Knockout City Preview | Game Rant
The February 17 Nintendo Direct introduced a number of games coming to the Switch, including first-party titles like Splatoon 3 and third-party games like Square Enix’ Project Triangle Strategy. One company with a lot of representation was Electronic Arts, which showcased multiple games including Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Knockout City, an upcoming competitive team-based brawler by developer Velan Studios that aims to take the schoolyard game of dodgeball to a whole new level.
Following that direct, a closed beta was hosted for Knockout City. It offered access to a 3v3 Team KO mode, with the first side that reaches ten knockouts winning, as well as a training mode. The full version promises more locales, game modes, and other features like forming crews, as well as a ranked scene based on seasonal content. However, just what was available in the beta makes it clear that EA’s upcoming title is justified in its seeming esports aspirations.
On the surface, Knockout City is very simple to pick up. For PC users the default controls are to move with WASD, jump with Space (including a second ‘jump’ that opens a hang glider for slower, further descents), throw a ball with left click, catch with right, and pass with middle. That’s everything strictly necessary to play, and dodgeballs will hone in on opponents so players don’t need to have perfect aim. A lot of the fun comes from playing mind games to catch an opponent off-guard, as throws can use different levels of charge that alter speed and catching only works for about a second.
The mind games get more complex from there. Players can flip (Q) or twirl (E), which both offer a little extra mid-air height similar to a double-jump and also change the trajectory of one’s dodgeball into a lob or sidewinder, respectively. Players can feign a throw with F by default, and Control activates a sort of dash in any direction that both reflects dodgeballs and knocks anyone it hits off-balance. As a result, one-on-one encounters become games of chicken with dodgeballs getting faster each time they’re thrown, and running into a group is immediately chaotic.
However, Knockout City‘s biggest and most unique trick is letting players curl into a ball Sonic the Hedgehog-style with Alt. Teammates can use one another as dodgeballs, with every hit affecting each of an opponent’s two hit points rather than just one. When the holding player fully charging up a teammate, they turn into a mortar shot that allows the curled-up user to try and aim for a nearby spot that catches opponents in an explosion.
The deeper teamwork aspect of Knockout City is its crowning achievement, and makes it seemingly have potential to be a future esport. While a game like Overwatch encourages diverse team construction because its character roles synergize, there are no ingrained mechanics that make Tank Hero Reinhardt and Damage Hero Tracer unique to pair together, for example. Many team-based games involve individuals trying to combine their disparate abilities to outclass opponents; Knockout City derives its optimal gameplay from teammates using one another as partners and tools of battle.
Knockout City features customization for three character models at a time, but according to the in-game announcer this is entirely cosmetic. For a competitive game, this avoids the pitfalls of Splatoon where min/maxing gear abilities is just as important as style; or Fortnite where some skins have special abilities. A variety of cosmetics, including new intro or victory poses, are guaranteed to be unlocked via earning XP and rising through the nine tiers of Street Ranks, while others can be bought using an in-game currency called Holobux. Fans of most competitive experiences will be familiar with rotating shop supplies and daily XP missions, though at least in the beta there were no microtransactions to get Holobux nor Style Chips – which unlock alternate forms of outfits.
To give credit where it’s due, the game’s mechanics and cosmetics are accessible to a diverse audience. There are options to remove motion blur or change moves that require holding a button into toggles, for example, and character models can be mixed and matched with male or female-coded cosmetics however one prefers. However, the game’s art style and overall presentation is perhaps its most divisive aspect.
Where Splatoon aims to capture the punk vibe of the 90s in a futuristic setting with sea life and GungHo’s Ninjala does something similar with ninjas and bubble gum, Knockout City develops an optimistic future using the retro aesthetic of 1950s greaser culture – think Happy Days, but with flying cars and neon rooftop advertising. Its execution is hit-or-miss, namely because that stylistic design choice chafes against a clear intent to utilize the simple design of a title like Fortnite. The game’s basic, jazzy soundtrack is also forgettable, with the only high point of its sound design being the visceral, reverberating bounce of each dodgeball against an opponent’s face.
This somewhat lackluster aesthetic is perhaps most noticeable in light of the game’s marketing, with the Nintendo Direct advert downplaying the retro-future design in favor of a more unique premise: A mixed-media, character-based battler reminiscent of Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph where a pixel art princess, World of Warcraft orc, FPS soldier, and more take part in dodgeball games. Aesthetic taste is subjective, and the 1950s-styled future may work better for some than others, but it’s strange the choice was made to advertise the game as something it isn’t.
