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Rune Factory 4 Review | The 3DS GOTY Has Finally Landed

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
3DS Games, JRPG, Life simulation, Marvelous Games, Rune Factory 4, Simulation games

Rune Factory 4 Review | The 3DS GOTY Has Finally Landed

We'd given Rune Factory 4 up for lost. The latest farming sim/RPG hybrid released Stateside nearly eleven months ago, but us Brits were left high and dry at the last minute. As such we've had to make do with the mediocre Hometown Story and decent if grindy Fantasy Life, shooting our transatlantic neighbours envious glances all the while.

But now, at the death, Rune Factory 4 has quietly released on the 3DS eShop thanks to XSEED and Marvelous Games... and I'm delighted to report that it was absolutely worth the wait. Each individual facet of the varied experience works brilliantly, from the farming to the dungeon crawling, life simulation, in-depth crafting and romance, but fit together so well that it feels like a cohesive single package rather than a jumble of random gameplay ideas.

In a Christmas that brought us Persona Q and Pokemon, Rune Factory 4 feels like a surprise present; as if I'd unwrapped the gifts under the tree only to discover a brand new bike waiting outside.

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PlayStation TV Review | Lazy, Half-Baked, Overpriced, and Brilliant

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games consoles, Hardware, Microconsole, PlayStation TV, PS Vita, PS Vita games, PS Vita TV, PS4, Remote Play, Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation TV Review | Lazy, Half-Baked, Overpriced, and Brilliant

I was baffled by PlayStation TV to begin with.

It seemed to be too laggy for a PS4 streaming box, too short on features for anyone looking for a TV-oriented microconsole, with too little out of the box for newcomers. Moreover, here in the UK it still costs upwards of £80, for which you just get the console, three games -- OlliOlli, Velocity 2X, and Worms: Revolution (all of which have, I think, been part of the PS+ Instant Game Collection) -- but, as I said in my first impressions piece on PS TV,  you can't even fit them all onto the system straight out of the box thanks to the paltry 1GB of onboard storage.

The US, at least has itself a dedicated discount bundle that packs in a DS3 and a memory card. But we're not in the States.

The unit itself is stylish yet unassuming, it's tiny and beautiful, but hardly ostentatious. Measuring just 66 x 104 x 127mm, it really puts the *micro* into microconsole. Setup is nice and easy,the inputs -- the HDMI in, ethernet port, power switch and expandable proprietary memory slot are all found to the rear. There are other things you'll need to do for the optimum experience, mind. Cabling up your house completely is just not going to happen for most people, but if you're planning on using the PS TV for streaming, you'll need to make sure at the very least that your PS4 has a wired connection to your router. Extenders help -- if you can wire your PS TV up to an extender, that'll help, but what you don't want is a fully wireless setup.

PlayStation TV Review | Lazy, Half-Baked, Overpriced, and Brilliant

To be fair, I've not had a terrible time of it beyond that first week. A bit of local FIFA 15 action went down a treat. There were a few instances of lag, but nothing major. It's important to note that the more controllers you have connected to the PS TV unit (you can have up to four), the worse the performance becomes, but for solo play, PS TV has held up surprisingly when well streaming from the PS4. Online competitive multiplayer, however, is going to be variable. Two hours with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare worked almost seamlessly, but a later test with Far Cry 4 was unplayable, and FIFA 15 online made me feel like I was drunk. Or the players were. Or both. I haven't used it for that since. It should also be noted that the games don't look as good as they would on your PS4, what with the resolution down to 720p.

I'm enjoying the PS4 Remote Play, but that's not worth dropping £80. Really, PlayStation TV is a niche microconsole for niche gamers who bought a niche handheld.

Which is why, I'm happy to report, I'm sort of loving it right now.

