Category Archives: Live Gameplay Videos

Serious Sam 4 Review – PlayStation 5

There are numerous signs of the apocalypse; dogs and cats living together, an alien invasion that threatens the entire planet, and me reviewing a Serious Sam game.  In all seriousness, you know it’s a bad year for AAA combat when I’m deleting lemons like Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 to make room for Serious Sam 4.  As someone who favors the slower more tactical gameplay of games like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, Serious Sam is quite possibly the last game you’d expect me to play, let alone enjoy, but there is something refreshingly tactical about managing a huge assortment of weapons while combining ammo conservation, gadget use, and lots of backpedaling amidst some of the most epic carnage you can experience outside a Michael Bay movie.

It’s been twenty years since I dabbled around with the original Serious Sam game.  At the time it was more of a visual tech demo than anything else.  I remember exploring Egyptian architecture while blasting endless swarms of crazy monsters into bloody giblets.  Now, two decades later, I’m pretty much doing the same thing only with much better graphics and in a new location.  Makes me wonder if I missed anything in parts two and three?  So apparently these incompetent aliens are still trying to take over the planet after all this time, but one man in a skintight T-shirt with the ability to carry a dozen weapons and hundreds of pounds of ammo around in his jeans’ pockets keeps foiling their plans.  As alien overlord, Mental prepares to unleash his final assault Sam must lead his resistance fighters into battle to save the planet.

Serious Sam 4 is structured around thematic chapters set in unique locations with multi-part objectives and usually two or three optional side missions, but come on…are they really optional?  Are you really going to skip major portions of content highlighted with glowing arrows and blue signage just to stay on mission; especially when those side missions are usually home to some of the better weapons and upgrades in the game?  For those with a competitive streak, these chapters are also scored based on performance and completion time, but unless you are intentionally speed-running the game I wouldn’t stress over the clock.  Playing on the normal difficulty I never once beat the par time for any level…came close a couple times but never beat it.  For me, surviving the chapter and unlocking the next was reward enough.

Serious Sam 4 has a fun little story that opens with Sam driving through Rome in his military convoy of Humvees with chopper escort when aliens launch their next attack and shit gets real.  Sam and the only survivor of the convoy, Kenny, emerge from the wreckage and must fight their way back to the resistance while navigating the monster-filled streets of Rome.  Kenny is the first hint of the new cooperative element of the campaign that allows for up to four players to save the world.  There are areas in the solo game where AI teammates will fight alongside you.  Unfortunately, none of my usual online gaming buds were even remotely interested in playing this with me…something about some small-time indie shooter called Halo Infinite, so I was left to save Earth alone…not the first time.

You quickly learn that Serious Sam 4 is all about reflexes and weapons management.  You start off with a lowly pistol but a few hours into the game you will have a double-ring of weapon slots with everything from single and double barrel shotguns to assault rifles, grenade and rocket launchers, C4 sticky bombs, and a powerful sniper rifle.  You also get some nifty gear like life injectors, a serum that speeds you up while reducing your damage and inflicting quad-damage to your enemies, and even a gadget that summons a black hole to suck up an entire battlefield of enemies…use cautiously.   The game is structured with all of these battle “arenas”; some quite obvious like the actual Colosseum, while other combat ensues in the city streets or amongst ancient ruins.  Enemies just portal in from all sides, even behind you, so there is no time for planning unless you die and reload and know what’s coming.

Knowing what weapons works best on what monsters is critical.  Charging bulls require multiple double-barrel shotgun shots while one or two rockets will drop them instantly.  Those skeleton Kleer go down with a single double-barrel blast while the screaming Kamikaze guys go down with simple AR fire.  Some encounters will put you up against wave after wave of hundreds of enemies of changing types forcing you to constantly switch weapons for optimal effectiveness.  Mid-size and large bosses will stampede into battle that often require the big guns while simultaneous fighting off the supporting grunts as you circle-strafe or backpedal your way to safety while timing your reloads and performing the occasional side-dodge.

