Slime Rancher – What am I actually meant to do?

Ever dreamed of owning a farm and collecting slime? No, me neither.

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I think I might be missing the point of Slime Rancher.  I find myself dropped onto a planet with a vacuum and a fenced off area.  I’m told to vacuum up slimes and put them into the pen, feed them, and collect their poop for money.  Yes.  Poop money.  To what end I don’t know.  I can explore the world and collect more slimes to put in more pens to collect more poop.  Perhaps there are exciting things to find in the world, but after a couple of hours of hoovering up crap (figuratively and literally) I have no interest in finding out.

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Get used to seeing this path. you’ll be using it an awful lot.
Starting at your ranch, you venture out to find slimes and other items to hoover up and take back to turn into money.  Money can be used to build or improve pens, build other structures, upgrade your equipment, and unlock new areas of the world.  Various logs can be found detail the adventures of the rancher who came before you, but those I found were fairly uninteresting.

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The slimes are (mostly) pretty cut and there are a good variety of different ones. Their behaviours are mostly quite similar though.
Some slimes are aggressive unless you feed them the food they like (which can be found lying around or grown at the ranch), but most are benign and can be walked around with no problem.  During my explorations I came across some treasure boxes that I couldn’t open, and doors that required “slime keys”.  What are slime keys and how are they acquired?  No idea, it was never explained.  I eventually found out after going back and forth to a giant slime over and over again, but that was more luck and persistence than any signposting.  I don’t have a problem with discovery in gameplay, but I believe some direction is necessary in most games.  In many games I don’t mind looking up information online to find out more about optimum builds and finding secret items (the Souls games are a great example of this) but I simply didn’t care enough to want to find out more.  I didn’t know why I should care about what I was doing, so I didn’t bother.

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Eventually I figured out how to get a slime key and was presented with a slightly different environment which was terribly exciting.
Mechanically the game works well enough, with your vacuum sucking up items of value (although sucking up the item you want can be a pain as it pulls in anything in front of it) and spitting them out where you want them.  The problem here is that your vacuum can only hold 4 different items (at first, I don’t know if this changes later on) meaning you’re constantly backtracking to the ranch to offload your stuff.  The game descended into me running forward a bit, collecting things then heading back, then going a little further and returning.  Continue ad nauseum.  The jetpack upgrade makes traversal through some areas quick if you don’t want to faff about but it doesn’t remove the issue.  There’s a day and night cycle too, with nights being more dangerous meaning hanging around the ranch (or sleeping until morning) becomes necessary.

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There’s a day-night cycle. Certain slimes are more likely to come out at night.
I can’t fault the graphics or sound a great deal at least.  Visually it looks lovely.  All the slimes I found were adorable, with all of them being distinct.  The world looked lovely with plenty of variety in environments (shame I couldn’t find a reason to want to explore them).  The sounds are nice too and very in keeping with the game as a whole.

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What’s behind this slime door? A better question is can I be bothered to faff about getting a key to find out?
I get the feeling that this just isn’t the sort of game for me.  If it weren’t for the fact that this was a free Games with Gold game on Xbox then I probably wouldn’t have touched it.  If you’re someone who is very much into the “make your own fun” sort of games then this could provide a bit of entertainment, but it didn’t for me.

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I looks like it’s begging to be explored, but all I found was more of the same in a different environment.
Slime Rancher was developed and published by Monomi Park.  I played the game on Xbox One and wouldn’t recommend it.  Time is as valuable as money for me these days, and this sucked up a couple of hours that I won’t be getting back.  If you’re in the market for a cute farming style game then this might provide some fun, but I was bored after a couple of hours.

Renegade Ops – I wish it was Renegade STOPS! *sigh*

Sega are absolutely mental most of the time.  I think this is established by now isn’t it?  From Blast Processing to Sonic being part hedgehog part werewolf to Shadow the EDGEhog.  They published Typing of the Dead: Overkill, park zombie game, part typing tutor.  Have you seen the official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account?  It’s glorious.  And terrifying.  I don’t care if it’s associated directly with Sega or not, the company clearly allows this to happen.

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Look at this tweet. LOOK AT IT!

Anyway, a little while ago they gave away a big load of free games to anyone who would take them on Steam.  Some were actually good, like Golden Axe and Gunstar Heroes.  Even Hell Yeah! wasn’t that bad.  Then there was Renegade Ops, a game that I’m sure was meant to be a parody of or homage to 80s action films.  But here’s the thing, 80s action films were mostly about fun.  This is all about being bored and slogging through it because I don’t want to add another damn game to my list of shame.  So you get to pick a character and follow the commands of Macho McBeardman who wants to stop a terrorist with a nuke named Inferno and he’ll do it by any mean necessary!  So long as those means involve driving a car around following an arrow until you blow up the thing it’s pointing at.  I know I shouldn’t expect much in the way of story, so I’ll let that slide because it’s going for the silly vibe, but that’s about as much praise as this game’s getting.

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Just some of the high quality banter you can expect.

