Game Review: The Plane Effect

Dark, strange, surreal, mysterious, moody, bitter, stubborn and sometimes very annoying. But that’s enough about me, I have another game to review. Today I’m taking a look at an isometric, puzzle-adventure game developed by Innovina and StudioKiku, published by PQubeThe Plane Effect.

“A dystopian isometric adventure, following a lonely office worker as he attempts to return home in the face of impossible odds. Experience a remarkable journey expertly brought to life with gorgeous visuals, crafted and tailored by VFX experts.”

So yeah, in The Plane Effect, you are trying to get home after your last day at work in the office. Not exactly the kind of plot that gets the blood racing, to be honest. Still, if the film Falling Down can make a man trying to get home ‘effing amazing, why not a game? Unlike William ‘D-Fens’ Foster from Falling Down, who had to put up with everyday annoyances, the character in The Plane Effect has drones, alternate realities, sewer monsters and much more to deal with on his journey home.


Just on looks alone, The Plane Effect is stunning. A very dark, noir-esque, minimalist colour palette, stylistic art aesthetic. This is a game that looks simple but also pretty damn gorgeous at the same time. Drenched in atmosphere and ambience, the world here is an absolute joy to experience and just on looks and style alone, The Plane Effect had me hungry to see and take in more and more of what it offered.

Still, as much as I loved looking at The Plane Effect, the gameplay itself was a bit more stubborn. What you get here is a fair mix of both puzzle-solving and some platforming play. Neither gameplay mechanics are really as polished as the presentation of the game itself though. When it comes to solving the puzzles in The Plane Effect, I was very much reminded of a below-par point ‘n click adventure game from the mid-nineties. The puzzles here can really be more than a little obtuse, to say the least. I think the best way to explain this is to go through the very first part of the game.

So you start out in the office that you work in, switch off your computer and head off home. However, the only door out of the office is locked and there is no sign of a key. You walk around the office and find your coat hanging up, a switch next to the door that turns off all the power, a picture of your family and a paper plane on the floor. So how do you unlock the door? Well, I went for my coat first, thinking there would be a key in the pocket, nope. Still, I tried to put the coat on as it made sense in my head that I would wear the coat if I am leaving work… yet the game wouldn’t let me wear it. The character just shook his head, a visual cue that the item isn’t useable. So I assumed that the coat was not wearable and was just a red herring, a lot of adventure games have them. I picked up the photo of my family, which then showed a short cutscene but still no key to unlock the door. I threw the paper plane and that revealed a hidden key card. Yes, I could unlock the door and leave.


So I picked up the key card, unlocked the door and clicked on it to leave… but the game wouldn’t let me. The door was unlocked and the aim was to leave the office, but I couldn’t. Of course, the power switch next to the door. If I am leaving work, I really should turn the power off, makes sense. So I did and then clicked on the unlocked door to leave… but the game still wouldn’t let me. So what am I missing here? I have unlocked the door, turned the power off, I already tried wearing the coat and the game wouldn’t let me do that. There was nothing else in the room to interact with. So why can’t I leave the office when I have done all the game will let me do?

That was when, purely on a whim, I decided to try the coat again… and only then would the game let me wear it, so I then could leave the office. Now let me ask you this, why couldn’t I wear the coat before finding the key card and unlocking the door? Why does it really matter what order I did those events in as long as they are done? See, this is where the obtuseness of the puzzles come from. The game will only let you solve puzzles if you follow a very precise course of events. This strictness to the puzzle-solving really is an annoyance and becomes more than a little frustrating as you just end up clicking on any and everything on the screen, instead of using lateral thinking.


The strange thing is that the developers seem to be aware that the puzzle-solving is stupidly stubborn, because they have included a hint system (two in fact) that kind of ruins the flow of the game. Yet it is a hint system that you are going to really need and use a lot to make any kind of progress, because the puzzles are agonisingly obstinate and inflexible. And this is why The Plane Effect reminded me of a below-par point ‘n click adventure game from the mid-nineties. You’ll miss some tiny detail or think an item can’t be used because the game won’t let you use it at the moment, even when it is an item you need to use to solve the puzzle. Just a little bit of leeway with the puzzle solutions really would’ve made this a far better experience.

As for the platforming sections. If you have ever played any isometric game that features platforming, then you’ll already know how annoyingly frustrating they can be. Trust me, The Plane Effect is no different. I mean, here’s a screengrab of one of those platforming sections.


