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FutureGrind Review — Killer Tracks and Challenging Maps



FutureGrind logo

FutureGrind is one of those rare frustratingly addictive games that causes the player to “give it one more try” and before long, the time is 2am and they are still trying to pull off a 900 point golden hang-rail.

From the creative minds of indie developer Milkbag Games, FutureGrind is a fast-paced side-scroller which sees the player take control of one of five light cycles to tackle increasingly tougher maps and challenges. The light cycles are stylish two wheeled vehicles that rotate to give the player freedom of how the cycle is positioned; this becomes important as each bike typically has different coloured wheels used to traverse matching coloured parts of the track. Failing to match the correct wheel with the same coloured track results in a rather harsh explosion and causes the level to reset.

With both style and intricacy, FutureGrind feels like the lovechild of Beat Saber and Trials Fusion. The title combines the complex and increasingly tougher level designs of Trials and adds an amazing techno soundtrack composed by bignic. The original soundtrack includes nineteen adrenaline pumping, full-length tracks made especially for the game. Just when the player might be ready to give in and try a different challenge, the beat will kick in and revitalize them for another attempt. Nothing is more satisfying than landing a successful stunt as the drop hits or quickly shifting between rails in time to the beat. The blend of simple stunts and exciting music makes even the most mundane trick feel rewarding and spectacular.

FutureGrind gameplay 2

Each level has a gorgeous and unique backdrop, from sun-kissed beaches during the day to urban, dimly lit cityscapes. The backdrops are vibrant and distinct enough from one another to breathe fresh life into scene without being too distracting as to take away concentration from the forefront.

The track rails themselves catch the player’s attention with an intense neon glow. The levels may not seem imposing at first, with each introductory round only requiring the player to survive the track while using as much or as little finesse as they desire. Players will then have to navigate the same level, often multiple times, with additional requirements to pass. These added challenges range from acquiring a certain score with a trick or avoiding particularly coloured rails. In terms of difficulty, the additional tasks can vary from easy and light-hearted to downright cruel and insane. For instance, one challenge requires the player to pull off the infamous aforementioned 900-point golden hang-rail. The hang-rail is achieved by hooking one of the wheels onto a rail and letting the other dangle loosely below; the 900 points is acquired by performing the move for a certain duration, and finally the golden aspect is only possibly when attempting the trick for the first time per restart.

Behind all the bright lights and fast-paced action lies an intriguing story in the form of text-based messages that appear after completing levels. Players control a rider recently picked up by a sponsor looking to slowly climb the rail-riding leagues. Progressing through the ranks will gradually earn the player more sponsors, and with that comes upgraded bikes to spice things up. All is not as it seems, however, when cryptic and worrying texts begin to glitch onto the screen. The events quickly become shrouded in mystery with the lines blurring between who can and cannot be trusted.

FutureGrind gameplay 1

As an experience, FutureGrind is an excellent example of the balance between punishing and satisfying gameplay. Scoreboards and trophy systems are in place to encourage gamers to beat their previous scores, creating a level of player-induced difficulty. The ease of resetting a level goads gamers into trying more daring acts to boost combos in a high risk, high reward scenario. The varying environments and changes of pace from using the differing bikes is enough to prevent the experience from becoming stale. Overall, FutureGrind is a brilliantly addictive title with a tonne of replay value for those competitive gamers eager to better themselves and show off their skills.

OnlySP Review Score 4 Distinction

Reviewed on PC.

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Stranger Things 3: The Game Review — Mindflayingly Average



Stranger Things 3: The Game logo

The Stranger Things series has been a big success for Netflix. A love letter to ‘80s pop culture, with a focus on the science fiction and horror movies of the time, the show has been hugely popular, with the latest season screened on over 40 million accounts in its first four days. Accompanying the launch of the television season is Stranger Things 3: The Game. Developed by BonusXP Inc, which previously created Stranger Things: The Game for mobile devices, the game is an isometric brawler which competently retells the story of Stranger Things 3, but has little of its own to say. Mild spoilers for Stranger Things 3 ahead.  

The game opens one year after the events of Stranger Things season two. While trying to contact his camp girlfriend with a high-tech ham radio, Dustin overhears a strange recording spoken in Russian. Determined to figure out what it means, he teams up with Steve and his coworker Robin to try and decode the message. Meanwhile, strange occurrences have been happening around Hawkins, with rats devouring fertiliser and chemicals. Max’s brother Billy is looking decidedly unwell, thickly wrapped in jumpers while he works as a lifeguard. A tingle at the back of Will’s neck tells him the mindflayer’s presence still lingers around the town. As events progress, a group of average kids must save the world from an otherworldly monstrous threat once again.  

