Auto Age: Standoff (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Auto Age Standoff is a game I foresee playing quite a few bot-matches with. Not because it’s a bad game, but due to the simple (and sad) fact that not every multiplayer game gets a playerbase. And, for all that Auto Age Standoff is, at the time of writing the review, a fun multiplayer game, and one with the much needed feature of playing against bots (and challenging ones too) when, say, nobody’s around to play, it is also a game that needs more players. Also, it’s a game that nails the aesthetic it’s going for.

Oh, yes. Puns. Those too.

What aesthetic is that? Saturday Morning Cartoons. Cheesy theme song? Yup. Bright and clearly cel shaded? Yup. Colour coded factions? Yup. Villain who possesses not just one name that makes you question their life choices, but two? Oh, hi, Bonecrusher who is now Dark Jaw, leader of the evil Jawlings!

So yes… In the far future, SAIGE, an AI who helped preserve the civilisations of the wastes, is being hunted by Dark Jaw, so he can RUUULE THE WORLD AHAHAHAHAAA!

Er… Sorry, villainous side showing a bit there. Anyway, she recruits a courier called Val Vega, and… Well, there’s more implied in the world, like the missing (in universe, but playable in game) S-Force, the Jawlings, and the like, but beyond the tutorial… Well, that’s your reason for fighting in arenas in bright, team colour coded vehicles. This, by the way, is the part where I get a bit sad more people aren’t playing this. Why?

Combat is quick and chaotic, but most of that is movement. Targeting is automatic at the right ranges.

Honestly, it’s fun. Vehicles each come with one special ability according to their type, such as Medium vehicles having self-repair, and Heavy vehicles coming with a ram damage booster auto-equipped, different secondary special abilities can be added (like auto-tracking turrets or drunk missiles), the handling is different enough that you feel it, but not enough to make anything but a tower feel like a brick riding on other bricks, and you can be really, really mobile.

Okay. Consider this for a second. Boosting into an enemy car. They get knocked back, you back up a sec, power forward, then… Jump and shoot them from above. Yes, these cars have jumps, boosts, and, with a good run up, can basically flip. Even if you do end up on your roof, flipping is quick and easy. So yeah, it’s pretty fluid, and the AI is fun.

Essentially, if you want something cool and multiplayer that you can play with friends, and practice with bots, Auto-Age Standoff is pretty fun. Sure, it could do with more SatAm cheese than the tutorial provides, but honestly? The developers are adding new maps with each update so far, the 8 maps currently in provide a fair amount of variety, and I’m okay with that.

Jawling Towers. On the one hand, very easy to topple. On the other, they have some *serious* weaponry.

JAWLING RECRUITMENT DRIVE.DOC [SAVE… UPLOAD COMPLETE]

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GRIP (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Version: 0.1.2.6

Ahhh, GRIP. A spiritual successor to Rollcage with much promise, but it does seem to make the oddest mis-steps sometimes. Nonetheless, I will begin by saying that the GRIP team are slowly, but surely, pushing the game to better heights, and I highly respect the fact that they aren’t going to be taking the game out of Early Access until they’re sure it’s good enough. Even with critics like me pushing, and occasionally moaning and bitching.

Pleasure, thy name is a missile up the jacksie of the racer in front.

Needless to say, there is going to be some moaning and bitching. But less than there was, and in different areas. So let’s start off with what’s good, and what’s improved.

Aesthetically, apart from something I’m going to touch on a little later, GRIP is good. Gritty industrial elements counterpoint well with pretty vistas, blend well into the landscapes they’re built on (Except where it’s obvious they’re the paving over of said landscapes with ugly metal), and similarly, the soundtrack is pumping, industrial, and decidedly cool. The various GRIP vehicles stilll have character, despite the constraint that they have to be boxy, and their wheels big enough to fit the main motif of the game (They have high downforce, so it doesn’t matter which way up they are) , and that the steering becomes less responsive the faster you go, so slowing down is important is good. Similarly, the new weapons appear cool, and my previous complaints about the blue-shell nature of the Assassin missile appear to have been dealt with somewhat. The AI appears to be somewhat less vicious, and this, too, is good (I spent all of the last session on Hard, and felt like I was earning my podium place without feeling cheated on all of the tracks I was familiar with.)

