[Review] Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion

During the Nintendo Direct in March 2018, it was announced that Splatoon 2 would be getting a DLC expansion that focused on the Octolings, the villains in the Splatoon universe. After a couple months of silence, Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion was released on June 13, 2018. Thus, the journey of Agent 8 begins.

Octo Expansion starts off with Agent 8, an Octoling, getting woken up by a familiar face players would recognize, who appeared in Splatoon previously. Cap’n Cuttlefish tells you that the two of you have fallen down to an unknown location after fighting in Octo Valley. After exploring for a while, you come across a train platform and a talking phone tells you that if you want to get to the “Promised Land”, you must collect 4 “thangs” to grant you access. A train, then, pulls up, meeting the train conductor, C.Q. Cumber. He explains that you are in the Deepsea Metro under Octo Valley and Inkopolis, and must complete several different tests to find each “thang” in order to get to the “Promised Land”. Along the way, you will meet and learn about different characters such as Marina and Pearl, the duo in Off the Hook, who play very important roles in this DLC.

The story in this game was such a joy. It was such a fun yet somewhat crazy story to play through. I personally think this is one of the best stories the writers for Splatoon have come up with, and it’s going to be hard to follow up after this one. My only issue with the story is how it ended so quickly. It was a huge adventure but suddenly ended, leaving me wanting more. The characters in the DLC were a joy. The simple things such as the character interactions in the field to the small dialogues they would say during the stages made them just as enjoyable as the DLC.

Instead of the original Splatoon 2 story mode’s level-based gameplay, Octo Expansion changes it up a bit by using more of the shrine-based objectives like in the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Some tests will be short and some will take a little while to complete, but nearly all of them are fun. A big change from the original story mode is that the Octo Expansion is vastly more difficult. Stages will require more aim or skill depending on what the objective is. What I like the most is the amount of how many different and unique tests there are. It’s also interesting that the team who created the tests was actually the same team who made the shrines in Breath of the Wild!

Within all of these different levels, you can collect things called Mem cakes. You are tasked to fine these little collectibles by fully completing a level. If you are struggling on a level, Marina can help you by hacking her way into the system to act as if you have completed the test. However, if Marina hacked into the system, you can not collect the Mem cake for that test and must repeat it without any help. It’s important to collect as many Mem cakes in order to obtain Octo gear to use in the base game and gain access to the secret boss in the Octo Expansion. This is a fun way to make the players want to collect more and play more levels.

With every Splatoon game, I always have to talk about the phenomenal music score. The expansion does very well in itself. Although the normal songs for the stages are impressive, the best music lies within the final section of the DLC.  Many of the songs are sung by Off the Hook. Their songs bring a lot of emotion into the light, especially during the final boss, giving me goosebumps. If you have the chance, I recommend listening to these songs as they are amazing.

Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion is a phenomenal DLC expansion jam-packed with unique stages and levels, a crazy but memorable story, and an amazing score full of great music that won’t leave you disappointed! This is also the only chance to be able to play as the Octoling. The DLC may be short and leave you wanting more, but it’s a great journey that every Splatoon fan will want to experience.

[Review] Survive! Mr. Cube is the Dark Souls of Block Games

Survive! Mr. Cube is an indie, rogue-lite, action game. At first look, Survive! Mr. Cube might look like a cuter version of Minecraft. To me, it’s the Dark Soul of block-style game: unforgiving, relentless, and a bit aggressive.

The basis for Survive! Mr. Cube is survive, fight, and escape with its life. If Mr. Cube didn’t survive, a different version of Mr. Cube from a parallel dimension will takes its place, losing all the progress of the previous Mr. Cube (the game does have the auto-save feature although they unintentionally left it out), and get sent back to the very beginning.

The plot is quite simple. We meet Mr. Cube and learns he has a wife at home. But Mr. Cube is forcibly teleported away and sent to an unfamiliar dimension. Mr. Cube needs to fight for his life and find a way out to return to his home dimension.

 

One of the endearing features is finding which Mr. Cube I would get. So far, I’ve met at least 25 different version of Mr. Cube and have yet to meet one twice. In my perspective, they are basically the better looking and cuter versions of Minecraft blocky characters. The game generates a wide range of different Mr. Cube at random each time he is brought back.

Each Mr. Cube has their own unique design, class job, stats, weapons, ability, and flaws. Some of them are based of classic role-playing job class, of animals, and of real-life pop culture figures, like a LEGO character and a recognizable super hero. Personally, the many versions of Mr. Cube can get quite amusing.

 

The game prioritize gameplay over story. Although, gameplay is as simple as the storyline. To attack the enemies, you have to toggle the right analog stick which can be very awkward at times, and the weapons dictate how much stamina is used. This is the first time I played a game, using the right analog stick to attack. Normally, the right analog stick is moving the camera around. It gets confusing at certain moments when I unconsciously want to shift the environment around.

What has me calling Survive! Mr. Cube the “Dark Souls of block-style games” is the agony of losing all of the progress in a single playthrough if Mr. Cube dies a premature death. And, on top of that, you and your new Mr. Cube has to start at the very beginning again, and all your strongest (and favorite) weapons you found disappear for good.

Survive! is comprised of 4 themed areas and each area has 25 stages, connected like a labyrinth. There is no single, straight path to take to the area boss. Some stages can have up to 4 gateways and some can lead to a dead end. No areas uses the same path, thanks to the game’s randomly-generated system. It takes a lot of backtracking and searching to find the correct gates that led to the area boss.

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The game relies heavily on random generation. Most of the mechanics are generated at random: Mr. Cubes, item drops, enemies, chests, traps, shop items and areas. You will never know what you will ever get in this game.

One of the glaring flaws that keeps recurring in Survive! is the framerate. It is not a once-in-a-while thing. It happens a lot and at random, ironically, and sometimes be distracting during the fights.

Visually, Survive! Mr. Cube pays tribute to retro-art styles, using voxel or cubic block, and the backgrounds are nicely rendered. Each area has a theme, however each area uses the same surrounding aesthetics in all of 25 stages. Although there are different layouts randomly generated, the surroundings won’t change until you reach the next area.

There were times where it can feel like it’s dragging and repetitive because of the unchanging surroundings in each area and backtracking to find the final gateway. Nor did constantly dying and returning to the very first area help curb those feelings. Being stuck in one area’s unchanging surroundings can be a total torture.

 

It was surprising how easy it was to hunt for trophies so quickly. The trophy hunting is just as simple as the game’s plot. I was able to collect all 38 trophies including the platinum in 4 hours and 30 minutes, according to my PSNprofiles. I wasn’t actively hunting trophies. Instead, I was trying to discover all of the different versions of Mr. Cube. It was rather disenchanting that the trophies wasn’t more of a challenge.

Overall, everything in Survive! Mr. Cube is quite simple: plot, gameplay, battle mechanics, and trophies. But it is in the spirit of Dark Souls, torturing both Mr. Cube and the player in its block-styled environment whose only goal is trying to kill Mr. Cube. A single failure can make hours of progress go POOF. At least, a different yet adorable version would take its former place when Mr. Cube dies. If you don’t mind investing in keeping Mr. Cube alive, Mr. Cube might finally return to his home dimension…

Title: Survive! Mr. Cube
Developer: Intragames
Publisher: Intragames
Release Date: April 26, 2018
Trailer: https://youtu.be/IU_Hv_qe5zM
Only available on the PSN