Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Review

The Mario & Sonic series has always, and perhaps bizarrely, mixed accessible minigames, topical sporting events, and gaming nostalgia. It’s an odd but enduring mix, one that’s given us Charmy Bee cameos in a stylised re-creation of England’s capital city for London 2012, but sadly the mascot duo’s fourth outing falls flat.

In Mario & Sonic’s first outing on the Wii U, developer Sega starts with a major change for the series: Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games demands that you make use of the Wii MotionPlus across its collection of 20 Nintendo and Sega characters and 25-odd minigames. The hardware boost ensures an extra degree of controller fidelity in new and returning Olympic events including skiing, figure skating, and curling. And while the move creates an additional expense for families with only a few regular Wii Remotes kicking around, the MotionPlus helps bring a touch of finesse to a previously waggle-intensive series.

Don’t worry: the Shy Guy is wearing a protective mask.

It’s the forced addition of the GamePad that serves to complicate matters, shifting the series away from its simplistic roots. At best you’ve just got to explain each individual mechanic to a group all holding different configurations of controllers, but at worst you’ve got to contend with groups of irate children arguing over why one gets to have a GamePad and the others don’t.

The GamePad is incorporated in various ways, and like with many aspects of the Mario & Sonic series, there are both ups and downs. Biathlon, a new event for 2014, mixes cross-country skiing on the Wii Remote with a shooting range, letting the player at the top of the pack shoot via the GamePad while forcing others to use the more complicated Wii Remote. It’s a sporting event that hasn’t been well translated into a party game, suffering too much from the fact that it’s the person who’s already ahead that gets placed in the most advantageous situation.

Bobsleigh is another example of an event that’s complicated by the GamePad’s involvement, only one that’s far more endearingly preposterous. The leader steers the vehicle with the GamePad while barking orders at up to three other players, who lean their Wii Remotes to the left or right to help steer around corners. Sitting cross-legged in a row on the floor isn’t required, but it does make this event a lot more fun.

Snowboard slopestyle, meanwhile, has you take turns to get the highest score on a downhill run, with points awarded for speed, jumps, and grinds. You steer with the GamePad, and flick the touchscreen to perform tricks. It’s simple but fun, and is pleasantly different from the more traditional downhill skiing.

Many returning events are identical to their previous incarnations, though some have been spruced up a bit. Hockey, a particularly drab addition in Mario & Sonic’s last wintry sojourn, fills in the hole left by the absence of soccer and beach volleyball, now functioning as a kind of cut-down NHL that has you darting around a tiny rink making chaotic overpowered shots while a Shy Guy sits in goal at each end. It’s a lot more fun than you’d expect from such a rudimentary implementation, but it’s also hard to imagine it being something you’d want to play multiple times.

Figure skating pairs easily takes the crown for the barmiest minigame. Two players are judged on synchronising their movements, and while you’re each allowed to hold a Wii Remote, it’s when you play together by holding hands around a single controller that the real silliness kicks in. Having one player clumsily spin around the other in real life while an onscreen Daisy pirouettes elegantly around Dr Eggman is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face, although you might need to encourage your immediate friends and family members to finish a glass of wine before joining in.

There are highlights, then, but too many events prove to be a disappointment. I’ve always found it particularly difficult to feel anything but boredom for this series’ ski jumping and speed skating modes, and the downhill slide offered by skeleton is handled with more panache by skiing and snowboarding. But it’s Sochi 2014’s Dream Events that are especially lacking, with the series’ former fantastical twists now reduced to half-baked spins of preexisting events wrapped loosely in the aesthetics of the Sonic or Mario series. Snowball scrimmage is the worst of the lot; it’s a crude third-person two-versus-two battle with flat snowball-firing guns.

The Mario & Sonic series has been an inclusive experience, catering to all players of all skill levels, but Sochi 2014 complicates that simplicity.

