Release roundup: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, Lair of the Clockwork God, Mars Horizon & My Aunt is a Witch

Even though there is a distinct lack of big system exclusives for the new next gen systems, November is still a month full of videogame releases. We’re picking out a few that stood out to us as we share our impressions of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron is Back, Lair of the Clockwork God, Mars Horizon and My Aunt Is A Witch, which is one of the rare new Vita releases you can pick up this holiday season!

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron Is Back!

Just over half a year ago, we received Bubble Bobble 4 Friends on the Nintendo Switch. We loved it, only lamenting the relative lack of content. Now, the game is back with a release for the PlayStation 4 which seems to address exactly that one issue, so it’s high time for us to put the spotlight on this modern take on an arcade classic once more.

Many of the features in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron Is Back for the PS4 were also in the original Switch release, like the ability to play 4 player co-op games or the chance to start up the original arcade version of the first Bubble Bobble, which is great for nostalgia. You can read all about that initial release here in our review, which explains more about the gameplay and why we enjoyed the game so much.

bubble bobble 4 friends2

This particular release features additional content though, and it’s not just a case of “here you go, 10 additional levels, now shut up.” The re-release of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends features 100 new stages to complete, which doubles the total number of stages in the game! In addition, the PS4 release also marks the return of Baron von Blubba as one of the villains in the game.

Unsurprisingly, the game performs great on the PS4, with its detailed and colorful visuals really popping on a big screen TV. Four player co-op is also brilliant, and in terms of a family-friendly options during lockdown it doesn’t get much better than this – especially if you have children too young to enjoy something like Overcooked.

This is one of the holiday delights this season, and there’s good news for Switch owners as well – they get all the new content as part of a free update as well!

Lair of the Clockwork God

Lair of the Clockwork God came out on Steam last winter and has been very well received, so we were excited to learn it was finally coming to the PS4 as well (after earlier releases for the Switch and Xbox One). We had heard nothing but good things about the previous titles by Dan Marshall and Ben Ward as well, so we couldn’t wait to try it out.

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It’s hard to pinpoint Lair of the Clockwork God as belonging to a single game genre, simply because it’s meant as a parody on several of them. The most notable ones are the classic point and click adventure games from the early nineties and the 2D platformers that were dominant in roughly the same era. There’s a lot of meta-type humor here too, so if you want to enjoy this game it helps if you’re familiar with the aforementioned genre and have a broad sense of gaming culture as a whole.

It’s not that the game isn’t good without an ability to grasp its many pokes and jokes, but it certainly helps. Even if you don’t the gameplay it still strong, with a unique blend of two genres where your two protagonists come together through their fondness of “their” respective genres. Dan is your platforming character here and takes care of all your running and jumping needs, whereas Ben is proficient at grabbing items from his surroundings, combining them and putting them to good use. In a unique bit of gameplay design, these two actually complement each other, and it’s lovely to find ways to make they “click” over the course of a lengthy adventure.

With some of the jokes, I couldn’t quite figure out if they were intentional or not – even though they probably were. Those who played classic adventure games in the past will no doubt remember how frustrating it can be to try and figure out which inventory item went where and should be combined with what, and there were a few instances where Lair of the Clockwork God appeared to one-up this. That’s a funny notion, but it doesn’t eliminate the original frustration either if things take too long to figure out.

lair of the clockwork god

All of the humor in the game in done in good spirits though, and even though countless tropes and stereotypes appear they’re never bashed in a harsh way or mentioned with anything but an undertone of respect and love for what came before. From that perspective, Lair of the Clockwork God is what Horace was for me back in 2019, and I mean that in the most positive way I can.

If you have an affinity for gaming in general, and platforming and adventure games in particular, you should try out Lair of the Clockwork God. Despite so many influences from other games, it’s still one of the most refreshing games we’ve played all year.

Mars Horizon

We previewed Mars Horizon from developer Auroch Digital and publisher The Irregular Corporation a while ago, but this week marks the release of the full game. It’s out now for the Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

In our preview we talk a lot more about the core concepts of the game and how the gameplay works, so we definitely recommend reading that as you consider picking up the game. We have since had a chance to also play the console version of the game on a PS4, and can confirm that it runs great – though we weren’t surprised since Mars Horizon isn’t the most visually demanding game out there.

mars horizon

The user interface definitely shows its PC (mouse control) origins on consoles, but because this is a slower paced game where you help control the outcome of the space race it gets away with its menu-heavy approach on a console as well. This is a game you’ll play if you have an interest in space travel, its associated history and its potential for the future – with an almost documentary-like appeal to space enthusiasts like myself, it’s great to see this being released on so many platforms.

My Aunt Is A Witch

After Sony changed some of their store certification policies for Vita titles, it’s become more and more rare to spot a new game for the handheld. Sony’s most recent move was to remove Vita purchases from their web-based storefront altogether, so it was a very pleasant surprise to learn that Sometimes You is coming out with a brand new game later this month.

It’s called My Aunt is a Witch, and it’s a visual novel with hints of traditional adventure games and even hidden object games thrown in to spice things up a bit. At its core, it’s a story about a young boy called Thomas whose widowed father married a woman who absolutely can’t stand her new son. For some reason, the dad’s okay with it, but the boy’s life changes dramatically when he meets his aunt again – who turns out to be a powerful witch able to teach him some of the tricks of the trade.

my aunt is a witch

Rather than just rely on a very text-heavy interface for the narrative, My Aunt Is A Witch features interactive backdrops where you can manipulate parts of the environment, and the game is partly structured around quests, rather than the branching narratives you see in other visual novels. This certainly help move the game along, and it’s a shorter experience in the visual novel genre at about four to five hours of gameplay time.

The art style and audio deserve a special mention as well, because the anime/cartoon art style is absolutely lovely and the same can be said for the music that goes with it. As visual novels go, it’s a short story, but certainly a pleasant one. It’s part Alice in Wonderland, part Harry Potter, and although this potion-filled tale won’t rank alongside those classics it was certainly a good way to spend a few more hours with the beloved Vita. If you don’t have Sony’s handheld – not to worry, My Aunt Is A Witch is also available for all of the current mainstream consoles out there.

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