This game is a unique top-down shooter in which you are defending the planet from invading aliens. With different game modes and four player co-op, this game has a lot going for it. See what I think of this game and its different mechanics. The game plays a lot like other games in its genre; you have to run through levels and get to checkpoints – which this game calls safe houses. Along the way you will find small glowing crates that contain money, temporary upgrades, med kits, and consumables (like a shield). However, some crates will simply be empty.

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Available on: Windows, Xbox One
Developer: Xaviant / Publisher: Xaviant
Release Date: Thursday, December 5th 2019
Price: 19.99 on Steam
My Price: Free for Review

Premise (provided by the publisher):
On a dark and stormy night, a little girl named Minerva discovers a haunted house deep in the woods and before she knows it, she’s in for the fight of her life! The forces of evil don’t stand a chance against 11-year-old Minerva and her trusty flashlight! Don’t Die, Minerva! is a rogue-lite action RPG set in a haunted house. Armed with a flashlight and a backpack full of friendly stuffed animals brought to life by the house’s magic, Minerva must explore the mansion and defeat its ghosts. As a rogue-lite, Don’t Die, Minerva! features challenging combat, permadeath, and procedurally generated levels. No two runs are the same, and death is always right around the corner.

By Kevin Lane

On my first play-through of Don’t Die Minerva!, I hadn’t studied the game-play or seen anything about this game. I was coming in fresh and coming in hot.  I realized quickly that I was a young girl, presumably named Minerva, and after a few quick encounters with some ghosts, I realized I could right click and scorch these baddies with my flashlight.  Maneuvering around to avoid their deathly balls of ghost ghoul wasn’t too hard to figure out either, and before I knew it I was rolling around, dodging and clearing rooms in this really cool looking mansion.

The graphics, while cartoony and simple, are rich and deep, giving the environment a really fulfilling feel.  The format reminded me of Legend of Zelda from NES, going from room to room (or area to area) clearing it before you could proceed to the next leg of the journey.  The monsters, while repetitive as you play longer, had variations that required different style of play. I liked how running through the goo of the remains of the dead ghosts left tracks that seemed to glow in the dark.  The dungeon levels, the dark rooms, all of the artwork helped make this feel like a very full and fun game.

And then the upgrades and props.  You can upgrade your flashlight and get buffs for your teddy bear and other toys tucked nicely away in your backpack.  Using the fountain at the proper time allows you to travel to the courtyard where you can spend your gems to enhance your items.  These enhancements come in real handy when trying to clear a room – and sometimes necessary.  My first death resulted in a swarm coming in hot and my failure to deploy my AOE Teddy in Time.  It wasn’t until I started anew that I realized the game was different every level – and that the maze I had already started to recognize was now different.

A lot of reviews either give games too much credit or expect the game to be the next best thing – but Don’t Die Minerva! Sits right there at the top of the list of $20.00 games. You really can’t go wrong with this one if you enjoy dungeon crawler / rogue style games that have steady action, require you to use your mind to find clues, and the desire to keep pushing forward even when it feels a bit mindless at times.  I give this one a “Buy” from me.

Developer        11 bit studios
Publisher          11 bit studios
Platform           PlayStation 4
Released           Windows April 24, 2018
PlayStation 4, Xbox One October 11, 2019
Genre(s)            City-building, survival
Mode(s)            Single-player
Price:                 $34.99
My Price:           Free Review Copy
Final Score:       85

I’ve had the opportunity to play quite a few SIMs and RTS Games in my day – from WarCraft/StarCraft to SimCity, Tropico and even Cities: Skylines… So when I play a game like Frost Punk, which feels like a strong mixture of both types of games, I got a bit of heightened excitement.  I didn’t expect to like this game as much as I did if I am being honest; however I liked how the game introduced us into the game with the understanding of what we’re up against.  The Cold, and Ourselves.

