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    FTG Announces April Giveaway

    WELCOME!
     
    As you all know, we LOVE to give back to our amazing community that gives so much to us!
    Our FTG April Giveaway has officially begun! Our Giveaway winner will be chosen at random using the Gleam Giveaway program
    VISIT THE FOLLOWING LINK TO ENTER: https://gleam.io/7LwMK/front-towards-gamer-april-giveaway
    This month we are giving away a game of your choice ($60 Value) and we wish you all the best of luck! 
    This giveaway will go from April 3rd - May 1st!
    Hint- Submitting a video of yourself via YouTube with the FTG Logo will give you the most chance of winning!

     

    Good luck to everyone! Be sure to stay tuned for more challenges, giveaways, and community events!
     
     
     

    VESTA

      It seems to me that one of the fastest growing segment of games is puzzle games.  Everything from hidden object, match three to more trickier games are starting to come out more regularly for consoles.  Final Boss Games has just released a puzzle game with a touch of platforming tossed in called VESTA.

    You play as Vesta, a plucky, bright 6-year old who lives in a desolate underground maze – the ruins of a once bright city inhabited by humans and machines.  Humans vacated the facility over a hundred years ago and now Vesta is venturing from the depths of the facility to visit M.U.M. – the computer that runs the complex.  Accompanying you on your journey are Droid - a large droid for fighting and heavy lighting and BOT – a floating computer screen that doles out information at the start of each level.

      As you begin to travel through the 1st level you realize the facility is starting to fall apart.  Doors don’t have power, platforms don’t work, and terminals are on the fritz.  For you to make it through you are going to have to grab energy from canisters where it is no longer needed and transfer it to more vital systems.  The further you get, the more items will require power and you will have to switch between Vesta and Droid to complete puzzles.

      There are 4 chapters that you must work through, each consisting of 8 levels followed by a boss fight.  As you progress the puzzles get a lot more difficult and may require a few tries to get them right.  Not only will you have to solve the puzzles, but there are also up to 5 secrets hidden on each level – except boss levels of course – for you to find.  Some of the secrets take you out of your way just for a little something extra toward full completion.  Luckily if you die, the secrets that you have found should stay on your profile. After I completed the 1st chapter I went back to collect all the secrets and saw that the secrets I had found had been lost.  I had to recollect all of them, but since that point things seem to have stuck.  It seems that iffy saves are not an isolated problem.  Hopefully this is an issue that will be fixed with a patch.  

      The graphics in Vesta are beautiful.  Cut scenes are shown in the form of comic books rendered in bright, vivid colors.  In game graphics are fluid and well defined.  Each floor is well designed with interesting lighting, complex dynamic elements and shows a progression as you move through the complex.  Background music is lively enough to draw you in, but not so distracting that it becomes frustrating when you are trying to solve puzzles.

      VESTA is out now for XB1, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.  With a price tag of $14.99, you will more than get your money’s worth out of this title with its thought provoking puzzles mixed with some platforming action.
                                               8/10


    Super Hydorah

      So many games that are being released, especially indie games, seem to be remakes or at least “in the spirit” of classic games.  This happens because games have been out for around 4 decades and there have been thousands of titles produced.  Abylight Studios and Locomalito have recently released Super Hydorah which is very much an homage to the 1987 game R-Type.

      In Super Hydorah, you pilot a ship known as the Delta Force and fight the evil forces of the Meroptians.  This is a classic horizontal shmup that features non-linear levels.  You can either take on the challenge solo or recruit a friend to help you battle against your foe.  And having a friend along for the ride is not a bad idea.

      Game play is what you would expect from a shmup.  Blast your way through enemies to get to the end of the level.  As you progress through the level, some of the enemies you kill will drop power ups.  These include shields, speed boosts, bombs and a few more.  Once you complete a level you will earn new weapons to use in your fight.

      The first thing you will notice when you start playing is the level of difficulty.  Compared to your enemies, you move very slowly.  This can be corrected with a few power ups – but you have to make sure you collect the right ones.  And if you catch a stray bullet, you are back to being a slow poke.  It is very easy to get frustrated at the difficulty level or the lack of save points.  You must complete the entire level before it saves – not just beat the mini boss.  There is no difficulty adjustments either.

      The graphics are pure 16-bit gold.  This title looks like it was made in the early to mid-90’s.  There are a wide variety of well-designed environments and enemies that will keep you busy.  The mini bosses are easy to figure out how to defeat – but surviving the fight is another story.  Gryzor87 did an amazing job with the soundtrack that will keep you jamming across all 21 planets.

