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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (477)

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Mighty Switch Force! Co... 2.5/5
Aegis of Earth: Protono... 3/5
Torchlight III 2.5/5
Cyberpunk 2077 3.5/5
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks... 4.5/5
Eiyuden Chronicle: Risi... 3/5
Psychonauts 2 4.5/5
Castle in the Clouds DX 4/5
Ocean's Heart 4/5
Just Die Already 2/5
Sable 2.5/5
Midnight Castle Succubus 4.5/5
Tower and Sword of Succ... 4/5
Thronebreaker: The Witc... 3/5
Battletoads (2020) 1.5/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4.5/5
Biomutant 4/5
Dragon Quest Builders 2 4.5/5
Journey to the Savage P... 4.5/5
Wasteland 3 4.5/5
Daemon X Machina 3.5/5
Earthlock 2.5/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
SolSeraph 3/5
ActRaiser 4.5/5

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Override: Mech City Brawl   PC (Steam) 

Let’s Get Ready to Stumble!    3/5 stars

“Override: Mech City Brawl” (“Override”) is the first, last, and only effort from Brazilian Indie studio, The Balance, Inc. Shortly after the release of “Override” in 2018, the publisher for the game, Modus Games, purchased The Balance, Inc. and transformed it into Modus Games Brazil. As always, the MeltedJoystick Crew is perpetually on the lookout for unique cooperative gaming experiences, be they online-only, couch-coop-only, or somewhere in between. I first became aware of “Override” due to the heavy promotion of its novel cooperative mode: A “Voltron”-like experience where up to four players each control one (or more) parts of a single giant mech.

Unfortunately with Local Coop Night shredded like yesterday’s newspaper thanks to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, it took quite a while for us to get around to “Override,” in spite of the game hitting decent sale prices early on, and even receiving a sequel. Unfortunately, the experience we had is only memorable for how repetitive it was.

“Override” is a fairly basic-looking game, which could stem from the fact that it’s built in the Unity Engine. Almost all of the battling mechs in the game try to hearken back to the various Giant Robot animes of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s, with designs clearly ripping off various Gundams, a Transformer or two (most notably the Dinobot, Grimlock), and even Nintendo’s R.O.B. Each mech also has a unique pilot, who never appears as anything besides a still image during dialog scenes. These character portraits portray a very DIVERSE array of characters, who are generally not-particularly-well-drawn, and who generally cleave to their stereotypes… but at least they are DIVERSE! In general, though, everything about the visuals in “Override” gave me Dreamcast vibes, possibly due to the game’s similarity to the Dreamcast-exclusive mech-based Fighting game, “Techromancer,” but also likely due to the fact that nothing in “Override” really has any more visual pop than something the Dreamcast could have done decades ago. Really, the most interesting thing it has going for it is semi-destructible environments, though there are occasional scaling issues where specific arenas represent the mechs as far smaller than most other arenas.

Audio is very blah and mediocre in “Override.” None of the dialog boxes are voiced – though based on the quality of the 2D art assets, I don’t want to think about the quality of the voiceover dubbing we could have expected had The Balance, Inc. gone through with it. Sound effects are adequate, but generally sub-par, with weapons never sounding particularly weapon-like. Then of course there’s the soundtrack, which is as generic as generic can be.

Technically, “Override” is at least fairly solid, with good controller support and easy couch-coop right out of the box. It never crashed during my time with it, though it did have an easily-replicated visual bug where Islamic air conditioners in Morocco continue hovering in the air after their buildings were destroyed, and an annoying, recurring bug that forced me to view ‘new’ cosmetics twice in order for them to stop being marked as ‘new.’ The biggest technical flaw in “Override,” though is systemic: There is a campaign mode. There are 16 characters with which to play through this campaign mode. Yet there is only one save slot, requiring players to delete their progress with every character as they move through the roster.

At some point in the not-so-distant future, humanity enjoys nothing more than watching giant humanoid robots battle it out in arena combat. This is fortunate, as, out of nowhere, the Earth is suddenly beset by a plague of giant biological monstrosities called Xenotypes, who run roughshod across population centers, devouring everything in their path. General Mavis of the Global Defense Force sees potential in each and every mech pilot in the battle league circuit, and recruits whichever one the player picks to help quell the Xenotype menace.

And that’s basically what happens, over and over, for each of the 16 playable characters (including DLC bonus characters). The plot is also partially procedurally generated, with lists of random missions, which each take a certain number of ‘game days,’ appearing between the static missions that serve as the game’s key setpieces and boss battles. Unfortunately, the procedural generation really does nothing for the game’s narrative value. Add the fact that the dialog between the General, the tiny number of supporting characters, and the player’s chosen hero barely changes across the whole slew of heroes, and you’ve got a Fighting game that barely makes it feel worthwhile to play through it with the entire roster.

On the other hand, the narrative, such as it is, is at least functional, well-structured, and entertaining – the first couple times at least. It even has a plot twist and a moral at the end! But make no mistake, as a Fighting game to play through for the solo/coop content, “Override” pales in comparison to series like ‘SoulCalibur,’ where each character has a unique path through a shared sequence of events.

Cooping this game with Chris as my co-pilot, it took us 21 hours to play through it with the entire roster. That shakes out to an hour-and-a-half per run, which isn’t actually bad for a Fighting game. However, the fact that each run through the game was so similar and so repetitive meant that we had to break it up, with a rule of 2 runs per session, to avoid going (more) insane.

