MultiVersus

MultiVersus is fantastic. If you haven’t heard of it yet because you exclusively read Gametrodon and literally nothing else, thank you for your loyalty! You’ll be given a ranking position in the new regime. If you have already heard of MultiVersus (because you don’t live under a rock), and haven’t played it, or were on the fence about playing it, stick around and maybe I can convince you to try it.

MultiVersus is a platform fighter developed by Player First Games, and published by Warner Brothers. If you’re wondering why I’m mentioning the publisher, don’t worry. It’s relevant. But first let’s quickly talk about platform fighters as a genre. Platform fighters are, for better or worse, defined by Super Smash Brothers. If you’ve never played a platform fighter, there are few things that differentiate them from traditional fighting games.

Platform fighters, like traditional fighting games are 2D games where you use your character’s moves to hit your opponent. As someone who plays both traditionally fighters and platform fighters casually, there are two big differences. The first is that platform fighters are far more open, with mobility much closer to a platforming game. The second is the win condition. In most platform fighters, instead of each character having a set amount of HP, they have a percent value. When you get hit, your percent goes up. The higher your percent, the more knockback you take when you get hit by an attack. But no matter your percent, you don’t actually die until your opponent can knock you off the stage. Finally, platform fighters often have more characters on stage than just the traditional 1v1, and MultiVersus leans into this. The game’s primary game mode is actually 2v2, with many of the characters having abilities that buff or somehow interact with their allies.

Speaking of which. Characters!

The other thing a platform fighter needs to be good is good characters. That’s easy for Smash Bros, which might as well just be the Nintendo “Who’s Who” list for video games even if the list does have some washed up entries. (Seriously, I’m pretty sure Falco and Fox are more relevant as Smash Bros fighters than their series is. And there hasn’t been a new F-Zero game in a million years.)

This is great if you’re Nintendo, but if you have to invent your own characters, like Brawlhalla, or Rivals of Aether, or anyone else in the genre it can be rough. After all, it’s not like you can just go dig up a treasure chest of intellectual property from the 40 years.

Hey, remember how I mentioned this was being published by Warner Brothers, and said the publisher would be relevant later?

Turns out, Warner Brothers has the rights to a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff.

MultiVersus currently has a seventeen-character roster, which isn’t huge, but let’s look at a few folks in that roster. You have Batman and Superman. You have Shaggy and Velma. You have Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and Wonder Woman. You have Arya Stark, and Lebron James. You have Stephen and Garnet from Stephen Universe, and you have Jake the Dog and Finn the Human from Adventure Time.

If you can read that entire list without going “Wait what” or getting a least a little excited for a moment about the idea of Shaggy absolutely thrashing Batman in hand to hand combat, then please come to my apartment so I can give you your “Least Exposed to Pop Culture” gold medal. I grew up without TV, I still barely watch TV, and I know who these folks are.

Unlike Smash Brothers, though, these characters aren’t from a video game, so it raises the question “How well were they adapted?” Personally, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. Shaggy is this kinetic bruiser, dashing around the stage, doing that funky little leg zoom walk, and tossing sandwiches. Finn is an assassin, charging up these big swipes of his sword and leaping around. From the characters I’ve played, they’re all fun, with their own tricks and traps.

But this does bring up a point I want to cover: I haven’t played everyone, because MultiVersus is F2P, and that means you don’t actually get all the characters. It’s the League of Legends model, where there’s a free rotation of characters, but if you want to unlock a character permanently, you have to buy them with either in game gold, or the premium currency.

This isn’t a particularly evil implementation of F2P, but it does commit a lot of the traditional sins of the model. I don’t want to put too much energy into calling them out here, so instead I’ll give you a quick list of why I don’t like it much:

  1. Premium Currency can only be purchased in specific increments. This means you can only purchase say 1000/2000/3000 of it, but all the characters and skins cost different amounts. So you’ll always have some left over, and if you want to buy more stuff, you’ll have to buy more currency. It’s like the evil video game version of the XKCD nacho cycle.
  2. Skins are expensive, like 15-20 bucks a pop.
  3. There’s a battle pass/daily quest system, so you have that whole FOMO structure, and since a lot of your gold generation is linked to leveling up characters, it’s easy to tell the flow of gold will shut off pretty quickly.
  4. Perks are a gold sink for F2P players.