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Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris Review | Tomb Raiding Is Fun Again

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Action Games, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, PC games, PS4 games, Puzzle games, Xbox One Games

Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris Review | Tomb Raiding Is Fun Again

Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot was many things, but "fun" was not one of them. Cathartic, intense and harrowing, yes, but I missed the days when Lara would confidently swagger into an ancient temple, blast some endangered wildlife, nick stuff and actually raid some tombs just because it was her job. The fact that she bloody loved it was just the cherry on the cake.

Thankfully Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris is less about traumatic self-discovery and more about pillaging temples with mates for fun and profit. Building on the success of Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light, you and up to three fellow tomb raiders will shoot, blast and think your way through a selection of traps, beasties and puzzles, closely collaborating and "accidentally" shafting each other for a podium finish. It's an absolute riot, and I'm delighted to report that it's also one of the most impressive co-op puzzle games since the original.

In fact, Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light beats out this year's LEGO title as the best local co-op game of Christmas 2014... even if it's a little on the short side.

Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris Review | Tomb Raiding Is Fun Again

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The Crew Review | A Mediocre Masterpiece

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games reviews, PC games, PS4 games, The Crew, Xbox One Games

The Crew Review | A Mediocre Masterpiece

The Crew is one of the most infuriating games I've ever played. Not because it's bad, but because it should have been a masterpiece.

Make no mistake: The Crew is built on an absolutely astonishing feat of development. It's an adventure playground for cars, 5000km² of contiguous real estate themed and shaped like the United States, containing enormous caricatures of American cities, national parks, famous landmarks, miles upon miles of open road and sprawling terrain to explore at leisure.

You'll cruise through Vegas, San Francisco, New York and Detroit, slide through the Everglades, race trains through Los Angeles, blast through Death Valley, get air off the Rockies and even chuck cars off ski jumps if you're so inclined. This immense scale comes at the cost of cutting-edge visuals, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a price worth paying for a game world like nothing we've ever seen.

The Crew Review | A Mediocre Masterpiece

The topographically diverse map is a thrill to investigate and packed full of events to partake in, from point-to-point rallies to races, takedowns, police chases and numerous skill challenges, all of which factor into an addictive progresison system.Everything you do increases your driver level, awards you money and unlocks a smorgasbord of vehicle components to customise an enormous pool of cars. Each vehicle can be kitted out to different specifications depending on the terrain and event, including nippy Street kits, thoroughbred Performance racers, brawny Smuggler's Run-inspired Raid tanks and versatile offroad Dirt variants. The Crew makes you feel like you're constantly advancing and progressing in tangible ways, and delivers a bevy of ludicrous cosmetic customisation options to boot.

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Far Cry 4 Review | When Rambo Met Dumbo

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Editor's Choice, Far Cry 4, FPS games, PS4 games, Ubisoft, Ubisoft Montreal

Far Cry 4 Review | When Rambo Met Dumbo
There's a good reason as to why this review has taken a while to get here. Kyrat is massive, there are simply so many things to do in Far Cry 4. As soon as the first introductory mission had passed, I ignored the story completely, jumped into Little Nellie and took to the skies, cackling and running down honey badgers from the air. hunting things is actually the best way to start Far Cry 4, to be honest. The ammo pouches and loot sacks you have to begin with are rubbish, and so skinning the various species of creatures roaming the Asian forests and mountains provides the only way to expand your arsenal. And believe me, you'll want to expand you're arsenal.

The other day I went for a swim in a serene lake. A glimmer caught my eye and I swam below to find a cornucopia of rare treasures and a shiny new gun. Then a pair of massive Demon Fish decided they wanted to eat me for lunch, and I panicked and mashed some buttons and fled the scene with the barest sliver of life left, retiring to dry land and a hut where a demonic mask sang foreboding songs at me. Then some Royalist punks came by in a red truck, and I set them on fire and stole their things. Truck included.

The things you can do with fire in this game...

