Xbox Game Pass August 2021 Reviews – We begin with a strong month

I’m Kinglink and it’s time for the Xbox Game Pass August 2021 Review. 

This is something new on my channel, if you’re already familiar with my work, you know I review the Humble Choice the first week of every month and talk about who might enjoy which games and if it’s worth picking up.

Xbox Game Pass is a bit different, it’s a subscription service where players can play any game on it and games get released throughout the month.  I’ll do my best to cover the major releases as well as a variety of other games.  My channel is focused on the PC platform, so that’s the platform of choice here.  

For these videos, I’ll be doing short reviews for each title, and I’ll talk about the most notable and unique games that I have found.  These aren’t intended to be full reviews, however, unlike the Humble Choice and its time constraint, I’ll continue playing beyond the first hour for these titles when possible. 

This is something new, so if you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll be reviewing games in a pseudo-random order, aka the order I played them.  Let’s start with… 

Project Wingman.  Ace Combat has over 10 titles in its franchise, so it’s not a surprise that someone else has tried to capitalize on the success of the series.  Project Wingman ticks most of the same boxes.  Simplified flight with high octane combat, check.  Twenty-one missions of about thirty minutes each, check. A story that doesn’t connect with the player, check, sadly. 

Project Wingman is an air combat simulator where players will fly generic named versions of planes like the Mig-21 fighting for air superiority and taking out targets all over the place.  The gameplay is a bit basic, almost everything is blowing up targets and trying not to get hit and the difficulty is a bit easy, but without checkpoints that might be a good thing, as any mistake can reset the entire mission.

I know the story here is trying hard, and I did find myself interested in the conflict, but the story scenes are just a weak 3d overlay of the upcoming mission, and nothing major happens.  It would be an issue, but Ace Combat has struggled with this for decades.  The fact is it’s probably hard to have a compelling story when players are stuck flying a plane for the entire game.

Check this out if you like Ace Combat.  If you haven’t played Ace Combat, and like what you’re seeing, this is a pretty good look-a-like for that series to try out.  However, this is plane combat, with rather unrealistic physics as you’ve seen in the gameplay.  If you want more realism in your flight simulation, there’s Flight Simulator on Game Pass, and if you’re still not sure, this might not be for you. 

Lethal League Blaze.  I reviewed this game back for Humble Choice in September 2020, and now after playing this version of the game I’ve played this title for over 10 hours on both services.  That alone is a pretty good sign. 

Lethal League Blaze is the second game in this unique fighter franchise.  It looks like a sports game but make no mistake, this is a pure fighting game where players will hit a ball and use it to strike the opponents.  This can quickly become an intense match as that ball starts to travel faster and faster.

There’s a story mode as well as an old-style arcade mode, but that’s about it for the single-player offerings.  I was able to beat the entire story and the arcade mode in under 3 hours, and even then I took my time.  The online feels a bit dead, but there are still a few people playing it according to Steamcharts, and I was able to find a match.  The skill level on display online was high. 

I did have a lot of fun with this game, and if I had a group of people who all wanted to learn the rules of the game and battle it out this would be enjoyable. 

Check this out if you want to play this with friends, especially in couch co-op mode, it’s a pretty inventive game with solid combat.  If you’re going to play this solo, I feel like you’re going to miss out as the single-player offerings are a little weak.

Last Stop.  I am a fan of whatever genre this is, I call the genre 3d Visual Novels or Telltale games, but games like Life is Strange are interesting to me.  Last Stop however really misses that bar.  There’s a lot of quirkiness that I would have to forgive to play this game. 

The concepts are interesting for a moment, but the writing is as if they wrote down the first thing that pops in their head for every scene.  There are not any clever dialogue or moments in this game, it’s just whatever you expect characters to say in that situation.  The actual story is acceptable, it’s the writing that suffers. 

The real problem is the gameplay is just dull.  Everything is guessing where the game wants you to walk to and seeing a conversation play out, or a small action than doing the same thing again and again.  The dialogue has three choices for every prompt but the character doesn’t even use the words on the chosen card.  Sometimes it is a false choice, and the character will say the same thing no matter what you choose, but most players won’t realize that.  These choices don’t seem to change the story at all. 

Pick this up if you need a Telltale game that lacks flavor or even choices that matter in the least.  I’m sure people can enjoy this, but I feel it lacked even the bare minimum for me to keep playing, and I found myself starting to play on my phone while the story played on because of how low my interest and interactivity is. 

Since we’re on Game Pass, I would recommend a couple of others instead.  Grim Fandango is an easy recommendation.  I haven’t played them yet, but Kathy Rain and Dark Pictures: Man of Medea will probably be a little more entertaining than this one. 

Dodgeball Academia.  I have loved video game dodgeball since I saw Super Dodgeball on the NES, and I think the developers of Dodgeball Academia are in the same camp. 