After all, Knockout City shines from its gameplay, regardless of the design around that. Matches are frenetic and encourage direct teamwork in ways not usually seen in competitive esports, with some RNG based on special dodgeballs randomly selected for each game including a Moon Ball that affects the gravity of its user and target, as well as a Cage Ball that locks its target into ball form so they can be thrown helplessly off a ledge. The game will feature crossplay when it releases later this year, and it’s certainly something to keep an eye on for friends looking to play together.
Knockout City releases for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One on May 21, 2021, with backward compatibility for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant was provided access to the February beta for this preview.
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Published at Wed, 24 Feb 2021 10:19:17 +0000
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review | Game Rant
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is the latest attempt to bring an iconic franchise back into the spotlight, seeking to modernize the formula that made the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins a success way back on the NES. For the most part, the game succeeds at what it sets out to do, but longtime fans of the series may find themselves reminiscing about the classic game by the time the credits roll.
The elevator pitch for Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is as simple as they come. Players take on the role of Arthur, a gallant but dopey knight trying to rescue his love, a princess, from the evil clutches of a demon lord. Standing between him is an army of monsters and platforming challenges, coupled together to create the meat of the video game.
For the most part, the core platforming and combat aspects of the game work well, especially in the first two zones. Fighting off hordes of zombies, skeletons, and the other monsters that infest the path to the game’s final level feels mostly as it did in Ghosts ‘n Goblins and its SNES sequel, Ghouls and Ghosts. It doesn’t push the platforming genre forward at all, but there is beauty in the simplicity here.
Being a new take on an NES/SNES franchise, though, players can expect some brutally difficult levels, especially depending on the chosen difficulty setting, of which there are four. Each difficulty setting tweaks the number of hits Arthur can take and makes some changes to the respawn system, with the highest difficulty, Knight, essentially replicating the win parameters of the original. Those that opt for Knight are in for an experience worthy of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins name, while the lowest setting, Page, is good for those that just want to work through the platforming sections.
Of course, Capcom has added a few new elements for players to enjoy. Throughout each zone, players are able to find Umbral Bees, typically obtainable by completing a challenging platform section of a map quickly, or placed in some other hard-to-reach spot. Umbral Bees allow a player to unlock new abilities from the Umbral Tree, which is essentially a perk system. There’s a broad range of what these abilities do, ranging from abilities that turn enemies into frogs to additional weapon slots.
The Umbral Tree is the most refreshing addition in the game and by far the most significant. Not only does it incentivize players to replay levels in order to find more Umbral Bees, but the abilities make the game feel a lot more modern without destroying the core experience. It isn’t necessary to use them for any purists out there, but they do tend to be fun to use, particularly where active spells are concerned.
Those spells don’t have terrible cooldowns, plus some of them are capable of clearing the screen of monsters in a pitch. Without context, that doesn’t sound overwhelmingly impressive, but too many enemies at once is a death sentence when the platforming and combat challenges blend together, which happens frequently.
On top of spells and abilities, there’s a host of weapons for players to use, many of them having been featured in the original games. Not all of the weapons available are noteworthy, and more often than not, players will probably find themselves looking for Arthur’s lance, Ghost ‘n Goblins Resurrection‘s most versatile weapon. There are some others with appeal, like the blue fire weapon that can clear out grounded enemies in a flash, even though using it against floating enemies is infuriating. The hammer is also satisfying, sending out a slight shockwave that can chew through enemies.
As with all things, though, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection has its share of issues, though their severity will likely depend on what players are looking for out of the game. The most immediately damning thing is that the game lacks even an ounce of the charm of the original. The art style is caught between trying to recreate the classic visuals and adding modern sensibilities, but its failure to commit to either results in a game that just looks cheap. Recent games like Shovel Knight prove that 8-bit and 16-bit graphics can still be appealing, so the decision to shirk that is a bit baffling.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins also struggles where sound design is concerned. Flying enemies have a tendency to make a subtle whooshing sound as they pass by, but that sound gets annoying pretty quickly. The music doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience, but it doesn’t add anything of value to it either.
Some platforming challenges overstay their welcome, so much so that they make playing through the game on the Page difficulty feel worth it, if anything just to get down the timing of certain jumps. The Page difficulty allows players to respawn wherever they died versus returning to a respawn flag or the start of a zone.
Unfortunately, things start to fall apart after the second zone, as uninspired boss fights and lackluster platforming segments combine together to create an underwhelming experience. Plus, the boss fights never really exceed “passable,” all the way up until the end.
All told, the nostalgia rush of reliving a classic game is enough to make Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection a worthwhile experience, but the game’s underwhelming design decisions may make some players bust out an NES Classic to enjoy the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins instead. It has some unique concepts of its own, but those can only carry it so far.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection releases February 25, 2021, for Switch. Game Rant was provided a code for this review.
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Published at Wed, 24 Feb 2021 10:13:27 +0000