Developer Sega attempts to add value with a flurry of other modes, with Legends Showdown acting as the game’s campaign. As opposed to the technically involved London Party board game of London 2012, Legends Showdown simply peppers a cluster of events with the odd cutscene, as a quartet of characters face off against shadow versions of themselves. Each area is capped off with a boss battle against one of the Sonic or Mario series’ more obscure characters, including E-102 Gamma, Birdo, and Jet the Hawk. The mode is completely dull.

Medley Mania is similar to Legends Showdown, but presents clusters of events without any narrative context, and Action & Answer Tour mixes individual events with a quiz show . You must complete various feats during randomised events, such as exposing a picture hidden in smoke with curling stones. It’s the most successful additional mode in the game by a country mile, forcing you to keep a little something extra buzzing around your head while competing.

It’s unlikely you’ll ever be this delighted when playing the game.

The game also adds online competition to the series for the first time, but only via four events: Olympic events freestyle ski cross, snowboard cross, and short track speed skating, alongside multi-vehicle Dream Event winter sports champion race. You can be matched into games alongside strangers or people from your friends list, and online multiplayer is tied together with a national metagame. Winning points in an event goes towards a ranking for your country, with the game displaying the national rankings on the main screen and also via in-game updates on the GamePad.

The Mario & Sonic series has been an inclusive experience, catering to all players of all skill levels, but Sochi 2014 complicates that simplicity. The game’s long-winded tutorials have a wearying effect, and the most enjoyable events–which are the simplest, coincidentally–are essentially identical to events from previous years. There are dribs of fun to be extracted from the overall package, but from the outset, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is a series that has now thoroughly outstayed its welcome.

The Mario & Sonic series is the perfect example of the kind of charming, bite-sized, and all-inclusive entertainment that defined Nintendo throughout the Wii’s golden years, but a lack of creativity and a poor implementation of the Wii U GamePad ensure that Mario & Sonic’s fourth outing in six years fails to secure a podium finish.

Why It Is A Great Idea To Start With Rc Flying Toys

2013 has given us some really great things, this year was s full of goals and after surviving the end of the world in 2012 it was time to celebrate life and start having more fun, enjoy time with our loved ones and prepare for the new era that will bring be full of new wonders to enrich our lives. And that is precisely what I want to share with you here, because many people’s resolutions for this year is being happier, smile more often, enjoy life more, spend more time with the family, and in order to help you get the best out of your efforts, I want to tell you about something that is becoming very popular, and not only that, but also it can help you to accomplish your family oriented goals. Keep reading because in the next paragraphs you will discover the hobby of RC flying toys.

Rc Flying Toys

A great way to be happier in your life is through your family, there is no doubt that all of us would like to spend more time with those we care about, and not just time but quality time; it is a true blessing to be able to spend more time with our parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons; enjoying all together and really having fun, and for those moments that we really push hard to build I would like to give you an advice, this is a personal hobby that I started to practice when I was a kid, and with the time I’ve discovered that practicing it with family and friends is always a good idea; it requires patience and practice, but it will give you fun and joy, and everyone will have a great time.

See this video of the Airswimmer RC Flying Shark and ClownFish judge for yourself!



I want to encourage you to give this hobby a try; this year is a great time to start practicing it and there is one thing that I can promise: It will be exciting and fun! Many others are doing so; you can easily notice that RC airplanes and helicopters are present in almost every mall you go. These toys are becoming trendier because everyone enjoys flying them, also, part of the fun is in taking care of your toy, there are many hobbyists saying that they enjoy either flying or storing their airship, and this is because cleaning, fixing, assembling and in some cases painting the aircraft is a hobby within a hobby, so you can enjoy either playing with or collecting your toys.


Is it all about fun? – Discover the benefits of the RC flights

It is quite common that all that makes us enjoy and have a great time also helps us to feel and become better, and the RC Hobbies on Air is not the exception to the rule; there are some benefits associated with practicing this hobby, and I would like to share with you some details about the most important ones.

