After a brief surfing sequence our heroes continued their quest to return the relic. Surprisingly there was a machine boss in their way at one point. Wilhelm became my favourite character - there's something awesome about an autistic warrior like him who ignores all the jokes and innuendo from his companions. The battles became tougher with different enemy combinations and there was a quite difficult challenge of clearing several waves of enemies within a time limit, which required saving up power ups for the more difficult waves.
Mixing things a bit, our heroes have to defend the city gates from attacks. Countering the projectiles seems to be the correct strategy. More enemy types are introduced including a bird that bombards you, Tengu with tons of armour, a tree spirit who can capture you in her roots and a spinning monster that requires a couple of counters before you can damage it. Bichiko seems to be the best character since her weapon has the biggest reach and is quite fast.
Started playing Shing - a hack and slash game where you play as 4 ninjas trying to get back an artefact from some Oni who stole it. you have a light and a heavy attack and you can aim them with the left stick. There isn't much variety in the combos and all characters play pretty much the same with different range for there weapons and slightly different speeds. Once you fill in a rage bar you can do a powerful rage move, which does decent damage, but has an uncancellable animation leaving you vulnerable. There's also a counter move, but it's a bit tricky to do when you are fighting multiple enemies. The characters look great, but they are trying too hard to be funny.
Finally managed to discover a room I was missing to obtain 100% of the map. In my defence it was really hard to notice it and I thought the game glitched on me because it erroneously showed that I was missing an item in one of the rooms. The secret developer area is not part of the map completion. Now having all the items and completing the map, I faced the final boss once more. This time around Algus did use the homunculus as his replacement to evade capture by Epimetheus, who despite being tricked found some respect for Algus' craftiness. The ending was slightly altered by seeing Algus triumphantly return with the rest of the crew. This unlocked a new mode where you go through the tower with the Black Knight, who has a high jump, can throw energy balls at the cost of some HP and his sword can damage every enemy and destroy blocks. He can't talk to Epimetheus for upgrades and I didn't see a way for him to recover health, so going through the tower with him will be a challenge.
Astalon Tears of the Earth is a fantastic game and an easy recommendation for any Metroidvania fan. The gameplay is responsive, the level design is superb and there's a huge variety of enemies and environments. The backgrounds deserve a special mention since they managed to achieve some striking images with the 8-bit aesthetic. There's plenty of secrets to discover, which gives you a good sense of progression. The story is well told with the character interactions, which gives them distinct personalities. You also have a lot of replayability with the alternate game modes giving you a different way to experience the game. This so far is my game of the year and that's saying something considering I've managed to play some pretty unique titles.
After a boss battle Greak was finally reunited with his sister Adara. She fights using projectiles and can briefly fly, allowing you to traverse some bigger gaps. I also noticed that she can hold her breath longer under water, but it too big to fit through small holes. These differences really make you feel that the characters are different and not interchangeable. I also found out that you can pretty much abandon one character in a level and go back as far as you can including teleporting to Azur. Then I was a bit confused of where to go next and the issue was that I didn't have enough inventory space for a couple of quest items. At least both Greak and Adara have separate inventories, so this gives you a bit more capacity, but it is a problem that shouldn't have been there in the first place.
Started playing Greak Memories of Azur. The game begins with a brief history of the conflict between the Courines and Urlags and how the latter used dark magic to destroy their opponents. You then get a brief tutorial with Greak (a Courine) who is shortly reunited with his sister Adara. The next part is the demo level where you use both of them to solve puzzles and fight enemies. To my surprise the game then takes a turn and Greak wakes up in the town of Azur as it turns out he dreamt up reuniting with his sister. He needs to help his fellow Courines to survive against the onslaught from the Urlags by finding different materials and helping people out in the town as he develops his skills and equipment. Speaking of, the small inventory really is an issue since you can carry only 5 items (after a bag upgrade) and that includes the quest items, which makes it difficult to have many ingredients on you for cooking or monster parts for selling. It's quite easy to be killed, so extensive use of healing items is advised.
The levels did get harder, but the main strategy is to make small advances while keeping an eye for enemies who shoot and for the crabs who run along the edges. In fact eliminating the latter in the beginning of the stage should be a priority. The rest of the cast continued to be big boobied women with some more petite ones at the end.