Yeah, aside from looking like something for an M.C. Escher nightmare, it’s just so annoyingly awkward to navigate through. Oh, and do keep in mind that is a still image, wait until you see it moving. You can’t accurately control your jumps and the isometric view makes lining up your leaps infuriating. You’ll find yourself falling and falling a ridiculous amount here. The fact that your character’s movement is sluggishly slow doesn’t help matters either as you’ll spend most of your time continually walking back up the stairs to take on the jump again, only to fall back down and have to very slowly walk back up… rinse and repeat. There is a run button, but you definitely don’t want to be using it on tight platforming sections like the one pictured. For any game devs out there, isometric games are fine… but please don’t put platforming in them.

The Plane Effect is certainly annoying and more than a little frustrating when it comes to the gameplay. And yet, I’d be lying to myself if I ended this review by claiming that I didn’t enjoy it somewhat. The art-style, the moody music, the atmosphere, the (surreal) situations you find yourself in. I adored this world and I really wanted to get our unnamed worker back home to his family. The Plane Effect is terribly irksome, no doubt about it, but it also has an appeal that’s hard to describe and very easy to love.


Being sold for around £13 on all formats, as much as I did adore The Plane Effect’s world and style, I can’t honestly say it’s worth paying £13 to experience it. My advice, watch a playthrough on YouTube instead, or wait for a sale and pick it up at a reduced price. A wonderfully expressive and beautifully crafted title in terms of its looks and poise. But sadly, The Plane Effect is let down by some seriously flawed gameplay mechanics and really exasperating puzzle design.

(Guest) Game Review: Raiden IV x Mikado Remix

The arcade shooter, a bullet hell game that is harder than a T-rex’s tesicials. They are as infuriating as they are playable. One of the old guard of this genre is Raiden. Originally released way back in 1990, Raiden went on to spawn several sequels and spin-offs. Now in 2021, it is back. Raiden IV from 2007 has been ‘remixed’ and re-released as Raiden IV x Mikado Remix for the Nintendo Switch, developed by MOSS and published by PQube. But is it any good? Well, that is why (fast becoming regular guest reviewer) Dave Corn is here, he’s played the game and now offers his views for your eyes to look at.

In 1990, a Japanese based studio named Seibu Kaihatsu released Raiden. This was a competitor in a newly growing computer game genre, the shoot ’em up or ‘shmup’ for short. The shmup genre grew as the developers behind the games (and technology) grew too. The genre got more complex, faster, tougher and so, the sub-genre of the ‘bullet hell shooter’ was born. This is no more apparent than in the evolution of the Raiden games.


When given Raiden IV Mikado Remix to review, I knew of the series, yet even with my extensive background in retro gaming, it was another series I’d long forgotten about. So I decided to refresh my memory and quickly play through the other games in the franchise before playing this latest Switch release. By the time I did get to this all-new Switch version that I was going to review, I realised that Raiden IV has been released a few times before, originally in 2007 for arcade and then later ported to Xbox 360 and after quite a while, PS3 and PC.

With each new release of Raiden IV over the years, new modes and gameplay options were added. This is where this new version of Raiden IV Mikado Remix comes in, the current Switch version is a compilation of all these modes before. Graphically the game has barely been touched and the visuals haven’t aged well, your ‘ship/sprite’ has an almost 100% hitbox, meaning in a bullet hell shooter like this, when dodging, you have very little room for error. There’s so much going on in this that you lose track of where you are on the screen. This issue is not so bad when you are playing on a nice big TV but as soon as you are playing on your Switch as a handheld, get them painkillers ready because you will give you a headache! I’m not saying that it’s a terrible looking game, far from it but there are games in the same genre from around the same time that look so much better (take Radiant Silvergun for example).


The different modes seem to be there just to add even more frustration to an already very difficult game. The standard arcade mode is already the ‘coin eater’ it was designed to be. Then there are the overkill mode and the fantastically named additional mode (do you think they just couldn’t be bothered by this release?) that make you want to quit gaming and go live with a technologyless group of monks in a mountain somewhere. Having the view locked to the original 16.9 with no option to change to a widescreen or even stretched perspective seems like a bizarre choice and devalues the feeling of the game as a standalone package. The game itself just doesn’t seem enough to warrant its price point (£29.99) for fans of the series to buy it (yet again) and for first-time buyers, it seems like it should be a game suited in an Evercade collection with other similar shooters but definitely not on its own.


Unfortunately, this review for me really boils down to value for money. For someone who isn’t a hardcore fan of the series but enjoys bullet hell shooters regardless, I wouldn’t buy this unless it was heavily reduced. If I was a fan of this series and bought this expecting something I’d feel ripped off after buying this game a few times before.

In Conclusion, Raiden IV Mikado Remix is a good game that values itself way too high and doesn’t really offer anything new for its dedicated fans. The aged graphics and extremely difficult to along with. I feel that 95% of gamers won’t enjoy this game in my opinion.