  1. Being Happier: This hobby really makes you smile and feel good, it is well known these days that smiling and laughing are both of great help to the body and mind, any child now can tell you that while we are laughing some chemical reactions occur in our body and thus we feel happy; these chemicals known as endorphins are also a natural stress and pain reliever, (ok maybe I exaggerated a little with the any kid part).
  2. Pain and Stress Reliever: As I mentioned before, this is a result of feeling happy, and this is something that occurs with your RC flying toy because all of us enjoy the idea of flying, and while you fly your aircraft your brain starts to work, picturing yourself inside of the ship, making you smile and triggering the before described chemical process.
  3. Increased focus and concentration: One of the things that you learn with this hobby is to stay focused and concentrated; especially RC airplanes such as the EDF F-18 can go out of sight very easily, and you want to pay close attention to your flight in order to avoid crashing your toy; with time and practice you will be able to maneuver and make some tricks without even noticing it, and getting to that part is always fun as well.
  4. Patience and Discipline: As everything good in life, being able to fly like an expert requires practice, patience, and discipline; what is funny though is that this hobby also develops these abilities, and it does this at the same time that you are practicing your flight, which is great because having fun, being patient and disciplined, happens at the same time.

There are other benefits related to flying RC toys, other that it is great for anyone is that when you fly a remote control airplane or helicopter, people tend to be attracted to you, so again this is a great hobby to share with others. I can’t tell you how many people I have met simply because they think my hobby is so cool, and you know what?It is.

Consider this as part of your plan for this year, start slow and calmed; eventually you will be reaching the top spots in the sky.

Are you ready to give this a try? Have you ever flown an RC aviation toy? Let us know your opinion and share with us your experience!

To your flight success!

The Cyber Surfer RC Spaceboard

Check out this fun radio controlled toy, the Cyber Surfer RC Spaceboard.

cyber surfer rc spaceboard


The Cyber Surfer R/C Spaceboard uses two ducted fans and a solid state accelerometer to hover off the ground and “surf” across the room. You control the height and right or left turns with the Cyber Surfer always surfing forward through the air. You never need to worry about balancing the the surfer since the accelerometer adjusts the propeller speed accordingly and keeps him rock solid in the air. Just push the stick up and you’re hovering.

The Cyber Surfer is designed for indoor flights only and is pretty easy to control with minimal practice. Now all we need is a slightly larger version for office commuting.


Here’s a video of the Cyber Surfer it in action.


The Cyber Surfer R/C Spaceboard is available to buy for $69.99 from Think Geek.


Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD Review

The second chapter in the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow saga, the 3DS’s Mirror of Fate, brought the series closer to its roots than it has been in years. Side-scrolling action made a comeback, with a small amount of Symphony of the Night-style exploration in tow, but it also maintained the combo-driven combat established in the first Lords of Shadow game. The combination of the best elements from different corners of the series worked well, and the reimagining of the connection between the Belmont family of vampire hunters and Dracula provided an interesting if somewhat predictable twist. Unfortunately, a small number of design choices got in the way of the good stuff, but in porting Mirror of Fate to consoles, Konami had a chance to finally fix those failings. Mirror of Fate goes further than the expected visual upgrades, making small improvements that lead to a much more enjoyable experience.

The story in Mirror of Fate picks up after the conclusion of the first Lords of Shadow and follows the paths of three characters: Simon Belmont, his father Trevor Belmont, and Alucard. Each of their stories is told separately, but these threads weave together by the end of the game. Unfortunately, due to the heavy hints laid out in the beginning, the intended element of surprise ultimately falls flat.