There are moments in Far Cry 4, often when you've climbed your way above the skyline -- Kyrat is a mountainous places, far more so than the islands of FC3, and you have a grappling hook to help you traverse the undulating landscape in this game -- when the game takes your breathe away. It's a game still tethered to last-gen, using a last-gen engine and assets, but the development team have done a phenomenal job of making Kyrat look stunning. This is a world that's simply captivating to be in and explore, littered as it is with geographical and architectural wonders, not to mention collectibles that reveal more about the place. Kyrat is a fictional country, but it has elements of Kashmir and Nepal about it, with the Himalayas to the north and the notion of a beautiful, mystical country torn apart by war.

Click here to read the rest of our Far Cry 4 review >>

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One - Zer0 Sum Review | :D

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Adventure Games, PC games, PS3 games, PS4 games, Tales From The Borderlands, Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One - Zer0 Sum, Telltale Games, Xbox 360 games, Xbox One Games

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One - Zer0 Sum Review | :D

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One is three of the most rewarding hours I've spent with a videogame in quite some time. A game has to be excellent to make me punch the air, let alone compel me to dance around the room to Busy Earnin' during the end credits.

I'm not sure what I expected, because my heart sank when I first heard that Telltale were simultaneously taking on Borderlands and A Game Of Thrones. They may be riding high on critical acclaim now, but it wasn't so long ago that they rushed out too many licensed releases too fast while quality slipped and slumped. Were Telltale starting to slide back into bad habits?

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One - Zer0 Sum Review | :D

No. Not only is Zer0 Sum a cracking yarn that brilliantly sets up a Borderlands-themed adventure, but it's actually strong enough to stand on its own as a frankly superb interactive movie. The best way to start a new series is with a game that can hold up in and of itself, and Zer0 Sum nails it.

Plus, on a much more basic level, it's... fun.

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Turtle Beach Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Sentinel Task Force Headset Review | All About That Bass

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Hardware, PS4 accessories, Sentinel Task Force Headset, Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Sentinel Task Force Headset Review | All About That Bass

The PS4 has almost removed the point of platform-dedicated headsets thanks to the fact that you can route the entire system audio through the versatile headphone jack in the DualShock 4. It means you can pretty much use whatever you have handy so long as the headset in question you have has a dual-function 3.5mm jack. But if you're a serious gamer, you want comfort and performance and something that, and I'm guilty of this, looks badass.

Dr Dre understands. The day he makes a Beats headset fully compatible with PC and consoles (no, I'm not counting the Solo) will be the day that folks like Turtle Beach soil themselves.

Thankfully for them, that day is yet to come.

Turtle Beach like their branded stuff, it does pretty well for them, and a Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare headset was inevitable. Enter the appropriately hilariously-titled Sentinel Task Force headset. Wireless on Xbox One but, annoyingly, not on PS4, the STF arrives packing a removable microphone with variable monitoring and muting controls, adjustable Bass Boost, volume and mic controls on the detachable extender cable, and a dual-function 3.5mm on an undetachable cable linked to the headset itself.

Turtle Beach Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Sentinel Task Force Headset Review | All About That Bass

The cups themselves are comfortable enough. I have a large head, helped expansively by the inches of fuzzy hair that get squished down by headsets like this, but the STF is a lovely fit -- snug without feeling crushing. The synthetic leather on the cups is firm enough to hold shape, but not as rigid as the sort of padding you'd find on the Tritton Kunai, for example. It must be said, however, that the cushioning doesn't exactly rival the luxurious pillowy softness of Razer's wares. If my ears could dream, their dreams would be filled with the Blackshark rather than this.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition Review | BioWare’s Redemption

Author:
Carl Phillips
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
BioWare, Dragon Age: Inquisition, EA, Games reviews, RPGs

Dragon Age: Inquisition Review | BioWare’s Redemption

I had been wandering through the Hinterlands – the first open zone of the game – for over 3 hours. The vast area filled with things to find, quests to complete, and places to discover had absolutely consumed me. As I ran around, Varric and Cassandra would bicker about the latter’s interrogation of the former, whilst Solas muttered something about the Fade. Eventually I realised that I had completed almost everything I could within my current party level – the random dragon I had stumbled across was far too powerful – but I had been happily running around grabbing items and, more to the point, trying to traverse hills for the sake of admiring the view. It wasn’t long after that that I realised something was missing, and then it hit me. In my haste to get into the world of Thedas, I had forgotten to pick up the main story quest from my base. I had been running around, doing all the things, and not even begun my journey to save the world.

