Gaming

The Adventure Pals review: A peculiar platformer to play and troll your friends with!

Quirky, cute, and buggy

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If you haven’t heard of The Adventure Pals, it’s totally fine. It’s a fun platformer where you travel around with a pet rock and a giraffe in your backpack. Of course, there’s more to the game than just traveling with your pet rock and giraffe, but that alone is pretty interesting in itself. You have my attention, developers. I quickly installed it, played it, and wrote this.

Breaking news: I rode a unicorn giraffe

Before we get into the review though, I played this game in cooperative mode because who doesn’t like playing along with someone else. Also, did I mention Player 2 rides a unicorn giraffe? I’m pretty sure I mentioned it being far superior somewhere.

So, to truly test out this platformer in cooperative mode, I brought reinforcements: Richard, my boyfriend. He’d been the pushy one who wanted to play the game with me after a week of both of us just hopping from Night in the Woods to Overcooked. To his everlasting credit, he’d quickly convinced me to play it after he’d shown the trailer.

Downright silly

The game was inspired by a lot of charmingly quirky works — from surreal cartoon series like Adventure Time to notable platformers like Castle Crashers. When you first encounter the trailer, you will undoubtedly notice the resemblance to those inspirations. The Adventure Pals pulls a lot of its appeal from it’s adorably designed characters. You’ll see, even without having played the game, how they’re quite intriguing on their own. They really reel you in with interesting character design and a bizarre premise — which is very reflective of what the game was inspired by.

Yes, that is your dad…

That’s prevalent with the beginning of the game. The whole setting takes place on your birthday, starting with your gift from your dad: a pet giraffe. This is Sparkles, your new loyal friend who is both rideable and able to fit inside your backpack, where he’ll be able to use his tongue to fly like a helicopter or assist with swimming. As soon as you’re introduced to your new pal, your father is kidnapped by a robotic bee riding Mr. B, an arch-nemesis with a goldfish bowl for a hat. His evil plan? Beginning with your father, he’s here to turn people into… human-sized hot dogs. Now it’s time for you, Sparkles the giraffe, and your best friend Mr. Rock to hunt him down and save the day.

Okay, here’s how this works

The gameplay for The Adventure Pals combines two portions, exploring the world on the back of your giraffe and completing stages to get hold of rubies to advance the plot. Beginning in your hometown of Treevale, each region has a town where the locals will hand out quests in return for a prize. This will reveal locations on the map to find, which is where the platforming begins.

You’ll find yourself battling against zombie pirate cats, post-apocalyptic dinosaurs, and hot dogs that poop explosive mines. Each quest has five stages to complete, each with monsters to defeat, puzzles to solve, and spikes to avoid. You’ll use your sword to cut through your enemies and use Sparkles to get around. Heavily influenced by Banjo-Kazooie, your pet giraffe will help you glide over dangers and maneuver you to safety. After completing five stages, you’ll leave with a ruby and whatever items required to complete the quest.

You’ll gain experience with each monster you defeat, allowing you to choose between a series of rewards, allowing Mr. Rock to be able to join you in combat and bring you supplies. You’ll also be able to enhance a lot of your abilities as you progress through the game.

Each area has a boss battle, usually oversized monsters your nemesis will put you against to try to halt you thwarting his plan. Imagine fighting giant tree monsters, escape approaching vegetable monsters, or battling against an aggressive breakfast combination. Yes, this game gets weird.

We helped a whale along the way!

They bring in the peculiar to little cute details in the game — from customizable costumes you obtain by feeding cupcakes to the Cupcake God, to collectible stickers hidden in some of the most horrendous hidden areas in the game. The Adventure Pals will smack you in the face with oddity and ambiguity with no clear grips to a particular plot. It’s fine and all but sometimes, you’ll feel a bit lost playing the game. You start questioning the relevance of each element and ask why things are so. It gets to a point where there aren’t many answers to those questions.

Leez, Richard, two giraffes, two rocks

Not what either of us expected could fly as a section of its own, but now that we’ve got our hands dirty explaining this quirky game, it’s time to bring out our personal experiences and takes on the game. This section is in no way a euphemism — don’t your minds dare go there. Don’t you guys dare!

Anyways, Richard was Player 1 and I was Player 2. As much as platformers enjoy integrating cooperative mode, The Adventure Pals slaps it on without dabbling into altering the game in any way. Despite playing with a fabulous unicorn giraffe, playing Player 2 was a pain because not only could I not converse with anyone in the game, but also, my character had zero relevance to the story. Player 2 doesn’t get to level up and the stages don’t show any need for any sort of cooperation.