Plot aside, Mirror of Fate is a straightforward affair with few innovative constructs, but what is there feels tight. With your map and its handy objective icon, you navigate the halls of Dracula’s castle, fending off zombies, seething, skull-headed rat-dogs, and undead knights, with an occasional challenging boss fight along the way. It isn’t tricky to maneuver through the castle, but a plethora of platforming sections keep things interesting. The character’s whip-like Combat Cross let’s them grapple and swing from chandeliers and broken bits of castle, then flow into hand-over-hand climbing sections where you have to leap over chasms before pulling yourself up to solid ground. The orchestration of these sections present a reasonable challenge, but more importantly, you feel like you’re exploring the depths and heights of Dracula’s castle, rather than sticking to plain paths laid by hallways and staircases.

The three-character setup is an interesting method for storytelling, but it also allows for a bit of variety in play styles. That’s not to say the Belmonts and Alucard are wildly different from one another, but each comes with a slightly different repertoire of movement and attack abilities. Regardless of the character in question, the game’s combat system makes it easy to string together a series of direct and area attacks, well-timed blocks that can stun enemies, and evasive maneuvers. Thanks to the tight, responsive controls, it’s easy to mash your way to victory, but every encounter provides opportunities to demonstrate mastery over the nuanced timing and complex commands.

None of this has changed for the Mirror of Fate HD update, where the most obvious changes are in the visuals. It’s not immediately apparent which textures or models are old, but what’s here shines on a larger, clearer display. Mercury Steam’s beautifully twisted gothic designs for Mirror of Fate finally get the presentation they deserve, and though the in-game models appear rough around the edges compared to console-native games, Mirror of Fate HD’s presentation is surprisingly strong.

What is a man but a happy pile of secrets? Wait, is that right?

Interestingly, the graphical boost isn’t the only difference between versions of Mirror of Fate. Least of all, the controls have been loosened a bit, allowing you to use the D-pad to control your character. Beyond this, the most important change is the removal of the vast majority of quick-time events. When I reviewed Mirror of Fate the first time around, I lamented the fact that the game constantly shoved in quick-time events. Want to open a treasure chest? Get ready to tap the A button a dozen times. Ready to deal the final blow to a difficult boss? Prepare for a series of button presses that can’t be missed. In both scenarios, you’ve proven your abilities and shouldn’t be subjected to laborious inputs for the mere sake of it. In most instances, quick-time events have been removed from Mirror of Fate HD in favor of allowing the action or cutscene to progress without further input.

These are small changes, but the latter has far-reaching implications on the game at large. I no longer view Mirror of Fate as a good Castlevania game plagued by annoying design issues. Now, in the case of the HD port, the positives rise to the surface rather than the negatives, and Mirror of Fate finally feels like a great addition to the series. It has the most intriguing story in any Castlevania game to date, even if it is a bit predictable, and the emphasis on combat above exploration is a fair trade, primarily because the combo system is so fluid and sports a good amount of depth. Mirror of Fate on the 3DS may not have been the side-scrolling, vampire-hunting adventure that we all hoped it would be, but with its heightened presentation and revamped mechanics, Mirror of Fate HD is a big step in the right direction.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures Review

There has always been a sinister underbelly to Pac-Man’s maze adventures. Like an unaltered version of a Grimm fairy tale, the Pac-Man games exist in a world in which he must constantly consume ghosts until he is eventually overwhelmed by the relentless determination of his poltergeist pursuers. But it was easy to ignore this endless endeavor when abstract visuals shielded you from the worst of Pac-Man’s deeds. After all, how could a yellow circle eating colorful doodles possibly be ominous? And the eyeballs of your eaten foes–those shocked, disembodied eyeballs–drifted back to the ghost hideout like a silly gag. Prepare to have your happy memories turned on their heads. In Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, the abstract barrier has been removed, and in the process, there’s a surreal wrinkle to this entry-level platformer. Who knew that Pac-Man had a dark side?