      If you are looking for a challenging, retro, shmup, Super Hydorah is a title to consider.  You can grab it digitally on XB1, PS4, Steam, and PS Vita for $19.99.
                                                 8/10


    Dust Off Heli Rescue 2

    What was once old is now new again seems to be the catch phrase for a lot of industries these days.  Movies are being rebooted, music is being re-sampled, and games are being updated and reimagined.  Invictus Games LTD has put their own spin on the chopper shooter with Dust Off Heli Rescue 2.

      This game places you in the role of a helicopter pilot flying several dozen missions.  Your missions include transporting downed soldiers, assaulting the enemy, transporting cargo, escort missions and more.  You earn up to 3 stars per mission based on completing the objective, surviving, and by completing the mission within the set time.

      As you progress, you will unlock new helicopters and weapons.  Once unlocked, you will have to buy them in order to actually use them.  You earn coins by destroying enemies and completing missions.  You can build up your bank account by replaying missions, but you will only earn a fraction of what you did when you 1st played it.  Coins become important because you will have to purchase ammo and repairs mid-mission as you progress further in the campaign in order to complete them.  But you can use older choppers for a while, and you can even use transport helicopters in assault missions.

      Game controls are super simple.  Press both bumpers to lift off, then hold the bumper for the direction you wish to travel.  You can either use the one of the control sticks, or the D-pad to point the nose of your chopper.  There is no need to figure out how to shoot your guns, because they fire automatically.  Landing is just making sure you don’t hit the ground to hard.

      Game play is well varied.  The missions alternate often enough so you don’t get saddled doing to many of the same type of objectives in a row.  And even though you play in the same area for multiple missions, the terrain and weather change.  Wind and flying through caves will affect your lift and you will have to adjust your flying techniques.  There are also 5 dog tags hidden in each mission for you to discover for an extra challenge.

      In the close ups of the game, it looks almost like is was designed in Minecraft.  I personally love the blocky style as it reminds me of the old Activision game Chopper Command – just on steroids.  The helicopter designs are interesting, varied and the paint jobs are nice and colorful.  The music fits very well into the game and the sound effects are great.  From the whirring of the rotors, the rat-a-tat of the guns, or the click click click when you run out of ammo.

      Dust Off Heli Rescue 2 is out now on XB1 and has a price tag of $14.99.  The title offers a lot of fun, replay value, and a moderate difficulty level.  A fun game that will allow you to just play for 5 minutes or an hour or so.
     
                                          8/10

    Stellaris: Humanoid Species Pack DLC


    Stellaris has recently had a brand new species pack, allowing players to access brand new portraits for all the different kinds of humanity.
    Everyone likes playing Humans. They’re squishy and adorable and just make you feel safe. No one wants to be some sort of grotesque alien thing.
    However, if you want to play something familiar you basically have to pick the monkeys. There are no other options.
    Until that is, the Humanoid Species Pack.
    As per previous species packs, you get access to new portraits for the relevant theme, as well as new ship modes and new voice packs, not to mention some in-game music.
    For starters, the brand new portraits – ultimately, they’re a collection of a variety of humanoid-type creatures.

    Special attention needs to be given to the ugly half – halfing (quarterling?) half – orc that just wants to sell you some great Persian music CDs. As well as this lovely chap, you have the fantasy tropes - an actual dwarf, complete with beard and tribal tattoos and his sworn enemy, 4th edition DnD Orcs (not to be confused with Lord of the Rings Orcs, who are way uglier.)
    In the DLC, alongside the portraits you get some lovely new voice packs: the Soldier, Diplomat and Technocrat. It’s pretty clear that these guys are meant to be – Soldier is FemShep from Mass Effect, Diplomat is every Elf ever and Technocrat is the Generic evil guy. When did Paradox get so anti-science?
    Finally, you get new ship designs for your humanoids that are likely supposed to be specific for human purposes.

    A big problem with the ships is that they look like different sci-fi genres smashed together. Some look clearly Star Wars inspired, but then still others look like they just got back from battling the Klingons.
    They feel somewhat muddled, plus sometimes just a bit special looking. However, it is nice to finally have some different variety for ships, rather than just being forced to use the Mammalian designs when playing something human-like.
    Stellaris: Humanoids is a species pack, so it’s going to contain a lot less than any normal expansion, just something to beef out the roleplaying capability for those that want it.
    There’s not a huge amount to say about it other than the ability to have prettier portraits and new ship types.
    Check out Stellaris: Humanoid Species Pack for yourself here on Steam:
     

    Lost Grimoires 2 : Shard of Mystery

      Just in time for the end of the year Artifex Mundi has released another hidden object game for consoles.  Lost Grimoires 2 : Shard of Mystery is the latest port from PC from the company – and a great sequel to the original.

