris. With the help of the seals’ guardians—Osiris’ wife Isis, and their son Horus—Lara and Carter must drive Set back and prevent darkness from consuming the world by piecing together the remains of Osiris—just like Isis did thousands of years ago, according to legend.

Temple of Osiris will immediately feel familiar to fans of Guardian of Light. Just like before, the camera is locked far overhead at a three-quarters angle, and in terms of gameplay, Lara solves puzzles with her grappling hook and shoots bad guys using her guns and grenades.

One immediate difference you’ll notice with Temple of Osiris, though, is how much larger and more detailed the world is. Exploration stems from a massive hub area, and Lara will be able to investigate a dozen tombs themed after key members of Osiris’s court, like his silversmith, architect, or ferryman, each holding a piece of the god’s form. The tombs are meticulously detailed, and the dynamic lighting effects are truly impressive, considering how far away the camera sits from the action.

Besides the story-related ruins, though, the game also includes five challenge tombs that will push your puzzle-solving skills and a half dozen massive bosses that include corrupted Egyptian gods that have thrown in with Set, like Khepri, god of the sunrise, and Sobek, god of the Nile.

There’s also a customization system this time around. In Guardian of Light, gems were merely present as a way to increase your high score. Now, these precious stones have another purpose beyond points, since they allow Lara to unlock scattered treasure chests that bestow her with rings and amulets, which can augment her abilities. The more gems you have to spend on a chest, the more likely you’ll receive an item that will give Lara multiple positive benefits.

The puzzles in Temple of Osiris are far more involved this time around as well. Some remain simple timing puzzles, while others require Lara to actually change the seasons and put into effect a day-night cycle in order to open up different paths in the world. The game also includes a variety of puzzles that require nimble platforming, and Lara will need to use the Staff of Osiris to move columns or reflect light around darkened rooms.

The most impressive thing about the puzzles, however, might be how they change in co-op. You’re more than able to beat Temple of Osiris by yourself, as Lara will take the Staff of Osiris and be outfitted with all the abilities needed to overcome the challenges of the tombs. But if you play co-op, only the Egyptian characters, Isis and Horus, can use the Staff, and only Lara or Carter Bell can use the grappling hook, changing the dynamic of many puzzles and requiring teamwork to advance through the story.

Speaking of co-op, one big change we see is that now with the introduction of all these characters, up to four players can come together locally or online, instead of only two as in Guardian of Light. I couldn’t find any co-op games in the wild due to the limited number of players with their hands on the game before launch, so I can’t speak to the matchmaking, but I was able to gather the EGM Crew together, and two of us were playing locally, joined by two others via online. The game ran smoothly from a technical standpoint, but I felt that four players didn’t really add more to the gameplay than two did. If anything, it only made things more hectic, since we kept getting in each other’s way. The only times we were able to come together was against bosses—which, disappointingly, don’t scale with the extra players. With four guns firing away, the combat sections of the game were vanilla at best and a breeze to overcome.

The minimal differences between Lara versus Carter and Isis versus Horus were also disappointing—it felt like there were two unique characters and two clones who not only felt unneeded in co-op, but also unneeded in the story. The entire experience would’ve been better off had just Lara and Isis teamed up, and the game would’ve flowed more smoothly both in terms of co-op and the loose story that ties this arcade-style endeavor together.

Temple of Osiris builds on the foundation of what Guardian of Light started, giving us more levels, more puzzles, and more detail in the world that Lara has to explore. Unfortunately, it also gives us more co-op, and the game would’ve been better balanced with just two-player co-op again. Despite this, Temple of Osiris is still a fun, worthwhile adventure that shows why Lara Croft is such a great character, no matter the camera angle.

Developer: Crystal Dynamics • Publisher: Square Enix • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 12.09.14
Another fun twin-stick-shooter romp for Lara Croft, Temple of Osiris finds a way to go bigger and better in most regards, but four-player co-op was just too much on my TV screen—this one would’ve been better off with only two main characters instead of four.
The Good Lots of interesting puzzles that dynamically change in co-op; solid twin-stick action.
The Bad Locked camera can be a nuisance. 4-player co-op is more of a detriment than a boon.
The Ugly Our news editor, Chris Holzworth, trolling the rest of the EGM Crew during 4-player co-op.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Square Enix for the benefit of this review.

No quarters necessary

For many gamers, arcades are a thing of the past. Aside from certain chain restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese’s or Dave & Buster’s, it’s damn near impossible to find a place with row upon row of arcade cabinets in America anymore.

But as soon as you start up Sixty Second Shooter Prime, you’ll feel like you’ve fallen through a vortex that puts you 30 years in the past. While bombastic colors wash over the background, the foreground is made up of a field that looks like it’s been plucked straight from Asteroids as it tries to channel everything that was great about that now-bygone era.

This follow-up to the Vita’s Sixty Second Shooter Deluxe sees players once again take control of a small spaceship (let’s be honest—it’s just a pyramid). Your lone objective? Pilot your way down through innumerable levels in “space,” all in the hopes of acquiring a higher score to move up the competitive leaderboards.

The big catch here is, as the title implies, that your life lasts only 60 fragile seconds. You can extend it by picking up special power-ups that slow down the world around you in the game’s standard mode or add seconds when playing “Infinite” mode—which, due to the time additions, means the game could theoretically last forever. You’re not guaranteed the full length of your fruit fly–esque existence, however, since enemies (most of them are just big cubes) try to prevent you from reaching each level’s goal by relentlessly pursuing and firing at you themselves. Much like how you can add or slow down time to fight the clock, though, you can also protect your little ship from your limitless enemies by picking up power-ups like missiles, bombs, invincibility shields, or gun upgrades that temporarily let you fire in eight directions at once—and you can laugh as your foes explode in a white-hot fireworks display worthy of next week’s Independence Day.