A benign introduction welcomes you to the city of Pacopolis. Characters loudly enunciate their lines as if they belong in a Saturday-morning cartoon, and the dialogue never ventures outside of the dry exposition that pushes the plot ever onward. For those who enjoy A Game of Thrones, it can be funny to imagine that Sir C is really Cersei Lannister, though the big-nosed professor isn’t quite as ruthless as the queen regent, at least not as far as we’re shown. A school serves as a hub world for Pac-Man, and though that’s hardly strange given that he’s just a boy in Ghostly Adventures, the company he keeps begins the surreality that flows throughout this game. Pinky, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde–the ghosts from the original Pac-Man–roam the halls as if they aren’t spirits, and you talk to them instead of trying to eat them. It’s nice to know that even the fiercest of enemies can make nice.

That Pac-Man sure is full of hot air, huh?

At this point, it seems as if Ghostly Adventures not only caters to a young audience incapable of discerning thought, but doesn’t even respect them. Because the dialogue lacks any semblance of wit, there’s nothing more to the plot than a remedial MacGuffin hunt, and the by-the-numbers platforming continues along that brain-dead path. Early levels set you loose in 3D worlds with nary a hint of interesting obstacles or clever level design. You simply walk along the constrained route, collecting pellets and hamburgers just to have something to do, and then mash a button to eat ghosts who stand before you. There’s a certain appeal in chomping a group of ghoulies in a flashy display of your insatiable hunger, but everything is so by rote that it’s pretty dull. It’s as if the game expects the inherent fun of playing to drive you forward, even though there is nothing worthwhile going on.

And then, things start to get more interesting.

Who put a vending machine in a frozen tundra?

Pac-Man is a chameleon, and that’s not just a figure of speech. Special pellets transform you from a double-jumping eating machine into a variety of creatures that give you different powers. As a chameleon, you can swing from poles using your sticky tongue and turn invisible to make it past searchlights. When Pac-Man becomes a giant boulder (complete with an indecent retractable nose), you can squash the baddies who are terrified of your girth and shoot off ramps like a pinball. Gobble a pink pellet to fill yourself with air and then coast along the currents. Ghostly Adventures injects variety into your escapades through these precious pellets, and thus raises the insulting early levels to a place of respectability. None of these specific elements are particularly well executed on their own, but simply rushing from one objective to another keeps you on your toes so you’re always reacting to a new demand rather than being lulled to sleep by predictability.

Rushing from one objective to another keeps you on your toes so you’re always reacting to a new demand rather than being lulled to sleep by predictability.

These powers have a positive impact on the combat. When you become imbued with fire or ice energy, the ghosts keep pace, and you need to use your elemental abilities to stop them. How else could you devour an ice ghost if you don’t set it on fire first? Having to put thought into dueling ghosts keeps you engaged in ways that evaporate when you’re just slamming on the chomp button. Still, the raw mechanics aren’t so hot. Targeting specific ghosts with ice and fire projectiles is tricky, especially when there are teleporting and vomiting ghosts floating across the environments. This imprecision removes much of the skill that could have made conquests satisfying, so instead, you partake in fights of attrition where you hope you nibble every baddie before they chip away all of your health. Because it’s so kinetic, combat doesn’t become boring, but it merely serves as another dose of variety rather than an enjoyable activity in its own right.

Pac-Man seems ambivalent even surrounded by searing-hot lava.

It’s in the platforming that Pac-Man reaches its potential. There are so many ways to navigate these colorful worlds that you’re always doing something different, and that alone keeps you invested. Zipping across vanishing platforms is very different from walking vertically along magnetic columns, and that not only nicely mixes up your actions, but also pushes the levels to new places. The tired designs of the early levels fade away when you have to figure out how to cross a lava lake (freeze the geysers!) or reach that floating island (find an air draft!). All of these elements have been found in previous platformers, but that doesn’t diminish their appeal here. Zooming through a tunnel on a crumbling piece of rock is still fun because you have to think fast as obstacles rush toward you. And the repulsive way that Pac-Man just shoves any old thing into his mouth is good for some gross-out chuckles.

