We’re checking out three very different releases today, looking at the GOTY edition of Hot Wheels Unleashed, the “mootroidvania” Moo Lander and the EA launch of Destiny’s Sword.
Hot Wheels Unleashed gets a Game of the Year Edition
We don’t remember seeing Hot Wheels Unleashed pick up a ton of ‘Game of the Year’ awards last year, but we had a lot of fun reviewing it and this new edition (which is also available as an upgrade for existing owners) it a great reason to return to what’s easily the best Hot Wheels game released thus far.
Included in the GOTY edition are three season passes and three additional content packs that give you over 50 new cars, a range of new track builder and customization elements and three new environments. The Batcave is our favorite of these, and that particular environment also comes with a selection of Batman-themed vehicles. The base game already had the Batmobile, but you can now race around with Penguin, Joker and even Robin-themed cars.
The other two big themed expansions are based on Monster Trucks and the Looney Tunes, though if it’s vehicles you’re after then you’ll find a good selection of Street Fighter and TMNT-themed cars as well. Oddly enough, those IPs were originally spread across the different season passes, forcing fans to buy all packs to complete their collection, so those who waited are getting a much better deal here with the GOTY edition. It’s also worth pointing out that Hot Wheels Unleashed doesn’t support cross-buy, so if you started playing on a PS4 and have switched to a PS5, you’ll have to buy the new content for the ‘old’ version if you’re going the upgrade route.
And game of the year or not, Hot Wheels Unleashed is still a blast to play, looks great and this package represents great value, especially if you can pick it up during a sale. Going hands on with the new content instantly reignited our fondness of the game, so if you’re looking for a fun kart-like racer this new bundle could be a great option for you.
Moo Lander review (PS4)
Back in 2020, we interviewed the developers at The Sixth Hammer about the game Moo Lander, and back in May of this year they launched the full game. We actually got to meet the team in person during Gamescom a few weeks ago, so it was high time to check out this “Mootroidvania” ourselves.
From the title to what we heard from the guys making this, Moo Lander doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it does feature a lot of different mechanics, from platforming to RPG-like combat. Familiar stuff, but this is the first time we’re seeing it against a backdrop of a UFO invasion in which you’re trying to abduct cows for their precious milk. It’s a unique story, but the delivery is a mixed bag even though they put plenty of effort in it. There’s an elaborate sci-fi plot about messing with nature and the rise of technology powered by milk, but on that latter part they also go off the deep end with silly puns that make it hard to take the plot seriously. As a result, Moo Lander sits somewhere between sci-fi and satire, which can feel weird.
The gameplay itself, by comparison, is surprisingly solid for a premise this silly. Like other metroidvanias, it features a number of upgrade paths, letting you upgrade your ship and abilities – cashing in your milk supplies for upgrades. The game is less reliant on backtracking and exploration than other games in the genre though, but with a story to move you forward this is probably a good thing – and your AI buddy Hamilton is happy to help advance the story with you.
Moo Lander is a gorgeous game to look at, with detailed and colorful visuals that give off a distinct otherworldly vibe. There’s a good range of enemies as well, and cows come in various mutations. These are mostly cosmetic in nature though, as the combat mechanics when fighting them could’ve had some more diversity to them. Combat’s fun though, and there’s plenty of it. You can also take your skills to the included multiplayer modes, where “mooltiplayer” kept reminding us of The Fifth Element’s multipass – much to our own amusement. We suppose that “amusement” is the name of the game here, as Moo Lander isn’t trying to draw you in with its strange plot or silly jokes – it’s just fun to play.
Destiny’s Sword launches in Early Access
Developed by Ontario-based studio 2Dogs Games and published by Bonus Stage, Destiny’s Sword is launching into Early Access on October 17th as a PC-exclusive graphic adventure. With a sci-fi premise and aesthetic, it appealed to us as a new way of visually telling a story without relying on the classic visual novel approach – we’ve already had some hands on time and came away impressed.
The premise itself isn’t that remarkable – you work with a squad of space marines and go on missions to remote locations. The writing’s good though, with bestselling author M. D. Cooper penning the story. But where Destiny’s Sword really starts to feel like something different is in its unique mechanics, which don’t just rely on conversation choices and let you affect the outcome of a battle in a wholly new way.
Rather than make direct decisions that let the story branch out into a certain direction, you make choices that affect the emotional well-being and team balance of your squad. It’s really interesting to play around with and feels much more involved than the sometimes passive nature of visual novels that you just read along with, despite a similarly strong emphasis on narrative. Destiny’s Sword launched in Early Access with all of its mechanics included, but will receive more narrative content over the next few months, with a full launch scheduled for the spring of 2023.