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De Mambo: An interview with the Premier Inndie

“De Mambo is what happens when you make a game for the price of a coffee a day.”

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De Mambo: Hard at work in the Inn

“De Mambo is what happens when you make a game for the price of a coffee a day.”

At first glance, The Dangerous Kitchen’s Kickstarter campaign for De Mambo sounds like a television charity appeal. The claims of making a game for ‘the price of a coffee a day’ sounds like a repetition of the classic ‘just £3 a month’ or ‘for less than the price of a cup of coffee’ refrain we hear from charities all the time.

It’s a proven tactic, to put the small amount of money you’re asking for into a relatable daily cost – and ultimately, unnecessary luxury – to guilt people into sponsoring <insert name of needy recipient here>.

With The Dangerous Kitchen, it’s a little different.

They are literally making their game for the price of a coffee because, bereft of a permanent working space, they are building their game out of the lobby of a well-known chain of hotels. That cup of coffee is the agreed upon occupancy fee that they pay to the hotel every day – by way of purchase from their cafe – so that they’re allowed to continue working from their establishment. 

We caught up with Shaun Roopra, writer and designer of The Dangerous Kitchen, to hear more about their bizarre working situation and De Mambo, the frankly unusual game it has produced…

Thumbsticks: First up, let’s get the really important stuff out the way: Is The Dangerous Kitchen named after the Zappa song, or did you just think it was an interesting name?

Shaun: We were aware of the song, as Zappa hugely inspires me, but it wasn’t a direct inspiration. The name has a lot—and I truly mean a lot—of reasoning to it, with the song being a real small part of it.

A lot of the stuff we do, especially with naming things, is so spontaneous; it’s really difficult for us to explain! Things just literally happen!

De Mambo: The Dangerous Kitchen logoSo how did The Dangerous Kitchen come into being, then? Tell us about the team and how they got together – everybody loves a good origin story!

Well, Amit and myself met at college, in art class no less. We became friends and then eventually partners in crime… Talking about games was something we partook in a lot, from what we like, to what we’d make to me brainwashing him in the Nintendo way etc. so it’s really fun to look back to that time considering that those two lowly art students are actually making a game right now.

We went to Birmingham City University to study animation, met with Lucy and two other good friends and were a really tight-knit group—we probably played Smash Bros more than study!

Someone randomly said, “Hey, we should make our own games company!” to which everyone agreed obviously, as it sounded like a fun dream to have. I’m pretty sure no one truly believed, deep down, that we would actually do it. It was thanks to Lucy that we actually became a business, as she has that active, go-getter mentality that constantly pushes us forward.

After University, we all split up to look for jobs, whilst trying to make The Dangerous Kitchen work. Eventually it got to that point where nothing was happening and everyone felt dejected. Video chatting just wasn’t working for us, so it became apparent that we needed to work together, which was pretty impossible since three of us are in London and the other two are separated up north.

Sadly, everyone realised that only Amit, Lucy and myself were to go forward and dedicate ourselves to making this happen. The other two, Jen and Mark, are still good friends of ours who we hang out with whenever we have the chance, so there’s no bad blood whatsoever.

So with just the three of us, we had to work out where to work. All of our homes have odd complications that prevented us from working there. Our friend mentioned that his sister works at Premier Inn and that we could try the meeting space in the lobby; which we tested out and the rest is history.

We spent a couple of months concepting and creating assets for a game, Yooksin, then realised we need someone to actually code the darn thing. We looked for a coder, but alas, with no money, it was difficult to entice anyone to join us.

Lucy had to go to her old work for a spot of freelance, which was the time in which Amit decided he would learn how to code. This is when things really began to change, and where De Mambo was born.

Working out of a hotel lobby is fairly inexplicable – it’s a little bit rock and roll, but in an incredibly middle-class way – how has that environment worked for the team and its dynamic?

It’s literally perfect for us, I mean, there are a hell of a lot of problems—food issues, trying to obtain a booth, pyramid schemes, loudness when in the restaurant—but it reminds me of the old saying that a lotus flower can grow out of mud.

We had to leave the Inn for a while earlier in the year—we won a place in Playhubs which has helped us immensely, especially with pushing us to meet people and the business side of things which was where we had the least experience; and have only recently returned. It’s so true what they say, that you only miss something once it’s gone!