Dodgeball Academia has excellent graphics, story, and gameplay, but at the end of the day, this is just a beautiful game that is an homage to that classic Super Dodgeball.  It’s far better, but it’s just clear where they got the idea from, and that’s not a bad thing, because it’s so well done. 

The writing can feel like it comes from a classic SNES RPG.  The RPG elements feel so rewarding and by the end of the second chapter, the difficulty finally kicks in and I couldn’t believe how good this game feels.   I love the idea that we might see more sports-based RPGs because Dodgeball Academia feels extremely fresh and fun.  

Pick this up if you like the idea of Dodgeball and RPGs, it’s right at the corner of those two fandoms.  There’s a very strange Pokemon-esque feeling for how short some of the matches are, but at the same time as solid as the RPG is, this game is fully focused on gamified versions of dodgeball, so get ready to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.

Lumines Remastered.  When Tetris came out it was both instantly playable and challenging.  I’ve often wondered how difficult it is to get a simplistic game like that just right.  When Lumines came out in 2004 for the Playstation Portable, I was floored because it was able to hit the same mark. 

Lumines has players managing falling blocks and trying to collect them so they can make squares of the same color, and what you’re seeing in the game.  There are multiple different stages, or skins, each with a different song, style, and a slightly different beat per minute, but the entire game is focused on 2×2 falling blocks and 2 colors, no more, no less. 

There’s a lot of different modes as well, a standard challenge, a VS CPU mode, puzzles, missions, time attack, and more.  It also has a great addictive quality, and the music is fantastic, which, yeah, I’m not going to risk here.  This was easily one of my favorite games when it was released and that easy to learn, impossible to master vibe is very strong here.

Pick this up if you like Tetris or other arcade puzzle games.  This game has fantastic music so if you want to groove out to a variety of beats, you can.  There are enough side modes for you to keep coming back and finding something different.  But I do mean it when I say there’s not much more than what you’re seeing here.

Katamari Damacy REROLL.  This is a remaster of a classic PS2 game title and one of the oddest games ever.  You play as The Prince, and your father, the King of the Cosmos, has destroyed the night sky and now he’s asking you to help rebuild it.  Why, thanks, Dad!

The entire game of Katamari Damacy is a strange experience where you have to roll up objects, creating new stars of varying sizes.  You collect objects in different areas that range from a small room in a house to the entire world.  Everything is based on size, your Katamari grows bigger from collecting items, which then allows you to continually collect bigger and bigger items. 

Katamari Damacy is fun, but there are a few problems with this title.  First, it’s pretty much the same game and graphics as the original PS2 title.  It’s also only 10 main levels and 9 bonus levels.  While the 10 levels eventually take longer and longer, this game just made me want later Katamari titles which felt like they had more content.

There’s also not a ton of challenge other than mastering the tank controls for moving the Katamari.  Still, it’s a fun experience and, man, the music in this game is awesome.  Just hearing the songs makes me want to play more.  I own this game on Steam and have made a video about the title and how it stands the test of time.  I’ll link it at the end. 

Pick this up if you want a bizarre game.  You won’t find a game like this anywhere else, and yet it’s so fun and unique that it’s worth checking out.  If you only want a specific genre of a game, this won’t be that, but if you can accept a game outside of what you’ve seen before, you probably are in for a fun ride.

Oh, and a small final note, you have to beat the tutorial before you’ll be allowed to change the display settings, that is annoying enough I thought I’d mention it for new players. 

Omno.  It would be really hard to talk about Omno without mentioning Journey. Both are picturesque games with no dialogue, where players are filled with a sense of discovery and wonder.  What’s interesting is Omno comes from a single developer, and the more I learn about its development the more I’m impressed by it. 

The world and creatures in Omno are fantastic, as is the level design.  Everything evokes a clear desire to explore and discover pieces of this world.  It’s a three to four-hour journey, but one that continually changes the world, giving players small areas to explore with interesting puzzles. 

I only have two minor complaints with Omno, the in-game UI is very rough, though by learning this was made by a single developer, it makes sense but doesn’t fix the issue.   Also, there’s some writing in the game and I feel like it takes a little away from the adventure to have to stop to read something.   These are minor issues but something I noticed. 

Pick this up if you like Journey, or just want a serene, zen-like experience filled with solid puzzles, and beautiful locations, and creatures.   There’s no combat, there’s not a massive challenge here but it’s such an enjoyable trip that I didn’t miss those things.

Atomicrops.  To get it out of the way, this looks like Stardew Valley but isn’t anything like that.  This is a rogue-lite shooter, with a farming system at the core of its economy, but really it’s closer to Enter the Gundeon or such.  