Originally released last year on the PC, I played Serious Sam 4 on the PS5 for this review and found the experience enjoyable enough for what it is, a purely reflexive and instinctual arcade shooter where the only tactical decision required is, “do you bandage your trigger finger before or after you play”…correct answer is both.  The DualSense works pretty well in the broad sense of combat, but there is a certain level of imprecision built into the analog sticks that makes sniping at distance a major pain in the ass.  It doesn’t help that enemies have instant awareness to your location once you shoot that first target or cross that invisible trigger line.  Trying to peek out, scope, and fire before taking a hit yourself in problematic, especially if multiple snipers are lurking about the rooftops.

Technically, Serious Sam 4 looks fine and sounds amazing.  Every monster has their signature sound from the bone rattling Kleer to the screaming Kamikaze – just wait until one of those gets stuck in the environment and is screaming for an entire ten minute battle until you can hunt him down.  The voice acting is campy and fun with Sam’s gravelly voice stealing the show – that man must smoke six packs a day.  While not entirely next-gen I can see why it takes the power of the PS5 to get the game running as good as it does.  There are LOD issues with architecture and shadow pop-in as well as texture loading issues mostly visible after a camera cut or cinematic.  I can imagine a super-powerful PC could muscle through most of these, but for a console shooter of this magnitude it’s still mighty impressive.

If you are looking for an epic arcade shooter loaded with insane amounts of crazy weapons and monsters then look no further than Serious Sam 4.  In the absence of Duke Nukem Sam is the only wisecracking hero left for this generation, and while he is a man of few words he certainly delivers on explosive action.  With a great solo mode, co-op campaign, and a scoring system to encourage future replays, you can expect countless hours of carnage as you save the world…again.

If you want to see Sam in action you can check out the first three hours of gameplay in our First Look video.

White Shadows Review – PC & PS5

White Shadows is the debut titles from Monokel that has just arrived on PC and PS5 and has totally secured a spot on my top ten indie games of 2021.  Despite it’s less-than-three-hour playtime, every moment you spend in this eerily enchanting game from opening trigger warning to closing credits will enchant and delight players of all ages.  Monokel has crafted a perfectly paced action-platforming experience with just the right amounts of action, light puzzle-solving and cryptic narrative.  Every minute you spend in this world has purpose, which makes it even easier to forgive the short runtime despite wanting more.

At first White Shadows appears to take place in a dusty old attic, as our heroine emerges from a broken telephone, but all too soon you realize you are in this sprawling steampunk industrial world populated by all sorts of creatures that slave away in their daily grinds under the rule of the Ministry of Light.  You see, in this world darkness is the enemy, although nothing bad seems to happen when you are in the dark, but regardless it seems society has been structured about keeping the world lit, even to the point where its citizens can spend $50 for a “light bath”.

There are numerous animals in the world with wolves at the top of the food chain while pigs gather in long lines awaiting their next light shower and others serve as elevator attendants, walking their treadmills so others can go up and down.  Birds are apparently the enemy, which makes it all that much more difficult since you are playing Ravengirl, who at first I though was a human wearing a beak mask, but as it turns out is an actual raven head on a human torso – not the weirdest thing in this game to be sure.  There is this whole factory farming vibe going on behind the scenes with these giant birds laying eggs that are processed along lengthy conveyor belts until these adorable chicks emerge.  Sadly, these chicks turn out to be energy sources that are converted into batteries that are then lifted to the heavens via hot air balloons to power the array of lights that shine down on the city.

Considering the game deals heavily with light and shadow I thought the choice to render White Shadows in black and white was genius.  I was amazed with the level of detail and creativity on display here with complex multi-layered environments, original creature design, charming animations, and great use of light and dark including real-time shadows that actually become part of the gameplay.  There is a haze that covers the world, almost looking like fog or dust that diffuses the light, and while this takes away a bit of the crisp contrast you might think you want, this atmospheric effect actually helps spread what little light there is around to the darker areas.  Much of this world is lit purely through scenery like neon lights and signs and the occasional ring lights around tunnels.  On occasion when the camera tilts upward you can glimpse the grid of lights in the sky.  The camera work is also exceptional, zooming in for fun close-ups where you can appreciate the finer details, then pulling way out to reveal the sheer scope and scale of these massive environments.  I did enjoy the switch to 4:3 aspect ratio for a TV gameshow and numerous commercial breaks that pop-up during your adventure.