Here, Richard is laughing as I am about to fall into spikes

The mode really feels like an afterthought, especially with how clunky it feels sharing a screen with the other player. If either of us got left behind or decided to go the other way, the game would decide who would be teleported to the other player. More often than not, it would choose the wrong person. This was a nightmare for finding secrets. And if you’ve jumped through a challenging section full of spikes and spinning axes, there’s a chance you’ll be teleported back to the other person after completing it.

Some pitfalls along the way

While there are interesting personalities and creative characters in the towns to talk to, the enemies you fight through while on a quest tend to be repetitive. The further you progress through the game, the more familiar enemies you’ll find. With the setting and color scheme of each region blending together, completing each stage started feeling like a chore for us. The game would throw new things at you as you progress, but the experience lingered into the monotonous.

You can collect stickers!

On release, this game has proven to be pretty buggy. We often found ourselves forced to restart a stage after locks wouldn’t open pathways as intended and sometimes I would find myself surviving a fall into a pit of spikes far too often by landing on the edge. If Richard fell to his death, we would both be trapped in the pit without a way to progress.

What was fun for a short period of time…

We were trapped here for a while…

What was fun was seeing me die — a lot. Richard swears at the hilarious ridiculousness of how often I’d die. And strangely, that’s not all. Yes, boys and girls, I am a certified idiot because there have been many cases where I’d mistake my character for Richard’s. Exhibit A: We had been exploring one of the maps and had been strolling around looking for cupcakes. I then see Richard come across one without picking it up and instantly complain. He pauses the game and tells me that I’d been the one who did so. Unpause. Identity crisis, everyone. I am stupid. Hand me a cookie.

Is this your game match?

If you’re into challenging platformers, this one might bore you. The stages aren’t incredibly difficult but the game does grade you with the number of monsters you manage to kill, how many times you die in a stage, and how long you get from point A to point B. If you’re looking for a perfectly casual platformer that has adorable elements, you should give this one a try. Much of the charm of The Adventure Pals comes from its quirks. The entire design of the game is visually appealing and that’s essentially what caught both our attention when it was released.

The Adventure Pals is a good platformer to pass the time, collect the achievements in your own time, and play with your friends just to troll them with the glitches (we both did that too). The title has its loose ends, but you can have fun when playing in cooperative mode.

The Adventure Pals is available on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4. It’s also available now on Steam for US$ 14.

SEE ALSO: Night in the Woods: Brilliant indie game you should try

SEE ALSO: 14 independent games are coming to the Nintendo Switch

Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today

The thinnest gaming laptop of them all

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Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.

The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.

Powering the Zephyrus S is the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 24GB DDR4 memory. Storage options are from 256GB to 1TB M.2 NVMe SSDs.

The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.

ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.

Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.

As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.

SEE ALSO: ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

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Gaming

ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

Thanks to its super-slim bezels!

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After going hands on with the ROG Strix Scar II and reviewing the Hero II in full, we wondered what else could be done to improve this second-generation lineup. Well, it looks like ASUS just gave us the answer.

Discreetly launched today, the new 17.3-inch ROG Strix Scar II (model name GL704) is the most compact gaming laptop of its kind, according to ASUS. It’s basically a supersized variant of the already-available 15.6-inch version but with an even badder screen.

It may be worth the wait, because the color-accurate 17.3-inch 1080p display is able to fit into a chassis designed for 15.7-inch panels, effectively providing it a width of less than 400mm thanks to the slim bezels.

The wide keyboard and Aura Sync RGB lighting make a return, along with the fast 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time of the display.

In terms of specs, it can go up to an Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of memory and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. A 256GB SSD plus 1TB SSHD combo maintains the speed and fluidity of the system.

It’ll be available by the end of September in official ROG stores. Pricing begins at US$ 1,699.

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Gaming

Crystal Dynamics sets up studio dedicated to Avengers game

And everyone in the MCU is in it

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Square Enix and Marvel Entertainment teamed up to bring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to a gaming platform. The companies announced back in January that there will be an Avengers game, but has seen little to no developments as of late. Fortunately, the completion of a new studio for Square Enix’s US-based subsidiary Crystal Dynamics can change all of that.

The Avengers Project is going to tell an original story based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The game will feature the characters, environments, and storylines that loyal fans of the franchise will love and enjoy. However, after the announcement, not much news came up about the development of the game. People were expecting news during E3 2018, but sadly the Avengers Project was left out of Square Enix’s conference.

Square Enix and its subsidiaries are best known for their work on the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex series. Marvel executives wanted to partner with Square Enix as a way for the entertainment company to do things differently with their most popular franchise. Jay Ong, Senior Vice President for Games & Innovation at Marvel, noted that the game will “bring Marvel stories to life in ways our fans have never experienced.”

With the new studio called Crystal Northwest, Crystal Dynamics hopes to have some headway in the game’s development. The studio will put much of its attention on the technical and graphical aspects of the game to provide a unique gaming experience. Hopefully, more news and details on the project will surface in the upcoming months.

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