GFA: Cadence of Hyrule

Nintendo handed one of their most well-known franchises to a bunch of Canadians who made a game about dancing with death in a Crypt. It’s absurd, but did it lead to an absurdly good game in the eyes of a longtime Necrodancer player?


It’s easy. Really easy. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but keep in mind that a single playthrough took just over five hours and only led to two deaths for me, both of which were outside of dungeons and within the first two hours of play.

The biggest contributing factor to this ease is how many mechanics are carried directly over from NecroDancer itself. From several enemies’ patterns to the way weapons and items function. This one-to-one mirroring makes things an absolute breeze as a longtime casual Necrodancer player.

In addition to this frequent mirroring, health is about as common as mosquitoes on a Florida Summer afternoon. That is to say, it’s everywhere. In bushes, dropped from enemies, provided upon finding and activating a Sheikah stone… Pieces of Heart are also found rather frequently, which not only restore your health, but will maximize your health capacity with each four collected as in any standard Zelda.

The normally serious punishment of taking a hit is negated almost completely due to how frequent health is.

One thing that shows very quickly however is how powerful any sort of attack power increase is. With enemies having on average 2 health points, things become about as easy as running a hot knife through butter as soon as you get up to 2 damage. Don’t get me started on obsidian weapons. You’re almost always able to deal out two points of damage with those due to how quickly the beat multiplier stacks up. The previously mentioned issues with health being so common also adds to this, further negating any difficulty.

Also items are completely optional. I barely found myself using them throughout my entire first playthrough due to how powerful my main weapon was. This isn’t to say they’re useless, the Bow has some surprising utility by allowing you turn while planted in place, and a few are useful for terrain-based puzzle solving, but most of the time this won’t be needed.

This title was certainly designed for the casual audience rather than the permadeath-loving rogue-like community. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but what it leads to is a title that feels strangely too easy as these mirrored mechanics are normally far more harsh.

The biggest plus of this is the soundtrack without a doubt. It carries this whole experience. I can barely think of a moment where these tracks didn’t have me at the least tapping my foot to the beat. Not only are these faithful to the original pieces, but they add new flair and depth to the already expansive repertoire of the Zelda series’ soundtrack. Heck, even Otamatones are now a part of Zelda’s instrumentation.

The soundtrack is also the biggest disappointment. As of recording there is no official way of buying or streaming the tracks. 

Visually the game is a real treat. Pixel artist Paul Veer of Sonic Mania and Nuclear Throne fame really hit it out of the park with this one. Things feel lively and in-time with the world as a whole.

Although, here’s a couple of final nitpicks. Some NPC dialogue does not swap based on actions taken within the game, which breaks immersion somewhat. There’s also this weird situation where the Kargaroks in the desert freeze up when you leave their range of movement. You can also cheese several parts of the game if you happen to have the right items on hand at the right time. This has led to some players straight-up bypassing the majority of the game via some discovered skips. Your average player’s gameplay won’t be ruined by this, but it does make the built-in leaderboards a bit silly now.

(Please note that a patch or two has been released since this review was initially penned. The bugs and sequence breaks listed above may no longer be present.)

Also the secret character and other modes of modifying the game fall into one of two categories: Too huge a jump in difficulty, or overall useless as a single “run” can take actual hours.

Finally, the price point. At $25 it’s a bit steep for something that may only net you about 5 hours of gameplay.

Cadence of Hyrule offers a simple, audiovisual pleasure, but lacks any real reasons to go back and replay it for those who have already invested time into Crypt of the Necrodancer.

Any real sense of danger can easily be negated if one is familiar with the mechanics, which overall leads to a less challenging (and arguably less satisfying) experience as a whole. For Zelda fans however, get it if you’re on the fence. It’s a ton of fun, and death is designed to be more of a temporary setback than an actual severe punishment. The difficulty level may be just right for you.

I’m giving Cadence of Hyrule 6/10 heart containers. It’s solid, but unfortunately feels too distant in challenge and depth from its mechanical source to really satisfy the itch Necrodancer does. Due to this, it is being tagged as a Fad.

If you find this title to be a touch too easy like I did, give the original NecroDancer a shot. Not only does it go on sale frequently, but overall offers a lot more replayability with tons of different modes, characters and more with a soundtrack just as amazing as the remixes heard in Cadence.

Nintendo please allow full release of the soundtrack. I would gladly pay the full retail price of this game for that.

GFA: Nuclear Throne

It’s over. The End has come.. There’s nothing left but dust, weapons, and mutants.

The only option is the Throne, The…

Nuclear Throne.

Such is the life of the twelve mutants all set to risk it all to find this mythical, supposedly world-saving macguffin, the Nuclear Throne.  