Atoll is *very* lovely, as is the wont of a sandy beach…

So far, so good. Equally good, it’s still early days, and the devs do have a quick response to considered critique. Cool. Now for what is currently less good, or needs some work. Starting with the dramacam, and signposting. Essentially, a bit of colourblind support, or making signage and the path more clear, would be very helpful in the WIP tracks, as the game has now started putting in tracks with some devilish features, and more attention to the signposting thereof would be very helpful indeed. Features like uphill to downhill U-turns, and quite sharp ones too on Atoll, or the 90 degree turn with little warning and no rails on the fittingly named Acrophobia track. Combining with this was the drama cam, which, when I have a sharp impact, or I’m moving very slowly, decides not to focus on where I’m going, but… Well, this screenshot from Atoll is emblematic of the sort of thing I have to deal with, and I will also add the disclaimer that, most of the time, it works, and adds all sorts of dutch angles and funtimes that make the experience quite visceral, working well when I suddenly have to flip between track elements. Finally, the Primer is quite intrusive, and I find myself heavily disagreeing with the decision that either the game pauses, or heavily slows down (while still requiring control) every time it wants to take up the screen to tell me what to do… Especially as, if I’m not quick enough, it’ll do it again until I’ve done the arbitrary goal that, in 90% of the Primer, is “Use this basic weapon on somebody” if I’m not quick enough to do so.

…Alas, it is also one of the places where DramaCam hampered me more than pleasured me. Yes, I am aware the beach is pretty… But the way forward is IN FRONT OF ME.

Overall, though, GRIP definitely looks like it’s improving, the addition of multiplayer is nice (Still in testing, and the game, as with all WIP content, politely informs me is WIP both in menu and game, and, in the case of Multiplayer, embargoed until it’s more polished. Which is perfectly fine), and I feel a lot better about recommending this to future racing fans who still want some wheels.

Vroom vroom.

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All-Stars Fruit Racing (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Fruit is, pizza toppings arguments aside, a pretty inclusive thing. Five fruit a day is recommended for most folks, it’s often kink friendly, and at least some of it is endorsed by Donkey Kong. So when it immediately leaps out at me that a game with a variety of fruit from all around the world in a Mario-Kart style racer with a twist is… Very, very caucasian, when it comes to the current driver set, I get very sad. And not a little irritable.

While Rebecca definitely has the power that synergises with my style the best, she is also, to my mind, one of the most boring *designs* , sadly.

I mean, there’s 13 drivers left to put in the game, but right now, that’s definitely not an encouraging sign for inclusivity, folks. Which is even stranger when it also takes great pains to tell you how fruit are pretty much a worldwide thing, with awesome Fruit Facts (Which are, in fact, awesome. Props for that.)

Aesthetically, apart from that not-so-wee problem mentioned, the game is on point. The visuals are gorgeous, the tracks appear fairly well signposted, the music is funky and bouncy and cool. I like this. This is good. Equally good is that yes, this is a spin on that old family favourite, Mario Kart, in which you are in buggies/karts, and you’re racing around a track using powerups. There’s even variety in the modes. Do you randomly juice that fruit, taking the traditional route of random powerups? Do you mix your fruit, getting powerups due to the combo of fruit you have? Do you maybe have a selection, chosen with the arrow keys between Summer, Spring, Fall, and Winter, that you power up by collecting the right season? Maybe you like time attacks? Maybe you like drag races, one lap, winner takes all?

Playing catch-up can be a stressful time. Even on a 5 lap race.

Any which way, you have power ups, including the special of each character (Rebecca’s Strawberry Wing, for example, is a super-turbo, while Giselle’s Avocado Bite is your very own chompy plant, knocking back anyone who dares to be in front of your suddenly extended and quite bitey bumper), you have drifting (and drifting just right also gives you a small boost, although it must be said the AI seems to try drifting even on straights, and it seems to work.) You have jumps and boost pads, and it all works pretty smoothly. Apart from racer special abilities, however, the cars act exactly the same, compensated for by a moderately wide range of visual customisation of the vehicles, with more unlocked as you complete tournaments in career mode.

Track design wise? Even early on, you will come across tracks where the shorter path is required for first place, and some tracks feel earlier than, honestly, they should be. For all that, yes, the snaking tube track that finishes the first gear Banana Cup, for example, is an interesting track with the difficulty modifier that the blue stripe acts like a river (slowing you down greatly), it feels less challenging, for its single lap, drag style race to the finish line, than a preceding track, which involves minecarts that, if they run over you, flatten and drastically slow you, and a final stretch where there’s not just one longer path, but a longer path that splits into another, longer path.

“Look at her, Miller. Isn’t she beautiful?”

Beyond the mentioned lack of variety in racers (not mechanically, but in terms of being all white girls), a need for some form of tutorialising or reference on fruit mixing (I get by on winging it, but while I know I can mix winter, summer, autumn, and fall for things, I’d also like to know, y’know, what mixes what, even if it’s some kind of Fruitopedia. Which, to be fair, could also add some flavour to the world), a clearer sense of what each tournament contains, and perhaps the option for a slightly less vicious AI, it seems promising. The game does not currently have multiplayer, but it’s quite clearly on the roadmap, and, these problems aside, it seems like it could make a good, family friendly and fairly accessible arcade racer.

The Mad Welshman wouldn’t mind at least one villainous fruit monster in the roster. I don’t know, maybe a moustache twirling gooseberry? Obviously not suggested for selfish reasons. Obviously.

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