Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Sore Thumbs


nes2‘NES REMIX 2’    (E)



Wii U

“NES Remix” games have a very specific target audience: Nostalgic Nintendo fans who are too lazy to dust off their old, eight-bit cartridges and — even if they weren’t — too riddled with ADHD to play a single game for more than a few minutes. Like its predecessor, “NES Remix 2” is a sampler plate of late ’80s-era gaming. This one boasts a superior assortment of samples, trading in duds like “Ice Climbers” for genuine classics like “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Metroid” and “Punch-Out.” For some, the brief snippets of gameplay will evoke fond memories of the past. For others, the tiny morsels of nostalgia will be only enough to whet their appetites for the full experience. All of these games are available in their entirety in the Nintendo eShop, and not coincidentally, this game contains several links to the store. On the one hand, this can be handy. On the other, it makes the whole package feel like an extended commercial designed to sell old games — a commercial you have to pay to watch.


The remix works most effectively when it actually bothers to live up to its name and blend together its constituent parts in creative new ways. Smashing through Mario’s ubiquitous bricks with Link’s Master Sword or guiding Kirby away from Mushroom Kingdom ghosts is a novel and entertaining experience. The highlight of the package is a mirrored version of the original “Super Mario Bros.” called “Super Luigi Bros.” It’s a bizarre sensation plat-forming from right to left across the screen, and since Luigi’s jump is higher than his brother’s and his footing more slippery, the experience is at once foreign and familiar. And since Nintendo’s been reselling us the same games for nearly thirty years now, the least they could do is mix them up a bit.


trialsbox‘TRIALS FUSION’    (E10+)



PlayStation 4

Even the most die-hard fans of motorcycle trials are liable to have a love/hate relationship with “Trials Fusion.” Over a series of progressively difficult, futuristic obstacle courses, you’ll have to carefully shift your rider’s weight in order to clamber over impossibly steep boulders and stick landings off of ludicrous jumps. They physics are punishing but consistent, so when you fall (and you’ll fall a lot), you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. But when you finally do cross that finish line after skillfully navigating through flaming rings and over shifting platforms, you’re rewarded with an incomparable feeling of satisfaction.


mercenarybox‘MERCENARY KINGS’    (M)


Tribute Games

PlayStation 4

“Mercenary Kings” is one of a growing number of games that blends a retro aesthetic with modern gaming conventions. Although the graphics are as primitive as “Mega Man” and the gameplay looks like a “Metal Slug” rip-off, there’s a robust weapons crafting system at work here reminiscent of 3D games like “Monster Hunter.” Resource management can be overwhelmingly cumbersome at first, but the complexity is ultimately welcome in what would otherwise be a mindless side-scrolling shooter. If there was as much variation in the enemies as there is in the arsenal you use against them, this game could’ve been something special. CV

Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.

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