I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the amazing audio in White Shadows.  While the game is mostly a quiet explorative adventure there are these action sequences where all these awesome classical tunes start to play.  You haven’t done a train-hopping puzzle until you’ve done it with Flight of the Bumblebee playing in the background.  Midway through the game there is this reality TV gameshow with its own original song that had me laughing for quite some time; a worthy reward for defeating what is basically the only boss in the game.   There are some really great environmental sounds as well as powerful, almost scary effects from trains and flying machines.

I played White Shadows on both the PC and the PS5 and found virtually no difference in gameplay, presentation, controls, or quality.  The PC version may have been slightly sharper; hard to say with all that diffused lighting, and the PS5 didn’t make use of the DualSense controller in any way and loading times weren’t any faster on that fancy SSD.  It is worth noting this is a native PS5 title and not a PS4 game being played in back-compat mode.   I saw no support for HDR on either format; shocking for a game that relies almost entirely on contrast.   You can’t go wrong with either version.

White Shadows snuck in just under the 2021 wire to secure a nomination for one of the best indie games I’ve played this year.  Sure, you can knock it out in a single sitting just like I did in my PC gameplay video.  You can also see the first two chapters of the PS5 version if you prefer or want to compare.  In both those videos I make numerous comparisons to games like Limbo, Inside, Little Nightmares, and even Oddworld.  Monokel has captured all the best elements of those legendary titles and combined them into something that is fresh, charming, and fun to play.  You’ll definitely want to check this out.

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‘NeuroNet’ Showcases Its First Gameplay Footage

Unique adventure, NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy, has for the first time released 10 minutes of exclusive gameplay. Part Your Grace, part Reigns, part Astrologaster, the original mix of genres, combined with gorgeous art, decision making and story-driven gameplay, places the game in a unique position to challenge the morality of players.

Set to launch on Steam, Epic Games Store, Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS in the New Year, you control an AI charged with managing a cyberpunk called Catena. Players will need to make quick-fire decisions that impact the future and the prosperity of its citizens, with every choice and decision they take having a lasting effect on those they meet and the city’s status.

Key Features

  • Branching Narrative:A ‘Reigns’ inspired branching narrative where player choice directly impacts the story, with some outcomes benefiting the citizens of Catena and others benefitting someone else…
  • Quick Decisions:Characters pose problems that offer quick-fire decisions, but they are deceptively simple and have far-reaching repercussions. Good instincts are required to make the right choice at the right time.
  • Choices That Matter:See the impact of every choice you make as your influence spreads across the city. Analyse reports and read the social media feeds of the population to observe the effects. Throughout the overarching story, your decisions will change the path and decide the outcome.
  • Diverse Cast:Meet and build relationships with 23 diverse and fully voiced characters. Guide each one on their journey as they face the tough challenges life in Catena presents.
  • Compelling Events:Over 5000 story events to experience, each offering choices that affect the characters you meet.
  • Rich Lore:Explore the world of Catena through an expansive digital Codex packed with deep lore, engaging characters, and stunning cyberpunk environments.

The ten minute trailer showcases just a slice of NeuroNet’s choice-driven gameplay; content players may not even encounter if their previous decisions haven’t pushed the narrative in this unique direction.

In the footage, the AI is working with a new branch of the CPA (Corporate Police Agency), headed up by Thompson, a lead Detective. Together they’re on the hunt for a human trafficker: Mueller. Previously sceptical of the AI’s value, actions and decisions taken up to this point have proven to be a valuable resource in piecing together Thompson’s cold cases. The CPA until recently didn’t have enough evidence to bring him in, until now.