Oh, that’s right! We haven’t talked about Perks yet. Lets cover them quickly.

Each character in Multiversus has four perk slots, 1 unique one, and 3 generic ones. The unique ones are a non-issue for me. You unlock all unique perks for a character just by playing them. They tend to offer some sort of boost, or change to one of your character’s attacks, but since you can see your opponent’s perk choices before a game, they’re not a big deal.

The generic perks are where I have a problem, not because of what they do, but because of how you acquire them. They tend to offer small buffs to both you and your teammate. As an example, one gives you an additional third jump in the air after you connect a hit. If you and your teammate stack the same buff, you get a better version it. For example, the aforementioned jump perk when stacked just lets you and your teammate have a third jump always available.

But anyway, this isn’t the problem with perks. The problem is that there’s a limited pool of perks you unlock for each character. Then you have to spend gold to unlock the rest, and you have to unlock them on a character by character basis. It’s like a worse version of League of Legends’ old rune system.

The gameplay itself, though, is what carries MultiVersus. And while I might not be a big fighting game person, the friend I played most of my 30 hours with is. To paraphrase his thoughts, while the game is very focused around hitstun and combos, it doesn’t feel super toxic. There’s also a larger focus on mobility, and to quote him directly “The lack of the homogenization of the trinity (grab/shield/stun) and the presence of charged aerials is a significant shift from other platform fighters.”

Personally, I just think smacking folks around in the game feels fun, and even as someone who sucks at fighting, the matchmaking has yet to throw me into a game that I felt like I couldn’t possibly win.

Speaking of matchmaking, let’s talk about the other part of online play: netcode. MultiVersus has some issues, but overall the netcode is far better than, say, Smash Bros online. There are still situations where it feels like your inputs are dropped, but it’s fairly rare.

Overall, MultiVersus is an incredibly fun F2P platform fighter, with a strong (if small roster), and solid mechanics. While it doesn’t commit any special sins of being a F2P game, I feel like it would be better if you could just buy the whole game instead of being hit with the traditional spending traps. That said, I might not have tried it if it cost $40, and that would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on one of the very few games to even try to give Smash Bros a run for its money.

MultiVersus is free to play on PC, PS4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox S.

To preempt the question from the one person I know who will read this article: it’s not available for Switch, and it’s not clear if it will be. Just go grab it for PC. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

Holocure

Holocure is a Hololive-inspired fan game in the shape of Vampire Survivors. If you haven’t heard of Vampire Survivors, it’s a 2D roguelite where you try to survive as long as possible. If you’ve never heard of Hololive/Vtubers, I’d suggest this video by Gigguk. While some of the specifics are bit out of date, the general coverage and explanation of virtual idols is handled really well.

If you’re already into Hololive, Holocure is a fantastic sort of love letter to the talents, and the fandom around them. All the enemies are mascots of the HoloEN branch, and all the items are in-jokes, or reference to various moments from Hololive history. The level of care put into everything is fantastic. I watch a lot of Hololive content, and so perhaps unsurprisingly, I also enjoy Holocure quite a lot.

That said, even if you have no idea what Hololive is, or don’t care to learn, Holocure is still worth checking out for its core gameplay. So let’s talk about that!

You start by picking a character to play as. There are 11 characters, 5 of which are unlocked from the start, and 6 of which can be unlocked with an in-game lottery system (don’t worry, it doesn’t use real money). After this, you’ll pick a game mode. Currently there are two modes, Stage and Endless. In Stage, your goal is to defeat the boss that spawns at 20 minutes, and in Endless, your goal is to just survive as long as possible.

