Platform: PC (£6.99, reviewed) | Also on iOS & Android
Sorry, no, this isn't the stealth sequel to Beneath A Steel Sky. Instead, the developers behind Incredipede and Pineapple Smash Crew have collaborated on one of the most bizarre and intriguing game concepts you'll see this year: an alien jellyfish procreation simulator set beneath the thick Venusian clouds, which challenges us to help an intrepid Cnidarian spread its seed and fertilise a variety of extraterrestrial flora.
Or looked at another way, it's a groovy and relaxing one-button casual game that feels partway between Worms, Angry Birds, Tiny Wings and Machiavelli's Ascent.
The brief opening cinematic sets the stage. Venus' dark side actually glows -- in real life as an unexplained scientific phenomenon -- emitting a faint auroral effect known as the 'Ashen Light.' Deep Under The Sky finally has the answers that have long eluded NASA's top boffins: beneath the crushing acidic clouds lives a thriving ecosystem of bio-luminescent creatures. Playing as one of them, a whopping wobbling jellyfish, we'll blast aerodynamic packets of seed material across 2D levels with the aim of exploding them within range of receptive plants, thus ensuring that the species will live on.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Here we go again. I reviewed Diablo III on PC... then the last-gen console version... then the Reaper Of Souls expansion pack... and finally we come to this. The Ultimate Evil Edition. The final showdown. It's time for the last dance with the devil -- that is, unless Blizzard brings out another expansion.
To be honest, I'm still in two minds about whether Diablo III really works on consoles. Despite pretending to be a glorious last stand against the forces of hell, all it really involves is holding the A button (X on PS4) until all the enemies are dead or you've passed out from boredom. The leap from mice to controllers removed an entire dimension of precision priority targeting, so instead you'll just mash that button and then mash it a few more times to pick up all the loot in the vicinity. Then roll. Then hold down A for another five minutes.
This shouldn't be fun. It should be torture. But ultimately, somehow, Diablo III's Ultimate Evil Edition ends up being enjoyable and annoyingly addictive to the point where I'd rather be playing it than leaving my den -- let alone writing this review.
Basically, Just Add Mates.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Once more with feeling: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is magnificent.
Seriously, I'll keep banging on about it until you buy it or show me a letter from your GP proving that you're allergic to visual novels. Halfway between Corpse Party, Cluedo, Battle Royale and Ace Attorney, this grim and frequently disturbing tour de force managed to be both an engrossing page-turner and a gripping videogame. Great characters, fantastic story, despair and hope in equal measure. It's still my GOTY thus far.
The reason I'm telling you this now is that you absolutely mustn't play Danganronpa 2 without fully enjoying the original. Partly because the sequel builds on the revelations of its predecessor, but also because it's worse.
Not bad, mind you. It's actually rather good. But stacked up next to Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2 lacks the subtlety, pacing and restraint to be a truly effective mystery, and often feels like a fan-service holiday special instead.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS Vita
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Handhelds and strategy RPGs were made for each other, and Disgaea continues to be one of the biggest names in the business for those in the know. Nailing that sweet spot between quirky upbeat humour, insane social life-destroying tactical depth and adorable exploding demon penguin murderers, the irreverent series always feels more at home on portable consoles than it does in the living room.
Case in point, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, which provides the ultimate definitive edition of arguably the strongest game in the franchise.
Sardines, dood! Yes, once again, Disgaea isn't ashamed to be deeply silly when it comes to the storyline. We find ourselves following Lord Valvatorez, a once-terrifying vampire tyrant now relegated to a lowly exploding penguin instructor in the depths of hell thanks to some hastily-made promises. His mission, not to mention his obsession with the nutrient value of sardines versus human blood, quickly derails as all manner of crazy characters show up and hilarious diversions poke fun at established conventions, but a strong central theme and great localised dialogue keeps things interesting even if you've never played a Disgaea game before.
It's a surprisingly engrossing tale, even providing alternate 'bad endings' with their own non-canonical epilogue when you fail certain battles. Just remember not to save after seeing one! More importantly, though, Valvatorez is by far the most interesting protagonist in the series. Older and more experienced (but no less bizarre) than his predecessors, he's genuinely hilarious, likeable and benefits from a believable and relateable motive. Move over Laharl.Click here to read more...
