Graze Counter

Graze Counter

Hop into the cockpit of your fighter and take down a virtual network that has evolved a little too much for its own good in this shoot ‘em up from Bikkuri Software. It offers non-stop action and a bullet grazing mechanic that forces you to risk life and limb to boost your score while unleashing devastating attacks. The 16-bit style of the visuals and audio offers a nice blast from the past for fans of the genre, but even newcomers can ease into the action thanks to a practice mode and selectable difficulty settings. The game is a little short for our liking and the style might not appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy a good shoot ‘em up you can do far worse than this one.

Gameplay: Being forced to skirt dangerously close to bullets instead of simply avoiding them makes for a frantic experience.

Graphics: The 16-bit visual style is charming, but might not appeal to those who didn’t grow up with the genre.

Sound: The soundtrack is good, but the sound effects lack a little punch

Solstice Chronicles: MIA

Solstice Chronicles: MIA

Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a twin stick shooter where the odds are very much against you. Faced with waves of deadly enemies, your only chance for survival is to play a bit more tactical than what is expected from you in most of these types of games. Using your drone companion to manage your threat level is essential and sometimes knowing when to make a run for it is just as useful as standing your ground. With four character classes, different skill trees, a story mode and survival mode, this is the type of game that can keep you busy for ages. The lack of online co-op sucks, but nothing beats setting up two controllers and playing with a friend next to you on the couch.

Gameplay: The game is intense,even on lower skill levels, and requires you to do more than just spray and pray.

Graphics: Not a very colorful game, but the top down visuals packs plenty of detail.

Sound: Surprisingly good voice acting even if the background music is nothing to write home about

NEKOPARA Vol. 3

NEKOPARA Vol. 3

The NEKOPARA series has consistently delivered entertaining kinetic novels with great visuals and audio, so it is no surprise that volume three does the same. This time the story shifts to Maple and Cinnamon, the only catgirls left at La Soleil who have not yet had their chance to shine. While the story spends a lot of time with these two the other catgirls also make regular appearances, so no matter which ones are your favorite, you’ll get to experience more of their cuteness. Like volume one and two, this game is available in censored and uncensored versions, with the former costing less and the latter including explicit h-scenes. Whichever version you choose, you’ll find a story that is packed with adorable catgirls, plenty of humorous situations and some of the best visuals in the genre.

Gameplay: NEKOPARA Vol. 3 is still a kinetic novel with no choices to make, but the story is entertaining all the way through.

Graphics: More stunning artwork by Sayori and more animations courtesy of the E-mote system.

Sound: The soundtrack sounds a little too familiar at times, but still has plenty of great tracks and some stellar Japanese voice acting

Perception

Perception

Perception is a unique horror title with a charming protagonist who just happens to be blind. This puts a whole new spin on exploring a haunted location as you have to make use of echolocation to find your way around. Although creepy, some of the horror elements, such as being chased by an evil presence if you make too much noise, doesn’t quite live up to expectations. However, the story is very interesting, despite a couple of cliches and discovering what happened in the house throughout the years is fascinating. While the game won’t win any awards for its monochromatic visuals, it does feature some stellar voice acting. Players in search of an atmospheric ghost story that isn’t too demanding should definitely try out Perception.

Gameplay: A little short and easy, but very interesting while it lasts.

Graphics: The visuals are purposely kept simple, which means it doesn’t look as good as some other horror titles.

Sound: Great ambient sound effects and brilliant voice acting, especially for the protagonist

Conarium

Conarium

Even if you don’t know your shoggoths from your Mi-go there is a lot to like about this Lovecraftian horror title by Zoetrope Interactive. They are no strangers to the genre and are clearly huge fans of H. P. Lovecraft, which is very evident in this game. The slower place and lack of combat might scare away some horror fans, but the attention to detail and the way that the game perfectly captures the atmosphere of Lovecraft’s work makes it a must play for fans. It might lack a little polish in some areas and it is over all too soon, but it is still a remarkable effort by a small indie team and one that deserves to be played.