Regardless of which mode you pick, you’ll get dropped into a large field, and the game actually starts. Enemies will spawn in, and move toward you. If they touch you, you lose health. Lose all your health, and it’s game over. When you defeat an enemy, they drop exp. Pick up enough experience, and you’ll level up and get presented a choice of several items and weapons.

This is as good a time as any to cover the aforementioned systems. Each character starts with the first level of their unique weapon, but can hold up to six more. Weapons fire automatically. Some fire in a direction determined by the player, and others fire in a completely random direction. This is actually a good thing, because you don’t have to spend as much time aiming, and can just focus on dodging everything being thrown your way.

In addition to weapons, there are also items and passives. Each character has 3 unique passives they can level without taking up a slot, and 6 items slots. Items have various passive abilities, for example, one gives regenerating shielding, and another buffs your damage if you go an amount of time without being hit.

The end result is that each run of Holocure feels different, while still giving a fair amount of agency in choosing between the various items and weapons that show up to pick from.

As a fangame, Hololive doesn’t cost anything, and you can download it on itch.io here! The game also has an official twitter here, and a larger content patch is expected later this year, sometime around September.

Garfield Kart – Furious Racing

The bar for franchised game tie-ins is a moving target, but it’s rarely above sea level. Often, it spends time in the Mariana Trench. I’m lucky in that the franchises I love started as games, so the games are usually pretty good (or in the case of Pok√©mon, “Yes, it’s the same thing, but I bought it and it was okay the last 5 times so I guess I’ll do it again.”)

There are exceptions, of course, coughMagic:Legendscough but on the whole, I don’t actually play many games based on “Things I liked when they weren’t games.” I’m much more likely to buy a shirt because you wrote Undertale on it in comic sans, than I am to buy a game because it has LeBron James, or Rick and Morty in it.

All of this is a lead up to say that my expectations for Garfield Kart – Furious Racing were low. Very low. And while the game does exceed my expectations, the fact that it doesn’t crash constantly and runs on my Ultrawide monitor at all is already miles above what I expecting. My expectations were right next to the funny looking fish with the glowing bulb attached to its head.

Garfield Kart – Furious Racing is a a cart racer based off the Garfield comic strip: the fat orange cat who hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and made its creator Jim Davis a fortune. As a child, I actually liked Garfield if only because a cartoon where the cat actually wins made me happy. A a teenager I thought it was incredibly stupid, and not actually funny. But a stronger understanding of how syndication works, and how easy it is for a comic strip to get kicked from a paper at least makes me respect the effort it must take to tell 20+ years of mildly inoffensive “jokes” and not upset anyone.

Anyway, the theming is skin deep. Garfield Kart is fairly straightforward cart racer. If you’ve ever played any Mario Kart, you’ll pick it up quickly. If you haven’t played any Mario Kart, well, it’s a cart racer, so you’ll pick it up in like 5 minutes tops anyway.

Mechanically, Garfield Kart isn’t hugely technical. Press a button to go forward, toggle your drifts on curves to get a mini-turbo, and hit item boxes for consumables. The consumables range from a lasagna (a single use speed boost), to two variety of pies you can throw at your enemy (one type homes, the other type you have to aim). And it wouldn’t be Mario Kart without an item to royally screw the first place player. In Garfield Kart, that’s the UFO: a trio of three alien spaceships that fly ahead on the course, lay down tractor beams, and grab the first person to pass through.

Strangely enough, the UFO is fairly good for illustrating perhaps my biggest gameplay gripe with the game. Once a player ends up in first place, it’s incredibly difficult to catch them. A lot of the speed loss in Garfield Kart comes from crashing into other carts, and once you get ahead, it’s incredibly easy to just chain mini-turbos. And because of how item rolls work, it’s unlikely that the second place player will get the red shells homing pies they need to close the gap.

Outside of that, we have the actual racing tracks. Garfield Kart has 16 tracks, all of which are fine. There’s a fair amount of asset reuse between them, but that’s not really a big deal to me.