I had a blast with Infamous: Second Son. For me, it was probably the best game in the series thus far, a polished experience that did the basics incredibly well, delivered some cracking performances from its leading stars, and dazzled the senses with a gorgeous Seattle sandbox and plenty of interesting abilities. It didn't seek to really break new ground or reinvent the wheel, but Second Son was supremely satisfying because Sucker Punch managed to nail things where they counted -- combat, traversal, scale, story. Would it have been nice to have Seattle live and breathe a little more rather than simply being an obviously gamified sandbox? Perhaps. But frankly I was having too much fun to really care.
Given the hot topic of female protagonists in the gaming industry, it's not surprising really that Sucker Punch were asked in the run up to Second Son's release about the possibility of a female playable protagonist. That questioning only became stronger when we were introduced to Abigail "Fetch" Walker -- a Neon-powered Conduit with some serious baggage in her past and a heavy chip on her shoulder. That Sucker Punch followed through and have given us a fat slab of Fetch's backstory to play through here in First Light is admirable.
More importantly, it's pretty damn good.
Laura Bailey is back to voice Fetch, and once again, the strength of Sucker Punch's performance capture really comes through. Anyone familiar with her story in Second Son will already know the end state of this prequel, set two years before the events of the original game. Fetch is making a living on the streets with her brother in First Light, making ends meet by doing unsavoury jobs for unsavoury people. By the time we meet her in Second Son, she's lost a huge deal, not least a sense of control, and First Light tells the story of how she goes from being a woman trying to hide her powers to being a Conduit fixer and assassin, to eventually becoming a powerful renegade filled with rage and anger.Click here to read more...
Remasters and reduxes are all the rage right now. It's an easy way to make a quick buck, after all, and recycle some of the best experiences of last-gen, keeping the cash coming in and hopefully picking up one or two newcomers along the way. There'll always be questions as to the deserving nature of these revamped games, particularly when it comes to titles barely a generation old, but there's something to be said for 4A Games' Metro double header getting the current-gen treatment.
Metro 2033 once used to be the benchmark for graphics card tests, and the original version still holds up pretty well on PC, but the Redux version really is a step up, with 4A porting 2033 over into Last Light's engine. The visual tweaks and upgrades are all as you'd expect: textures have been overhauled and remodelled, there's a deeper colour palette, and noticeably improved lighting -- all of which makes for a game that's somehow even more atmospheric than when it came around the first time. Better yet, 4A have redone a number of the cutscenes in 2033 to keep players in first-person mode, minimising immersion-breaking occurrences.
PC gamers might not necessarily find these upgrades particularly worthwhile, but on PS4, the games really do feel new-gen, particularly Last Light which is now far closer to its PC sibling and has some absolutely dazzling lighting effects to behold. The visual detail across both games is now realised fantastically on consoles, and the improved clothing physics, improved facial constructions and character animations in 2033, really make for a seamless experience. The console versions still can't quite boast the particle effects of the PC equivalent, but it's a marked step up.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | PC
Developer: Mimimi Productions
Publisher: Loot Entertainment
It’s a little sad that I begin most of my platformer reviews by stating what a shame it is that the genre has all but disappeared from modern console line-ups, with only Ratchet & Clank doing their best to keep it alive. But with Insomniac aligning their studio closer to Xbox nowadays, it may be a while before the duo return. Let’s not talk about Knack either.
So, when browsing this week’s releases I was pleasantly surprised to see a new IP amongst the PSN releases and a quick trailer search later revealed it to be a new platformer. One download later and I’m in the world of The Last Tinker: City of Colors.
But, where’s the jump button? I just hold R2 to run and I’ll just ‘platform’ automatically? What!? So much for rekindling the platformer genre. To be fair, I should have known this game was aimed at a very young audience thanks to the mega-bright hyper-coloured visuals. We’ve nothing against games aimed at the younger kids though here at Dealspwn, as anything that eases new gamers in should be applauded, which is certainly the best way to look at this action-sort-of-platformer.Click here to read more...
Hohokum is beautifully endearing, whimsically comical, filled with bold colours and sumptuous aural dreamscapes. Its fluid mechanics are simple and straightforward, allowing players to concentrate on finding ways to interact with the cartoonish worlds and uncovering little visual rewards for their troubles.
But I found it to be somewhat problematic at first.