The game boils down to you driving around the map to different targets, which need to either be destroyed, driven into, or collected.  For the first half an hour it’s fairly good fun, as the Avalanche engine (of Just Cause 2 fame) does a good job of letting you blow up nearly everything.  But before long you realise that you’re doing the same thing over and over again.  It’s a small mercy that the game is only 4 hours or so long.  The game plays like a twin stick shooter, but as you’re in a car you can’t just turn instantly around due to your turning circle.  This makes sense, but does occasionally lead to you getting stuck on the scenery which is a huge pain, often leading to losing a life.

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Sadly, I’m not the awesome looking tank, I’m the tiny truck next to it that you can barely see…

Having lives is something of a saving grace until the super secret hidden time limit kicks in!  Yes, you have a time limit, but you won’t be told what it is until you’re about to run out.  No number of lives can save you here, if you run out of time it’s back to the start!  Enjoy rolling through another 20 plus minutes to get back to where you were.  I suppose traveling around the environments would be enjoyable if they were different and interesting to look at, but after the first stage showcasing desert, forests and water, get ready for grey tracks, grey concrete and grey metal to drive your grey truck on.  Dull.  On the plus side, the different characters (including Gordon Freeman!) are all unique, with their own vehicle, special ability, and skill tree to unlock as you suffer play through.  You’ll want to stick to the same one throughout your game though, as you’ll probably need those skill unlocks to stand a chance later on.

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How about some grey…but at night!

Now here’s your final positive.  There’s 4 player online co-op, which can actually be pretty fun, albeit messy.  There is so much going on when all the players together in the same area that it can be hard to see what’s going on, but it can have moments of entertainment here.  The real problem with this game is that the developers seem to have taken the idea of Just Cause 2, which was enjoyable and over the top as a third person action game, removed the fun movement system and the beautiful world to explore and replaced it with a dull world and a bunch of cars.  Cars can be fun!  But this isn’t.

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This time there’s some grey inside! At least the power ups are colourful.

Renegade Ops was developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Sega.  I played the game on PC (via Steam) and I don’t recommend you try this.  It’s barely worth it in co-op. But your time is worth something to you surely!  I don’t care how free this game seems to be, don’t waste it.

Formula Fusion – Plus you can win a free copy of it!

The anti-gravity racing genre has been MIA for a long time.  The success of games like Wipeout and F-Zero seem like a distant memory these days.  The only recent entry is Fast Racing Neo, a pretty good Wii U exclusive.  Thankfully the people at R8 Games are looking to bring the insane speeds and tight turns of the genre to the PC, and they’ve been kind enough to send me a preview copy along with 2 free codes to give away to you fine people!

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These screenshots don’t do justice to just how fast this racer is.

Formula Fusion is currently in Early Access on Steam, which can be beneficial in some cases.  Darkest Dungeon and Starbound are two games recently released from Early Access and are excellent.  I this this will be the case for Formula Fusion as well.  As it stands, the game is limited to single races, practice and multiplayer with 4 tracks and 3 vehicles.  However, from these modes and choices it’s clear that a very good base has been created.  The vehicles are very fast and responsive, the tracks varied and interesting to look at (if you can find a split second to!) and the future plans for the game show a good development schedule.  So far R8 have been releasing monthly updates including new features, vehicles and tracks and plan on continuing to do so right up until the game’s final release.

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The tracks look gorgeous with lots of little details.

Future plans include multiple campaign modes, involving different teams, researching weapons and upgrading your ship.  You’ll be approached by agents who will sign you to teams who will specialise in different aspects of racing.  The racing itself is really rather good.  I found it played best using a controller, with A handling acceleration, X for weapons and the L and R triggers to activate an air brake on each side of your ship.  The air breaks work well, allowing you to drift around corners once you have a good idea of the track layout.  At the moment the tutorial is fairly lacking, giving you very little information and I discovered how these worked more through trial and error.  Hopefully there will be a full tutorial closer to the final release.  However, once you get to grips with it, the sensation of speed is fantastic, especially when using a high end, upgraded ship.

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In spite of being work in progress, the racing feels quite polished at this stage.

The game runs pretty well, even on my 4-year-old laptop, although I had to turn the graphics down a little to maintain a good framerate (No surprise considering the age of the system I’m using).  I would think anything approaching a modern system will run this without too much trouble, even though it looks gorgeous.

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Power ups on the track give you weapons and recharge your shields whilst boots pads will give you a burst of speed.

The menus right now need some work.  They don’t navigate too well, and upgrading your ship can be a little tricky if you’re using mouse controls.  A controller helps here, but hopefully it will be tidied up over time.  The menu isn’t why you’re playing the game though.  The racing is, and as it stands that aspect is pretty great.  If the developers stick to their plan, there should be an excellent racing game released from this, and I’m looking forward to see how it develops.  The team are very community friendly and are keeping players and prospective players up to date with news as it develops.  A lot of Early Access developers could learn from this approach.

Now, if you’d like a copy of this for free (it’s currently £15 on Steam, but I believe it will be rising to £30 on release), leave a comment below telling me just what colour you want your fancy ship to be, give it a re-tweet and follow on Twitter (@robcovell), or a share on Facebook to be in with a chance of winning one of two free copies.  This is running from August 7th 6PM BST until August 14th 6PM BST.  I’ll let winners know once the draw is made.  Good luck!