What is a slightly bigger deal to me are the bugs. Garfield Kart is mostly stable, but has a fair number of bugs. In the 10 hours I’ve played, here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen: 1. Item display from item boxes not updating, and showing you as having an item after you’ve used it. 2. Cart collisions acting inconsistently. 3. Netcode resulting in other carts clipping into you, and launching you through the ground. 4. Hitting geometry at weird angles can easily result in carts getting stuck tilted up at 90 degrees, and unable to move. 5. AI getting permanently lodged on rocks.

Garfield Kart isn’t a bad game. It’s effectively just a low budget Mario Kart clone with a more boring theme, fewer tracks, and less polish. And while I would normally say “Just go play Mario Kart,” what sets Garfield Kart apart is its price point and system.

See, Garfield Kart regularly goes on sale for about a $1.50, a price at which you can buy 10 copies, send them to all your friends, and have an amusing cart racer to play with everyone for under $20. Compare to Mario Kart 8, which is $60 for the game alone, and another $50+ for each controller, and all of a sudden Garfield Kart is an absolute bargain.

So yes, while I do recommend Garfield Kart, it’s a conditional recommendation based on having 3-4 other folks to play it with, and spending about as much as a Snickers bar per person on the game itself.

Perfect Heist 2

I like Perfect Heist 2. It’s a fantastic asymmetric deception game about robbing, or preventing the robbing of banks. So does that mean the game is as perfect as its name implies? No. It has a lot of problems. But it’s fun, and that’s really all that matters.

Writing the intro paragraph for this article is an exercise in deciding what watch list I want to get placed on. Do I make the joke about how the game is unrealistic because you get punished for killing civilians as a cop? Do I talk about how I love games that let me lie my way to victory? Do I talk about how my favorite thing in games like Project Winter is convincing someone to work with me, only to bludgeon them to death in an enclosed space once they’re out of earshot of the rest of the group and no one can hear their cries for help?

Do I just make all of them?

Oh right, I’m supposed to be writing about a game.

Perfect Heist 2 is a multiplayer deception game about robbing banks. Players join either the robbers or police, with the robbers trying to get as much money out of the bank as possible, while the police try to stop them. If the robbers successfully extract a certain amount of money and make a successful escape, the robber team wins. If time runs out, or all the robbers are killed, the cops win.

You’ll note that I didn’t say, “If the robbers kill all the cops, the robbers win.” It’s technically true, but is incredibly rare. This is because Perfect Heist 2 isn’t a game about running and gunning; it’s a game about being sneaky.

In addition to the human players in a game, there are also dozens of AI-controlled civilians. They generally just meander about, and don’t do very much, but they provide the cover for the robbers to infiltrate the bank. However, there are some things the AI won’t do. They won’t ever sprint, they won’t ever pick up money, and they open doors.

Perhaps most importantly though, they’ll never go into areas they aren’t supposed to be in. There are two general types of AI units: bank employees and civilians. Both types have different clothing patterns, and wearing the wrong outfit for the area you’re in is a great way to get shot in the head.

As a general rule of thumb, cops have more damage mitigation, and better guns, which means that if you, as a robber, get into a fair fight with a cop, you’re likely going to lose.

Secondly, unlike robbers, when a cop dies, they just respawn. There’s a shared a pool of lives for the cop team, and a recently respawned cop now knows where you are and what you look like. Cops can’t just go trigger happy though, because if a cop kills a civilian AI even by mistake, the cop instantly dies and can’t respawn.

Team balance also influences the general sneakiness of the game. The police can never have more players than the robbers, and usually have 2-3 fewer members. As a result, the teams consist of a larger number of players with no individual respawns and generally weaker stats (robbers) against a smaller number of players, with superior firepower and respawns, but a heavy penalty for misusing them (cops).

So let’s talk about how you actually steal money. Maps in Perfect Heist consist of the bank, the area surrounding the bank, and a few generic buildings around the bank that can’t be entered. The bank is the interesting part though, as it contains vaults, where a majority of the gold and cash needed to win is kept, along with jewelry, and secret documents, all of which can also be picked up for cash.