Stranger Things 3: The Game takes place in a semi-open world, with more locations unlocked as players progress. The player starts out in control of Mike and Lucas, who wield a bat and slingshot respectively. Two characters are always on screen, with the other person controlled by AI. Local co-op is available and seems to be the intended way to play—the AI for the second player is not very smart. When in single-player mode, the player can switch between the two characters on the fly, and any unlocked characters can be swapped to as well. The other characters unlock over the course of the story, with a total of 12 to choose from. Each character can attack and block and has a unique special move, such as Max’s healing hearts or Jonathan’s stunning camera flash. Special moves cost energy, which can be replenished by drinking New Coke or picked up from defeated enemies. With each character playing so differently, the game would benefit from restricting which characters can be used in each scenario, as finding a favourite combination and sticking to it is far too easy. This lack of restriction also caused some weird story occurrences, like Nancy wandering around the void or Hopper hanging out with Mike while he mopes about breaking up with Eleven.

Exploring Hawkins involves lots of switch puzzles, and using characters’ special abilities, like Dustin hacking into a locked door or Joyce cutting the lock off of a gate with her bolt cutters. The puzzles are generally straightforward, with the Russians inexplicably leaving clues in English for the player to find, but more complicated riddles can be found by wandering off the beaten track. The creepy deserted pizza place has some based on pi, and exploring optional rooms in the Russian base will reward the player with rare crafting items.

Crafting in Stranger Things 3: The Game is poorly implemented. Items can only be made at workbenches, which makes sense for complicated contraptions, but is annoying at other times (for example, having to retreat out of the pool area because Eleven needs to put duct tape on her swimming goggles). When looking in a store, no indication appears on what items are already in the player’s inventory. Apart from plot items, the player can also make trinkets, which improve the party’s statistics. A wide variety of trinkets are available, from improving a single character’s attack to increasing the health of the whole party. Finding the missing items to create a trinket is tricky due to the poor shopping interface, and the sparse placement of workbenches gives the player few chances to actually craft the items. Fortunately, fighting enemies is easy enough that crafting can mostly go ignored.

Combat is simple, for the most part, with the player smashing everything on screen to progress. Hawkins is absolutely infested with rats and Russians, with even the library packed to the brim with bad guys. Though the excessive numbers of similar enemies is normal in the brawling genre, more variety would have been appreciated. The late game Russians become more interesting, with knife throwers, chemical spills, and grenades, but the first three-quarters of the game consists of the same baddies over and over.

An exception to this repetition is the challenging boss battles, which are far tougher than the average gameplay. Bosses will need extra conditions to be met before they can be damaged, like switching lights on, dodging charge attacks, or keeping several baddies away from each other. Some work better than others—for example, one battle relied on keeping two boss creatures apart to prevent them from healing each other, which simply did not work in single player since the AI fighter closely follows the main character. Instead, defeating the boss required exploiting Nancy’s critical hit ability to do enough damage to kill the monsters before they could heal, a strategy that required some luck to succeed. Other boss encounters fared better, with the trial of constantly repairing Hopper’s cottage as slimy creatures crawl through the windows proving tough and intense.  A dodge button would be a useful addition to the movement options, since the bosses run so much faster than the player does. The game is also a bit stingy on providing a place to stock up before a boss battle, which should be included considering the spike in difficulty they represent. Still, these battles are where the game shines brightest, showing creativity and variety that is sorely lacking in other areas.

Stranger Things 3: The Game is faithful to a fault, feeling like a very detailed recap of the season. A few sidequests tell their own story, like doing chores for the creepy Granny Perkins or exploring the abandoned electronics store, but for the most part, the player will be re-enacting scenes from the television series, with a bit of extra rat murder and crafting thrown in. Clinging so closely means the story has nowhere exciting to go since the player has presumably already watched the season. If the player has not seen the show, that would be even worse, as it is a non-scary adaptation of a horror show that completely loses the tone. The occasional dialogue choice is thrown in, but the response makes no difference either way. Adding in some choices alongside possibilities of events going differently would make things far more engaging. 

A highlight of Stranger Things 3: The Game is the art direction, with some beautiful 16-bit recreations of the cast and environments. With the exception of Jonathan, who looks like his pointy-chinned cousin, the sprites are a good resemblance of the cast. The monsters are appropriately fleshy and gross, with the final boss, in particular, looking foreboding. Environments can get a bit repetitive, with one sprite for all the beds, one for all the cupboards, etcetera. Sprite laying issues do occur on occasion—the ashtrays all hover in front of the characters, for example. The chiptune recreation of the show’s music, however, is spot on, and converting the title theme into a Zelda-like solved puzzle jingle is impressive indeed.    

Stranger Things 3: The Game gameplay

Stranger Things 3: The Game is only for really big fans of the show. Even then, the title is hard to recommend since it is an inferior version of the television season. While the gameplay is not bad, it is too repetitive to be enjoyable on its own. The game would perhaps be best played just before season four comes out, as a novel way of recapping the previous season.   

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC. Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android devices.

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