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Hover: Revolt of Gamers Review | Hover Above Revolting

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Among the powerful AAA titles released every year, a plethora of indie games are swept under the media’s rug. Some of those indie titles are incredible, others miserable, and many land somewhere in the middle. Few of these indie projects are safe from being rendered obscure behind the spotlighted heavy-hitters within the industry, such as the Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Far Cry franchises. However, some obscure titles manage to squeak through long enough to add their voices to a media that seems unenthused about covering them. One such title is Hover: Revolt of Gamers, an action-adventure indie game with a cartoon atmosphere developed by Fusty Game and Midgar Studio, and published by The Sidekicks and Plug In Digital. Hover is not a game that will echo across the video game industry, but still manages to provide a modicum of entertainment.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers puts players in control of rogue Gamers. Players are basically tasked with having fun as the Gamers’ form of rebellion against the Authorities—an oppressive regime that has banned video games and punishes any sort of fun with “rehabilitation centers.” Essentially, Hover is a futuristic, cartoonish, video game version of George Orwell’s 1984. With playful graphics, barely average audio, a story that does not bring much to the table, and fast-paced gameplay, Hover is a video game that offers a way to merely pass the time.

Hover Revolt of Gamers Pic 2

Visually, Hover is a video game replication of the American animated science fiction sitcom Futurama. The cartoonish graphics give the game an amusing atmosphere that keeps the otherwise-oppressive story lighthearted and whimsical. Sparks flashing when players grind on rails while sprinting around the game world, air warping around characters when using the rewind feature that allows players to return to their previous position, and impish graffiti tags reminiscent of emojis all provide comical displays that make Hover only somewhat unique. For players who have experienced Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom and the Kingdom Hearts games, Hover’s visuals will feel familiar.

Sadly, Hover’s audio does not push the game any further than the graphics. The game’s story is told through dialogue boxes at certain intervals that require players to click on AI characters (NPCs) or are provided naturally through progression. Voice acting was either out of the question in the developers’ budget or intentionally omitted in favor of the game’s other elements. While a lack of voice acting has not always been necessary for success (see GoldenEye 007 for N64 and Final Fantasy VII-IX for PlayStation), the modernization of video games all but demands characters and stories be delivered through voicework for the sake of immersion and charm. Without voice acting, Hover’s story lacks any real emotional attachment and can easily be ignored during a playthrough. Moreover, the rest of the game’s audio does little to add to the game’s quality. Sound effects, while neither muffled nor cacophonous, are plain, and Hover’s music is spirited but repetitive to the point of white noise.

Hover Revolt of Gamers Pic 3

Along with Hover’s lack of voicework detracting from the game’s story, the tale itself is trite. Even though twisting the specifics of the story into a rebellion instigated by the Gamers is an interesting concept, the idea’s execution does not offer enough flair to make the fable engrossing. On measure, players will find Hover’s story wanting, plagued by overly cheesy dialogue made more  tedious by scattered typos and awkward delivery. Admixed with an unoriginal script, Hover’s plot provides little respite from monotony and can only be received in small doses lest players’ eyelids become too heavy to keep open.

However, Hover does provide a counterweight to the game’s banal fantasy in the form of fast-paced gameplay with RPG elements. As players traverse the game world and complete side missions (sprint races, hitting Authority drones, spraying the walls with graffiti, etc.), their characters gain experience and level up. However, leveling up is a different process than other RPG titles. Rather than spending talent/skill points when a character reaches a new level, gamers can upgrade their characters’ stats by applying augments to a limited number of slots in the character menu. Augments are found throughout the game world and picked up by running over them. Players can increase their characters’ speed, agility, jump height, and even the emoji that appears when they graffiti tag certain spots on walls.  While carrying out their rebellious duties in Hover, players must avoid getting caught by the Authorities. To avoid being taken to a “rehabilitation” center, users have to evade security cameras and drones. On being spotted by the cameras dotted about the environment, drones are deployed, which Gamers can flee from, but remaining undetected in the first place is, by far, the easier approach. In some instances, players must find a way to unlock doors when infiltrating the Authorities’ buildings. Often, triggering a door’s unlock sequence starts a timer, which gives players a limited time to retrace their steps and pass back through the door. The rewind feature can be useful here, as rewinding returns players to a previous position. However, rewinding does not slow, stop, or reverse time, so gamers must still be quick to get through the door. The minor puzzle feature for infiltrating the Authorities’ locations is interesting, and does not feel repetitive when tackling missions in Hover, adding a little bit of entertainment for short periods of time. In general, Hover’s mechanics provide an enthusiastic rush in quick bursts.

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Those quick bursts are amplified by Hover’s multiplayer. Online, Hover is an interesting experience that pits players in races and other competitions against one another, all while serving the purpose of rebelling against the Authorities. The game’s mechanics do not change between multiplayer and single-player. However, if a player’s Internet is poor, that user can expect high amounts of latency, which will affect their multiplayer experience (true of any online game). Outside of slow Internet, Hover’s servers are quite stable. Regardless, even with stable servers and semi-fun online competitions, the game’s multiplayer does not add much to Hover.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers is not a game that will propel the video game industry forward. Nevertheless, the indie game does nothing set the industry back either. The entertaining graphics and swift gameplay make the game an interesting experience in short bursts, while Hover’s barely standard audio and unimpressive story detract from the game’s immersion and overall caliber. Hover is by no means a terrible game. Unfortunately, the project lacks replay value, and is easy to get bored of within half-hour bursts. Hover is a game in which players run the sprint, not the marathon. Hopefully, the primary developer of the title, Fusty Game, will improve with its next project, and the developer seems to be heading in the right direction.