      You play as the medic to the King of House Griffins.  The kingdom has just ended a 4 year war with Drosera, an evil witch, and her crystal army.  With the help of several alchemists, the King was able to trap her in the Chasm Mirror.  The mirror cracked, and a small shard became lost.  Even with peace in the kingdom, the war has taken its toll on the aged King and he falls ill as Drosera threatens her revenge, and soon passes away.  12 years pass and the young prince is about to be crowned the new King.

      But before the coronation ceremony, the Prince decides to show the Chasm Mirror to Rose, his girlfriend that he has been keeping a secret from the rest of the kingdom.  While they are looking at the mirror Rose places the missing shard back into the mirror and tries to free Drosera.  It is up to you to save the Kingdom from the evil witch, her crystal army and maintain the fragile peace.

      Game play is identical to the first game.  You must complete hidden object games and mini games to find items needed to solve other puzzles and complete the story.  As the medic, you must also complete different potions throughout the game.  These require you to collect 3 ingredients then play a match 3 type game to gather enough elements to complete the process.  While this adds another dimension of gameplay – it tends to get a bit boring.  The game only has the main story, which can be played in casual or expert modes, but the lack of an extra chapter, or alternate to the hidden object puzzles does decrease the amount of play time for the title.

      Graphics are beautiful as always.  The details in both the regular environments and the hidden object scenes are very precise.  The objects are well drawn, and they are varied from the previous games.  This is nice because if you have played the other games from this designer, you won’t see the same anchor or rose sprite used.  The music is appropriate for the story and the scenes and never over shadows the spoken dialogue.  The voice acting is good – but does get a bit repetitive during the final battle.

      Lost Grimoires 2 : Shard of Mystery is now available for the Xbox One for $9.99.  If you haven’t played the 1st installment in the Lost Grimoires series you can pick up a package that has both games in it for $14.99 – which is a great value.
                                           8/10

    Europa Universalis IV - 1.24 Japan Update


    Paradox Interactive recently released a new, free update for Europa Universalis IV, 1.24 Japan.
    This update comes just after the release of the most recent DLC, Cradle of Civilization. It would appear that EU4 players are lucky indeed to get new, free updates that not only fix bugs but add new features to new areas of the world, especially so soon after a paid DLC. 
    Patch 1.24 Japan focuses, obviously, on the Japanese and Asian regions and changes game balance in a few subtle ways. Most noticeably, Hordes are now a good deal stronger and Army Professionalism has become massively important with a huge increase of movement speed.
    Here are the full patch notes! Let us know in the comments what parts excite you the most:
     

    SOMA

      I have been playing video games for about 30 years now, and every once in a while a game makes me say “What the hell is going on?”  SOMA from Frictional Games is one of those titles.  And this is not a bad thing.

      You play as Simon Jarrett, a young man who was recently in a car accident.  As a result of the accident, your girlfriend passed away and you sustained a bad head injury.  You have been trying to figure out the extent of your injuries when you are contacted by a doctor that believes he might be able to help.  You agree to be a part of his study, and have a complete brain scan.  This is when things go sideways.

      After your scan you wake up and realize that something is very wrong.  The bright lights of the doctors are gone.  The room is dark, the door is locked and you are surrounded by equipment that wasn’t there before.  You must now explore your new surroundings and figure out how you got there, as well as where THERE is.

      I don’t want to give away any more of the story, but I can safely say that it is a sci-fi, horror, survival which will require stealth over brute force.  You will have to unravel the mysteries of your past and try to solve the puzzles of your present so you can move forward.  Of course, you have to do this all while not drawing the attention of those that are out to get you.

      The XB1 version of the game differs slightly from the original PC and Playstation 4 game that was released a few years ago.  The XB1 version features SAFE mode, which allows all the horror of the original title, but with no chance of getting injured by any monsters.  This makes for a slightly less stressful playthrough, while still being able to experience the entire story.

      The graphics are dark and gritty.  You are pulled into this world almost immediately and held there with a death grip.  The environments are varied and extremely well done.  Game sound is used to envelop you into this creepy world.  Strange mechanical sounds, water dripping in the background, metallic creaks and strange echoes abound.  Using headphones really immerses you into the experience, but the sound design is such that you will still get lost in the environments using your TV speakers.  Music is sparse throughout the game, and mostly used to emphasize mood.
     