I spent a few different rounds working real hard on understanding the upgrades and cost/analysis benefit of dedicating engineers and workers to the different assignments.  I like how (similar to other Sims) they assign a name to each individual person walking around… I guess if you wanted to get too crazy you could focus on who is who and all that… but that’d be a bit crazy.  Instead, I put my focus into trying to keep up hope while making decisions that were how I’d want my own leadership to be.  The cool thing is that they give you all sorts of play styles.

My final score is 85.  I found the game to be deep and tense, with potential difficulties that surpassed my skills in these types of games.  At the end of the day, the only thing bringing this game down for me is the repetition and nature of these types of games. I can’t keep my attention on them long enough to go too crazy with them, no matter how much I enjoy SIM  type games.  That’s not a knock on FrostPunk though… I like how this game puts the focus on you while combating a natural enemy in The Cold.  I’d say wait for this one to hit a sale and swoop it up, or buy it now if you’re super interested in the concept. I’d say it’s worth the price.

Initial release date: Sept 12, 2019
Mode(s): multiplayer / single player
Developer: Digitalmindsoft
Genre: Real-time Strategy
Platform: PC
Price: $24.99
My Price: Free Review Copy Provided
Final Score: 30

In the days of Command and Conquer, Star Craft and others from generations ago, you would think this remaster/Remake wouldn’t be so terrible – the groundwork has already been laid, however this game played terrible.  I couldn’t get comfortable on the controls – the weapons were clunky and did not cause the impacts and destruction I expected.  I honestly couldn’t play this game for more than a half hour before I turned it off.  The graphics weren’t close to what I was hoping for, the mechanics were clunky at best, and the instruction was nil.

If you are a die-hard RTS fan, you may find joy in searching for a game and trying to make it work the way they hope it does, but honestly, there are better games out there that are free to play– so I suggest a hard pass at this one.

Initial release date: July 30, 2018
Mode(s): multiplayer
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Engine: Unreal Engine
Genre: Survival game
Platform: Xbox One

Price: Free to Play w/ microtransactions

My Price: Free Starter Pack provided

Final Score:80

Vigor is a unique Battle Royale game from Bohemia Interactive that definitely has hints of what makes DayZ a great game sprinkled with increased suspense and action.  I like how Vigor plays, allowing you to mold a play style of survival or pressure, amongst an even playing field (aside from boosts).  Boosts are purchasable using the in-game currency (which can be accrued in-game by completing tasks or by spending cold-hard cash) and allow you to retain your weapons and whatnot after the round is over – making things slightly easier.

The goal here isn’t just to be the last man alive, it’s to make sure you get the loot and materials you drastically need to secure your shelter, defend, attack, and escape.  The game-play and controls feel a bit more stiff than a COD, BF or Fortnite game,  and feel closer to that of DayZ.  That works for this style game, but with the fast paced maneuverability of these other games, it definitely feels somewhat lacking.

The game has some issues, including minor banding & character model glitches – and sometimes waiting for a round to start can take a while.  Even through that, the game is fun at its core and the Micro Transactions don’t put too much of a Pay2Win feel with the boosts.  I find it funny how expensive the costumes tend to be, but they gotta get paid somehow. I imagine the store would be more profitable if they pumped out a ton of costumes and outfits for much lower price.  Fortnite can charge that much due to demand but these other games charging as much for less detailed characters is a shame.

All in all, I give this game an 80. It’s a decent game, free to play, and gives a unique look at Battle Roayles. I’d like to see it on more platforms and a bigger player base, but it is what it is.  You should check it out – it’s worth the time to try it.

Developer: EA Dice
Released: 11/16/2018 | Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: PS4 | Price: $59.99 (Review Copy Provided)
By: Kevin Lane |
Hype Score: 90 | Final Score: 85
I was able to play in the private BETA for Battlefield V – and I was totally hyped.  I wanted to know what would change from Battlefield 1 to V, and honestly, it didn’t feel like a whole lot – In small detail, the maps and gameplay “feel” better – but it is hard to describe.  It isn’t as significant as trying to play an old Battlefield on a previous Gen Console, but player movement and maneuverability felt like it had more fluidity. I was drawn back to playing this game more often than when I was playing the previous installments.  I was really hyped up for the full release of the game.