In the realm of twin-stick shooters, Sixty Second Shooter Prime is as easy to pick up and play as the best of them. You simply use the dual joysticks to move and shoot and press a button for your missiles. The issue that arises, however, is that it’s also an easy game to master. After only a few playthroughs, you’ll have unlocked all the possible power-ups, alternate game modes, different psychedelic background colors, and the ability to start from level 5 instead of the first level in the hopes of facing more enemies sooner and building up those combo multipliers for your score.

There’s also the issue where a glitch spawns you directly on top of an enemy, instantly killing you as soon as the game starts. It happened to me probably one in every 10 lives I had. If that happened in the arcade, you’d demand your quarters back. Here, it’s a little embarrassing to see that you didn’t survive more than a fraction of a second (which the game quickly points out), but at least you just have to press Start again, and you’re back to flying around in circles, blasting away at countless death cubes with only a few seconds wasted.

Here’s the major question you have to ask yourself when looking at Sixty Second Shooter Prime: How likely are you to become addicted to trying to constantly one-up your scores or your friends’ accomplishments? Thirty years ago, that would’ve been more than enough to turn this into a classic quarter-gobbler. Now, even in our ADD-addled world, 60 seconds isn’t long enough for players to really embrace a game, and I think many gamers will probably become tired of it after only an hour or two.

The good news, at least, is that it’s only $5 (20 quarters, in arcadespeak), so even if the game does last no more than two hours, you’ll probably still be getting your money’s worth if you have even the tiniest of old-school arcade itches that need scratching.

Developer: Happion Laboratories • Publisher: Happion Laboratories • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 06.18.14

Sixty Second Shooter Prime is a great throwback to the arcade machines of yesteryear, but it lacks the depth and difficulty needed for an old-school twin-stick shooter to appeal to most modern gamers.

The Good Easy to pick up and play…
The Bad …and even easier to master.
The Ugly The accidental psychedelic trance I put myself in after changing the background colors too many times.
Sixty Second Shooter Prime is an Xbox One exclusive. Microsoft provided a retail code for the benefit of this review.

Worst. Movie Game. EVER.

Most movie games are rushed projects that require developers to take an idea loosely based around the corresponding film, staple some play mechanics together, and hope it holds up enough to warrant even making the game at all. So, when I heard that a game based on The Expendables 2 was coming out just before the movie, I definitely didn’t think we’d be getting a masterpiece—but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a pile of slop this bad.

Understandably, the game took the twinstick-shooter route, since it’s easier to create a fully realized 3D world in a short amount of time in this genre (just look at all of the twinstick-shooter indie titles on XBLA). This also allows for 4-player drop-in, drop-out co-op, the one thing that actually works here. But on every other level, this game is a horrible waste of time. Oh, The Expendables 2 Videogame, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

The first—and most obvious—offense to your eyes comes with the graphics. The models lack any sort of detail whatsoever once you enter a story chapter, and the game only utilizes two colors, it seems: brown and gray. Not only does this have the effect of blending everything together so you can barely tell who or what is shooting at you, but it also means that most levels blend together as well.

And while we’re on the aesthetics, let’s get to the second point of hatred: the putrid voiceover work. I appreciate Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews actually lending their voices to the game (not like they got a lot on their plate these days), but the Stallone impersonator is just awful, and the dialogue is horribly written. “What’s the plan, Barney?” “Same as always! Kill everything between us and the objective!” Are you kidding me?! I know elementary-school kids who have a better grasp of dialogue. At least the music’s somewhat enjoyable and gives the game an epic action-movie feel, even if nothing else about the game does.

And just think—I haven’t even gotten to my hatred of the actual gameplay yet! Twinstick shooters don’t usually allow for a lot of gameplay variety—you simply mow down the same two or three enemy types for however many levels the game entails—so I appreciate the fact that the game attempts to break up the monotony that can sometimes plague these titles with some on-rails shooter levels. But bizarrely, the one element the game insists on realism is the gun clips, which cause you to constantly reload and never let you get into any sort of pace when on foot, making you miss many targets during the on-rails levels.

Plus, making the player hold the right trigger in order to fire when on foot defeats the purpose of using both sticks for much of the combat. And since only the sniper character has a laser sight, unless you’re constantly firing—which you can’t, due to the clip sizes—you have no idea where your chosen character is aiming, making the combat feel choppy all around. Additionally, the glitchy hit mechanics mean that you don’t even get proper feedback half the time on whether or not your shot actually hit an enemy, leaving you guessing until they mercilessly fade away instantly after falling to the dirt.

Finally, I hate the story. The dialogue definitely doesn’t paint a vivid picture, but what’s worse is that the game offers no opening cinematic to explain anything and just throws you right to the wolves. This left me hating the experience even more, as your purpose is constantly and consistently murky.

And that sums up The Expendables 2 Videogame in a nutshell: This game has no purpose. It’s one of the worst wastes of time I’ve ever had to review. It has no direction, shoddy controls, an ugly look, and possibly the most absent plot in the modern console generation. It’s an embarrassment, even as movie games go. I implore you to steer clear of this title at all costs.

SUMMARY: Aside from the seamless drop-in, drop-out co-op, this is one of the worst videogames I’ve had the displeasure of playing in a long time. It looks awful, controls horribly, and the plot is nonexistent. 

  • THE GOOD: 4-player drop-in, drop-out co-op.
  • THE BAD: Everything else.
  • THE UGLY: The one-liners, the voice acting, the entire premise…

SCORE: 1.0

The Expendables 2 Videogame is available for XBLA, PSN, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on PSN.