The Inn just has a certain level of openness whereby anything can happen; it’s not a closed environment. Being near Heathrow Airport, there’s always an influx of different people who pass by, which is great for inspiration. If you’re like me and heavily spontaneous in how you work, the Inn is a creative goldmine.

This is mainly how it’s affected our dynamic, by allowing us to think openly and degrading any values of entitlement as instead of wasting time thinking about what could be, you just have to stay in the present and create.

Personally speaking, doing the obvious and ‘right’ thing has never led me to succeed, so working in a hotel lobby is no big deal!

De Mambo: Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens.

Are you worried they’ll eventually get sick of your antics and kick you out? What happens then if they do?

Well, we’ve prepared a contingency plan if that were ever to occur which involves hostages and ransoms etc., but it’s probably safer to not talk about this on these public channels…

In all seriousness, we have no clue. We’ve made friends with the staff at Costa, who are seriously awesome. They give us a lot of support so if something were to go down, we’re sure they’ll have our back.

We’re into our second year here, and considering they allow the creepy-crawly antics of a certain, nondescript pyramid scheme to fester, I’m pretty sure we’ll be ok.

Back to the game, then: Where did the idea for De Mambo come from?

As mentioned before, Lucy was at her freelance job, Amit was learning to code and we were all super-mega-ultra hyped for Super Smash Bros 3DS. Amit and I decided that we should celebrate by making a small Smash-inspired game.

I consulted my game-development bible, Iwata Asks, to which I found a section where Masahiro Sakurai described his game making process. He likes to take a genre, take away all of the fluff, leaving the fun core; rebuilding the game from that fun core outwards. So, we decided to take his work ethos and apply it to Sakurai’s own game, which is how De Mambo was born.

Being Amit’s first real coding experience, our technical limitations aligned perfectly with Sakurai’s ethos.

After the prototype was built, we left the Smash influence behind and just kept on adding what was necessary to make De Mambo the best game it could be.

With the Kitchen’s obvious love for Smash Bros. and the Nintendo design ethic, it seems unusual that De Mambo will be initially released for PS4/PS Vita/PC and not Nintendo platforms. Why is that?

That’s simply because of business. Nintendo is our one true love when it comes to playing games, but that’s not wise to take into the business side of things.

Sony’s reputation with Indies is far more valuable than fanboyism. When we were at Playhubs, we got to meet Shahid Ahmad and he tried out De Mambo and gave us some advice, which pretty much shows you Sony’s passion for indie games, considering a Sony bigwig would give three nobodies some of his time.

We’ve exchanged a few emails with Microsoft and Nintendo, so we’ll see how that goes in the future. It’s not like we aren’t interested in them, just that Sony is easier to approach and be approached by. As a small team it’s also difficult to plan for all the consoles at once.

The Wii U does seem like the ideal platform for a party-battle game though; do you have any plans to bring De Mambo to other platforms in future? Perhaps even a mobile version?

If we are successful in our Kickstarter, then of course we will attempt to put De Mambo on all consoles—except the Ouya—even if we are not, we will still try our best to. A kid at the Manchester Day Games Room begged us for a 360 version, so we have to at least try!

A Wii U version would be amazing and would be the perfect dumping ground for a lot our pre-Smash Bros. Wii U discussions, in which we speculated lots of crazy ideas of how to use the Gamepad. Yeah, Nintendo is inevitable for us, so I suppose that’s why we’re not forcing it yet—there’s no point in fulfilling your dreams so early, you have to work for it.

Mobile? Maybe? I mean a mobile De Mambo that is its own thing would be cool, but we’re not the type of people to just try and force it to happen.

What’s been your biggest challenges with creating De Mambo? It’s the team’s first game ever, not just collectively, so it must have been a steep learning curve.

So many challenges, but I think the biggest challenge was before we got to the Inn, the trying-to-make-it-work phase. That was undeniably the hardest part, as we spent years trying to get The Dangerous Kitchen to move, but once it did, thankfully it hasn’t stopped.

Everything after was indeed challenging, yet looking back, so much just fell right into place. Our way of working somehow allows for challenges to dissipate at a moments notice, all it takes is a spark of inspiration, or most likely a shining pearl that hides in the midst of stupid joke.

Yeah, this is our first game, but therein lies the fun as we’ve had so much to learn, it’s honestly the best part. It’s like Orson Welles describing the confidence of ignorance: we’re on the edge of a cliff and too ignorant to know it!