Game Review: Inertial Drift

Arcade racers, I’ve always had a major soft spot for this genre ever since playing Sega’s awesome OutRun when I was a kid. Throwing drifting into the mix makes the arcade racer an absolute joy to play and titles such as Ridge Racer were a riot. There hasn’t been a good arcade-drift racer for some time, Yeah sure, there have been arcade racers with some drifting in but arcade racers with dedicated drift mechanics are very thin on the ground. Developer Level 91 Entertainment and publisher PQube have a new game that tries to change that with Inertial Drift. A game that is as heavy on arcade action as it is on drifting.

The first thing to cover with Inertial Drift is its rather unique control system. Yeah, you have your standard accelerate, brake and steering. Steering is done using the left stick on the controller as tradition these days, but this game throws in a dedicated drift control with the right stick. In fact, the steering is done 90% with the right stick here, while the left stick is really used to tweak and fine-tune your drifting. At first, this control method feels very backwards when you are so used to steering with the left stick and I admit to having difficulty when I first picked up the controller, continually smashing into the barriers at the side of the tracks. However, after a few corners, relying on the right stick to control the car became second nature.


You’ll soon find yourself using both the left and right sticks in perfect synergy to pull off some really impressive drifting. Going full lock on the right stick to throw your car into a corner and sending your car screeching sideways, while carefully moving that left stick to perfect the angle, get closer to the apex of the corners and maintain good momentum. The drifting in this soon becomes a rhythm and you’ll want to keep that rhythm up to get the most out of the races and the cars themselves.

As for the cars, they all feel very different to each other and mastering the drifting offers a fresh challenge with every car you drive. Some cars respond well to a dab or two of the break, others will really work well if you just lift off the accelerator slightly, then there are those that are built to just be thrown around. Inertial Drift really does have you learning and relearning the drift mechanics to the point where you’ll be feeling just like Kunimitsu Takahashi. Your two thumbs will have to work overtime to get the most out of your car and it tears around the tight and windy tracks you race on.


In terms of game modes, Inertial Drift has a few offerings. Arcade mode does what every other arcade mode in a racer like this does. Pick a track, pick a car and away you go. Challenge mode gives you twelve one-off races where if/when you finish them, you’ll unlock a new car. Grand Prix mode chains together five races and gives you three attempts to beat them in one go. The main meat is the story mode. This is played over five tracks with three races each and throws you into a very The Fast and the Furious (before they got really stupid) type of plot with ‘family’ and plenty of car talk. To be honest, you can get through the story mode in a couple of hours or so… but you can play through as four different characters, each with their own story to follow. There’s a decent selection of modes and options to keep you busy and if that’s not enough, you can race online or even indulge in some two-player split-screen action. Then, you can unlock Xtra Crispy mode, this is the story mode, but with stricter targets to hit and faster opponents.


The graphics in Inertial Drift are very neon-nineties, retro-future like. A heavy dose of cell-shading that made me feel like I was watching an eighties Saturday morning cartoon… and I loved it. The screeching tyres leave plumes of smoke flowing behind the car, the track caked in rubber, snow gathers on tyres and more I did notice that some of the roadside details were ‘lacking’ but you’ll be so fixated on the racing and getting the perfect drift that you’ll hardly notice unless you really look for it. The races themselves felt a little limited too. It’s only ever one-on-one and while there are different types of races, some of them are so similar that there’s no point in them being separate races. For instance, you can race against a ghost car to try and get the best time. But when you do race against a real car, the game features (what the devs call) a ‘Phase Shift Impact Prevention System’, so you can’t collide with any of the cars anyway… so the real car may as well just be a ghost car. Plus, the time trial races are just ghost car races… without the ghost car. So yeah, some of the races are pretty much the same as others.

There is some variety in the races though. Duel mode has you going up against an opponent, with the idea to put as much distance between you and them. You score more points the further in the lead you are with the winner being the person with the most points. Then there are the Style races. These ones are all about making the most of the drifting, scoring points for the most outrageous drifts, getting close to the walls… even scraping the walls. You get rewarded for pulling off the most impressive and risky drifts, probably the best races in the game too.


Inertial Drift has a price tag of around £17 and for me, that’s a decent price point. The story mode can be finished in a couple of hours but you’ll get more out of it if you want to play through with all four characters, then add on the harder Xtra Crispy mode too. The other modes all offer plenty of play to keep you busy and the racing really is terrific fun. The unique and dedicated drift control system takes a while to get to grips with but when it clicks, it really works. Best of all, playing this really took me back to the nineties and screaming around the track(s) in Ridge Racer. Inertial Drift really is a fantastic arcade racer with a really unique control concept to breathe new life into drifting.