Let's get this out of the way so we can move on: Citizens Of Earth is a love letter to EarthBound. It's an RPG that finds the humour, horror, wonder and weirdness lurking behind everyday life, a skewed perspective on American culture with wry left-field jabs and groan-worthy puns aplenty. As the Vice President of Earth, you'll recruit an army of followers to fight against an otherworldly invasion within the picket fences of your home town, coffee shops, the big city and realms beyond, encountering some bizarre and hilarious foes in traditional first-person turn based battles.
So Citizens Of Earth owes a lot to Mother 2, then, but there's more to it than that. It feels like a painstaking fan project developed by someone who loves the source material and JRPGs...but doesn't have much experience in actually making them.
Because that's exactly what it is. Eden Industries have never made a JRPG before, but in fairness there's a first time for everything. No-one attempted to create an execution puzzler based on light waves until Eden had a crack at it, and Waveform turned out great. As such they approached the marathon task of creating an enormous RPG by throwing everything they had at it, along with some new ideas of their own.
The result is infinitely more than just an EarthBound homage, yet simultaneously the sort of game I hate to review above all others. A game that's packed with clear passion and enthusiasm that I desperately want to love, but makes a number of basic mistakes I just can't ignore.Click here to read more...
Okay. You got me. My Spiderweb Software RPG reviews are getting pretty formulaic. I typically kick things off by bemoaning the state of gaming these days, then wax lyrical about the Infinity Engine and the importance of writing over visuals. Thankfully Jeff Vogel is still around, though, creating enormous and engaging RPGs with rich fundamentals and masterful command of the written word. Which I praise highly and breathlessly, pausing briefly to criticise the terrible interface before slapping on a ripe old score and an editor's choice award.
In my defence, however, my reviews are so formulaic because Spiderweb Software follows a winning formula of their own, down to the same basic systems and iterative engine that remain largely unchanged after two decades. As an expanded remake of a remake (Avernum 2 originally released in 2001, which was itself a remake of Exile 2!), you might expect Avernum 2: Crystal Souls to be old rope that's fraying around the edges somewhat.
So I'm delighted to report that Avernum 2: Crystal Souls manages to feel fresh and unique despite its pedigree, thanks to the timeless quality of Vogel's writing and its impressively unique campaign structure. If you have 40-odd hours to spare and don't mind reading a novel's worth of text, this is a old-school trip worth taking. It's certainly the gaming highlight of my year thus far.
We return to Avernum, a sprawling subterranean world in which generations of exiled prisoners have started new lives and scratched together a brave new civilization against the horrors of the dark. Unfortunately the surface world has launched a crushing offensive against its former outcasts, scattering and crushing the beleagured yet determined rebels. It's a unique and complex setting that feels alive and authentic, underpinned by powerful themes of poverty, desperation, rebellion and racism, but what's remarkable is that the world and its inhabitants are brought to life though the writing, not the graphics.Click here to read more...
The original survival horror brand is back and for once we're not rolling our eyes at another HD makeover. Rather than an unnecessary PS4 port of Resi 5 or 6, this is a HD makeover of the 2002 GameCube exclusive remake of the 1996 PS1 Resident Evil. For those of you yet to play the GC version, this will be a remarkable experience if you enjoyed the original game.
The remake was extremely faithful to the original, meaning lots of fixed camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds. There's no need to worry about the dated 'tank' controls as there's an option to switch to modern analogue movement rather than having to spin on the spot before moving. The different camera angles as you move onto a new screen can still have disastrous results that see you accidentally turn around and run straight back into a zombie's bitey embrace though.
Depending what difficulty you choose will affect how conservative with your ammo you are. Although it makes sense to save ammo when you can run past a zombie that you know will keep coming back later. The game is notably tougher than you'll remember if you're coming from the PS1 game thanks to the inclusion of Crimson Head zombies that reappear in older areas if you don’t burn corpses and they move much faster than their shuffling forebears. Defensive items like knives and tasers can be used to retaliate against bite attacks, ensuring that you're not as reliant on green herbs or health sprays.Click here to read more...
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is brilliant. Compile Heart finally managed to back up their trademark cheeky style, titillating art and unbridled fanservice with true quality, turning a shonky cult classic with a great story into a complete package. The result was an excellent handheld JRPG and the perfect opportunity for Idea Factory to reboot the series from a position of strength.
Unfortunately they decided to remake Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 instead. This unnecessary sequel managed to completely miss the point in several key areas when it released in 2012, so Re;Birth 2's massive improvements to combat, graphics and gameplay flow can only go so far.