The game looks great in motion but the art style could perhaps be viewed as a little simplistic – particularly for art/animation graduates – was that a conscious decision, or a limitation of the team’s experience?

We are wholeheartedly a gameplay-first company. We are all artists, so if we tried, we could easily make something pretty, but that’s not The Dangerous Kitchen. There are so many people who can create amazing visuals and who aspire to, but not as much who want to innovate in the gameplay department.

We don’t want our art backgrounds to define us; gameplay to us is an art. I mean look at a speed run for any game you like, it’s not the visuals that make it breathtaking, it’s the gameplay.

Gameplay is what drives us, and what excites us. When we started making De Mambo, we were thinking about gameplay and only after it was made, on how it should look. Undoubtedly it’s not the most beautiful game in the world, but it was never meant to be.

Sometimes, I feel graphics can interfere with gameplay. New Super Mario Bros U has an appallingly mediocre art style, but it never interferes with me playing the game. Rayman Origins/Legends on the other hand does, as I’m not looking at what gameplay opportunities I can play around with – I’m looking at how pretty a tree in the background is. Everything in De Mambo was designed for the gameplay.

A good-looking game is a great, but if there’s no gameplay to back it up, then I’m really not interested. In fact I’m actually really disinterested in the visuals of games as of late and feel that music is far more important. Box Boy! is the best game I’ve played this year which kind of says it all really.

If you were starting the project over, is there anything you’d do differently?

Forcing Amit to learn to code earlier! But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t change anything. We’ve been steered faithfully so far by our unwavering ability to just let things happen naturally, that I can’t ever imagine us doing anything different. We’ve had a lot of fun.

De Mambo has been going down well with the general public at gaming expos like EGX Rezzed and Develop: Brighton, and now the team is jetting off to Tokyo for the TGS before returning to the UK for EGX 2015; how have you found the trade show experience?

Simply amazing. EGX Rezzed was deathly tiring in being our first exhibition, but even though we reached a near-death state, we loved every moment. Where else can you meet the nicest of guys who barely utters a word, only to pummel you at your own game?

We’ve had a few bad experiences, with the first person to play De Mambo absolutely hating it—but he was another developer and I’m pretty sure it was because he was too decrepit to grasp the reasoning as to why we’ve done certain things differently.

 

On the contrary, pretty much every European developer we’ve met at these events has been absolutely amazing and some of the nicest people we’ve met. Radius Vienna actually managed to rid some of the prevailing cynicism I had with people, as the Viennese developers were fantastic.

Has the feedback you’ve been receiving shaped the way De Mambo has progressed?

In all honesty, the feedback we’ve received has been pretty darn positive. Once people learn the rhythm of De mambo, they love it. The only criticism we’ve had has been from people who can’t understand why we’ve done things differently and want us to make the game normal, like say with health bars and having the three attacks on separate buttons. Oh and also some people hate that up is jump, but are usually fine when they actually play it and realize why we chose up for jump—you’re constantly charging with your right hand so having a jump button would interfere with your attacking ability.

Also, there were loads of children—especially at Manchester day—that got the controls instantly, so we kind of trust the kids more than the critics so far!

So, the big question – Kickstarter – how much are you asking for and why should the public back De Mambo?

So we are asking for £15,000 in hopes that we can make De Mambo faster, with more content and of a much better quality.

We have the ambition to make De Mambo rival a classic SNES game, which is a level of quality we may not be able to reach, but regardless we want it to be as timeless as physically possible. There’s no point in making a throwaway game that you play once and then move on to the next throwaway game—there are plenty of people already doing so.

We’re doing this because we love games and so I think people should back us because this is authentic, but mainly because this is probably the stupidest games creation process ever made.

The story of De Mambo and how it was made is pretty fascinating and I think it makes a nice change from Indie Game: The Movie where everyone was depressed or ever so pretentious. We’re having the time of our life and want others to join in, so back us if you want to join in on this stupid, crazy, hilariously fun journey.

When is De Mambo expected to release? Will it be staggered for the various platforms? Will there be any playable demos or early-access, particularly for backers?

Well that all depends on Kickstarter. If we succeed in raising money, then we will work our butts off to get it done for late 2016. If not, we’ll still try and get it done as soon as possible, but it will take longer.