Players will be constantly dealing with enemies to farm items to bolster their currency.  The game has two phases.  A day phase where players are supposed to be farming seeds, fertilizers, and items, and a night phase when they have to defend their crops and homeland.  The exploration feels really nice if a bit rushed because of the time mechanics. 

This game actually took me a while to get used to.  I played for about two hours and really wasn’t enjoying myself, and then something clicked, I started being able to avoid more damage and bought guns which last only one day for the boss and suddenly I was having a blast.  

Pick this up if you like rogue-lites, and want to play a strange one.  It’s a good mix between farming, bullet-hell shooters, and exploring randomized areas.  It will take a decent amount to get into though so be prepared for a rougher start before everything clicks in place.  But this is not a rogue-lite Stardew Valley so really, trust me when I say don’t expect that. 

Raji: An Ancient Epic.  This is a game about Indian mythology, created by an Indian team, and has a strong female lead.  This really feels fresh when you consider there are not many games focused on Hinduism.  The only ones that come to mind are Asura’s Wraith and Smite, and the second one is a bit of a cop-out.

In Raji, you play a young girl who is chasing after her captured brother.  The journey takes you through multiple beautiful locations and fights various enemies.  The graphics look great, and there’s some solid animation work, especially how the main character incorporates acrobatic moves into her battle repertoire. 

On the other hand, the levels are a little long, and the combat is often merely ok.  It’s enjoyable but never really reaches a high bar.  There are so many interesting concepts in the gameplay, that it’s acceptable, but it could be better.  

Pick this up if you want a solid adventure.  I’ve tried really hard to come up with a game that this is similar to, and the only one I could think of was Lara Croft and Guardian of Light.  While the combat isn’t strong, I do think the uniqueness of covering Hindu gods, with the main narration provided by Vishnu and Durga is fresh enough to be worthy of checking out.  

The Ascent.  This is a roleplaying game that looks a lot like Diablo to me.  Much of the game is exploring levels and maps, killing enemies, and going wherever the current quest tells you.  The setting and story are interesting and really play up the Cyberpunk aesthetic while getting the feeling right. 

The combat is a mix between twin-stick shooters and an action game with a cover mechanic, allowing you to duck behind and shoot around objects.  The Ascent also adds in grenades and special abilities and this all comes together in a very interesting package. 

The downside is while the setting feels great, there are long stretches of fighting the same enemy over and over.  There doesn’t seem to be too much different between the objectives of the game, and the fixed direction isometric camera can be a real hindrance when enemies come from the direction of the screen. 

Pick this up if you like role-playing games, and can accept the fixed direction camera.  I enjoyed my three hours with this game, but I also was happy to put it down and move on from it.  I might return, but I’m not sure if this will be able to keep my interest, and I do typically like role-playing games.

Cris Tales.  This is an RPG with time mechanics.  Players start as Crisbell, and meet Christopher…. And thus it’s Cris Tales.  Yeah, that’s a groaner, but I think it’s intentional too.  Much of the game is focused on Crisbell, who gets magic time powers suddenly in the game.  

The gameplay mostly revolves around typical RPG attacks that get twisted by the addition of time power.  Such as poisoning an enemy for slow damage, but warping to the future, and all that poison damage is applied at once.  You can also take an older enemy and time warp them to a younger easier to kill form.

As a game, Cris Tales has interesting concepts, but I really wasn’t hooked by the story.  The art style didn’t really appeal to me either, and the gameplay is interesting but doesn’t feel particularly deep.  I spent three hours here as well and probably won’t return.  There’s nothing bad, but nothing that compelling yet either. 

Pick this up if you love the art here, or really want an RPG.  It’s an ok RPG, but if there are a few other RPGs on the service I’d pick up first.  At the same time, this is a slow turn-based RPG and while there are a couple of good concepts, I don’t know if it creates a compelling game on its own. 

Curse of the Dead Gods.  This is a rogue-lite with some new fresh ideas.  It looks a lot like Hades, probably because it was inspired by that style.  At the same time, Curse of the Dead Gods brings a ton of new concepts to the table, and through them feels like a fresh experience.

Curse of the Dead Gods’ big addition is the addition of “Curses”.  Players gain corruption due to multiple different actions such as finishing a room gives 20 corruption and if they reach 100 points of corruption, they will be cursed when they leave the current room.  These are curses in name only.  Most curses have a positive aspect along with negatives.  There’s also a deep weapon system, relics, which give bonuses, and a gold ,or corruption, purchase system. 

Curse of the Dead Gods feels pretty unique even though it is clear what inspired it, as it also has a Slay the Spire type map which works well.   I was able to finish the first three maps, though struggled a bit early on.  Similar to most roguelites the master strategy is to not get hit and then hit the enemy, but there’s a good system beyond that to make the combat feel interesting and unique on each attempt.

