GAME CULT
Apotheon

Apotheon is the best Metrovania-style game I've played since Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. It may not be the most popular genre in the world but it's a classic one and I enjoy it.

Obviously, the art direction is going to win some awards. It's supposed to look like an ancient Greek vase and it pulls that off perfectly. The color palette varies by area, so the art doesn't become monotonous.

Apotheon's world is large and divided into levels for each god or boss (think Megaman, you can choose any level from the outset) and are accessible from a hub-style overworld ala Metroid. The plot is that Zeus has decided he's unhappy with humanity and has demanded the other gods stop helping us out so you have to defeat him. I don't think anyone would expect a tremendously gripping story from a metrovania game, nor is one delivered here. That's not a bad thing, though, as it puts the action at the forefront.

Apotheon is pretty solid, mechanically, with inventory management being streamlined so that essentially all items are quickslots, and combat being simple but refined (though, at times, it does handle a little like QWOP). Weapons wear out with use and can all either be handled or thrown. There's also a crafting system whereby ingredients can be combined into potions or bombs etc.

Overall, it's a polished and competent entry into the Metrovania arena, and depending on how big a fan of the genre you are, it's worth the fifteen dollar retail, otherwise its certainly worth playing whenever it goes on sale.

Final words: I'm impressed, but not amazed. 8/10

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Months ago, I played Ground Zeroes on PS3, and now I'm revisiting it on the PC for the purposes of this review.

Immediately, I was struck by how well-optimized the PC version is--I'm playing it on a GTS450, which was a mid-range card in 2011, so playing a game that looks like this, maxxed out on this hardware in 2015 is very pleasant and surprising. It's a great-looking, great-running game that is both artistically and technically impressive.

Ground Zeroes may catch some flak for being short, you can finish your first run through the main mission in a couple of hours, but that unlocks side ops (new objectives), new missions,difficulty levels, and equipment. The Phantom Pain (the full MGS V, to which Ground Zeroes is a brief prologue) will be a large, open-world affair spanning who knows how many dozens of hours, but Ground Zeroes take place on one small island base and is meant to be something you can come back to and play again and try to get a higher completion rate, better rank, more easter eggs, etc. So yes, it's short, but for fans of stealth action, its very replayable.

The game is great, too, it's solid, the mechanics and level design are great, and if you liked previous Metal Gear games, you're going to think it's amazing. Tweaks to make it more accessible to new players don't hinder the game at all--it just feels all-around enhanced even for veteran players.

A great perk for PC gamers is that both platform-locked "exclusive" missions (Xbox had an Xbox-only mission 'Jamais Vu', PlayStation had a PlayStation-only mission 'Deja Vu') are included with the PC version. You can play as Classic Snake (PS1 MGS version, blocky polygons and everything). There are nods to everything here, even the gameboy metal gear solid game, Ghost Babel. I laughed.

MGS is normally filled with cutscenes, but Ground Zeroes simply has an opening and closing cutscene, otherwise its all gameplay and action, which works well for it and adds to its replayability.

If you haven't played Peace Walker (which was originally going to be MGS5 itself), it is very much worth the time and money, as Ground Zeroes picks up immediately where PW left off on the plot. PW is a 10/10 game, in my opinion. It's originally a PSP title but is now available as part of the HD collection on Xbox 360 and PS3 (and the Legacy collection on PS3). The base management mechanics in that game make it feel twice as deep.

Every Metal Gear Solid title so far has received universal acclaim to the point where they are consistently rated among the best games on their respective platforms. This "prologue" to MGS5 isn't an exception to that level of quality, and is certainly worth the $20 price tag for fans of stealth action, but its brevity might merit waiting for a price drop for new players or gamers on a budget.

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