“You are capable of projecting the economic, social and ethical ramifications of each decision you make in real time.”

Faced with moral dilemmas as the story unfolds, this fully voice-acted adventure sees the choices you make directly change not only the direction the story takes, but also its eventual outcome.

Featuring dozens of unique characters, thousands of story events, multiple endings and a branching narrative, players are invited to answer one question: how will you save a city losing its humanity to technology?

NeuroNet can be wishlisted now on Steam and the Epic Games Store, with the iOS, Android and Nintendo store links going live soon.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review – PC

I love a good scary game and Supermassive Games has been delivering some great interactive narratives ever since Until Dawn back in 2015.  Borrowing heavily on the design elements of that fantastic horror adventure, The Dark Pictures Anthology was born just four years later with a new series of cinematic games kicking off with Man of Medan followed by Little Hope a year later and now House of Ashes this October.  All of these games, including Until Dawn, follow the same basic structure dealing with a group of people put into dangerous and terrifying situations and you must try to keep as many of them alive as possible as you swap out playing various members of the cast.  The entire thing is “hosted” by the Curator who introduces the story and occasionally reappears to check in and comment on your progress and even offer a hint if needed.

Of the three games released so far Man of Medan remains my favorite to play because of the diverse cast and branching storylines, but when it comes to actual story House of Ashes definitely wins for best narrative.  Set in 2003 we join a group of soldiers in the Gulf War searching for chemical weapons following the capture of Saddam Hussein, but not before a brief and terrifying prologue set 4,000 years prior where we play as a Sumerian temple guard defending against an invading army.  How these two events tie together will quickly be revealed.

I won’t even begin to spoil the adventure ahead because it is full of twists and shocking reveals that genuinely surprised even me.  You’ll get to play as most every member of the cast, experiencing all the relationship drama and claustrophobic terror of being trapped hundreds of feet below the surface while being stalked by bloodthirsty monsters that feed on actual fear.  Prepare for plenty of split-second decisions, QTE’s, and that infamous button-tapping EKG.  With multiple plot paths all leading to an insane climax, how many soldiers can you keep alive?

As expected, House of Ashes maintains that same level of cinematic quality with exciting locations, and a diverse cast of characters all expertly portrayed by actors lending their voices and motion-capture performances to create a truly interactive movie.  My only issue with the game was the character model for Rachel King (Ashly Tisdale) that goes well into “uncanny valley” territory.  Her voice performance was fine, but knowing what Ashly looks like in real-life and seeing this creepy recreation in the game was really distracting; not that having her drenched in Carrie post-prom blood for the final act of the game wasn’t already distracting.

The audio mix for this game is truly terrifying; especially if playing in a surround sound setup or with good headphones.  The screeches and echo location clicking of the monsters had my nerves frazzle throughout most of the game.  The voice acting is outstanding, the music is thrilling, and the entire sound design is worthy of a feature film.

You’ll definitely want to play House of Ashes with a controller, as there are plenty of button-mashing QTE’s that simply don’t work as well with a mouse.  My only issues with controls were the rapid-tap sequences where you have to mash a button to fill up the circle.  This was very difficult to do using my thumb, forcing me to alter my grip on the gamepad and use my index finger.  Another minor annoyance was how the game lulls you into just watching it then suddenly springs a QTE on you with no warning.  The game also has the uncanny ability to know when I am taking a drink or scratching my nose and spring a QTE on me.  Thankfully you can fail a few of these before permanently altering the story.

As with previous games in the anthology House of Ashes can be played alone or with friends both online or in a local party mode for up to five players who all share a controller and play chosen members of the cast.  The online mode is particularly cool because players can be seeing and experiencing their own events simultaneously before coming together in those shared moments of terror.  There are numerous paths to explore and a very clever cinematic credit sequence that recaps your choices and reveals their outcomes at the end.  You’ll definitely want to play this adventure more than once, and there is even a Director’s Cut available to experience even more of the story.