And with a laugh, I realised I didn’t care, because I was having so much fun.

That in itself should demonstrate the freedom to be found within Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well as the lengths BioWare have gone to ensure that they put the mistakes of Dragon Age II behind them. This was evident even before the game began, with a character customisation suite with an array of choices and manipulation sliders normally reserved for MMORPGs. It’s a huge step up from previous BioWare titles where a custom look ends up looking like a lucky dip of the NPCs, and finally allows players to create an avatar on par with the visuals of their companions. I actually spent a good 45 minutes fine tuning my character’s face from the defaults available, which, again, should highlight how powerful the creation suite is. If there is a complaint, it’s that the hairstyle options were pretty bland (and no, Matt, there isn’t an afro option) but otherwise BioWare have finally addressed one of my major criticisms of their RPGs.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Review | BioWare’s Redemption

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Never Alone Review | Looking For Alaska

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Never Alone, PC games, Platform games, PS4 games, Xbox One Games

Never Alone Review | Looking For Alaska

Never Alone is an indie platformer about the adventures of a young Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox. The Iñupiat are a native Alaskan tribe, whose culture has inspired the setting and story of the title. This culture is no mere window dressing either, throughout the game you’ll unlock video interviews with Iñupiat folk who discuss various elements of their culture, usually neatly setting up the next part of the game.

Unlike most mini-documentary videos in games, these are incredibly interesting and perfectly woven into the experience. You don’t have to watch them in between levels, but I found the warm anecdotes allowed me to appreciate the new environments and characters much more than I would have done if I watched them after finishing the game.

The game itself is a side-scrolling 2D puzzle platformer that can also be played in local co-op, with one player controlling the girl and another, the fox. A simple button press allows solo players to switch between the two. The fox runs a little faster than the girl though, meaning it’s better to mainly control the girl to avoid the camera panning out too far and not allowing the fox to see where he’s going.

Never Alone Review | Looking For Alaska

The platforming is generally responsive enough, although a few glitches emerged (to be fair, most of these have been patched recently) that saw the AI character leap to their doom or you refusing to leap from a ledge or glitching mid-jump.

Puzzles are rarely taxing, usually involving balancing platforms with the two characters, pushing crates or using the fox’s supernatural ability to make ethereal creatures appear to forge new platforms, or using a thrown weapon to break barriers of ice.

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Super Smash Bros. For Wii U Review | Brawling Home For Christmas

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Editor's Choice, Fighting Games, Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Wii U games

Super Smash Bros. For Wii U Review | Brawling Home For Christmas

Welcome home, Super Smash Bros.

I have to apologise for the lateness of our review, seeing as our loan copy only arrived less than 12 hours launch, but on the other hand we're talking about Smash here. If you have some friends and spare controllers, you already know that you're guaranteed a good time.

So let's make it official: Super Smash Bros. For Wii U really is sensational and a step up from Brawl in almost every respect. Building on the success of the excellent if limited 3DS version, this brand new brawler brings the action home to where it truly belongs: the big screen. Even if there are a couple of annoying omissions and quirks to contend with.

Super Smash Bros. For Wii U Review | Brawling Home For Christmas

Just in case you're not familiar with the premise -- perhaps because you're an alien visitor or a time traveller from the 1800s (if so, you should be making better use of your time) -- Smash is a jubilant celebration of Nintendo history disguised as a multiplayer brawler. A huge roster of classic characters battle each other in crazy evolving 2D arenas, the objective being to damage your opponents before smashing them out of the level bounds like a supercharged mix between MMA and Sumo Wrestling. Only with fewer loincloths and more Kirby.