The game is a fun time waster. The music is nice, the controls are responsive and the art is pretty good.
Finally managed to beat Atlas by making good use of the Claymore and the gunblade, when he was out of reach. I also managed to deliver a Lighting Sword brake in the middle of the battle, which made quick work of his second form. In his defeat Atlas told Age how Deucalion killed the leader of the rebellion Pira for his own ambitions. Age fired up the spaceship, but was intercepted by Deucalion who demanded to have the relic in exchange for eternal life serum for Age. Age tricked him and seemingly killed him, but it was just one of his clones and the boss battle commenced. After a pretty cool fight that keeps you on your toes, Age managed to defeat Deucalion. Unfortunately he was chased by more clones and Helvis decided to use the time travel to help them escape. Helvis is then discovered by some unknown men and there was some sequel baiting.
Ultra Age is a fun hack and slash game. It doesn't look amazing and the voice acting is hilariously bad at times, but it more than makes up in gameplay. The combat is quick and responsive, you can be creative with your combos via weapon switching and you can strategise when is the best moment to use the break ability. There's good enemy variety to compliment your abilities. The mod system is a bit weird since it gives you the option to install worse mods, which means that you'd have to ignore most of the drops. It's essential to upgrade your rage and healing ability both with Helvis and via the power gear parts since most of your deaths will likely be the enemy just wearing you down and there are no healing items. Another thing to upgrade is the equipable slots which will give you better stats and most importantly - more HP to survive. The story is pretty basic and the game often throws too many facts about the history of the world while you have no idea what's going on, but once it all comes together it's an interesting universe. If you enjoy hack and slash action games this is an easy recommendation once the price is acceptable since there's little replay value or extra content to unlock.
Atlas explained the fate of the old civilisation to Age. They tried to avert disaster by using the power of the time travelling crystals, but they didn't have enough energy so they used clones with affinity to the crystals to power them up. The clones eventually rebelled and destroyed the old civilisation. Deucalion was possibly the one original human and Age is one of his clones. Implementing some time travel shenanigans led to fights with old bosses (which is a sly way to reuse assets). Eventually Atlas betrayed Age and inhabited a robot lion body, which was yet another challenging boss fight. I didn't manage to beat it and it was annoying going through the entire section of the level to reach it again, but at least this grind allows you to upgrade most of your skills.
Another new weapon was added to Age's arsenal - the Charge Claymore. It can build up and carry energy used to destroy walls and other obstacles. The move set is pretty similar to the regular Claymore, but since the area was filled with robots I kept them both in the equipped weapons slots. In order to reactivate the base Age had to fight the security system, which involved plenty of dodging lasers and avoiding exploding walls. The best strategy here is to be on the defensive until you have a chance to strike the reactors. Succeeding in that Age returned to NAL (an obvious Space Odyssey reference there), who recognises them as enemies and turns into a giant robotic snake. This was a tough fight which required a more aggresive approach since some of the attacks are really hard to dodge, so it's best to try to end it as quickly as possible. When the duo entered the base Helvis was possessed by an enemy AI named Atlas.
Pretty Girls Panic is the typical image reveal game where you expose parts of the picture by connecting them to the edges. You get upgrades like invincibility, time freeze and speed up. The general movement speed is a bit better than the previous game, so that's a positive. The art style reminds me of classic 80s and 90s anime albeit a bit more top-heavy.
Age has to clear a huge crystal rhino to board the reactivated train. He and Helvis get to a launchpad, but have to supply power for the system if they are to escape the planet. Medea is hot on their trail and you eventually have to face her. She reveals that Decaulion's plans are to use the relic to accelerate time on Earth and create a different civilisation (or something). Things are pretty weird, so maybe more will be explained later.
While I wandered around the Tower trying to discover all the remaining secrets I managed to complete the Bestiary. I was mostly missing the previously invulnerable ghost enemies and some of the more rare area specific creatures. Having completed that I decided to face the Black Knight again to see if having all the items would give me a different ending. No such luck. I presumed that the game glitched on me with the 99% map discovery. Giving up on that I tried the Monster Mode, where you play through the tower as a rebellious gargoyle. He can fly and shoot fireballs making the game somewhat easier, but the trade-off is that you don't get the Epimetheus upgrades. I also tried the boss rush mode, which has an element of resource management since you only have so many souls to upgrade your characters and after every defeated boss you get to choose 1 of 3 equipable items, so you have to choose wisely.