I really enjoyed House of Ashes.  It had some truly terrifying moments, great story reveals, interesting relationship building, and a cinematic quality that you don’t often get in horror adventure games.  A single pass through the story took me just over six hours and only earned me seven of the thirty possible achievements, so there is plenty of incentive to revisit this game in the future and definitely share it with friends.  House of Ashes is definitely an improvement on Little Hope and hopefully a sign of great things to come when the anthology wraps up next year with The Devil In Me.  Until then, I’ve got a lot more adventuring to do.

If you want to see House of Ashes in action, check out our gameplay video for the first two hours of the game with commentary.

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Black Widow: Recharged Review – PlayStation 4/5

I thought I had played pretty much every Atari game ever made but somehow one slipped past and thankfully Black Widow: Recharged is helping to fill in the gap.  Coming hot off the heels of last month’s Centipede: Recharged, this latest classic gets the same energized reimagining with some intense arcade shooting action for solo and co-op play, 30 challenges, and some amazing music from Megan McDuffee that will have you gripping your controller until your hands go numb.

Having never played the original I cannot comment on how well this new game honors its namesake.  The overall menu and presentation is identical to Centipede: Recharged; almost like Atari has this template that they can just slip any retro game into and make $10.  That’s not a complaint, as Black Widow: Recharged has been a thrilling arcade comfort food that has dominated my free time between other bigger games.  It’s one of those games that loads in less than a minute and most games last only 2-3 minutes if you’re lucky.

The gameplay reminded me very much of Asteroids with its twin-stick shooting style and enemies that swarm you from all sides.  You play as the spider skittering across your web as all sorts of pests invade your home.  You can spit web shots to kill these insects which range from noisy mosquitos to egg-laying hornets.  Purple bugs leave behind useful power-ups that will temporarily enhance your attacks or even slow down time.  While the game may look like a simple twist on Centipede there is definitely an added tactical element to Black Widow.  There are many more enemy types with some bugs that shoot back, others like swarm onto the screen in Galaga-like formations, and those pesky hornets that will drop off eggs that will slowly grow and hatch into these larger worm bugs that will explode when killed sending out deadly shockwaves.  Thankfully, you can grab these eggs and drag them off the edge of your web before they hatch.

Black Widow: Recharged offers a core Arcade mode for solo and co-op play and there are also 30 Challenges that mix up the standard gameplay with rules and objectives to create very specific and surprisingly fun challenges.  It’s a fun way to experience the gameplay with clear completion goals aside from just earning high scores; although high score tables do exist for each challenge and the main arcade game with scores being tracked for your system, scores among your friends, and global leaderboards.

The visuals are clean and colorful with that vector graphics neon glow that we first saw back in the Geometry Wars days.  Combined with some intense techno tracks to drive the action and some highly responsive analog stick input and rapid-fire execution by simply holding down the X button this is arcade shooting at its finest.  It’s as simple and fun as it gets for a game that is all about reflexes and just a dash of power-up tactics.

It’s difficult to come up with much more to say about this game, at least in words, so check out my gameplay video with commentary where I will take you through the arcade mode and a few challenges, so you can see the game in action and experience the energy of the gameplay and the awesome soundtrack.  Black Widow: Recharged is available on the PlayStation Store for only $10 and works great on both the PS4 and PS5 through backwards compatibility.

Centipede: Recharged Review – PlayStation 4/5

Centipede: Recharged is the latest 80’s arcade game to get juiced up for modern day consoles, delivering vibrant neon graphics redesigned for HD displays, cool new power-ups, addicting challenge stages, and all the frantic shooting action of the original backed up with an impressive original soundtrack from composer, Megan McDuffee that will keep you energized for hours of play.While the core concepts of Centipede remain, Recharged spins the look and the gameplay by reorienting the screen so you are now playing horizontally, reducing the time it takes for centipedes to reach your play area but also giving you a wider patch to navigate and avoid them.  Basic rules still apply; hit a centipede in the head to kill it but anywhere else and it divides and multiplies.  Mushrooms dot the play area taking multiple shots to remove, which can get exceedingly annoying when they start to fil up your play area below the purple line.  Mushrooms block your shots and also cause centipedes to reverse direction and advance, and just about the time you get them cleared away insects will rain down through the play area leaving behind more fresh fungus.