The world of Nuclear Throne is a top-down shooter. Death is nearly permanent, as Nuclear Throne fits within the category of a Rogue-Light, where death is a swift boot back to the start with the loss of all upgrades and both weapons currently held. Each run for the throne is randomly generated, with level shape, enemy and item placement all being determined by an incredibly fast generation system. Of course, RNG can needlessly throw you into impossible situations sometimes, but more on that later.

Level progression only comes upon defeating every enemy in a stage, with a portal opening over the corpse of the last enemy defeated. There’s no telling what the next stage will look like through these portals, nor is there any way to truly know even if you understand what stage you’re heading to. The level generation is constantly throwing out new things, but may re-use specific level bits here and there. Overall, each map feels like a brand new location even with these recurring sections.

The journey to the throne is a long one, with four core worlds and three in-between spaces to buffer them. Expect to set aside 20 or so minutes to get to the throne. Each “world” has a specific design theme, such as a desert wasteland, a ruined scrap yard or the remains of a city stuck in nuclear winter, all of which consist of three stages, with the third stage ending with a world boss. After the boss is a single, more enclosed stage to act as a break of sorts between the more hectic main stages. But, these can be just as crazy as the regular stages in their own different way. They focus more on melee-based enemies and close-quarters combat when compared to the main firearm based enemies of the overworld. These stages are also individual from each other design-wise, such with the Labs having different enemies and visual design from the Sewers.

There’s an additional option to skip the normal ending of the game and pull off what is called a “loop” instead. Pulling off a loop sends you back to the start to do all 15 stages over again, however with all of your mutations and weapons intact, and the added twist of several new enemy types being added in with the regular baddies of an area. Loops can be done as long as you’re able to stay alive and reach stage 7-3 again, although it is rare to get beyond a third loop as the enemy count reaches levels near impossible to manage. If not for this limitation, the game would technically be endless.

Now, Crystal can Shield, Steroids can dual wield, and Robots can digest anything. Each of the twelve playable characters has two additional abilities, one active, and one passive that will change how each will make the trek to the throne, or die trying. Not all of these abilities are helpful though, as some act to counter an otherwise overpowered active ability, such as being able to dual-wield any two weapons all the time. From the previously mentioned abilities to things such as spawning allies, utilizing telekinesis, and firing off pure radiation, there’s no shortage of ways out of a tricky situation. But there’s also no shortage of ways to die. Be it standard bullets, lasers, or a freak combination of crystal and interdimensional rift, you’ll constantly be finding new, and dare I say intriguing ways for your runs to end.

To aid the mutants on this journey, after the collection of so many rads, or radioactive material dropped from defeated enemies, your character will be able to mutate even further. Each mutation adds yet another layer of complexity to the game, allowing things such as a second life, or permanently slowing down all bullets fired by enemies. There are several others besides these, each aiding the mutant on their journey to various degrees. Knowing which mutation will be most useful for the situation at hand is half the battle, as these also reset upon death and are randomly put into pools of four upon each level up.

There are also items known as “Crowns” that can be discovered in some secret areas, however these add an additional difficulty curve by tweaking the map generation, or how pickups such as ammo and health appear.

Did I mention the secret areas? There’s a ton of them, some which offer valuable shortcuts, others seem to exist solely to accelerate your death, but they may offer rewards such as a new permanent weapon for your troubles…

Nuclear Throne excels with visual clarity, most of the time. In a fast-paced action title such as this, clarity is key, and Vlambeer has hit the nail on the head… Mostly. A few enemies in the game are specifically designed to be deceptive in their nature, blending in with the background, but sometimes enemies purely can’t be seen due to their small size. It’s a rare issue, but losing one of your precious health points due to a maggot you couldn’t see isn’t fun.

The soundtrack and audio design is just, if not as important as the visuals. With 35 tracks, a few of which are also collaborations between individuals such as Disasterpeace, (FEZ, Hyper Light Drifter) Danny B. (Super Meat Boy, Crypt of the Necrodancer) and the original composer, Jukio Kallio. Each track contributes just a bit more to this journey, with the Drylands theme readying the player up for the upcoming challenges, and the Sewers theme reminding you that hope for this world may be lost, etc. The solid thump of the grenade launcher, or the quick dundundun from the Assault Rifle give a sense of power to each of the over 100 weapons that can show up as you move ever closer to the throne. Each enemy also has clear audio cues for attacking, taking damage or dying, allowing the player to eventually understand what they hit offscreen without having to expose themselves to fire.