      SOMA is out now for XB1 and can be slipped into your collection for $29.99.  While the game has you questioning what is going on, the answers are well worth the play time.
                                10/10

    Your Toy

      What if toys had souls?  It’s a deep question, that can have some troubling consequences if it is true.  Think back to all those army men you melted, Barbie’s you beheaded, and those other toys you abused.  The new game Your Toy by Viva Games explores what can happen when your once loved toy becomes abused and tossed away.

      You wake up in a locked bathroom stall with nothing but your cellphone.  You receive a mysterious message that makes you realize that someone is after you.  Your first priority is to get your bearings, collect what you can, and figure out how to escape from the stall.  Your powers of observation and problem solving will be put to the test – time and again.

      The game is comprised of several areas, each with multiple puzzles to solve, and dangers to avoid.  All of the answers can be found around you, but with something stalking you – will you be able to concentrate?  The puzzles are randomly generated – which means each playthrough will be a bit different.  The main puzzles remain the same, but the solutions change – so you will still have to search out the answers every time.  This will make speed runs a bit difficult.

       This game is a psychological thriller to the core.  From the thunder and lightning outside to the creepy interiors.  Even though you have a cellphone, it only receives incoming calls and messages.  And the incoming calls are far from reassuring.  The visual style of the graphics plays right into the horror genre.  Lights flicker, there is a grainy texture to some of the scenes, and random artifacts fly across the screen – making you wonder what you just saw.

      Sound design is important in any game, but it seems to stand out more in the horror genre.  Bad effects can snap you out of the moment quicker than anything.  The music and sound in Your Toy is the exact opposite.  You are drawn into the nightmare and held hostage until you beat the game or decide to stop playing.

      Your Toy is available as a limited time exclusive on Xbox One.  You can add it to your collection for $14.99.  It will be available on other platforms, but no firm date has been set.

    ** I must say that I hand write all of my reviews first, then type them up the next day or when the embargo is lifted.  I wrote this review then got sick, so it has sat for a few days.  In the interim, I replayed the game to collect the last few achievements that I needed.  In 3 of my 4 runs (that many are not normally needed) I encountered a glitch in one of the final areas.  One of the items required to complete a puzzle failed to spawn.  After a quick look on the internet – this was not an isolated issue.  A glitch like this really effects game play and the overall rating. **
     
                                     6/10

    Spintires : Mudrunner

    Reviewing video games can be hard work.  I’m not just talking about long hours playing games from every genre.  Some titles are closer to on the job training than actual games. Spintires : Mudrunners from Focus Home Interactive is a perfect example of this.

      This is a simulation game like none out there.  The main object of the game is to load your truck up with logs and carry them to the lumber mill.  The main difference is that you have to travel on logging roads that are sometimes nothing more than mud covered ditches, ford rivers, and you can occasionally even drive on a real road to get the job done.  You have a garage full of trucks to get the job done – once they are unlocked – but this game is far from play.

      This game is divided into two main sections – the campaign and challenges.  Challenges are single levels that require you to complete a task with the vehicle the game chooses.  The campaign will have you transporting logs from the lumber mill to the saw mill.  You will get to pick your truck and route – provided the truck is in that level – but beware.  Most levels will require you to make multiple trips, and each truck carries a different amount of cargo.  You will also have to factor in fuel stops and of course, the mud.  Picking the wrong truck can add extra miles to your job.

      The controls for the game are very good for a driving simulator.  You can pick between an automatic or manual transmission depending on your preference.  I will admit the manual takes a bit of getting used to (and I can drive a stick) but it is helpful when trying to get through the mud.  Controlling your truck in the mud is where things get hairy, especially when you must try and park something with some precision.  As good as the controls are, the view tends to be a bit lacking.

      You have an over the cab view and you can move the camera, but it tends to be a bit of an odd angle most of the time.  The camera doesn’t swivel smoothly, so you can miss the angle you need.  And face it, if you are playing a sim game you want a behind the wheel perspective.  The game offers one, but you have limited side views and no views of your mirrors.  This means that you are forced to switch to the other view when backing up, attaching trailers or attaching your winch.

      There is a lot to do in Spintires : Mudrunners, but you have to have the patience for long levels, iffy camera views, and lots of mud, this is a title for you.  The simulation side is spot on, and even offers multiplayer if you have a few good buddies that want to form a convoy.
          7/10
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