Spiders are the game changer in Recharged, leaving behind useful power-ups and weapon upgrades that are required to stay alive and rack up those high scores.  Rapid-fire, spread fire, bombs, lasers, and side-fire are just a few of the dozen power-ups you can collect by killing the spiders invading your play space.  These power-ups do have a limited usage, so it’s always good to have your next icon nearby when your current weapon is about to expire.

Centipede: Recharged offers a core Arcade mode for solo and co-op play and there are also 30 Challenges that mix up the standard gameplay with rules and objectives to create very specific and surprisingly fun challenges.  It’s a fun way to experience the gameplay with clear completion goals aside from just earning high scores; although high score tables do exist for each challenge and the main arcade game with scores being tracked for your system, scores among your friends, and global leaderboards.

The visuals are clean and colorful with that vector graphics neon glow that we first saw back in the Geometry Wars days.  Combined with some intense techno tracks to drive the action, this is the Centipede game we could only dream of forty years ago.  Controls are tight with responsive analog stick input and rapid-fire execution by simply holding down the X button.  It’s as simple and fun as it gets for a game that is all about reflexes and just a dash of power-up tactics thanks to the new power-ups.

It’s difficult to come up with much more to say about this game, at least in words, so check out my gameplay video with commentary where I will take you through the arcade mode and a few challenges, so you can see the game in action and experience the energy of the gameplay and the awesome soundtrack.  Centipede: Recharged is available on the PlayStation Store for only $10 and works great on both the PS4 and PS5 through backwards compatibility.

Introducing Polina Petrova and the Call of Duty: Vanguard Campaign

Today during Gamescom, Sledghammer Games revealed the first extended playthrough of one of Call of Duty: Vanguard’s Campaign missions – Stalingrad Summer.

Additionally, a Gamescom interview introduced the actor behind one of the game’s main characters: Laura Bailey as Soviet sniper Polina Petrova. A Lieutenant in the Red Army’s 138th Rifle Division, Petrova is inspired by several female sharpshooters who aided Allied Forces on the Eastern Front.

Watch Laura Bailey and Sledgehammer Games’ Campaign Creative Director David Swenson discuss Vanguard at Gamescom and watch the Stalingrad Summer level playthrough here:

For more information, head to the Call of Duty blog.

LIFE IS STRANGE: TRUE COLORS – FIRST OFFICIAL GAMEPLAY

Take a walk through Haven Springs’ Record Store with Alex in this EXCLUSIVE first look at gameplay!

Explore the store, browse records, and meet two potential new friends along the way.

Life is Strange: True Colors is slated for release on PlayStation 5®, PlayStation 4®, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC Steam, and Google Stadia on September 10, 2021, and Nintendo Switch later this year.

Visit the Life is Strange official website: https://lifeisstrange.square-enix-games.com

LEGO® Builder’s Journey Review – PC

I love LEGO.  I grew up with the plastic bricks, I own every single LEGO game, and I’ve seen every episode of LEGO Masters, so I was pretty excited when I heard about LEGO Builder’s Journey.  Created by Light Brick Studio, this new puzzle game sounded like a great idea; solving puzzles using LEGO pieces.  After all, every other LEGO game I had played up to this point was asking me to smash and destroy environments to collect bricks.

One of the big draws for me was the support for ray-tracing that brings these bricks to life unlike any other game before it.  You feel like you could literally touch and manipulate these elements with your fingers.  Shiny water pieces reflect other parts of the level, and real-time light comes into play for light and dark scenes and even one LEGO that acts as a moveable spotlight.  The game still looks fantastic if you don’t own one of the new ray-tracing video cards but activating RTX features in the graphic options adds a noticeable level of improvement turning a game into reality.