Each character uses the same selection of responsive analogue controls, but offer totally unique attacks and abilities, making for a delightful deconstruction of the fighting game genre that's easy to pick up yet provides a robust platform for competitive play.

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Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth Review | Quality Quossover

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
3DS Games, Editor's Choice, JRPG, NIS America, Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth, Reef Entertainment

Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth Review | Quality Quossover

Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth is sensational.

In the interests of full disclosure, it was probably always going to be one of my favourite games of 2014. As an unabashed lover of the Etrian Odyssey series and everything Shin Megami Tensei-related, I'm right in the middle of Persona Q's target audience venn diagram, but this sensational crossover goes far beyond fan service. By blending Persona's great stories and characters with the peerless dungeon crawling of Etrian Odyssey, it stands proud as an utterly stupendous game in its own right and a highlight of the genre.

Persona Q brings the casts of Persona 3 and 4 into a single intricate narrative, allowing you to create your Dream Persona team out of 18 playable legendary characters from Yukari and Rise to Teddie and Junpei and everyone in between. At the outset you'll choose to assume the role of the protagonist of either game, which grants you a totally different perspective on the early story as the Investigation Team and Extermination Squad are brought together into a mysterious replica of a Yasogami High School. The only way out, it seems, is to embark into a series of mysterious dungeons known only as the Labyrinth, and to work together to discover the reasons behind their predicament.

Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth Review | Quality Quossover

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LittleBigPlanet 3 Review | A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
LittleBigPlanet 3, Platformers, Play Create Share, PS3 games, PS4 games, Sony Computer Entertainment, Sumo Digital

LittleBigPlanet 3 Review | A Bit of Fry and Laurie

In some ways, LittleBigPlanet is a series that defies traditional generational thinking, that is to say it's a game series dependent not on power or graphical output, but on simple systems, deployed and interwoven in imaginative fashion. The processor that LittleBigPlanet relies on most isn't even inside whatever PlayStation you have, it's inside your head.

With that in mind, it's a little difficult to say what a new-gen LittleBigPlanet could, or even should, bring to the table, and indeed, I think it's rather important to note that this isn't really a new-gen LittleBigPlanet. Sumo Digital, having fully taken the reins of the series from Media Molecule, have crafted something accessible and deep, creating a game that ultimately does everything to illustrate that LittleBigPlanet 3 is all about us -- the players.

Sumo Digital have some pedigree with this series, having been on hand for the excellent Vita version, and they've done themselves proud here, even tweaking a few longstanding niggles. The floaty jumping feels a little tighter this time around (though it hasn't been completely overhauled due to backwards-compatibility), and environments are larger and more dense than ever before, filled with aesthetic and mechanical riches that take full advantage of the game's increased levels of spatial depth. Alongside the straightforward map that takes you from level to level in the Adventure mode, there are now hub worlds to explore in Metroidvania fashion, returning time and again to access previously unreachable areas thanks to a freshly unlocked utility or character.

LittleBigPlanet 3 Review | A Bit of Fry and Laurie

The story aspect of LittleBigPlanet 3 revolves around Hugh Laurie's maniacal Newton unleashing the power of three Titans, which then proceed to possess Newton and suck all of the creativity out of the world of Bunkum, and it's up to Sackboy, or a Little Red Riding Hood Sackgirl in the case of my adventures, to restore creativity and colour to Bunkum once more. Help is required, though, and this arrives in the form of some nifty gadgets for our stitched friend, and the resurrection of the three legendary heroes of Bunkum -- controllable super Sackfriends who each bring their own flavour to proceedings.