And the repulsive way that Pac-Man just shoves any old thing into his mouth is good for some gross-out chuckles.

Through all of this ridiculousness is the surreal undercurrent that flows through the game. Pac-Man eats ghosts, it’s what he does, but there’s a joy to his consumption that’s unsettling. He eats the entire spook (those eyeballs no longer escape), and then keeps track of how many eyes he’s digested. It’s a little unnerving. After playing through every level, I have eaten exactly 2,426 ghost eyes. How could Pac-Man pal around with Pinky, eat her kin, and keep a morbid running tally of his conquests? And your victory animation when you nab the fruit at the end of each level cements just how twisted this game can be. When Pac-Man burps as any foodie would, you can actually see the eyeballs in his mouth fumes. It’s as if the game repeatedly wants to remind you exactly what Pac-Man (and, by extension, you) are doing, so your actions swirl in your head even when you go to sleep for the night.

See how you like being eaten by a monster.

The creepiness continues in the four-player mode. Here, you and up to three friends embody ghosts in 3D representations of the classic Pac-Man mazes. Explore the labyrinthine passageways as you nab fruit and collect power-ups, all while a computer-controlled Pac-Man roams, hungry for ghosts. You may find the pellet muncher near the north corridor, and you rush toward him with unwavering focus. Now is your chance to put that Pac-Monster in his place. And then he nabs a power pellet, turning you and all of your friends blue, and devours you whole. Except your eyes, of course. You’re sent back to your hideout as just a pair of eyes, and you realize how scary it is to hunt Pac-Man. Sadly, this mode is much better in concept than in practice. It’s a slow-paced affair that lacks the unpredictability that could have made it engaging. Still, it’s enlightening to see the world through the eyes of your long-standing enemies.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures travels down the same road as so many games before it, and neither the combat nor the platforming engender enough excitement to raise this beyond mere respectability. But its competency is welcome, especially considering the dearth of 3D platformers currently out there. Anyone who has spent hours partaking in upper-echelon adventures such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time will find little here to hold their interest, but as a “my first platformer,” this is a fine place to start. Just don’t expect to ever again view Pac-Man as the noble hero he once was.

Forced Review

I constantly yearn for an unfamiliar experience, one that forms the basis for a new game genre or at least combines a few established standards to produce something pleasingly different. Forced, a PC game that deposits you in an arena for some cooperative mayhem, attempts the latter feat and very nearly succeeds until it dedicates itself too fully to the quest to offer a challenge.

In Forced, you and as many as three other friends puzzle and battle your way through a series of arena trials. There are some gorgeous environs, featuring sunny walkways, shifting sand, lush jungles, and other elements that don’t even feel like they ought to be part of an arena setting. You receive a crystal for each new victory in those fantastic corridors, and the gathered baubles grant access to new skills. Trials you’ve already cleared also offer additional challenges and treasure if you return to them and work to master them. Once you clear most of the challenges a given section of the arena has to offer, you can choose to engage the local guardian, but you’re typically better off waiting to brave those epic confrontations when you have more skills at your disposal.

That statue won’t know what hit it when Balfus is done…

The game begins with a brief tutorial that introduces you to the combat system. You learn that there are four types of weapons, each suited for particular trials, and that you can switch to a new one before tackling each area. Then you discover how to interact with your friendly guide, a floating orb that houses a spirit named Balfus. At first, that sentient orb might seem like a simple distraction from the meat of the game, but your luminescent friend is actually the game’s most important component. For better or for worse, he’s the reason that Forced is more than just a basic brawler.

Your time has come, foul spawner shrine!

Balfus is relatively easy to control. You press a button or key to summon him to your warrior’s current location, or you hold it to command the orb to follow you around as you slaughter enemies and interact with the environment. That’s all simple enough, but there are complications. If Balfus floats over a glowing torch, he temporarily gains new abilities. For instance, he may develop explosive properties that allow him to produce a blast when he touches an object, wall, or enemy. If he passes over a different torch, he might instead acquire increased movement speed or the ability to temporarily heal your wounds. You can activate multiple buffs at once, if you like.