“Override” is very different from any other Fighting game I’ve played, though it does clearly draw inspiration from quite a few of them, with obvious influence coming from the Dreamcast’s “Technomancer,” the Dreamcast’s “Power Stone,” and Nintendo’s ‘Smash Bros.’ Each battle is either a one-on-one fight vs. another mech or a one-on-many fight against swarms of giant Xenotype monsters, who come in a variety of flavors and attack in a wide variety of ways. However, instead of following the lead of most Fighting games and basing its gameplay around memorizing endless strings of combos or complicated special moves, “Override” is much more streamlined and basic.

“Override” is a 100% 3D Fighting game, with an over-the-shoulder trailer camera (which has a terrible tendency to get too close when the player’s mech is forced into a corner). Each battle arena is a medium-to-large representation of a landscape, with Xenotypes spawning from the ground. Each mech has four basic attacks: left punch, right punch, left kick, and right kick. While the punches are identical across the entire roster, each mech has a unique left kick. “Override’s” basic punch/kick combat is largely physics based, with momentum from attacks pulling the player’s mech forward, while simultaneously sending the target flying upon making contact. Each punch/kick can be charged by holding the respective shoulder/trigger button, allowing for stronger blows with the caveat that they generate more heat. Button mashing is, thus, discouraged, as spamming buttons causes the player’s mech’s heat meter to max out, preventing further attacks until it has had time to cooldown.

In addition to basic attacks, each mech has a unique stable of 4 special attacks and a super attack. Special attacks each consume one unit of the special meter, which is charged by dealing damage with basic attacks. Generally, it’s a mech’s stable of specials that make it stand out from the rest, and Chris and I definitely had a few that we enjoyed using and a few we hated, with most sitting in between. Super attacks, however, are largely a non-entity, as they are essentially ‘last gasp’ skills that can turn a losing battle into an upset victory – they can only be used when the mech’s health is at 20% or lower… and rarely, if ever, matter.

“Override’s” campaign mode also has some RPG elements bolted onto it to make things ‘interesting’ and to add ‘depth.’ These mechanics take the form of Support Weapons, Research Boosts, and Mods.

Support Weapons randomly drop into each stage throughout each battle. The player can select which Support Weapons they want to appear by customizing their arsenal. Unfortunately, the starting Support Weapons are a crappy beam sword and a crappy shield that are far less useful than the basic punch/kick attacks. Indeed, while playing through the campaign with all the characters, we only found shotguns, rocket launchers, and grenade launchers to be of any use. Other guns feel like squirt guns against Xenotypes, while melee weapons almost never outperform basic attacks. Then there was the game’s primary laugh-out-loud moment when we got our first grenade and threw it at an enemy mech, only to see it bounce off the mech’s chest and explode 10 seconds after the enemy had walked out of the blast radius.

Research Boosts are a form of very basic character progression, in which the player earns research points from missions (or scrapping unwanted Mods) and can spend said research to upgrade their mech’s basic stats. These stats are armor (reduces damage taken), thrusters (increases movement speed), coolant (improves heat dispersal), and then stats that increase the damage of basic and special attacks. Each stat can be boosted a number of levels, with an increasing cost each time. Of course, being as basic as it is, in every case we just increased basic damage and defense before anything else and steamrolled everything.

The last attempt to add depth to the game is the Mods system. Each mech unlocks a number of Mod slots throughout the campaign – they’re tied to the setpiece missions – allowing the player to insert special passive buffs. However, the Mods the player acquires are 100% randomly generated, and all Mods are NOT created equal. The only time we ever had trouble with anything in “Override” from a challenge perspective was in the run where we never received either the incredibly-useful Nanobot Mod that regenerates health or the also-incredibly-useful Lifesteal Mod. Indeed, there are a couple of REALLY powerful Mod combinations to be had, but actually getting the RNG to cooperate and drop the right Mods makes the idea of buildcrafting a non-starter.

Between the static setpiece and boss battles, the player has a specific number of game days to do other battles. These battles are also procedurally generated, with varying locations, difficulties, days consumed, and rewards given. Generally, it’s in the player’s best interest to do the shortest missions (in game days), since it means that more missions (and their rewards) can be squeezed out of the game’s RNG. However, as in the Roguelik/te subgenres, some runs will simply be cursed. Fortunately, “Override” is NOT a Roguelik/te, and there doesn’t really seem to be any punishment for dying.

While I have zero interest in online PvP battles, “Override” has that for those who are. Chris and I, however, were interested in the campaign, and that’s all we did. As a cooperative experience for two-to-four players, “Override” is at least unique. With both of us piloting the same mech, I controlled the legs, and thus movement, jumping, and kicking. Chris controlled the arms, and also the camera and blocking. It didn’t take us long to get into a groove, and same-room communication allowed us to plan strategies and call out special moves. In general, I really enjoyed this type of coop in a Fighting/Mech game… I just wish it was in a better Fighting/Mech game!

While the novel coop mode does provide a rather unique experience, the vast majority of “Override: Mech City Brawl” feels uninspired, unpolished, and – more than anything – very, very repetitive. I was initially hopeful that the game’s sequel might provide a more fleshed-out, in-depth take on cooperative mech piloting, but was disappointed to learn that “Override 2: Super Mech League” has had all co-piloting elements removed. This is ultimately a flash-in-the-pan experience, and I don’t expect to hear much of anything about either this IP or Modus Games Brazil in the future.

Presentation: 3/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5



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