Hype Score: 90

Battlefield V is graphically the most intense and realistic looking shooter I’ve ever seen.  From the vast and barren landscapes to the close quarters combat, each match is gripping and exhilarating.  As the newest installment of the Battlefield Franchise, I believe this game enhances what previous iterations already did quite well.  For example, the class based system allows for a more real to life example of the skill-sets those classes would provide. In addition, the character customization between each class and faction allows for more personalization, making the game your own when battling it out against 63 other players on graphically beautiful maps.
Not everything is perfect with Battlefield 5 – for example, the changes to the spotting system have made it difficult to adapt from the old way – but again, they have built out a more realistic version of this type of system, so I don’t have much of a problem with it.  Also, the game has a Pay to Win structure as  you can unlock better weapons, scopes, equipment, etc if you pay for it.  I’d prefer a more level playing field, which is why I tend to stick to Battle Royales these days.  Another knock on this game is that the anticipated Battle Royale mode did not release at launch.
Now that Firestorm has launched, we’ve had time to realize that it’s impact was minimal.  While fun to play, the pace and draw just isn’t the same as other shooters, let alone other Battle Royale games.  While I love and am sworn to the Battlefield brand due to the graphics and gameplay (especially the long range sniping ability), I feel like Firestorm didn’t capitalize on some of the major things other game (like Apex Legends) did right out the gate – such as loot creates and respawnability.  All in all, the game is fun, smooth and enticing – but it isn’t free and the player base isn’t there like in some of the other franchises. Its delayed release of Firestorm made for an underwhelming result – dropping my final score significantly.  
This game is living up to the hype that I built in my own head, but it unfortunately doesn’t have the same player-base. It’s beautiful. Graphically amazing.  The gameplay is more fluid than past Battlefields, almost having a Bad Company feel to it.  Unfortunately, I like playing games with friends – and none of my friends were willing to dive into Battlefield V.  I had a few different friends try the game with me, and each time they did, they enjoyed it – but not enough to buy it.  It’s a shame, because it is obvious great work went into the development of this game.  EA and DICE have broken their trust with many gamers, and their turn to loot boxes and crate style progress left a bad taste in the customer’s mouths, which I believe impacted the overall success of BFV.

Final Score: 82


Developer: TribeToy
Released: 8/28/2018 | Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: PSVR | Price: $29.99 (Review Copy Provided)
By: Kevin Lane |
Hype Score: N/A | Final Score: 82

Throughout the months of August and September in 2018, the gaming industry as a whole has been on fire with releases, beta tests, announcements, and what have you – so it is not surprising to me that certain games either catch me off guard, or don’t catch me at all.  Due to the wonderful PSVR Community, Bow to Blood caught my attention the day it released.  Like many Virtual Reality games, watching a YouTube video just doesn’t do the game justice.  You have to play it to truly understand what you are getting yourself into here.  Thankfully, Developer TribeToy provided The Backlog Exposed a Review Copy of their new Virtual Reality Game “Bow to Blood”.  See how and why we score it the way we do below.

This section is normally where we discuss our initial hype score of the game.  Given all the hype for a game (i.e. Firewall: Zero Hour) how does it initially hold up to those demands.  In this instance, Bow to Blood wasn’t even on our radar, so there was no Hype Factor involved.  We’ll be dishing out our review in the section below.

Hype Score: N/A

Bow to Blood is a single-player game that offers a unique blend of a few different game types that hasn’t been combined before.  Known as a “Freelancer”, you command a heavy floating war-ship in a round-robin “Survivor” style Tournament where making friends or enemies can make a huge difference in your game’s outcome.  Along the way, you acquire much needed assistance on deck where you can command your two helpers to such tasks as manning the guns, engines, drones and shields. Commanding these two appropriately is easier said than done at first, but this was something I got the hang of after playing a few rounds.