Danganronpa – Teddy Bear Murder School

I’d never really considered visual novels as a genre of games I’d be particularly interested in.  I felt like there wouldn’t be much actual ‘game’ there (whatever that means).  But this one caught my attention when it turned up on Steam.  Yes, I realise it has been around on PSP for years, but I wasn’t one of the 8 people that bought one of those.  Anyway, a mystery investigation game with rhythm action and hangman elements sounded just a little bit too interesting to pass up.  Also murderous teddy bears.  Japan makes some weird games.

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Evil teddy bear.  Yep.

Without spoiling too much, the premise is that you wake up trapped in a school with a number of other students.  You’re quickly told by Monokuma, the evil teddy bear, that if you can murder someone and get away with it, then you’ll be free to leave whilst everyone else will be executed.  If you are caught out though, you will be executed.  The different characters are very colourful with their own distinct personalities and quirks.  This can make identifying the killer tricky at times once the murders start flying.    Once a murder occurs, you’ll spend time investigating the crime scene and related locations, interviewing the other students and gathering information.  Once you’re done, a trial takes place in which you have to piece together the evidence to find the killer.

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The students range from great writers to bike gang leaders.  All are interesting and well fleshed out, although some do slip a bit far into stereotype territory.

In reality, you’re guided through the trials by the other students.  You need to think through your evidence and find something to disprove statements a bit like in Phoenix Wright, but there aren’t that many to work through at any one time.  You can fail, but if you’re paying attention you’ll probably do alright.  Occasionally it’s not too clear what piece of evidence you’re supposed to use, even though you know what you’re disproving which can be a bit annoying as you’re forced into explaining things in the exact way the game wants.  When this happens you feel less like an investigator and more like a dog jumping through hoops.  Sometimes you’ll have to complete a hangman puzzle or a bizarre rhythm action game involving shooting statements in time to a beat.  These sections are the weakest part of the game in my opinion and the rhythm action section doesn’t seem to fit too well into the theme.

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Each case is distinct from the others, with their own twists and attempts to misdirect you.

The cases will drive you forward in the overall plot as to why you’re even in the school in the first place, and why there’s a teddy telling you to murder each other.  It’s engaging and I found myself wanting to find out what was going on.  I feel like the game was very linear though.  I’m not too familiar with visual novels, but I was hoping for multiple endings or different routes through the game, with differing survivors.  It’s still very good as it is, but I don’t feel there’s much replay value after having finished it.

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Why hello friendly lady!

Danganronpa was developed and published by Spike Chunsoft (although Abstraction Games dealt with the PC port).  I played the game on PC and would recommend it if you’re looking for a good story without too much challenge.

The Overwatch Beta

If you remember from my Rainbow Six: Siege write up, multiplayer shooters are something I enjoy but am utterly dreadful at.  So, I went into the Overwatch beta expecting to be terrible but have fun at the same time.  I was half right.  You see, with Rainbow Six there were different characters, but at the end of the day if you weren’t brilliant at shooting the other players you were going to do really badly.  In Overwatch though, the characters are all so different that even if you’re awful with the guns, there’s still a character you can play as to make a positive contribution to the team.

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This is Reinhardt.  You don’t need to worry about shooting with him.  Just hitting things with a massive hammer and protecting your team with a shield.  I like him.

Because I’m such a bad shot, I found myself drawn more to support characters such as the healers.  I actually had a lot of successful games playing this role.  Am I suddenly good at team based shooters?  No.  Not at all.  But this game plays in such a different way that I found myself being useful.  I often played as Symmetra who shields her team mates and sets up turrets to harass attacking players on the opposing team.  Direct confrontations tend to end badly though.

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This is a direct confrontation about to end badly.

The way the game plays prevents you from sticking with the same character throughout a match though.  Depending on how your opponents are playing, you may need to change to something more aggressive (I like to go for Reaper personally, with a pair of shotguns and the ability to teleport) or defensive.  The large variety of characters with differing playstyles means you’ll almost certainly find a few to suit you.

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Using Reaper’s shotguns.  Over long range.  Because I’m smart like that.

Now, I played this on a PC.  A 4 year old PC.  A 4 year old laptop to be precise.  And it played exactly as well as that makes it sound.  On minimum settings I had a pretty shaky framerate so if I were to get the full version of the game I may well go for a console copy.  That’s certainly more a problem with my hardware than the game though.  Running at full clip I could really enjoy this game.  My only worry is a concern I often have with these types of games: longevity.  I can get fairly bored of multiplayer only shooters, even ones as varied as this.  A single player component can alleviate that, but I don’t think that’s likely to appear anytime soon.  It’s something of a shame as Blizzard have built an interesting world full of entertaining characters.  It would be nice to have a campaign that explores that.

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I’m the pretty lady on the right.  Obviously.

Overwatch is developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment.  I played the game on PC and would normally write a recommendation here!  I won’t this time though as this isn’t a full release.  The beta is still going on for a little while after I post this, so you might want to give it go whilst you can!