Regarding platforms, there are only three of us and our newly acquired intern, so it would be a difficult task to release on more than one console at a time. If it’s possible to do so, then yep of course we’ll do it, but I also think it depends on the console. If we do a Wii U—or maybe NX by that time—then we would want to have Wii U specific features and thus it will take longer to implement such features. Also, there’s the business side of things to consider too, like when it makes sense to release.

There will be a demo released with our Kickstarter and some new modes being released through our campaign. We’re also running Steam Greenlight at the same time as our Kickstarter.

De Mambo screenshot

What happens if De Mambo doesn’t meet its funding target? It’s a sad but potentially very real consequence of Kickstarter.

We will carry on as usual and still make De Mambo—it will just take longer and may not be as fleshed out. We’ve come this far, so there’s no sense of us quitting any time soon.

And finally: What’s next for The Dangerous Kitchen? Do you have any ideas, any more projects lined up?

Well we have the start of Kickstarter to take care of, TGS in Japan, EGX in Birmingham and then the end of Kickstarter, which will keep us super busy.

The game I mentioned we worked on before De Mambo, Yooksin, has a large chunk of its asset base complete, so we have to go back and finish it. We’ll probably have to rework how the game plays since it was designed before we actually made a game, but I think it will be really good and very different to De Mambo.

Other than that, we have a lot of ideas. I have thousands of notes in my phone with game ideas ranging from really silly ideas, to things, which could potentially blossom into something cool.

Hopefully things continue to fall into place and we can become a sustainable company, able to make games for as long as we can, which is the only thing we want really!


The Dangerous Kitchen’s Kicksarter for De Mambo launches today. Why not follow (and back) De Mambo on Kickstarter?

Thumbsticks needs your help

We hate to ask, but global advertising revenues are the lowest they've ever been. It's killing the online publishing world. If you found this article interesting or entertaining and you want to support quality games writing, then please consider supporting us via Patreon, buying us a coffee, or subscribing to our newsletter.


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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

Features

Is the Resident Evil 3 remake worth playing?

Resident Evil 3 is the latest game from Capcom to get an RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2?

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Resident Evil 3 remake
Capcom / Thumbsticks

Resident Evil 3 is the latest survival horror game from Capcom to get a top-to-bottom RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2 remake? Here’s what reviewers are saying.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was reviewed positively on its 1999 release, but a consensus grew over time that it was too short and too action-oriented. Naturally enough, it appears the same critique applies to the remake. Most reviewers agree that it’s a handsome and thrilling game, but the underlying experience isn’t as refined as Resident Evil 2. There’s certainly a wider variance of opinion this time around.

The package is fleshed out with an intriguing asynchronous multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance. First impressions are promising, but the jury is still out on its merits due to some technical issues and a lack of pre-release players.

Here is our pick of the game’s main campaign reviews.

Resident Evil 3 remake review round-up

Kotaku

Resident Evil 3 is a better modernization than last year’s fantastic Resident Evil 2 remake. Where that game was still puzzling out a change in format and occasionally struggled to forge an identity, Resident Evil 3 proceeds with wonderful confidence. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but Resident Evil 3 knows what it wants to be.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

USGamer

Resident Evil 3 finally repositions its place as not just a true sequel to Resident Evil 2, but as a bridge to Resident Evil 4, both in action and plot. While it streamlines the formula of Resident Evil 2 into something more linear, it’s still the best way to dodge through Raccoon City with Jill and Carlos, even with Nemesis always on your tail and the occasional clunkiness here and there.”

3.5/5 – Review by Caty McCarthy

GameSpot

“As a remake, Resident Evil 3 not only falls short of honoring its source, but it also doesn’t quite stick the landing as a standalone horror experience. Even without taking into account the original game, or its predecessor, RE3 struggles to keep up with its pace amid a clashing of elements from survival horror and standard action.”

6/10 – Review by Alessandro Fillari

Polygon

“There’s no doubt that the things that made the Resident Evil 2 remake great are present in Resident Evil 3. Capcom’s latest remake is a beautiful game, bearing the same sharp design and streamlining of last year’s game. But much of it feels like a lesser repeat of what was so impressive in Resident Evil 2.”

Not scored – Review by Michael McWhertor

TechRadar

“Resident Evil 3 has rightfully earned its place as one of the best horror games on the market. While Resident Evil 2 Remake may be seen as the golden child, the Resident Evil 3 remake is faster-paced, more action-packed, graphically superior, and forces you to face your fears head-on – whether you want to or not.”

