Time to take a look at a quartet of new releases that can all be picked up at a budget price point. We’re checking out Conan Chop Chop, Gunborg: Dark Matters, the Inevitable Excess expansion for Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous and MeteoHeroes: Saving Planet Earth today – read on below.
Conan Chop Chop
Originally scheduled for release back in the fall of 2019 after first seeing the light of day as what was considered to be an April Fool’s joke by Conan Exiles publisher Funcom, Conan Chop Chop is finally here. What we thought was going to be a playful little arcade brawler turns out to be an interesting roguelike action game best played in multiplayer mode.
Despite its cute cartoon look, Conan Chop Chop is still set within the lore of the Conan universe, so story-wise you (and up to three friends) set out to defeat Thoth-Amon before he can resurrect Xaltotum. Don’t worry, you don’t need any knowledge of the Conan mythos before embarking on the journey. If you don’t have any, of are just a casual fan, it suffices to say that you’ll have to battle past four bosses in order to get to the final confrontation – each boss guarding a procedurally generated zone you have to clear.
Progressing past each zone’s enemies will result in two resources: gold and steelfire. Gold is used on your current run to better your chances at success through health and weapon upgrades, while steelfire carries over into your future runs to provide that roguelike flavor we mentioned before. Combat is fast and sometimes frantic, especially when playing with several warriors at once against a squad of enemies. And while it’s certainly more challenging than the cute visuals suggest, it’s accessible and fun to play thanks to responsive controls that let you wield all kinds of weapons as well – from hammers and swords to long range weapons like bows.
Conan Chop Chop’s combat is surprisingly deep too. From the screenshots we saw, we assumed this was going to a real button masher, but in order to be successful you’ll have to block and parry just as much as you’ll be hammering the attack button. Boss fights are especially challenging, and coordinating with friends is often a good key towards overcoming these fights. And while they’re possible solo, there are certainly more involved roguelikes and better brawlers out there for single player gaming. There are few that are this fun when playing together though, and massive bonus points if you already enjoy the Conan license.
Gunborg: Dark Matters
Developed by Rickard Paulsson and published on all major console systems by Red Art, Gunborg: Dark Matters is a run and gun platformer with a sci-fi aesthetic and an old school feel to it. We played the PlayStation version of this hidden indie gem.
Like the arcade games that inspired it (Midnight Resistance came to mind for us) Gunborg: Dark Matters is all about gameplay, but has a sprinkling of story content to it as well – though it offers little more than a reason why you’re fighting and why you’re doing it here. The game takes place aboard a large spaceship, where you’re chasing after bad guys. That’s really all you need to know, though you see a few conversations between characters in between levels as well – again, much like the ‘cutscenes’ in classic arcade games.
Despite the title, Gunborg starts out with you as a main character who doesn’t have any guns. Your standard weapons are a sword and shield, but although that sounds particularly medieval in nature these are of the sci-fi variety. The shield will materialize out of light, and is able to bounce projectiles back at enemies as well – you can even use that ability to safeguard yourself to dangers from below, bouncing off of harmful surfaces instead of getting hurt or killed.
Enemies drop weapons when they go down, which introduces ranged weapons to your arsenal. There’s a good variety of them, but with ammo being scarce you’ll frequently switch weapons to whatever happens to get dropped. With these, Gunborg turns into a familiar kind of 2D action adventure, though it’s a well-crafted one with challenging level layouts. While there are checkpoints, carefully designed platforming sequences and enemies make reaching them always feel like a victory, especially later on in the campaign.
This is a relatively short game though, clocking in at just a few hours. It’s a nicely balanced and thrilling ride though, as besides the challenging-but-far difficulty level there’s also a good mix of platforming and combat, as well as a blend of regular levels and timed runs where you’re being chased by a deadly laser. Combine that with attractive visuals and a ditto soundtrack, and this is a great little indie for action game fans.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous – Inevitable Excess DLC
We absolutely loved Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous when it came out, and Inevitable Excess is the first major DLC release for the game. It’s a new narrative-driven adventure for late-game characters, although you can also generate a brand new one if you feel like starting with a fresh new party.
In Inevitable Excess, a new threat looms over the universe, and it’s up to you to stop it over the course of a 7 to 8 hour campaign. But while that’s a good amount of content, the whole package ended up feeling underwhelming as a Pathfinder expansion – at least to us. Looking back at the first Pathfinder game, the reason we fell in love with it was its excellent writing and narrative development, with a ton of storytelling from and about the many characters. Wrath of the Righteous continued this trend, and had strong gameplay to back it up as well.
Inevitable Excess is lacking in the narrative department, and as a result leans too heavily on the game’s combat and a selection of new puzzles. And while that hurts the “Pathfinder feel”, it doesn’t help that a lot of the combat starts to feel repetitive after a while because you’ll run into the same handful of enemies all the time. Puzzles weren’t a highlight of the formula to begin with and merely offer diversions, but we wish that the core of the experience was richer so they didn’t just feel like breaks in between combat. Character interactions, another staple of the franchise, are also not as abundant here. So while we relished the chance to dive back into Wrath of the Righteous, Inevitable Excess isn’t the expansion we were hoping for – but we have our fingers crossed for the second expansion that’ll hopefully hit later this year.
MeteoHeroes: Saving Planet Earth!
Developed and published by Gammera Nest, MeteoHeroes: Saving Planet Earth is a kid-friendly platformer based on an IP we weren’t familiar with. MeteoHeroes is an Italian-produced series of short animated shows that only run for about 7 minutes each, tackling important ecological topics in each episode. The stars of the show are six children who change into superheroes that can control various elements of the weather, so it offers both an educational and entertaining angle to its target audience.
Does edutainment like that translate well to a videogame? It does if you follow a similar template to other shows that have been turned into a game, like the Paw Patrol and PJ Masks games by Outright Games. And although MeteoHeroes isn’t as widespread a phenomenon as those licenses (the show only airs in a few countries), it’s easy to see a similar kind of appeal here. Adults will enjoy the globe-trotting adventures of these kids as well, because the campaign takes players all across the globe, from Sydney to Rome and from Seattle to the South Pole. Missions play out as short stories as well, so you don’t need to be familiar with the source material before you start playing either.
As with the aforementioned other games, MeteoHeroes isn’t very challenging to anyone but the very youngest of gamers. Each level has you seeking three objects that relate to that location’s environmental problem, and you can also pick up coins as collectibles as you go along. It’s very similar to other family-friendly games and even has character-specific trigger points where you use special abilities – pretty much a carbon copy of what we’ve seen before, so as a parent you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not your kids will enjoy it.
The controls are a tad more complex than those in the Outright games, because in between the jumping and platforming that is the bulk of the experience there is also a little bit of combat, where you can use a shield and an attack button to take out blob-shaped enemies and flying spheres. It’s quite basic, but for the youngest players this three-button layout might be challenging.
MeteoHeroes is charming, but quite short, with under two hours of gameplay content and limited replay value unless you happen to have a kid that’s really into trophies. License-wise the game suffers from a lack of voiceovers and cutscenes, which would have certainly elevated the game a bit, especially in delivering the message it stands for. Kid-friendly titles on PlayStation are in short supply though, so if you’re looking for something new to play for your young ones this might be a nice niche choice.