So, how is this Survivor Style?  Well, each round is one of a few different types of game modes where you are vying for top of the leaderboards.  Whether it be a battle, race or point gathering exploration, you’re gunning for top dog – otherwise you run the risk of getting cut.  Much like in Survivor, your foes (NPCs) help decide the fate of the two in point totals.  These combatants, (all procedurally generated and randomized) have different personalities and styles – and they challenge you to make decisions will surely impact your outcome.  In one example, I helped a competitor explore the area together – and assisted in fending off any enemies (robotic droid looking things that shot at us).  I was successful in helping her out, and it saved me.  I had the least number of points at the end of a round, and her vote helped keep me in the game.  This truly adds a perspective on gaming that I haven’t found anywhere else.

As with most VR Games, Bow to Blood comes equipped with motion sickness support in the form of focus blinders – but in Bow to Blood – they are defaulted off, which is something I really appreciate.   I am in the camp that most people playing VR games have an understanding that if the game makes you sick, you take off the headset and discontinue playing – or you run the risk of having the weirdest motion-sickness experience of your life.  That being said, I played for 2 straight hours before getting any sort of motion sickness.  This could be due to the extended period in which I played without taking a break – and not necessarily with the game itself.  As you command this large warship, the feeling of rocking on a boat is there, but it did not trip me up for the most part.  It is slower than I would expect a game like this to be, which is both part of the charm and annoyance of the game.

My only real issues with this game are the controls and the initial explanations on how to play.  First, with the controls, let me state that I don’t play a lot of flight sims, so I am not very comfortable with handling the ups and downs and whatnot.  Take that for what it’s worth – but I still wanted to play and win.  You can play with both the DS4 and the Move Controllers – and I would recommend using the Move Controllers from the start.  Way easier to navigate your ship’s resources and controls.  I felt the sluggish movement of the warship was something I had a hard time getting past. I tend to faster paced games like First Person Shooters where you’re running and gunning.  In this game, maneuverability is limited and you have to be aware of your surroundings or you may end up hitting a mine-field.

I went through the beginning training sessions, but felt I didn’t get enough of the movement aspect, and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get around properly.  Eventually, I got the hang of it – but I was almost ready to hang it up for a bit before things started clicking.  Maybe some more apparent on-screen feedback for control assistance would help in the beginning stages.  Many times I just wanted to get up and above the obstacles so I could move to another area of the map, but was hindered by going a direction I was not trying to go.  With time, this was reduced – but you’ll never get the fast paced experience if that is what you are looking for.  Another area that could use some additional explanation is the resource allocation and station allocation.  You get a quick lesson on how to guide your helpers from one station to the next, but I feel the game could get into more detail as to what they’ll be doing there – and how each one could benefit you.  I felt this was more of a trial and error before getting the hang of it.  Resource allocation is probably a bit more self-explanatory, but as a novice to the game, I feel like a better description of what moving resources from one area to the next could mean – in terms of helping or hindering me in my journey.


Some final thoughts:

  • Game Length: Full Tourneys last between 5-6 hours each if you make it that far.  Each round took me anywhere between 10-30 minutes – and there are two matches in each round.
  • Game-play Speed & Style: This is a slower paced single-player shooter/racer/exploration game with survival and politics mashed in.  Definitely a unique combination that I believe is the makings of something great.
  • Difficulty: Hard.  While it is easy to shoot the robotic flying enemies here and there, it can sometimes get overwhelming and difficult – all while trying to manage your ship and its resources.  I like that this was tough.
  • Controls: Not my favorite – I prefer the Move Controllers over the DS4 for sure – but I feel like it should be better explained how to get around.
  • Replay-ability: I can see some people playing a few rounds and deciding this game is not for them, and more people willing to stick it out at least to the end of the first tourney – but this game has some major replay-ability.  You can continue on and move forward in the game, making alliances and enemies.  The replay-ability is truly endless here.
  • Repetitive? I imagine that it could become repetitive over time, but with the different game modes and randomly generated characters I imagine this will vary depending on how much you like the game.
  • Plot: This is dynamic based on what happens after each round. A great strength of the game.
  • Characters: The characters are procedurally generated and have different attitudes, names, personalities, etc. (I did notice that in some of the game play videos, the character images were definitely repeated, but the names were different).  One major thing to note here is that the On-Screen announcer was super annoying. I didn’t care about his voice – that was to be expected in a game like this… but it felt like they really fell through on making the announcer something of substance.  Maybe this was done on purpose, but the 4 frames per second style image of the announcer talking you through each round got old, real quick.  I can compare this to Star Blood Arena, who obviously put a lot of time and effort into their announcer booth – there was  a level of creativity there that was absolutely absent from this game.
  • Hype Factor: N/A