4.5/5 – Review by Vic Hood

PC Gamer

“Resident Evil is best when you’re lost in a complex, labyrinthine space, forced to make a mental map as you play, unlocking more of the sprawl by solving puzzles and finding keys. But Resident Evil 3 has none of this, and is actually stiflingly linear. You’re frequently funnelled down a prescribed path to the next cutscene, and it doesn’t help that the story is lean to the point of nonexistence, with one-dimensional characters and a narrative through-line so flimsy I kept forgetting what I was doing or why.”

58/100 – Review by Andy Kelly

Eurogamer

“Downtown Raccoon City is, unfortunately, not the expansive, multi-layered stalk-fest I’d hoped it would be. There are no alternate endings to chase, no story-altering choices to make, no new game plus mode. The source material is – and I think this is the perceived wisdom – simply not as good as the original Resident Evil 2. But I can’t shake the feeling the Resident Evil 3 remake was rushed – as its original was. Now that’s an unfortunate parallel.”

Not scoredReview by Wesley Yin-Poole


Title: Resident Evil 3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: April 3, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


Visit our new releases section for more on this week’s new Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One games.

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Features

Is Half-Life: Alyx worth playing?

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

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Half-Life 2: Alyx - Review roundup
Valve

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

When Half-Life: Alyx was announced, there was an expectation that Valve would create a landmark in virtual reality gaming. That expectation ignores the progress achieved by many other developers in recent years, but the prospect of a return to City 17 was long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated.

In the event, Half-Life: Alyx isn’t quite as groundbreaking as its predecessors, but it does present a refined, polished AAA VR experience.

Half-Life: Alyx has received praise across the board. The game’s narrative, puzzle-centric gameplay, and stomach-churning Headcrab encounters are all highlights. After a long wait, it appears that the Valve people love is back. Here’s our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Half-Life: Alyx review round-up

Kotaku

“Half-Life is a different beast in VR. It is more stressful and intense than its non-VR predecessors. It can be downright exhausting—sometimes for extremely laudable reasons and other times for deeply frustrating ones. Alyx reveals what VR games can be, but perhaps also what they should try to avoid for fear of overwhelming or frustrating players.”

No score – Review by Nathan Grayson

USGamer

“If Half-Life: Alyx is a success, I think there’ll also be a strong argument for more Half-Life needing to stick with VR moving forward. This game will reach a limited audience at launch, surely. There are some limitations in scope that may rankle, such as a small set of (upgradable!) weapons. Some people may dislike it purely because they don’t like VR. But having played through Half-Life and Half-Life 2 numerous times, along with some of the best FPS campaigns released in their wake (Titanfall 2, 2016’s Doom, Halo: Reach), I think that Half-Life: Alyx stands as proof that Half-Life’s continued evolution can’t look like those of other shooter series.”

4.5/5 – Review by Matthew Olson

Eurogamer

“The controls are as clear-headed as the narrative. Playing room-scale or simply standing with a more confined space, you can choose one of four movement options, two of which work brilliantly as teleport jobs while the other two offer continuous movement guided by either the hand or the head and seemed to me pretty clumsy and nausea-inducing. Whatever movement you choose, one hand generally holds a weapon or gadget – switching them is as easy as pressing a button and waving your arm up and down – while the other is always free for interacting with the environment, opening doors, grabbing ammo clips from your backpack and ramming them home, priming grenades before lobbing them.”

RecommendedReview by Christian Donlan

Polygon

“(But) Half-Life is back, and Valve has finally released another AAA single-player game, something many of us doubted the company ever would, or even could, do again. The impossible has already been achieved, and the fact that it’s happening in VR only makes it more novel. Valve has succeeded at just about every goal it must have had for this project. The only thing left is whether hardcore fans will be willing to buy, and use, a virtual reality headset in order to learn what happens next in the world of Half-Life.”

RecommendedReview by Ben Kuchera

IGN

“Back when VR first became a real thing and we all started spitballing which game worlds we’d most like to be fully immersed in, Half-Life topped my list (tied with BioShock). It took a few years, but Half-Life: Alyx has more than realized that potential. With it, Valve has set a new bar for VR in interactivity, detail, and level design, showing what can happen when a world-class developer goes all-in on the new frontier of technology.”