Hohokum feels like you're playing through a drug-induced cartoon from half a century ago in some ways. I half expected to be ambushed by Blue Meanies as I meandered through its myriad worlds. It's lovely to behold with its bright, bold colour scheme and cutesy art courtesy of Richard Hogg. I spent a good deal of time in one chamber of the game where the long, snake-like, cycloptic rainbow eel thingy that you control links up with a bunch of friends and they all respond to your controller inputs for a bit. It was like playing with a virtual spirograph, and I just danced for a bit with my rainbow eel chums and I looked up and I'd been doing it for almost half an hour.
That's probably my favourite bit of Hohokum so far, to be honest. it's a simple game once you peel away the quirky art. You steer this one-eyed spectrum snake around, occasionally slowing it down, sometimes speeding it up. And that's it. There are a bunch of multi-screen levels to the game that present you with some sort of bizarre tableau and just leave you to figure things out for yourselves. It's like a PixelJunk Proteus in some ways, or what Nokia's Snake did during the acid years, forgetting all about eating that square pixel, and going on a colourful bender.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita (reviewed)
Developer: Wales Interactive
Gravity Badgers joins the illustrious line of rubbish games with fantastic names. Though nowhere near as bad as the genuinely offensive Hyper Fighters, this Angry Birds clone really does the bare minimum to live up to its sensational monicker.
Seriously: Gravity Badgers. Gravity. Badgers. What a waste.
I never, ever, use the term 'clone' lightly, but I'm afraid that Gravity Badgers earns it hands-down. We find ourselves flinging badgers into outer space by virtually pulling back and dragging them across the screen, only instead of castles, they're presented with an array of physics-based obstacles. Critically, celestial bodies can either attract or repel your furry cosmonaut, deflecting their path towards the exit. Judge it right and you can pull off crazy slingshot effects; mis-cue and you'll send your badger into deep space.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developers: Playrise Digital
Racers, start your engines! Well, charge up your PlayStation Vitas first, as I’ve no doubt many of you haven’t had a reason to put it on for a while unless you’re a fan of niche Japanese titles. But that’s about to change and for a no-excuses price of £4.99 too.
Table Top Racing is an arcade racing title with healthy influences from the likes of Micro Machines and the weapon-sporting Mashed (but not Wrecked, thankfully). You race miniature toy cars across a range of tracks that include sushi restaurants, picnic areas and tables full of junk. Every course is fantastically designed with lots of tight turns and sudden shear edges that keep the racing pack together throughout.
Slight rubber-banding keeps the races tight too, but when some laps are as short as twenty seconds it never feels unfair. The AI is sharp too, especially in the later tournaments. Unlike many racers with weapons though, the AI don’t just focus on you, instead they’ll ruthlessly fight amongst themselves, often providing you with a chance to slip by an angry huddle, although you’ll often risk a rocket up the backside for such slyness.Click here to read more...
The term "game" is rapidly becoming more and more reductive. It implies something frivolous, something inseparable from play, and although so much of what this industry does is provide us with ways to play, to relax, to unwind, and to otherwise entertain ourselves, the term ignores the fact that this interactive medium is better equipped than most to deal with serious subject matter in a profoundly affecting manner.
The term "game" is ill at ease with the first-person exploration titles like Dear Esther and Gone Home, with the experiential delights of Journey and Proteus, and its a term that I apply loosely to MIND: Path to Thalamus simply because we've failed to collectively come up with a better one as an industry. If you were looking for a different description, though, I might tell you it was an interactive narrative journey, or the gamified manifestation of a protagonist's guilty psyche, or a mind-bending first-person puzzler that's heavy on psychological reflection and magical realism.
The elevator pitch is ambitious, and MIND is certainly a game that feels a bit unique, a little bit special at times. When its elements all come together, Path to Thalamus has the capability to really engage and engross. Unfortunately, it's a shame that there are a few things here that conspire to make the game something of an uneven experience.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 | PS3, Vita, XO, PC and Wii U versions coming soon
Developers: Just Add Water
Publishers: Just Add Water
Abe’s Oddysee was a big hit for PS1 gamers back in the day with impressive pre-rendered backgrounds making the game one of the best looking 2D platformers ever made. It was also an absolute beast of a meanie to play. Nevertheless, when we heard Just Add Water were remaking the game with the Unity engine we couldn’t wait to see how well the game had aged. Not so sure about the name change though.