The politics and survival aspect of this game propels it into something more unique than any game like it.  I honestly thing this is a new genre. It is currently billed as an Action Adventure game, but it is more than that.  I would love to see another iteration of this game with slightly stronger visuals – although they were much stronger than many PSVR games out on the market today.  I would also like to see TribeToy factor in multi-player into this game.  Maybe a shorter/tighter game tourney mode that puts 8 players together to try and secure a victory.  I know the VR Multiplayer landscape is one of fast drop-offs and many unknowns, but I really feel that a game like this would be a lot of fun with real players on the other side.

The Risk vs. Reward system of helping or pissing off other competitors is a fun aspect to an already fun game.  Add in the companion app (which I admit I didn’t get to experience yet) for some additional fun, and TribeToy really has a sleeper hit on their hands.  I hope they continue to refine the game and tighten up some of the control experiences, but all in all, this game has high replay-ability and a fun concept I’ve never seen all-in-one before. I give Bow to Blood a strong 82 and look forward to playing some more in the arena.

Final Score: 82

Developer: Insomniac Games
Released: 9/7/2018 | Genre: Survival | Platform: PS4 | Price: $59.99
By: Joel Ruble |
Hype Score: 90 | Final Score: 93

Spider-Man has been talked about, commercials, trailer after trailer was shown. My mind was made up before the game was ever pre-ordered, GOTY. It has to be right? All the talk, hype and waiting only made it seem as if it couldn’t be a bad game. Day one i started playing and let me say, “AMAZING”, even that word doesn’t do the game justice. The colors of the characters, trees, city, skyline, it all seems so real. The way Spider-man moves through the city, the sounds, sirens, and people talking on the street, so incredible. At first I would catch myself walking around just to take in the scenery. After about 8 hours of game play I’m absolutely loving the game. So many side missions to do, bad guys to fight, people to save, an outstanding game that puts Spider-Man in the light for once.

Hype Score: 90

So once again Spider-Man is cleaning up the city from corrupt criminals and “other” thugs you will see throughout the game. I am 80% complete with the game and I am actually very impressed with how the story puts you into different characters shoes. SPOILER ALERT, I really like how you play other characters in the game and get their perspective on what they are seeing and going through. It brings the game full circle as you help Spider-Man as MJ in certain parts of the game. That was a great feature to add in the game. Spider-Man is always helping everyone and this time around you get to help Spider-Man.

All the boss fights are awesome, the in between fight scenes are amazing, the additional interactions with on screen button display to damage or continuing the fight. I said it before but the storyline keeps you on your toes. Helping Doctor Octavius in his lab and understanding his problems and trying to help him get over the hurdles. Helping Aunt May at the F.E.A.S.T facility with the homeless are just a couple of the amazing parts of this incredible story/journey this game takes you on. I rate this game high due to the fact I feel they but a ton of time and dedication into this game and it obviously shows.

Some final thoughts:

– There are very few aspects of the game i dis-like, but the main one is the movement on buildings.  It becomes a little tricky once you start crawling around.
– There are many reasons I like the game, here are just a few. The ability to have many, many costumes, each giving a different ability. The wide variety of missions to choose from, the ability to wear a suit but choose an ability from another suit. The free roam aspect is really fun as well.

I play a ton of video games and this one is on my top 5 list of all time favorite games. The re-playablilty is awesome, the entire game had my attention all the way. Never once did I get bored of missions or side quest. The stunning graphics keep you involved, the controls are as good as you can get. I have to say if you own a PS4 this needs to be in your collection hands down. This will be money well spent.


Final Score: 93