The final showdown against the Black Knight was at hand. The fight with him had multiple phases and you'd need to utilise your party to its full potential. At one point he even fuses with the last Gorgon. Defeating him makes the tower crumble, but not before he manages to throw one last shot at Algus. To my surprise Epimetheus does take Algus' soul and the homunculus didn't serve as a decoy, but you can see it in the end credits, so it may serve as a copy of Algus for future adventures. During said credits you can see what has happened with all the characters and how they saved their village. Even there you can see little details like Kyuli wearing her griffon boots. There is a challenge where it requires to defeat the Black Knight after collecting 100% of the items and having the whole map revealed, so I'm guessing this is where the true ending is hidden. I immediately got on that task and discovered the Banish Spell, which allows Algus and Zeek to damage ghost-type enemies. From there I fought the undead bride again (this time being able to kill her) and got her cursed ring, which reveals rooms with hidden passages, making the exploration of the remaining rooms that much easier.
In the Catacombs I found a mysterious golden face which eventually spawned a golden warrior. Near the Apex I discovered a secret area guarded by a centaur boss whose head was detachable. Bram was the best man to fight this beast since the head was the only part that took damage and the axes were the weapon of choice. I guess Zeek could also be useful in this fight if you haven't unlocked the axes. The reward for his defeat was the Blood Chalice artefact, which grants you the ability to recover health while standing still. The regeneration rate is surprisingly fast and gives you an easy way to heal without seeking out the healing lights or farming enemies in the hope of a green orb dropping.
I bought a map of the whole tower from Epimetheus which revealed all the existing rooms. From there I explored the Serpent Path area, which was covered by flesh and bones. There I found an item, but it was for a character who wasn't yet in the party. Going back to the Catacombs I faced a two-faced Gorgon and freed Bram - a barbarian warrior who is an obvious homage to Castlevania - he uses his chains (read whip) to fight monsters and his extra skills allow him to throw axes. Even his name is a reference to Dracula's author Bram Stoker. The morning star gives him the ability to destroy metal bricks.
The bonus levels were all remixes and were quite challenging. In one them you play only as Penny - Crygor's granddaughter, who is equipped with a water gun and has some tricky controls. The culmination here is a boss battle against Pyoro - a video game character who invaded Wario's game. Defeating him makes him playable. This also unlocks another bunch of game modes.
WarioWare Get It Together is a really fun game, perfect for parties or playing with friends. The microgames are quick, creative and despite some of them relying on luck or learning how to approach them, they never get too frustrating. With a huge cast there's tons of replayability and many additional game modes for both single and multiplayer. You can even customise your favourite characters by giving them presents bought with the coins you earned while playing. It's an easy recommendation for people who like unorthodox party games.
After some trial and error I managed to reach the next Gorgon. She either read Algus' mind or really is a former companion of his named Solaria. This game does a fantastic job of telling you more about the history of the characters via smart dialogue. The battle had multiple stages and Arias managed to win the day with his projectile reflect ability. This earned me the green gem unlocking all the remaining Gorgon gates. When the group found a campfire Algus told his companions about his dark deal with Epimetheus. Initially they were shocked, but in a true signed of friendship they offered him support. Despite the sparse story segments you really get a feel for the characters and their relationships.
An exhibition of the complete gallery in Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire. It's still a static background with adjustable images of all the girls. I really wish some info on them was given here. I also encountered a weird bug where sometimes the previous image won't go away and both will stack, but this was easily fixed.
Wario continues to recruit new team members by clearing out each of their levels. Eventually they catch up to the bug causing all this trouble and defeat him Then they meet the Supreme Developer, who was the one who summoned them in-game. It was then revealed that Wario is the one responsible for this mess, but before he can be punished he notices that 3 of his friends are still missing which means returning to the game world once more for a rescue operation.
The different micro games continue have great variety and it's quite obvious that some characters are not well suited for certain games, so there is an element of luck in each round, but usually you can adapt. Some learning may be needed for the more tricky micro games, but they can all be practiced outside the story, so you can train yourself to have a better response. Completing this part of the story also unlocked more game modes, mostly focused on multiplayer.