For the most part, the game is the same as the original. The action still takes place on a 2D plane and the level layouts haven’t been changed. However, some sensible changes have been implemented, and for the better too.
Instead of the action taking place on individual screens that you’d enter from the side, they now take place on a seamless scrolling screen. This sounds like sacrilege, but JAW have adapted the game fantastically, losing none of the original’s feel of suddenly happening across traps or waking up the angry sligs.Click here to read more...
What do you do when you're plonked down into an enormous, minimalistic forest with no context and no immediately discernible objective?
Well, you walk.
There's a lot of walking in Eidolon, a new exploratory survival-adventure title from Ice Water Games. It's one of those games where you wander about a visually striking world, piecing together the fragments of a narrative from letters and journal entries and maps and other assorted things left behind by people who aren't you. In the case of Eidolon, you learn in time that you're wandering around Washington State somewhere around the year 2400, and that's all I want to tell you given that working out exactly why you're wandering around the place, and why everything is empty and overgrown and there's no sign of human life is basically what spurs you onwards.
Eidolon is a pretty game, both in spite and because of its minimalistic, geometric approach to art design. There's something clean, refreshing even, about the bold colours, the neat lines and the ordered manner of the look of this game. I found myself rather frequently pausing and looking around, and not just because much of one's progression is predicated on orienteering (a feat made tricky when there are few discernible landmarks).Click here to read more...
Platforms: 3DS | PS Vita (reviewed)
Developer: Hellbent Games | TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
LEGO. Ninjas. Both of these things are undeniably excellent in their own right, so I suspect that the LEGO Ninjago toy line can boast the shortest brainstorming session in company history. "We haven't sold Ninja-themed kits since 1998. So how about... more ninjas... only this time on a futuristic alien planet with multiple armies that we can keep expanding on with new sets? Also some of the ninjas are robots. We can call them Nindroids."
"That's terrible. Let's do it, and also make a mechanical dragon. We can call it the MechDragon. Have a raise."
So Ninjago was born, and in fine transmedia style, spawned an animated series followed finally by a handheld game on PS Vita and 3DS. It's the sort of eye-rolling predictable play that you'd expect from any big company, but does it live up to the usual standard we expect from TT Games?
Click here to read more...
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Be advised: I'm still playing Titanfall and loving it. Though many players have departed over the last few months, angrily citing the lack of a metagame and arbitrary unlockables, the evergreen gameplay and superbly designed maps of Respawn's shooter ensure me a fresh and exciting experience every time I scamper along a rooftop or crush fleeing infantry into bloody smears under steel heel.
Mind you, Titanfall dropped the ball hard post-launch, which I've poked and prodded at relentlessly. From dwindling player numbers on objective gametypes to long matchmaking times and the lack of cosmetic customisation, there's been plenty to moan about. Thankfully Respawn have managed to patch things up in any sense of the phrase, resulting in a sharper, faster, more engrossing and customisable experience after a sequence of updates. Update 5 brings a new economy into the mix that adds a new dimension to Burn Cards, alongside extra fixes and tweaks that improve and expand the gameplay experience for free.
Frontier's Edge feels like the last piece of the puzzle: three thematic stages that lack the obvious gimmicks of Expedition's trio, designed to tempt players back onto objective gametypes with smart scalable design. Come back for the update, then stay for the maps. We'll discuss both over the next few hundred words.Click here to read more...
Is nothing Sacre...
Nope, can't do it. This is no laughing matter. Deep Silver have dredged up the bones and bits of the Sacred IP, chucked most of them out, and used the remaining pieces to assemble a game bereft of any particularly worthwhile. Sacred 3 bears the Sacred name, but it's something of a shell of a game rather than the open-world, loot-stuffed romp to which fans might be accustomed.
Gone are the expansive environments of previous, "proper" Sacred games. Indeed, Sacred 3 has more in common with Sacred Citadel than its numbered predecessor. Except it's not a side-scrolling beat 'em up designed for couch co-op -- it looks like a top-down, Sacred-esque RPG.
But it isn't.Click here to read more...
Developer: Extend Studio
Publisher: Origo Games
Wouldn't it be useful to have seven clones at your beck and call? That way you could attend four different day jobs and still have doppelgängers left over for a full house of Mario Kart multiplayer. Decades of science fiction tells us that nothing can possibly go wrong with that plan. No sir.