Gameplay: Plenty of exploration and puzzle solving in environments that perfectly capture the style of H. P Lovecraft.

Graphics: Your surroundings are detailed and quite atmospheric.

Sound: The voice acting could have been better, but the rest of the audio is very good

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Whether you fondly remember the original 1989 Master System version or simply enjoy good platform games, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap should not be missed. This updated version is a true labor of love and features great artwork, brilliant re-orchestrated versions of the classic tunes as well as the ability to switch to the original audio and visuals on the fly. The gameplay is also still every bit as addictive as it was back in the day and can now be taken up or down a notch depending on your skill level. It is definitely no exaggeration to say that Lizardcube has pulled off one of the most impressive remakes of a retro classic that we have seen to date.

Gameplay: Still plays great and showcases why this game is widely regarded as a classic of its time.

Graphics: The new hand-drawn visuals look great and are also beautifully animated.

Sound: The original soundtrack is catchy, but the re-orchestrated version sounds even better

Drifting Lands

Drifting Lands

From big bosses and swarms of enemies to screens filled with bullets and explosions, Drifting Lands offers everything fans expect from the side scrolling shooter genre. However, it goes one step further by also merging it with some action-RPG elements that will keep you coming back for more in a bid to customize your ship to the max. It starts out a little slow, but thanks to multiple difficulty grades, the intensity of the action quickly ramps up. Anyone with an itchy trigger finger looking for a shooter that has a bit more replay value than usual shouldn’t at the very least try out the free demo.

Gameplay: A little overwhelming at times, but at least you are eased into things quite gently.

Graphics: Detailed and colorful, especially for a side scrolling shooter, but very few truly jaw-dropping set pieces.

Sound: The sound effects lack a little punch, but the soundtrack is as varied as it is rocking

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is an FMV game where you get to play as a psychiatrist questioning a host of patients about their problems and the murder of your predecessor. This is all done via a keyword based text input, but the high definition, full screen video responses will quickly draw you into the mystery. Add in some superb acting along with a genuinely fascinating story and you are looking at a surprisingly good title. It’s not perfect and the genre obviously has a lot of limitations, but overall this is one not to be missed.

Gameplay: The keyword based questioning obviously has some limitations, but makes for an engrossing experience.

Graphics: The quality of the full motion video responses are very good.

Sound: Features an atmospheric soundtrack and the quality of the acting is also of a very high standard

Rocking Pilot

Rocking Pilot

Rocking Pilot enables players to live out their Airwolf fantasies by taking control of a helicopter and laying waste to enemy armies. The game takes the form of a 2D, top down shooter with colorful visuals and arcade style gameplay. Plenty of mission variety and addictive online leaderboards make up for the relatively short campaign mode and the game is addictive enough that you’ll keep coming back until you’ve earned every collectible. Add to this the low price of the game and you have a title that is essential for fans of the genre.

Gameplay: Fast, frantic and very, very addictive.

Graphics: Bright and colorful, albeit a little cramped.

Sound: Features a suitable rocking soundtrack

A Butterfly in the District of Dreams

A Butterfly in the District of Dreams

A Butterfly In The District of Dreams doesn’t quite live up to its mysterious premise, but as far as visual novels goes it still has a lot to offer. The pace of the story is very slow and relaxing, which is great for players in search of a calming experience. It is refreshing to play a title that doesn’t rely on fan service as a crutch, but due to the slow pace it is also a title that some players will find a little boring. With three main heroines, each with multiple routes and different endings, this visual novel is definitely not lacking in content.

Gameplay: The pace is fairly slow, but the slice of life drama still manages to be captivating once you get hooked.

Graphics: Beautiful character sprites, but the backgrounds are fairly limited.

Sound: Full Japanese voice acting and a great soundtrack