There are also ATMs, which can be hacked once to drop money. While the vaults need to be either blown open with charges, or unlocked with various specific classes, the other valuables can usually just be grabbed, albeit with some risks. For example, jewelry is usually in glass cases, and the sound of breaking glass is great way to broadcast where you are to every cop in a 3 mile radius.

TLDR: there are valuables littered all round the bank, and different classes have advantages for going after various types.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about classes. There are a lot of classes, both for the cops and robbers. Each class has starting weapons, a passive, and an activated ability.

In terms of actual playability, classes vary pretty heavily. Some are straightforward, like the Demo who can carry explosives without them being visible, or the Tech who can open all vaults after hacking three computers, and has a drone that can carry money bags. Some offer alternative playstyles, like the Crypto-Enthusiast, who can hack computers to install crypto miners, and generate passive cash, or the Fed Chairman who can quite literally print money.

Others are situational, like the Sniper. And some are just bad, like the Pickpocket, or Safecracker. It’s a pretty even split between those four groups. There’s enough variety to keep things fun, but some classes just don’t really function.

The same is pretty much true for the cops. Classes like Riot Control and Spy offer straightforward and always-useful mechanics. IT is situational: useful against classes that want to hack computers or ATMs, but doesn’t do much otherwise. Fed Chairman (no, not a typo, both cops and robbers can use this class) can increase the amount of money robbers need to steal in order to win and offers an alternate playstyle. And then there’s the Digital Forensics officer who…. can see how long ago a computer was hacked. It’s pretty pointless.

I do think the classes are part of the reason why I enjoy Perfect Heist 2, though. The different playstyles and options available mean that you’re not locked into a single strategy, and you can switch between rounds if it feels like something isn’t working. It adds a lot of replayability, and there’s also some interesting synergies (though these synergies tend to be more in favor of the robbers than the cops).

With all that covered, let’s talk about what I don’t like about the game. First, the game options menu is practically non-existent. Resizing your screen is advanced technology, so I hope you like playing in permanent fullscreen forever. Second, game balance. As a general rule, the game feels balanced. HOWEVER, the way team selection works means that you can get locked into having two teams of the same players go against each other over and over, with one team just crushing the other. Finally, the guns. The guns kind of suck. They feel slow and laggy. Aiming down sight is buggy and doesn’t always actually aim down sight, and shooting without aiming down the sight results in firing bullets somewhere within an 180 degree radius of where you were pointed.

These aren’t deal breakers. Honestly, if I could change anything about the game, it would be to fix some of the bugs, clarify wording for mechanics for a few abilities, and fix the options menu. If they did all of that, the game would be fantastic, as opposed to the ‘pretty good’ it currently is.

If this sounds fun, and the issues don’t sound like deal breakers, you can grab Perfect Heist 2 for $10 on Steam.

Super Auto Pets

Super Auto Pets is pretty neat. Overall I like it, and I recommend it. It’s available on mobile and PC, but unlike most mobile games doesn’t have the sort of monetization that makes you feel like you’ve given your phone an STI by downloading it, and just offers expansion packs instead.

No really, this is the extent of all microtransactions in the game.

So now that I’ve said that I like it, what type of game is it? There’s a whole discussion you could have about its genre, but most people would call it an Auto-Battler. Because I’m a contrarian, I’d call it an Auto-Chess. Regardless of your preferred genre name, the goal is to construct a team out of units, each with their own stats and synergies, and last long enough to beat out each opposing team you play against.

Most other Auto-Something games I’ve played have had a fairly high learning curve. This is because they tended to be mods, or based off mods for games like Dota.

Enter Super Auto Pets.

Super Auto Pets keeps the general structure of the Auto-Chess genre, but replaces the complicated units with much more understandable versions. You still spend gold to buy units, you still combine units to power them up, and you can still re-roll the buy row, but instead of dozens of potential stats, Super Auto Pets units have just attack, health, and an ability.

