With Charon’s Staircase, SuperPower 3 and One True Hero, we’re checking out three recent releases that may have flown under your radar.
Charon’s Staircase review (PS4)
One of the horror games that crept in just before Halloween was Soedesco’s Charon’s Staircase, which was developed by Indigo Studios. A first-person horror/mystery adventure, it’s out for PCs and all major consoles, including the Nintendo Switch. We checked out the PlayStation 4 version.
In Charon’s Staircase, you play as Desmond, who heads out to investigate a mysterious and somewhat creepy house – something that never seems like it would be a good idea but remains a popular setup for a horror story. In this case, your destination is Oack Grove, which is surrounded by dark stories about its former occupant. While not especially original in nature, horror fans will find the premise interesting enough, and after a somewhat lukewarm start it’s a narrative you’ll want to get to the bottom of.
Charon’s Staircase relies more on puzzles and atmosphere than on action and combat, and many of those puzzles rely on having to find keys and/or lock combinations. You’ll also find lots of notes spread across the two major buildings you’ll explore, evoking more memories of classic horror games that relied heavily on such mechanics. There are a few well-designed and original puzzles you’ll encounter as well, but it’s mostly familiar stuff.
The game isn’t the best looking horror title out there (compatibility with the Switch is probably a factor there), but locations are well designed and the game manages to craft a good sense of atmosphere – partly by hiding a lack of detail with dark and moody visuals and lighting. A few small visual glitches would sometimes take us out of that atmosphere, but we’re hoping those will get fixed post-release in a patch.
At its budget price point, Charon’s Staircase might be a tad generic in places, but it’s worth checking out. It’s relatively short in length, but it ticks enough of the right boxes to make it a game worth spending a weekend on.
SuperPower 3 review (PC)
I had never played any of the SuperPower games before booting up the recently released number 3 in the series, but I had heard good things from die-hard fans of the ‘global geopolitical simulation’ experience that they offered back when they were released, almost twenty years ago. Is this a successful comeback for the series, at a time where global politics couldn’t be much more interesting than they are?
Of course this one isn’t meant to mimic real life, but you can pick any country in the world and try to lead it towards being a global superpower. It’s a daunting prospect when playing as a small country, especially in the game’s sandbox mode, as this is an extremely deep game with a truly impressive number of details to dive into. For longtime fans I assume that’s the game’s greatest strength, but at the same time it’s a big weakness for newcomers trying to get into the game.
With dozens or even hundreds or aspects to manage and little guidance as to how to actually do it, this is a game that could probably have a four hour tutorial and you’d still have things to figure out on your own – yet here there’s no such tutorial. It’s like you’re being given a massive set of tools to build a dream house, only you’ve never been taught to use any of them. Good luck. And maybe it’s the lack of guidance or experience on my end, but the simulation seems flawed as well, with little impact when you showcase completely erratic behavior as a leader.
Add a few glitches and technical issues to that, and SuperPower 3 feels like an Early Access release that offers an impressive toolbox of stuff to play around with, but you have no idea where to start and you can tell that some of the tools don’t work properly either. Let’s hope the developers keep improving this one post-launch. I’d be interested in a game of this genre, but this isn’t it – at least not yet.
One True Hero review (PS4)
One True Hero, developed by Rat Cliff Games and published by No Gravity Games on consoles, doesn’t try very hard to hide its sources of inspiration. In a classic 3D platformer with a hero who bears more than a striking resemblance to Link, it’s easy to see that the dev team is quite fond of Nintendo’s hugely popular franchise. We checked the game out on a PS4 Pro.
Obviously they can’t just go ahead and call our protagonist “Link”, but even though you start out as a farmer it doesn’t take long before you’re suddenly equipped with a (magic-infused) sword and set out to vanquish evil. And although that sounds like a cheap premise and an excuse as to why this seems a lot like another game, the writing in One True Hero is actually quite entertaining, with a few funny moments and interesting characters.
The actual gameplay is the mix of platforming and combat that you’d expect, and every now and then you’ll run into a small puzzle that needs solving. There are a few collectibles, but One True Hero doesn’t encourage exploration in the sense that it’s quite linear – with additional stages that can be unlocked through said collectibles providing the only detours. These mostly focus on trickier platforming, while the combat is fairly straightforward even though you’ll gradually unlock new attacks over time.
One True Hero is a well crafted action budget platformer, but unfortunately it’s being held back by bugs that regularly pop up – from areas where you clip through the scenery to issues with awkward saving and respawning, all of which makes it feel like this is a game that could use a bit more polish. Hopefully it’ll receive just that in a post-launch update, as this could turn into a fun little platformer once they take care of the rough edges.