Pick up Curse of the Dead Gods if you enjoy Hades or like action-based rogue-lites. If you hate the repetitive nature of rogue-lites you will probably dislike this.  If you are unsure, I would normally suggest you try it out… but Hades is already on the service, trust me and just play that, or wait for my review of it next month. 

Also as a final note, I don’t feel like a story is required in rogue-lites, but there’s no story here, so don’t expect one.  Oddly a number of reviews about this game think differently that a story is required.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling.  I can’t look at this art style without thinking about Paper Mario, and that’s kind of a good comparison.  The graphics are similar, the combat requires players to hit different buttons in time with attacks, and the writing feels the same.  

Bug Fables has the player in control of a team of three bugs and is on a quest to get artifacts for the Ant Queen which will hopefully help her find The Everlasting Sapling.  There’s the feeling that the story will be taking a turn at some point and dive deeper into a story about political betrayal and such.

Gameplay-wise this can be a challenging game, especially if players add in the hard mode badge which makes enemies slightly stronger.  With limited item space and limited healing options, every decision in battle is important, and you really feel the effect every time you miss the timing of an attack or a defense. 

Pick this up if you enjoy Paper Mario or like RPGs which give bonuses for properly timing attacks and defense.  This isn’t a very active RPG, but it’s also not completely passive as well.  Still, the turn-based aspects of the typical RPG gameplay are at the core here, so if you don’t like slower RPGs, you probably can skip this one.

So those are the games for the month, so what do I think about it?   Well, this was my first month with the service and I’m pretty impressed.  There were quite a few games I’m thrilled to have checked out, I’ll even have a list of my favorites below.  The quality bar is quite a bit higher than the Humble Bundle, and this was hardly every game. 

At the same time, there’s an elephant in the room, These games aren’t owned.  This is a service so if you stop paying you lose access to Xbox Game Pass, and similarly, at some point in the future, most games will leave the service.  That’s not a massive negative but it’s one to consider, though the idea should be there’s a constant flow of titles that replace those that leave.

In this case, I’m extremely glad I got to sample so many titles for cheap.  I know which games I’m going to keep playing and which games I won’t pick up again.  I also plan on beating a few and reviewing them on my website, kinglink-reviews.com.  A couple of reviews should already be up there. 

But I got my fifteen bucks worth and I’m quite glad, and it appears that xCloud support is coming or is already here, so I’ll try to take a peek at that soon, I also am planning to look at games that are already on the service such as Dragon Quest Builders 2 or River City Girls, just two games I’ve been interested in for some time but ran out of time this month.

On Humble, I normally talk about the strongest and weakest of the month, but with a service like Game Pass, and a lack of choices, I don’t know if that’s needed so I’ll just give you the five strongest this month.  These are the games you should definitely check out. 

The fifth strongest of the month is Lumines Remastered, this is definitely one of the oldest titles I played this month, but man I still love this game and its unique music style.  There’s a great hypnotic beat and a wonderful way it creates a unique soundscape that should not be missed. 

The fourth strongest of the month is Omno.  I’d actually recommend trying to finish this one.  As it’s only three to four hours long, it’s a short experience but it’s quite beautiful and enjoyable to explore this land.  In fact, if you’re a completionist getting all the achievements won’t be too hard either. 

The third strongest of the month is Curse of the Dead Gods.  I really want this game to be higher but I don’t know if I can trust it.  I’ve played three hours, I’m sure I’ll play more but it hasn’t done enough to sit in the pantheons of amazing rogue-lites just yet, still, it’s worth checking out.

The second strongest of the month is Raji: An Ancient Epic.  Indian mythology is rare enough that I think this title deserves more attention just because of the subject matter.  The gameplay is good, and I quite enjoyed the experience. 

The strongest of the month is…. Dodgeball Academia.  I really do love this game.  That Super Dodgeball flavor done as a more modern title makes me extremely happy.  I love the RPG aspects, and I love the style in the game.  I get excited every time I win a match.     

And that’s what I have for the Xbox Game Pass for this month.  Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.  What game did I miss that needed more attention?  Which game was your favorite, and which games should I consider covering for the next month? 

Also if you’re interested I will be covering a decent number of these games on my twitch channel, I’ll leave a link in the description.  The idea is the stream is intended to be more of a game club.  If you already are playing these games, feel free to swing by, discuss the games or just let everyone know what you’re thinking, and if you’re curious for hotter takes, that’s the place to be.

If you’ve enjoyed this, consider subscribing and ringing that bell to be notified when I upload new videos and throw a like or a dislike at the video whichever you think it earned.

I’m going to link a video I did on Katamari Damacy Reroll and both why and how it’s a timeless classic, as well as another video. 

Until then I’m Kinglink and thanks for watching. 

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