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Rocksmith 2014 Edition PS4 Review | Plug In Baby

Author:
Carl Phillips
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Music games, PC games, PS4 games, Rocksmith 2014 Edition, Ubisoft, Xbox One Games

 

Rocksmith 2014 Edition PS4 Review | Plug In Baby

Let’s begin with a bit of housekeeping – those of you that have bought or played Rocksmith 2014 Edition on PS3 or Xbox 360 will find an almost identical experience with the current-gen version. All the new modes and functionality used to improve the experience returns, as does the ability to access any song bought in previous titles as long as you stick with the same family of consoles (eg. PS3 to PS4). So, with that in mind, you can probably skip towards the end of the review for critique specific for the current-gen version.

For the rest of us, be it those uninitiated to Rocksmith or have remained with the previous version, Rocksmith 2014 continues to provide a way for budding guitarists to learn how to play and improve their skills. Tutorials cover the basics, including setup and posture, all the way to advanced techniques such as trills, hammering, and bending. Video demonstrations and repeatable interactive sections are well presented, easy to follow, and gives opportunity for intermediate players to perfect other skills before jumping into the track list proper. For someone who was always more of a Rhythm guitarist than a Lead, it meant I could venture into new areas of play without having to start over completely.

Rocksmith 2014 Edition PS4 Review | Plug In Baby

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Ultimate NES Remix Review | Zany Fun At A Silly Price

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
3DS Games, Games reviews, Nintendo, Ultimate NES Remix

Ultimate NES Remix Review | Zany Fun At A Silly Price

I love the NES Remix games. They plainly show that Nintendo still has creative fire and fight in them; willing to look back on a majestic legacy and gleefully mess about with it in zany new ways. NES Remix and NES Remix 2 were both stuffed with crazy minigames that blend legendary NES titles into bonkers bite-sized chunks, perfect for a few minutes or hours at a time, and my only major gripe was that its pick-up-and-play action would work better on 3DS.

You might expect Ultimate NES Remix to be the perfect package, then, but it actually puts me in a bit of a bind. It may be fantastic fun and a great fit for 3DS, but it's also far too expensive despite containing less content than the two previous games.

Be in no doubt, though, the series really does feel made for 3DS. In case you don't know, the NES Remix games lie somewhere between a greatest hits compilation and an addictive arcade time trial, splitting up legendary NES titles like Super Mario Bros, ExciteBike, Kirby's Adventure, The Legend Of Zelda and more into crazy time-based challenges. One moment you'll be trying to wheelie to the finish line in ExciteBike, the next you'll be slotting a pill into place in Doctor Mario or leaping over barrels in Donkey Kong. It's a brilliant way of bringing back some of our favourite games from yesteryear without cracking our rose-tinted spectacles.

Ultimate NES Remix Review | Zany Fun At A Silly Price

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Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd Review | Stealing Our Hearts, Breaking Our Fingers

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games reviews, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd, PS Vita games, PS3 games, Rhythm games, Sega

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd Review | Stealing Our Hearts, Breaking Our Fingers

Vocaloids are amazing. Half international pop phenomena, half musical instruments, Hatsune Miku and her friends/fellow synthesiser applications have taken the world by storm. Crowd-sourced virtual idols who'll sing anything you write for them, so long as you own the software. Despite existing as little more than anime advertising, animated music videos and fan art, these non-existent divas pack out shows, hold conventions and are no less real than any other pop star out there.

We really are living in The Future.