While the partnership between the hero and the orb is interesting and allows for unconventional tactics, the trials built around the dynamic sometimes demand too much from you. Shortly after you topple the first boss, for instance, you’re forced in a subsequent trial to move several large blocks across a sandy desert area by summoning the orb so that it slowly drags along the granite anchor. Your goal the first time you encounter this situation is to activate plate switches. Soon, you must use the same technique to produce a mobile shield that protects you from deadly beams of light while also dealing with an inconveniently placed switch that opens a gate. In the likely event that something goes wrong, you die instantly and lose a few minutes of progress (unless you are in a multiplayer match and a friend avoids suffering that same fate). You might not meet your demise until right near the end of the stage, which means you have to retread several minutes of familiar ground just to get back to the spot where you died. Then you could easily die again because you’re required to keep so many moving pieces working in concert. It’s maddening.

At the moment, the game suffers from connectivity issues that prevent many players from joining games.

Rather than focusing on puzzles or brawling alone, many stages combine the two elements in a way that prevents a single player from having a moment to breathe, even if he or she isn’t worried about clearing everything quickly enough to earn an extra crystal. Weak foes are in some respects the most dangerous ones, since they can knock you out of range of a protective barrier (which leads to a swift death) or prevent you from moving quickly enough to eradicate a developing threat a short distance across the map. They soon begin spawning regularly enough that you can’t possibly stop to deal with them all, and eventually they overwhelm you like piranhas swarming a leg of mutton tossed into the river. Load screens advise you to keep moving to avoid such foes, but you’re regularly forced to remain in a given location to keep weight on a pressure plate or to destroy a durable piranha plant or some other chore. As the only hero, that’s an overly delicate balance to maintain.

Assign a bunch of great skills to the weapon of your choosing.

You fare better against such threats once you memorize each trial and learn what triggers a new wave of foes, but all the memorization in the world won’t see you through the later trials unless you gather crystals so you can assign the best innate abilities and special skills to your character. The variety of abilities that accompany each individual weapon keeps things interesting, but you can only access useful skills by clearing challenges that are difficult to survive until you have more abilities. It’s a vicious circle, and progress often comes quite slowly.

Between the skill customization and the requirement that you constantly monitor and interact with Balfus while completing trials, you may initially feel overwhelmed by everything you are expected to keep straight. The cooperative mode alleviates that by allowing you to tackle the same stages with a friend. Having allies along doesn’t necessarily make things any easier, though, because Balfus becomes community property and takes orders from anyone. Combatants may wind up tugging him every which way and getting nowhere in the process unless players use an external service for voice chat.

Worse, allies might accidentally cause harm to one another. It’s all too easy to summon the orb toward a statue and then be forced to watch helplessly as it connects with one of your friends along the way and explodes before you have time to react. With multiple gladiators questing at once, it’s possible to respawn within a trial if you meet an untimely end, but there’s a lengthy delay before that happens, and you fail the trial if everyone is ever down at once. Your best bet is to play with a bunch of experienced friends, at which point the game morphs into a true delight. At the moment, however, the game suffers from connectivity issues that prevent many players from joining games, with proposed solutions including the installation of third-party software that still doesn’t seem to address the issues.

Don’t mind us, guardian. We’re just two gladiators out for a stroll!

Forced offers some unconventional mechanics and an assortment of creative mission objectives, tied together by attractive environments that are pleasant to explore right up until the moment they turn on you. It’s a challenging game with built-in reasons to revisit familiar areas, but it’s also too demanding for its own good, and the results are more frustrating than satisfying. The game is meant to be played cooperatively, but while connection issues remain, you’re likely to muddle through on your own. It’s difficult to recommend any game that you endure rather than enjoy, even one this unique.