10/10 – Review by Dan Stapleton

RockPaperShotgun

“For better and worse, HL: Alyx feels at times like a beat-by-beat recreation of Half-Life 2, with that Vault taking the place of the Citadel. More excitingly, and perhaps more surprisingly, many of the game’s best elements feel like they’re drawn from the original Half-Life. Half-Life 1 was much more of a horror game than its sequel, trapping you inside the B-movie nightmare of a research facility overrun by monsters from another dimension, and eventually sending you to that dimension, Xen.”

Not scored – Review by Graham Smith

The Verge

“While it’s about as long as the landmark Half-Life 2, with my game clocking in at 15 hours, it doesn’t feel as big or as narratively and mechanically fresh. It advances the series’s main plot, but it doesn’t come close to resolving it.

But if you keep these admittedly big reservations in mind, Alyx is a worthy addition to the Half-Life universe. It’s not just a good VR game; it’s a good video game, period.”

Not scored – Review by Adi Robertson

UploadVR

“If you’re prepared to pantomime, Alyx holds some of the most active and immersive combat you can experience in VR. In its tougher battles I’d find myself huddled on the floor, opening car doors to fire through the gaps in driver seats, instinctively flinching at the hammer of gunfire above and then poking out remaining shards in a shattered window to access a stray ammo clip with the flick of my Gravity Gloves before fumbling a hasty reload.”

5/5Review by James Feltham

Other publications

  • Gamespot – 9/10
  • GamesRadar – 4.5/5
  • Shacknews – 9/10
  • VGC – 5/5

Title: Half-Life: Alyx
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release date: March 23, 2020
Platform: Windows


Visit the Thumbsticks new releases page for more on this week’s new video games.

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We hate to ask, but global advertising revenues are the lowest they've ever been. It's killing the online publishing world. If you found this article interesting or entertaining and you want to support quality games writing, then please consider supporting us via Patreon, buying us a coffee, or subscribing to our newsletter.


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Features

Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons worth playing?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Does it offer the respite from the real world many of us are seeking right now? Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

The timeliness of this week’s two big video game releases has provoked much conversation. Each game offers some small solace from the world outside but in uniquely different ways. At one end of the scale, Doom Eternal lets players vent their frustrations in a (mostly) satisfying parade of things to shoot. At the other, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers an escape. A chance to isolate on a deserted island that can be grown into a community of (mostly) happy villagers.

Nintendo’s latest Switch exclusive evolves on its predecessors in small but significant ways. New crafting and terraforming mechanics allow the experience to be even more personal than usual. The extra power of the Switch makes this the most beautiful game in the series yet. And Nintendo’s commitment to supporting the game through future events means it should be a reassuringly lengthy escape from reality.

The critical response to Animal Crossing: New Horizons is nearly unanimous in praise. Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons review round-up

Eurogamer

“Is this a gritty reboot for Animal Crossing? As unpalatable as that might sound, it kind of is – and it definitely works. There’s a more grounded logic at play here, to those first few weeks at least. Your first pieces of furniture will likely be made from naked wood chopped from the very trees around you (though rest assured you’ll soon enough get the option to lend them a lick of paint or apply a fresh design with a customisation kit – another new feature for New Horizons). Elsewhere there’s a stronger throughline thoughtfully imposed on a game whose aimlessness has always been one of its biggest strengths, and once you’ve flipped your first few houses and invited a couple of animals to stay the sense of ownership over your surroundings is unparalleled in the series.”

Essential – Review by Martin Robinson

Ars Technica

AC:NH‘s first great success is in threading the needle between that classic mantra of patience and giving addicted players more to do when they want (without charging them more money). Like in prior installments, the game starts with players moving into a sparsely populated village—in this case, a remote island—and being informally tasked with helping the village develop. That impetus is doubly emphasized by AC:NH‘s island gimmick because your new home is billed as a getaway to an uninhabited island.”

Not scored – Review by Sam Machkovech

Nintendo Life

“In all seriousness, the presentation in every sense here is all but flawless. It’s one of the prettiest games on the Switch, so when you couple that with atmospheric lighting, a crisp 1080p docked resolution running at 30fps, sound design that hangs like honey in our ears, and undoubtedly the finest museum in video game history, this is nothing short of an audio-visual dream. Handheld play unsurprisingly feels extremely natural given the series’ history, but docked is where you’ll get to see the shiniest of the pretty things in the quality most deserving.”