PASS

Review

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review — A Symphony for the Fans

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Bloodstained Ritual of the Night

For a long while, the industry had yet to see a return to a true-to-form Castlevania title, leading many fans to speculate if Konami had abandoned the formula all together. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is ArtPlay’s response to this absence, with the legendary Castlevania-veteran Koji Igarashi at its helm. Although Bloodstained may not have certainty that it will continue the legacy of Castlevania, the title delivers on its promise as a game for fans, by the fans, and exceeds most expectations. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a true Castlevania experience in every way except the title. 

In Ritual of the Night, players take control of a Sharbinder named Miriam, an individual who can harness the power of magical shards crystallized by the souls of the enemies she kills. As the core mechanic, the ability to absorb shards and utilize their new skills is required for player progression and success. The fact that Miriam is a Shardbinder further reinforces the narrative of Bloodstained, since their existence often lead to negative events. The story contained within Ritual of the Night is similar to most Castlevania titles, except this time, Dracula is replaced in favor of Gebel, a more skilled Sharbinder and Miriam’s old friend and mentor. 

Bloodstained Castle

Most of the game takes place inside a castle, but long-time Castlevania veterans will expect that the castle is only an external facade, with caverns and caves hiding beneath. Remaining true to its Metroidvania roots, Bloodstained contains a sprawling map full of hidden rooms and secrets. Exploration is encouraged by the ever-present possibility of better items and power-ups in the following rooms. Bloodstained finds a perfect difficulty balance by spacing out save rooms to encourage caution. Every time death was close, the curiosity of what could be behind the next door drove the desire for further exploration.

The map present in Bloodstained is truly expansive and worthy of a Metroidvania title. Each new area provides an extension onto the already dense castle setting, never requiring players to travel to a new location to progress. All additional areas remain connected to the central castle, providing an experience that is continuous and believable. Similarly to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, players can unlock an “Inverse” ability that will flip the playable map upside down and allow for new experiences in an already explored area. Just as he did with Symphony of the Night, Igarashi-san crafted a beautiful setting that retains its appeal even when explored upside down.  

The desire to progress deeper into the castle is fueled in part by the Shard system and the potential of discovering new ones along the way. In Bloodstained: RotN, enemies have the potential to drop shards that provide enhanced abilities and passive stats. Players can equip multiple shards at once, each enhancing different areas of play. For instance, one shard can provide Miriam with an ability drawn from the creature that dropped it, while another can summon a familiar to accompany Miriam throughout her journey. 

Bloodstained Shard

As the game progresses, players are required to backtrack and utilize newly gathered shards to enter areas that were not accessible early on. In this regard, the title maintains its genuine Metroidvania, or Igavania, genre as some fans are hailing it. Killing a random sea creature might net Miriam the ability to create a directional aquatic blast, but use that ability near deep waters and players might be surprised by what they can do. 

Since every enemy in Ritual of the Night is capable of rewarding Miriam with a shard ability, players will quickly find themselves host to multiple of the same kind. To counter this, players are encouraged to sell unwanted shards for coins at the local merchant, where they can also purchase crafting items. The crafting system allows players to utilize recipes found throughout their journey and create food that provides a temporary boost to Miriam’s stats. Additionally, players can use materials gathered to enhance the shards they have amassed to alter its capabilities and damage output. 

Although Bloodstained deserves to be showered with praise, the game is not immune to technical issues that can hinder the experience. During the preparation of this review, the game was subject to continuous frame issues, where too much action would result in stuttering. Additionally, optimization issues plague the console port, with registration lag featured every time Miriam would absorb a shard or with the occasional room entry. ArtPlay has responded to these issues ensuring fans that optimization is a high priority for the company, and it will be addressing these problems within the next few patches.  

Despite a few technical setbacks, Bloodstained is truly an experience for first-timers and longtime Castlevania fans alike. Igarashi-san and ArtPlay built this game out of their love for the genre and that is evident in every aspect of the game. The preservation of a traditional Castlevania game along with the advancements made towards propelling the genre further help Bloodstained stand out amongst other Metroidvania titles of recent years. Although an argument could be made that the title leans too much on its Symphony of the Night influences, Ritual of the Night succeeds in providing fans of the genre with an experience that has been absent for years. 

Given that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a crowdfunded game, the amount of love and attention evident in its production comes as no surprise. The level of quality that is present in this package is truly astounding, and the appreciation grows even more when considering the free content promised for the coming months. Perfection should not be expected from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. However, the result is exactly what was promised by the developers, and fans could not ask for more. Throughout its development, Igarashi-san provided continual assurance that he desired to make the game a product of its fans. By listening to criticism and acting on it, he fulfilled his promise with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

OnlySP Review Score 5 High Distinction

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One.

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