We return to the parody world of Gamindustri, in which four nations based on console manufacturers (Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox and Lowee) battle for shares and market dominance in a quirky sci-fantasy universe. However, the champions of each nation's console -- our heroines from the original game -- have been kidnapped by the evil piracy organisation ASIC and its overlord Arfoire, meaning that it's up to their little sisters to put things right. In steps Nepgear, loosely representing the Game Gear, who has to team up with the game's own developers and other handheld console avatars to save the world.Click here to read more...
Cassia is magnificent. Cast into a dismal oubliette and left to die with only a Machiavellian 'how to rule' handbook and a thousand venomous spiders for company, this betrayed noblewoman emerges horribly disfigured and horrifically insane from years of literal and figurative poison. Seeking violent revenge, she rallies the dregs of society and lawless mercenaries to her cause, marching across the lands and stopping at nothing to finally seize the throne for herself -- including murder, torture and worse -- both directing battle and directly bringing it with sword and spells.
We've seen plenty of female villains like her over the years... but in the twisted and morally bankrupt world of Blackguards, Cassia is our hero. The lesser of two evils, depending on how you play her, that is.
She's a great and compelling new character carry a sequel, providing a solid emotional core to build two dozen hours of punishing hex strategy around. Blackguards 2 improves, expands and smartly cuts down upon its predecessor in a number of smart ways. Unfortunately, while you could describe Cassia as the 'Queen Of Bugs,' that's arguably a fitting label for the game itself too.Click here to read more...
I loved Saints Row IV. In fact, you can read all about how much I loved it here. There have been some who've lamented the series' descent into full-blown comedy madness, but Saints Row IV was supremely entertaining on a moment-to-moment basis. Crucially, its design was just as wonderfully constructed as its jokes -- it was all interwoven in masterful fashion, a beautiful, anarchic sandbox that was glorious to dip into, with some outrageous mission design, and a host of activities and mischief to get up to in between.
Now it arrives on PS4 and Xbox One with a barely noticeable spit and a polish as Deep Silver try to cash in on the remastering that's papering the cracks of new-gen until greatness arrives in the form of new stuff, and with it comes a new standalone expansion pack called Gat Out Of Hell, available digitally for £14.99 or as a pack-in for the aforementioned £30 remaster Saints Row IV: Re-Elected.
I like standalone expansions. At worst, they provide a little taster of the main event at a discounted cost. At best they provide new ways of appreciating the original game. Sadly, Gat Out Of Hell doesn't really do either of those things.Click here to read more...
They did it. They finally did it! Though I've long been a fan of Compile Heart's racy dialogue, quirky gameplay systems and art direction that can be charitably described as "colourful" (or more accurately "like a Kill la Kill cosplay competition sponsored by a lingerie company"), I've always had to point out that the boutique JRPG studio stops short of greatness more often than not. They have the talent, yet settle for fanservice over genuine excellence every single time.
But they did it. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is a genuinely great handheld JRPG, bringing a PS3 cult classic up to date in almost every way, while the Vita turns its remaining weaknesses into strengths. I'm currently reviewing Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2 ahead of its January 23rd embargo, but it's only fair that I give last year's remake the overdue credit it deserves.
All is not well in the land of Gamindustri. Four nations are locked into the bitter 'console wars,' sending out their champions to do battle as invulnerable Godesses. Sadly the 'CPU' of Planeptune is defeated by her rivals (Noire representing Lastation, Vert from Leanbox and Blanc representing Lowee) and crashes out of the console wars, only to discover that Gamindustri is threatened by the villanous Arfoire and her dastardly plan.
So in case you didn't twig: Hyperdimension Neptunia is a parody. A damn good one, if astonishingly top-heavy when it comes to the fanservice.Click here to read more...
Duke Nukem 3D is amazing.
It's still amazing, I should say. Eighteen years later and it plays like a step-by-step guide at how to construct a quality first person shooter; enormous explorable levels, abundant satisfying boomsticks, brutal rock-hard action and lashings of risqué humour on the side. It brought both innovation and out-there personality to the genre, and though many remember it for the babes and boobs, playing DN3D again reminds us exactly why we still hail 3D Realms' crass masterpiece as a classic of the genre.
Most of you already know all that, but can Duke Nukem 3D be worth buying nearly two decades after it launched, on totally different platforms, swapping the precision of a keyboard for the DualShock 3's unergonomic chassis or Vita's adorable little nubbins? If you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber then the answer is, "it's free, so obviously get on it," but for everyone else, Devolver have at least made some serious effort to maximise the bang for your buck.