Death is, unfortunately, a common but a temporary setback. Nuclear Throne will not be kind to you in your first few hours, nor will it be kind after your first hundred. However, one button press and you’re back at it from the start in mere seconds. Why give up if you can just try it again instantly? It’s reliance on RNG negatively effects this, with some enemies being able to target you from off-screen, albeit with an audio cue, and one boss in particular being known within the community as the “One you either die to in 10 seconds, or kill in 10 seconds.”

One could say it’s tough, but fair. I would agree with this up until the point where the game decides to give you a large, open space with no cover and no way to dodge the literal wall of bullets flying your way for no apparent reason. These types of situations are rare, thankfully, but the mere presence of them makes this game one best suited for quick sessions that end before you get too frustrated. Not even a quick-fire reset button is enough to convince me to continue playing after situations like this.

I would advise looking into Nuclear Throne’s Game Jam Prototype, Wasteland Kings if you’re unsure about spending $12 on this game. It’s rough, but the general concept is there.

Personally, I’d say it’s worth the $12 price, even with RNG being a pain sometimes.

Nuclear Throne is a Good title, with a score of 8 out of 10.

GFA: EarthBound

Simple gameplay, well-written dialogue, beautiful spritework and a great soundtrack. This game has it all, but this includes a few small quality of life snags that keep it from perfection.

This is the first title I finished on the SNES Classic. More first-time thoughts on these 90’s classics are to come.

Let me start this off by saying I am not a huge fan of RPGs. But, I decided I was going to play through this one as I keep hearing about it and its unfortunately region-locked sequel MOTHER 3.

EarthBound. A game about a young, baseball-obsessed kid going out and fighting off art, rogue beverages and almost any stray animal he comes across in order to destroy some alien being before it can destroy the earth. Oh, also all this is fine as everything either disappears or “becomes tame” instead of just straight-up dying.

Needless to say this is definitely a bizarre game.

However, the game takes this bizarreness and runs with it. One moment you’ll be fighting off angered insects while the next you’ll be taking on a Melting Clock or an “Annoying Old Party Man” for some apparent reason. Random as these all may seem, the game usually makes their location and purpose believable: the Annoying Old Party Man will not show up in the middle of the jungle and the Melting Clock will only show up in one specific sequence alongside other equally surreal enemies. Unfortunately there are a few times where this system is broken, such as with crocodiles showing up in an incredibly snowy area. Thankfully these instances are few and far between, but I would say it makes them even more jarring than usual.

Gameplay is simple. You move around, you manage your inventory, occasionally fight something and every now and then talk to somebody. It never gets that complicated and doesn’t even use all of the buttons on the original controller. Combat-wise you really only have to worry about HP and PP meters, (Representing Health and Special Ability Points) which use the “rolling number” mechanic present in this series. In short if something is lowered, it won’t go down instantly. There are a few moments where you are given the chance to recover the damage before it’s done, which could be a lifesaver for your party and an easy way to avoid those ever-disappointing Game Over screens. However, just like with the oddly-placed enemies there are some situations where this system is circumvented and your party can just be instantly killed. It’s no fun, and happens quite often later in the game.

I could go on about the soundtrack, the writing or the spritework, but the mere fact that this game has inspired many developers within the last 20 years speaks for itself. Some hail it as a perfect game, however I would have to politely disagree with that claim as I have two major problems with this game.

First off, Inventory Management in this game is a pain. There are different rules for items in the field and in battle, such as if a party member is downed in battle, their entire inventory is also unavailable until the battle is over. However, in the field you can just grab whatever from anyone provided you have enough space to store it another character’s inventory.

I also question why you can’t just swap items between party members and why it’s so incredibly easy to completely destroy an item in your inventory. In one case I ended up losing a rather expensive revival item simply because I missed the correct menu option.

Secondly, travel is rather slow for a decent portion of the game. Fast Travel options are not given to you until after one large back-and-forth section is taken care of, and it gets tiring quick. By the time the option to fast-travel is given to you it is a relief, but at the same time it’s another situation where a helpful item is given right after you really began to wish you had said item, which is something that I have never found enjoyable.

Overall, EarthBound deserves the praise it gets. It’s quirky, weird, silly and embraces all of this while remaining grounded within itself most of the time.

This game is Good.

(For you number junkies, I’d look elsewhere. I’m not assigning one to this game.)

GFA: Jungle Inferno Contract Campaign

Category: Fad

Item is available for a limited time.

Rating: 6/10

It has been 113 days since Valve turned out the long-awaited and seemingly fabled Pyro Update, better known today as Jungle Inferno.

With this update, a grand total of 126 contracts, of which 84 are optional, were made available to players who purchased the Campaign Pass and I have since finished all of them. These are in-game challenges with rewards tied to them. With this pass running for $6, Or $4.50 during the current sale. was it worth the money?

In short, kinda.