10/10 – Review by Alex Olney

IGN

“The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Super Mario each found new life on the Nintendo Switch, and following those games in kind is Animal Crossing: New Horizons: An expanded, polished, next-generation reboot of a classic Nintendo game. Perhaps most importantly, like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is full of surprises. I cannot wait to see what’s to come: Seeing cool custom islands from the community, special events, season changes.”

9/10 – Review by Samuel Claiborn

GamesRadar

“This is an Animal Crossing game through and through, and although that comes with some time-based frustrations, that urge to just spend ‘five more minutes’ on your island deepens with every passing day. As your island evolves and starts to drip-feed fresh things to discover and see, you’ll have the urge to check up on your toe bean-boasting critters on a daily basis more than ever before. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has perfected the gameplay loop the series is famed for, and somehow manages to keep its steady pace relevant in a world where there are plenty of genre rivals.”

4.5/5 – Review by Sam Loveridge

Vice

New Horizons is asking you to create a society from scratch, to build a community out of a deserted island, but making a community isn’t dependent on how many trees you cut or weeds you pull. Community in New Horizons is built in the same ways it is built in the real world: by talking to your neighbors, and listening to them in return.”

Not scored – Review by Gita Jackson

Polygon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a respite from the current state of the world. I find my general anxiety slowly subside as I run through my town, water my plants, and build furniture for the sassy chicken gentleman living down by the beach. It’s exactly what I need right now.

There are moments when I look up from a long session and realize that I’ve been ignoring everything around me. Then I take a look around at what actually is going on around me, and realize that maybe I’d better stay in my island paradise for a little while longer”

Recommended – Review by Russ Frushtick

Other publications

  • Destructoid – 8.5/10
  • Game Informer – 9/10
  • GameSpot – 8/10
  • Videogamer – 9/10
  • USGamer – 4.5/5

Title: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: March 20, 2020
Platform: Nintendo Switch


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Is Nioh 2 worth playing?

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

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Nioh 2
Team Ninja

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

Nioh 2 continues Team Ninja’s strong run with another rough diamond of a game. Its combat is universally acclaimed, requiring finesse, expertise, and resilience. The Dark Souls comparisons loom large, of course, but, like its predecessor, Nioh 2 manages to carve out a distinct identity.

Many critics also agree on the game’s flaws, believing that Team Ninja has perhaps added too much content into the mix. A plethora of gruelling side missions, and some less than memorable locations, take the shine off an otherwise top-notch action experience.

Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Nioh 2 review round-up

GameRadar

Nioh 2 very much doubles down on the vision of the first game. It tells another story of feudal Japanese warlords, samurai and demons. It again sticks close to From’s Dark Souls structure, with added loot and frenetic combat that recalls Team Ninja’s own classic Ninja Gaiden series. And it’s still huge, with long, meandering main missions bolstered by optional sub-missions that often reuse parts of the same maps.”

4.5 – Review by Jon Bailes

Polygon

Nioh 2 is Ninja Gaiden mixed with Dark Souls and Sekiro and drowned in an ocean of complexity. Every enemy is a threat, if I’m anything less than deliberate. I don’t feel skilled when I succeed. I feel smart. And I guess I like feeling smart.”

Not scored – Review by Dave Tach

GameSpot

Nioh 2‘s definitive feature is its challenge. With core mechanics refined from the bones of Dark Souls, Nioh 2 boils down to a series of battles and duels in all kinds of situations. These battles demand intense precision: Not only are your attacks and skills limited by a stamina meter–called Ki–but any extra attack or mistimed movement will leave you exposed, often to an attack that will cost you a substantial amount of health. Like other Souls-like games, there is a painful pleasure in mastering whatever opponents the game throws your way.”

8/10 – Review by Mike Epstein

Kotaku

Nioh 2 has some glaring flaws in spite of the fantastic combat and challenging encounters. Chief among them is level design that turns most of the game into a blurry slog. The Sengoku period is packed with battles and sieges, but Nioh 2 delays on embracing a more magical presentation until the latter half of the game. As a result, there are strings of levels that are either muddy battlefields, crumbling towns, or dilapidated castles.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

IGN

“It took me about 55 hours to beat Nioh 2, and while every single hour of gameplay was challenging, none of the main missions ever felt insurmountable or made me think that I needed to grind in order to overcome them. However, some of the sub-missions definitely skirted a little too close to the line between difficult and unfair.”