Confused? If so, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd is not the game for you! The original will be more your speed, plus I start our 8/10 review with a deeper explanation of what/who vocaloids are. Project Diva F 2nd, meanwhile, is very much a direct sequel that pushes the intense rhythm gameplay into satisfying new territory while providing a more rounded selection of tracks, providing greater challenge and a wealth of new content for dedicated fans.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd Review | Stealing Our Hearts, Breaking Our Fingers

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Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review | Girls Just Want To Throw Down

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!!, Examu, Fighting Games, NIS America, PS Vita games, PS3 games, Reef Entertainment

Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review | Girls Just Want To Throw Down

When it comes to the murky world of all-female fighting games, Arcana Heart has more pedigree than most. Pre-dating the likes of Skullgirls, Girl Fight and Senran Kagura by several years, Examu's fighting franchise brought crazy aerial combat and customisable movesets to Japanese arcades in 2006, finally leading us to the recent release of Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! on PS3 and Vita. As a remake of Arcana Heart 3 with rebalanced gameplay and loads of extra content, it's definitely a major event for franchise veterans and lovers of all things moe, but does the latest NIS America localisation job deserve its five exclamation points?

Well, perhaps two or three of them at least. Maybe four if you're a fan of cute anime girls.

Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review | Girls Just Want To Throw Down

After seeing so many fighting games provide little or no story for solo players, it's great to play a brawler that takes its narrative seriously and offers a robust singleplayer experience. There's an entire visual novel's worth of dialogue and storyline here -- or more accurately an entire visual novel -- told through a full story mode for each character, epilogue 'After' story mode that ties up loose ends, plus loads of unlockable skits that shows the cast interacting in their daily lives that usually feature their own battles too. Though experience with the previous games will help you to understand some of the nuances, the first page of the instruction manual sums up the situation in an easy prologue (which many of my fellow reviewers seem to have embarrassingly ignored!), while the cast's personalities conform to familiar enough anime tropes that you'll soon work out what's what.

In short: Japan and by extension the entire world is threatened by a dimensional rift that can only be repaired or worsened by finding some crystals. Some characters want to stop it, others want to exacerbate it, others just have their own adventures or agendas in the background. Yes, I've mullered the fine detail, but that's basically it. I'm not sure what many of my peers were complaining about.

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LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review | Holy Stagnation, Batman!

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, PC games, PS3 games, PS4 games, Xbox 360 games, Xbox One Games

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review | Holy Stagnation, Batman!

LEGO Batman 3 is a must-buy for DC superfans.

You'll rarely see a licensed game with this much love and respect for the source material, nor attention to detail. Going beyond Gotham City, hence the title, TT Games have assembled more than 150 characters from throughout nearly eighty years of franchise continuity, all with their trademark skills, gadgets, costumes and personality. Wonder-Woman doesn't just wield her Lasso Of Truth and bracelets, rather her 1970s theme song blares out every time she takes to the skies. DC mainstays like Green Lantern and The Flash rub shoulders with Firefly, the Condiment King, Mister Mxyzptlk, The Green Loontern, Plastic Man and BatCow.

Even Adam West -- The One True Batman -- steals the show with frequent cameos and a bonus stage that could curl Cesar Romero's moustache.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review | Holy Stagnation, Batman!

The story is similarly excellent. In stark contrast to DC's own convoluted crossovers and crises, LEGO Batman 3 tells a ripping yarn as the Justice League teams up with legendary villains to defeat Brainiac, who's attempting to steal the Earth's major cities with his shrink ray. Stuffed full of subtle in-jokes, larger-than-life humour, great voice acting and a little LEGO slapstick, all of the cast act in caricatured yet deeply believable ways, at least until a mishap involving the Lantern Rings sees several characters assume hilarious temporary new personalities. It's an absolute riot and arguably worth the price of admission by itself.

A good thing too, because this deep respect and love for the universe carries what is otherwise a disappointingly unambitious LEGO title.

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Assassin's Creed: Unity Review | Ah, No

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Action Games, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, PS4 games, Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed: Unity Review | Ah, No

Assassin's Creed: Unity is a beautiful game. Sat atop the towers of Notre Dame, it's hard not to admire the scale of the Paris that Ubisoft Montreal have painstakingly recreated here. Perhaps more so than in any other Assassin's Creed game to date -- the edifices and porticos of Rome excepted -- Unity captures the essence of its setting perfectly. The streets throng with disgruntled citizens, loudly bemoaning everything under the sun in snippets of French. The power of the new-gen consoles has been harnessed spectacularly when it comes to populating the streets, and in later stages, when the guillotine blades start to fall and the masses crowd round to watch the bloody spectacles, the sheer number of NPCs onscreen boggles the mind.