Unfortunately, while LEGO Builder’s Journey is a visual masterpiece there were several obstacles that detracted from my childlike wonder almost immediately; first being the controls and interface.  The entire game can be played with a mouse and the first few scenes teach you everything you need to know on how to play.  Click a piece to pick-up then future clicks rotate that pieces 90 degrees and clicking and holding will snap the piece in place or drop it if you aren’t positioned over a valid connection.   My big issue is being able to line-up the pieces properly.  The 3D perspective combined with any lack of visual cues had me frequently connecting to wrong studs or even worse, dropping the brick entirely forcing me to scramble to click on it again before it tumbled off the bottom of the screen and wait for it to reappear.  This could all be solved with something as simple as a ghost outline showing where the brick would be attached.

LEGO Builder’s Journey has very limited camera controls so even changing perspective couldn’t help me.  You can drag your mouse to pan around the screen but only about 120 degrees.  You can’t fully rotate the puzzle and there are no zoom controls to allow you a better view of the situation or just appreciate the graphics closer up.  To make matters even worse if you do adjust the viewing angle the game will automatically reset the view back to default after a few seconds.

If you are able to overcome these visual caveats then you might find some enjoyment with LEGO Builder’s Journey.  Personally, I found the entire game rather boring with puzzles that were overly simplistic or not even puzzles.  The game provides you with the pieces needed to build whatever object or bridge you need to get from A to B and advance to the next puzzle scene.  It was really weird to see these loving crafted scenes swept away after only one or two clicks on some of the easier puzzles; the time of creation versus their appearance onscreen vastly different.

There appears to be a story being told in LEGO Builder’s Journey, but I’m still a bit unclear on what it is.  Presented as a silent movie of sorts we have what I assume to be a father and son on a camping trip, and once they return home dad keeps getting called into work at the nearby LEGO factory, meanwhile the son builds a LEGO robot in the basement then gets stuck in the factory so dad has to rescue him but then the son and his robot have to rescue dad…it’s all very confusing and quite unnecessary to the enjoyment of the game, which is all about solving a few dozen puzzles.

The basic premise of the game quickly became boring about ten levels in and only started to get interesting when the game introduced new concepts like playing in the dark having to position a LEGO spotlight in certain positions and angles to reveal the level.  Much later in the game there are some cool puzzles involving creating your own LEGO pieces using a machine to duplicate whatever piece you have on a scanner.  And my favorite puzzles were at the very end where your robot would only dispense single stud pieces and you had to place them on the level adjacently to create bigger and more useful pieces.

Despite the charming visuals, soothing music, and almost Zen-like approach to gameplay I was always taken out of any joyous moment with the controls and my inability to accurately place pieces.  There were a couple of puzzles that required very fast timing and precise LEGO placement to get your character across moving machine parts.  These would have been great if I hadn’t died so many times due to poor controls.  Even moving your character can become quite tedious since you have to move these orange stepping bricks one after the other to move him along.  On one level I manufactured a dozen of these bricks and had the entire path lain out but the character only moves after placing the piece, so I literally had to pick up and reattach each piece to move him forward.  There are a few levels where your character is wearing skates and you get to build a train track-like path from start to finish out of smooth tiles then watch him skate to the end.

LEGO Builder’s Journey is equal parts pain and pleasure.  I love seeing how realistic LEGO can look in a game and I hope to see this level of quality in future LEGO action games, but for me this was more of a proof of concept tech demo.  You can finish the game in 3-5 hours but there is no reason to ever revisit.  A sandbox mode would have been awesome; something to just let you build your own creations from infinite LEGO pieces, but considering the abysmal controls this feature would also be cruel in the game’s current state.

Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with this game that can’t be fixed in a future patch or update, but until then, $20 for a few hours of awkwardly snapping LEGO pieces into environments somebody else had all the fun making seems like a bad idea.  Even LEGO enthusiasts such as myself might want to wait for a sale because LEGO Builder’s Journey is a better RTX demo than an actual game.

You can check out the first hour of the game in our RTX video to see the graphics, hear the music, and watch me struggle with snapping pieces together.