Anyway, as a certain maniacal Agent once famously said: "the best thing about being me... there are so many MEs." In this case I'm a small green blob called Filo, tasked with saving a cheerful cartoon world in puzzly platform style. Foes need stomping, switches need pressing, bottomless pits need jumping and collectibles demand snaffling; a daunting task for a tiny gelatinous globule.
Or at least it would be if a run-in with a mysterious cosmic entity hadn't granted Filo the ability to control a small army of clones and transform them into useful platforms. And dinosaurs. And rocket-launching hovertanks.Click here to read more...
Why aren't you any fun, Wayward Manor? You're the result of a collaboration between a successful indie studio in The Odd Gentlemen -- responsible for the really rather good The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom -- and one of my favourite authors: Neil Gaiman; you have a promising set up that sees players taking on the role of a ghost and attempting to frighten an unwanted family out of the eponymous house; you look like a mix of the works of Tim Burton and Henry Selick...
So where did it all go wrong?
Let's break it down. Wayward Manor is a point and click puzzler set across twenty-five stages, each of which see you peering down into various rooms of the grumpy manor, itself rather wonderfully voiced by Gaiman himself, and manipulating various items and fixtures and fittings in each of these rooms to scare the unwanted family member currently inside. Six scares are required before you can summon the ghoulish energy to unleash a torrent of spectral energy that'll send the whole chamber rattling, and force your victim to flee in terror.
The manner by which you go about amassing those six scares differs in form, but not in function. The game basically revolves around you clicking the left-mouse button for everything, but timing and angles are key. Sending a mouse scurrying in front of your unsuspecting mark at just the right time involves precise deployment, as does dropping a bottle from the rafters as your target passes by. It's simple stuff, but the game restricts your abilities slightly. In each room, there are three tiers of interactive opportunities, expanding as you build up the scare count and amass more power. In the first level, you can only throw bottles around, then your influence spreads to the window shutters, and after that all bets are off.Click here to read more...
I failed the first level of Gods Will Be Watching over ten times before I finally managed to balance hacking a computer mainframe, watching over a bunch of jittery hostages, and staving off some grenade-happy soldiers successfully. Even when I had, I still wasn't certain that I'd actually done it through my own skill and deft multitasking rather than some sort of fluke born from frustration.
The game's first level gives you four hostages and a computer system to crack. Soldiers inch their way towards you down a nearby corridor, and the only things you have to halt their progression is the threat of violence to the hostages or a spot of blind fire, both of which freak out your captives.
The hacking progress bar takes its sweet time, and though you can charge a hacking boost in increments, each time you do, your own cyber security takes a hit. Occasionally, your corridor-covering chum will have a crisis of faith, sometimes your hostages will tell you that they're about to run or fancy ending it all or don't think you're looking, and you'll have to decide how to deal with the situation.Click here to read more...
Unrest is a game all about talking to people. There's little by way of direct violence in this indie RPG adventure title from Pyrodactyl Games, instead the emphasis here is fixed firmly on the notion of playing a role, wrapping yourself up in a character and then making some rather weighty decisions.
This is absolutely my jam.
The scene is set in the city of Bhimra, with the game taking its cues from a fictionalised, fantastical vision of ancient India. The years have not been kind to Bhimra and its population, and interminable famine, drought, and burgeoning slums have brought the city to the brink of utter collapse. An uneasy treaty with a neighbouring Naga empire, whose citizens are a giant race of snake people, would seem to be the answer, but in exchange for provisions and welfare, the Naga are looking for jobs for their skilled workers. Unlike Bhimra's caste system, the Naga empire allows for greater social mobility, but even so, there are only so many opportunities to go around.
That doesn't sit too well with certain pockets of Bhimra's society, however, particularly out in the slums where an influx of immigrants would seem to be the absolute last thing their city should be undertaking in a time of famine and strife. Riots start kicking off, and a royal visit to the areas of deprivation, designed to illustrate the benefits of the treaty with the Naga empire, goes horribly awry. Everything goes downhill rather quickly after that and you the player, are in charge of determining a future path for Bhimra across eight chapters and five different playable characters of varying standings and affiliations.Click here to read more...