It's time to kick ass and make lazy references. And I'm all out of ass.Click here to read more...
On my very first playthrough of This War Of Mine, I was doing a recorded first impression video piece. Knowing that you're preparing something for an audience makes you play games differently. Certain behavioural traits can become exaggerated, you might play up a reaction for the sake of the camera or microphone, and there's always a little part of your mind conscious of the performative aspects. As well as playing through a game, you're often seeking to ensure that experience is watchable and personality-driven, filling the air with speech where normally you'd be silent.
It sort of wrecks the atmosphere for a game like This War Of Mine. Some game work better when you can reflect alone on the things that you've done.
During that first playthrough, which you can watch on this very page, I came across an old couple, waiting out the war that rages on in the background of this game, who were counting down the days until their son returned to them. In my flippant state of performance, I gleefully killed them and stole all of their things, such was my desperate need for supplies. And then I stopped. This was no rubble-strewn ruin filled with suspicious renegades who would have killed me for what little I had. There were pictures and ornaments and letters and a fireplace. The old couple might have even given me stuff had I asked or tried any other tactic than beating them senseless and picking their corpses clean. As much as I'd resisted the oppressive gloom of the game up until that point, I just had to stop.
Two days later, one of my survivors would kill themselves out of sheer misery, another would die of illness, and my last remaining soul would get shot by bandits.
You didn't make it, the screen glared at me. It seemed to enjoy saying that.Click here to read more...
Space Sims are back. As someone who used to call the wild black yonder his second virtual home, Sidewinder Freestyle Pro in hand, I couldn't be happier. Elite Dangerous is vast and tough and beautiful, Starlight Inception was a toxic puddle of leaking coolant but thankfully Star Citizen's evolving Arena Commander mode is on hand to calm me back down.
And yet I still find myself dipping back into Starpoint Gemini 2. This deeply impressive blend of RPG, space sim and fleet command launched in Early Access last year and hit v.1.0 in October, but silly season being what it is, I didn't have enough time to fully review it.
Let's rectify that right now. Launch fighters and fire at will!Click here to read more...
If "Forza Horizon 2 is the most fun I've had on four wheels since BurnOut Paradise," then Storm Island is the most fun I've had on no wheels since Combat Flight Simulator. Some races almost feel like you're flying, not driving, as you hurl obscene rally juggernauts over ridiculous ramps, soar through the torrential rain then slam back down into the mud; oversized shocks screaming with the impact as your tyres churn up the dirt before the next ridiculous jump.
It's borderline pornographic for off-roading fans.
Storm Island may be eye-wateringly expensive at £15.99 (£7.99 for Forza Horizon 2 VIPs), but unlike other recent premium expansions I could mention -- but I won't because we wouldn't want to embarrass Destiny now would we -- I'd willingly pay £15.99 for this exact package if it was a standalone game.
Click here to read more...
Sorry Digimon fans, but your prayers have not been answered. Not by a long shot.
Though a confirmed Pokemaniac myself, I've always felt that Digimon is prime videogame material. Epic transforming battle monsters should be perfect fare for any number of genres, and most of the games have proved me right -- even if none made it out of Japan over the last few years. Cue Digimon: All-Star Rumble, a Western-exclusive title promising high-octane combat and frantic local multiplayer.
You'd have to wake up pretty early in the morning to make outrageous monster brawls boring and dull, but All-Star Rumble pulls it off. This would actually be impressive if the result wasn't so painfully weak... and costs £44.99 at full whack.Click here to read more...
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is just as adorable, enthusiastic and bumbling as its protagonist. Perhaps its publisher too. At the very end of a year that delivered Mario Kart, Bayonetta and Smash Bros, we find ourselves playing a charming low-key puzzle game that was so low-key it wasn't even supposed to release this year in Europe. Except a few stores just decided to sell it anyway and Ninty went with the flow. Classic Nintendo.
No, really: it's classic Nintendo. Despite the hilarious launch and heavyweight competition, Captain Toad manages to showcase Nintendo at their finest: turning a simple concept into a truly delightful game with great visuals, engaging gameplay and real personality. What started life as Super Mario 3D World bonus levels is now one of the left-field success stories of this Christmas.
In fact, the rest of the games industry could learn a thing or two from this humble hero.
Click here to read more...
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.Click here to read more...
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.
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.Click here to read more...
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.
Click here to read more...
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 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.Click here to read more...
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 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?
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.Click here to read more...
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.
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.Click here to read more...