9/10 – Review by Mitchell Saltzman

Eurogamer

“In Dark Souls, the world is an interlocking, eldritch conundrum. In Nioh 2, it’s a series of fiendish puzzle boxes. Engrossing and oppressive, for sure, but not that startling or intriguing. Nioh 2 is a work of immense skill and scale, but Team Ninja’s next project needs to be more about changing things than adding them. After all, no amount of equipment buffs can protect you against the element of surprise.”

Recommended – Review by Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

Destructoid

“If there’s one point I want to get across above all others, it’s this: Nioh 2 isn’t as revelatory as the first game, but that shouldn’t be held as a mark against it – at least not this time. Team Ninja was right to iterate and expand carefully. Nioh got so much right on the first go.”

9/10 – Review by Jordan Devore

Other publications

  • Game Informer – 8.5/10
  • Metro – 9/10
  • USGamer – 3.5/5
  • Atomic – 82/100
  • ShackNews – 8/10

Title: Nioh 2
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo / Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: March 13, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4


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Is Ori and the Will of the Wisps worth playing?

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latest game from Moon Studios. It’s the follow-up to Ori and the Blind Forest, but is it as good?

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latest Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive from Moon Studios. It’s the follow-up to the 2015’s acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest, but is it as good? We dip our toe in critical waters to find out. 

Creating a sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest was never going to be an easy task for Moon Studios, but based on the overwhelmingly positive critical response for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, it appears the studio has once again struck gold.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps refines and expands on what made the first game so special with a delicate and affecting story, a glorious, imaginative world to explore, and some spectacular boss battles.

Here’s our pick of the game’s reviews.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps review round-up

Mashable

“When everything lines up so perfectly like it does in Will of the Wisps, it’s hard to pull away. It’s an experience that’s probably familiar to those who’ve played some of the legendary games that make up the 2D platforming pantheon — games like Super Metroid, Celeste, Hollow Knight, and Super Meat Boy.”

Not scored – Review by Kellen Beck

PC Gamer

“I prefer Ori and the Blind Forest for its compactness and simplicity, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is also worth playing to the end. It trips over its complexity at times, and really doesn’t need so much combat, but it’s gorgeous, funny, and the triple-jumping could go on forever without getting old.”

81/100 – Review by Tyler Wilde

Polygon

Ori and the Will of the Wisps offers a gorgeous world to explore and a varied, creative series of abilities and tasks that guide my exploration and help me see more of this wonderful place. It expands my options in combat and offers me more to do, and mostly benefits from that added complexity, while losing some of its focus in the process.”

 Not scored – Review by Andrew King

GameSpot

“Ori’s suite of acrobatic moves makes delving into new areas a thrilling treat. Exploration becomes especially engaging as you unlock more abilities and become increasingly adept. Some of them are lifted directly from the first game, which can be disappointing next to the excitement of discovering a shiny new ability. Still, those old standbys still work well and make the improvisational leaps and bounds feel as great as ever.”

8/10 – Review by Steve Watts

VentureBeat

“As a huge fan of Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps is everything that I could have wanted from a sequel. It’s a longer adventure with fantastic additions, especially the incredible boss fights. The ending sequence will go down as one of the best in gaming history. The occasional technical problems can be annoying, but I’d put up with five times as many bugs to play through this masterpiece.”

98/100 – Review by Mike Minotti

Videogamer

“I would place Ori and the Will of the Wisps in the small catalogue of games, tucked into a sunny corner of my mind, from which I would make prescriptions for anyone with rainy spirits. The solution, when life stands no chance of imitating its art, is merely to jump back in.”

9/10 – Review by Josh Wise

IGN

“In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Moon Studios has taken an excellent foundation and made even more out of it. Its many new elements expand on and add to the first game’s fun without bogging it down or becoming overcomplicated. And that’s really the best praise you can give a sequel – it stays true to the spirit of the original, doubles down on what made it great, and gives you more stake in the world and options to navigate it.”

9/10 – Review by Brandin Tyrell

Other publications

  • TheSixthAxis – 100
  • GameInformer – 95
  • VGC – 100
  • Twinfinite – 90

Title: Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Release date: March 11, 2020
Platform: Xbox One, PC (Available via Xbox Game Pass)


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