So let’s talk about the flow of a game of Super Auto Pets, and then the two different game modes that are available.

At the start of a game, you’ll be given 10 gold, and a market of three pets from which you can buy. Each pet in the market costs three gold, and you can spend one gold to reroll the available pets. There are also food items, which give a variety of buffs. They can range from temporary stats for the next round, permanent stats, or an equipable item.

You have five slots for pets, and you can rearrange them however you wish for free. You won’t have a full five pets until after the first round or so, but after a little bit, your screen will look something like this.

When you finish, and hit the end round button, you’ll go to combat. And this is where the “Auto” part comes into play. Going from right to left, your pets will fight against another player’s team of pets. Making simultaneous attacks, combat is pretty simple. Each pet loses health equal to the attacker’s attack stat, and when they run out of health, they faint, and the next rightmost pet moves up to take their place. Whoever runs out of pets first loses, and if you both run out at the same time, the game ends in a draw.

Losing a single round won’t lose you the game. Instead, after each loss you lose a number of lives that increases as rounds pass. This is one of the interesting differences between Super Auto Pets and other Auto-Chess games I’ve seen. Most other entries instead have you lose a scaling number of lives or HP based on how many opposing units remain when you get knocked out.

I am very used to seeing this screen at this point.

The amount of lives you lose isn’t the only thing that changes as rounds pass. The pool of available units and food for purchase changes as well. Higher tier units tend to have stronger stat lines, and in many cases, stronger abilities.

So why wouldn’t you just always purchase them instead? There’s two reasons. First off is that while their base stat lines might be higher, they may not fit well into your overall strategy. The second is that base stats doesn’t always translate into actual stats.

Like with other Auto-Battlers, Super Auto-Pets allows you to level up your units by fusing additional copies into them. This increases their base stats, but vitally also often buffs their abilities.

Abilities are one of the biggest parts of the game I haven’t really talked about yet. Almost all pets have an ability, and they do a lot of different things, for different triggers. Some like the grasshopper create extra units in combat when the pet unit faints. Others might give a stat buff to another unit, such as the ant. Others function outside of battle, like the giraffe, which buffs other units permanently at the end of each round. As a side note, another interesting thing is that many of these abilities work in both battles, and the buy menu.

As an example: The horse’s “Friend Summoned” ability triggers both when you buy units between rounds, and when units are brought into play during a battle.

There are a few more things I want to talk about with Super Auto Pets before I wrap this up. The first is how the game avoids becoming stale. When you first install the game, it may take a little while to learn the default pool of pets and food, but past a certain point there becomes a fairly clear path to victory, and winning becomes more of a matter of “Can I complete my engines/strategies before my opponents complete theirs?” To deal with this, the game has the aforementioned expansion packs, and also a weekly pack that changes out the units and food items available, effectively creating a new meta to be solved each week.

The closest parallel is probably how something like Dominion works. You have a larger pool of total cards, but in a given game, only a subset of that pool is in play. As a result, the skill shifts from memorizing meta strategies to being able to read a pool and spot synergies.

The second is the game modes. Super Auto Pets has a standard Auto-Something mode, where you play against live players with 60 second buy rounds, but it also has a mode called Arena. In Arena, there’s no timer, and no hard pool of players. Instead of being the last player standing, your goal is to get 10 wins. You have as much time as you want to think and buy. When you choose to end a round, you’ll be matched against another player’s team from same level and round as you’re currently in, and play against them.

Arena mode is probably the biggest thing that sets Super Auto Pets apart from other Auto-Somethings, because it lets you play the game at your own pace, while skipping having to wait for matchmaking.

I don’t have anything else to say about the game. Truth be told, I like Super Auto Pets, but I don’t “like” like Super Auto Pets. I think it’s an accessible and friendly entry to the genre. The only in-app purchases are expansion packs, and they total about $15.

If this sounds interesting, you can grab it for free off the relevant app store for your phone, or for PC on Steam. Or just play it through a browser over on itch.io.