Being able to play a game over a decade old with new objectives feels great, however not all of these objectives are up to the task. Shortly after launch multiple contracts were adjusted to be less impossible to complete under normal circumstances. However I think that several other contracts were in need of adjustments of this sort. Especially for the contracts tied to maps, where “Defenses” were a part of the contract. One for the Medic and the “Hot Hand” contract for the Pyro, which is available for all players had rather lofty bonus requirements.

These are just a few of the more ridiculous contracts. The Medic only has 150 health and you would have to recover 200 in a single life for this to count once. “Safeguarding” a point meant delivering a kill on it. Melee-only as well.

Now, as to why I bothered with these bonus objectives, they’re somewhat required for other contracts. I unfortunately don’t have any screenshots displaying this, but you had to exchange stars for unlocking additional contracts. The “Mercenary World” contract, which grants a single-use Weapon Skin only obtainable through the contract cost a whopping 20 stars to unlock.

While the majority of these contracts and tied bonus objectives were doable in a short period of time, these would take far longer and would usually lead to me playing a class designed to lock down single areas, such as Demoman or Engineer. Normally I wouldn’t be opposed to this, but when you have multiple maps with goals that are copied and pasted onto each other, it gets old quickly. What makes this worse is some of the maps chosen are quite infamous for either being near-perpetual stalemates (Dustbowl) or have a high chance of never ending and attracting some of the best and absolute worst people in the game simultaneously. (2Fort/Turbine)

Add to this the still unfixed (but far better than 2016) Casual system where matches can be incredibly unbalanced leaving you with too little time to complete objectives or with no chance at all.

Fortunately you can party up with as many as 5 other players to work on these. They don’t even have to own the campaign pass to contribute to it. While this in theory should help with the large objective numbers, it really doesn’t do a whole lot when the contracts are forcing you to adopt one specific playstyle.

Overall, I’d say the Contract Campaign was okay. Objectives were a mixed bag, map selection could have been better and with Casual mode still stuck with a volunteer autobalance system that is quite slow, it could be better. With the event ending in less than a month, I can’t advise purchasing it now unless you plan to marathon these over the course of a single week. The rewards aren’t really worth mentioning as they are all available for trade.

I’m giving the Jungle Inferno Contract Campaign a Fad rating (big surprise as it’s only available for a short while), with a score of 6/10.

Objectives are repetitive, on questionable maps and the bonuses have been made near worthless as they can all be traded for.

GFA: Fight Songs: The Music of Team Fortress 2

Rating: 8/10. A Must-buy for any diehard fan of Team Fortress 2.
Category: Fad. This Item will pass into obscurity in time.

Music is bad. You have a better chance of dying in a blimp accident than of buying a good record. So congratulations, little boy or girl, because you’ve somehow defied the odds. The album you hold in your hands contains the world’s only good music – all the best notes, in the best keys, in the best order, orchestrated specifically for you and your best buddies to hold in each other’s guts by. And there are no lyrics, so there’s nothing to compete with whatever words you choose to scream at the sky while enjoying the smooth sounds of Team Fortress 2.

~RED Distribution Co.

Never change, Valve Writers, Never Change.

Fight Songs: The Music of Team Fortress 2 is the near decade-in-the-making soundtrack for, well, Team Fortress 2. With 29 Tracks, Artwork and an in-game item to boot, this is a definite collector’s item, but how do the tracks themselves hold out?

For the most part, pretty well. Each one seems to be the original source file, which is quite nice, as they are more clear than the gamefile-ripped version I had had previously. However, two tracks: “Scream Fortress” and “Carousel of Curses” (Both of which are Halloween-related.) have issues where the track peaks and crackles in ways that are not apparent in-game or in the aforementioned rips. This is the only major problem, but it is still a letdown.

EDIT: This was a problem found on the CD version initially, but it has since been found in all versions of the soundtrack. I purchased the CD copy.

The Album artwork contains images of all 9 classes interacting with each other, or on their own in various situations organized like a scrapbook. With the game reaching its 10th anniversary soon, this is fitting, and it even seems to tease at the upcoming Pyro update.

Speaking of the Pyro, this album’s case wouldn’t last more than a few seconds in his hands, as the whole thing, save for what is holding the disk, is made of paper. It’s a fragile item to say the least.

Your in-game bonus for physical copies? It’s a hat, to no surprise, but one that places a small turntable atop a set of headphones, referencing both the digital and analog versions of the soundtrack release. The record spins while the playhead will bob up and down depending on your character’s movements. A goofy, yet charming addition to an already decent release with an even more fitting name: The Audio File.

To anyone who enjoys the TF2 Soundtrack, or TF2 in general, give this a go. Like previous TF2 items such as the Chess Set, this probably will not stay in production for long, so get while the getting’s good!