Unity is a game that also seeks to fix some of the issues of previous instalments in the series. Arno, the game's protagonist, can now free-run up and down, depending on the button you're holding. It means that accidental, suicidal plunges are now largely a thing of the past, and that scampering around the city needn't see Arno climb atop the clutter rather than bounding over or sliding under obstacles. It's a system that works relatively well, even if it does take a little bit of getting used to. That Arno will still clamber onto low-slung tables when you're just holding down the sprint trigger is a bit annoying, but at least there's a quick, safe way of getting down from high places that don't have convenient straw piles lying in wait for a Leap of Faith.

Continuing on, it seems ludicrous that a series that sees you engage in clandestine murder should have lacked a dedicated crouch or "stealth" button for this long, but Ubisoft have finally fixed that. Now it's possible to slink about restricted areas in the manner of a cartoon robber, and you can snap in and out of cover at the touch of a button. There's also a dedicated button for helping you slip in through a window rather than jumping up and bypassing it completely as might have been the case before.

The combat system has been made clearer and more readily defined too. Instead of watching the behaviour of your enemies, you can now parry attacks easily thanks to massive, glowing indicators that tell you when you should execute the perfect parry, and when an unblockable attack is coming so you can roll deftly out of harm's way. Pleasingly enough, it feels more solid than combat in recent years, but it's still not really a patch on Ezio's finest work.

In fact, none of it is.

In fact, it's making me think ever more fondly of Assassin's Creed 3, and that's not a good sign.

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Tales Of Hearts R Review | The Vita's Christmas Miracle

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Bandai Namco, Editor's Choice, Games reviews, JRPG, PS Vita games, Tales Of Hearts R

Tales Of Hearts R Review | The Vita's Christmas Miracle

Move over Master Chief. Get lost, The Last Of Us. Play dead, Sleeping Dogs. 2014 has seen more than its fair share of remakes, but Tales Of Hearts R might be the most ambitious of the lot.

It's certainly the most unlikely. Tales Of Hearts was an epic JRPG that released six years ago on Nintendo DS exclusively in Japan, where it received rave reviews and envious glances from us Western fans. The entire 40-hour experience has now been rebuilt from the ground up on a vastly superior machine with brand new high quality assets, new playable characters, extra content, translated dialogue and remastered cutscenes from the studio behind Ghost In The Shell. As the coup de grace, the original 2D battle system has been replaced with slick 3D combat that rivals the latest Tales titles.

The result is something of a Christmas miracle for the PS Vita, at least if you're a fan of traditional JRPG exploration, progression and character development.

Tales Of Hearts R Review | The Vita's Christmas Miracle

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Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit Review | Half Naked, Half Baked

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games reviews, Marvelous, PS Vita games, Rhythm games, Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit, Tamsoft

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit Review | Half Naked, Half Baked

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit is a game about breasts.

No, that's literally it. In case you're new to the series, allow me to explain: the entire Senran Kagura franchise is an up-front (no pun intended) piece of fanservice starring an all-female cast of infeasibly well-endowed schoolgirls who also happen to be ninjas. And who, unsurprisingly, end up exposing themselves and kicking each other's clothes off during each fight.

It's embarrassing, harmless and cringe-inducing stuff that could have been titled Carry On Shinobi, but in a surprising twist, both Senran Kagura Burst and recently-released Shinovi Versus were excellent portable fighting games in their own right. I thoroughly enjoyed both and would recommend them. Unfortunately, as a breast delivery vector disguised as a rhythm game disguised a cooking game spinoff, Bon Appetit has its work cut out.

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit Review | Half Naked, Half Baked

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