For years, Telltale has been the only name associated with quality (yet incredibly buggy) episodic gaming, but we’re delighted to see some new blood enter the blossoming genre. Life is Strange is leading the way with Remember Me developers, Dontnod Entertainment, bringing us a brand new IP over five episodes through digital platforms.
I’ve always been rather cautious with this type of game. Knowing I have little patience for waiting, I’ve played the likes of Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us once a season has finished, as I didn’t want to wait weeks/months between episodes to find out what happens next. It’s a Netflix mentality that’s going to drive me insane with Life is Strange. I’ve played one episode and I’m hooked. The time between episodes is going to draaaag.
Of course, how you play is up to you, you can wait until the season finishes -and keep your fingers crossed for a discount too- or you can dive in now and not have to throw a magazine across the floor or stick your fingers in your ears whenever the game’s name is mentioned. A Game of Thrones syndrome if you will.Click here to read more...
Tower Defence is dead. Tower Defence hybrids are where it's at, and Deathtrap is one of the best I've ever played.
Neocore's latest project ought to do the business considering that the brilliant The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II was basically a prototype. "Even the optional tower defence sections are good enough to be a standalone game in their own right," I wrote, and now that game has graduated from Early Access into version 1.0.
Half Diablo-style dungeon crawler, half hardcore tower defender and all glorioisly gory gothic ham, Deathtrap really is an exceptional genre hybrid. And yet I can't help wanting more -- not from it, but of it.
Deathtrap is already built on isometric action RPG pedigree, seeing as it shares an engine and even a fair few assets with the Van Helsing series, so the raw mechanics of slaughtering Hungarian folk beasties are polished, nuanced and deeply satisfying. Only this time, you're desperately trying to stop waves of enemies from breaching your painstakingly-constructed defences rather than looking for a boss or exit.Click here to read more...
Ugh, freaking meatbags!! I hate humans with every byte of my processing power. They're so unreliable and lazy, too useless to even survive a paltry robotic apocalypse by themselves. What a waste of perfectly good carbon. I'd shred the lot of them with my defence drones if only my boss' wife didn't think they were adorable.
But with a little genetic tampering... some laser vision here, extra arms there and a brain slug for good measure... perhaps they could be useful after all. Better. Stronger. More durable and obedient. Or at least live long enough to help me keep my job.
Such is the premise of Freaking Meatbags, a surprising fusion of real-time strategy, tower defence, twinstick shooting and gene splicing that has officially graduated from Early Access this week. Having played it extensively throughout the alpha funding phase, then getting access to the launch build several days in advance via the beta branch, I'm happy to report that it's exactly the kind of game we love to see go through Early Access. A strong, relatively simple yet innovative idea that works well and delivers on its realistic plan.
The plan, in this case, being to strip-mine a solar system. Players assume the role of Chip, a workaday robot employee of a massive mechanical conglomerate, tasked with scraping all the materials off of a number of worlds for his/its demanding boss. Unfortunately hordes of feral robots do their best to make that as difficult as possible. With Chip's job, relationship and life on the line, you'll need to use both strategy, quick reflexes and the local wildlife's genetic code to pull it off.Click here to read more...
I've longed for this day. The intricacies of modern operating systems and the tangled web of litigious bureaucracy and inept management meant that when my Grim Fandango CD became completely unplayable over a decade and a half ago, there was little to be done in the years that followed. Those years were spent desperately hoping that more stock would magically appear, that when GOG.com popped up, maybe there would be a second coming for Manny Calavera and chums. Maybe, just maybe, I'd finally get to play one of my favourite games of all time again.
Yeah, about that...
It took the destruction of LucasArts as a franchise and the Lazarean resurgence of Tim Schafer and co. in this new age of crowdfunded resurrections to do it. But finally, after seventeen long years, Grim Fandango is back on (digital) shelves again. Having railed against the shameless cash-ins of remastered reissues for games no less than a year old, this perhaps represents that most worthy of remastering endedavours: the restoration of an old classic for a new generation to sample, and for old fans to delight in once more.
Tempering expectations here are key, though, and this release needs to be seen for what it is: a seventeen-year-old game rendered playable again for fans, available a retro-reduced price. In the same way that Ocarina of Time 3D was a slightly spruced up trip down memory lane to appeal to everyone who already thought that game was the mutt's nuts, this Remaster is geared towards a friendly audience, one that already understands Grim Fandango's place in history, though don't let that put you off if you're coming to this new.Click here to read more...
I need a cold shower.
Oh, you and your filthy mind. Behave. But I can forgive you for jumping to conclusions, since Criminal Girls: Invite Only has an infamous reputation. This dungeon crawler was often seen as being too edgy for a Western release, seeing as its skill system encourages you to spank, electrocute and indulge in kinky foreplay with a collection of scantily-clad moe girls via some touchscreen minigames. The mind boggles, and NISA have finally brought the game over to British shores after some judicious editing and translation.
However, I don't need a cold shower to cool off, so to speak. I need it to stay awake. I expected Criminal Girls to be an embarrassing and kinky guilty pleasure, but the shocking reality is that it's criminally boring.
It shouldn't be. After accepting a new temp job in purgatory, you're tasked with leading a team of female reprobates up through a sprawling tower in order to find redemption. The characters are all arch moe archetypes to a fault, but they're arch enough to at least be vaguely interesting as they gradually reveal more about themselves over the 20-hour runtime. This might have been a decent foundation for a frisky little jaunt, but Criminal Girls falls down in the execution.Click here to read more...
I rated Unmechanical when I reviewed it back in... 2012?! Wow. How time flies. Either way, this charming physics-based puzzler captivated me for its four hour duration.
"Unmechanical provides four wonderful hours of mechanically-perfect puzzling, trapping you willingly in its gorgeous labyrinth for the duration," a younger and somewhat slimmer version of me wrote. "Despite a couple of issues and a slight lack of real innovation, Unmechanical joins the wealth of fantastic student projects that evolved into excellent games, and provides an experience that's more polished and balanced than any number of big-budget titles I could mention. It's time (and money) well spent."
Nearly three years later and Unmechanical has returned, this time on PS3, PS4 and Xbox One as a new "Extended" Edition. The good news is that it's just as sweet as it ever was.
The bad news, sadly, is that the "Extended" version hasn't been extended by very much at all.Click here to read more...
I'm being chased by men with guns, which seems particularly unfair given that all I have is a loose piece of plumbing equipment being gently warmed by a battery duct-taped to one end. But Dying Light isn't really a game that wants you to fight very often; it would much prefer that you run.
So off I tear, racing down side streets and narrow alleyways, gently nudging the right bumper to kick off towards nearby ledges, scrambling over fences and rooftops, and dodging legions of the walking dead, occasionally sliding between the festering legs of these shambling zombies to deliver the odd crunchy powerslide attack... because it feels good. I race to the top of a high building and realise that I've inadvertently solved my earlier problem. The men with guns are now being ripped to shreds by the undead masses.
The sun is going down, and the vision below me is captivating. Gory, disgusting, and peppered with sickening squelchy sounds, but undeniably beautiful to me with my slim sliver of health.
I'm really enjoying this game, and that's not something I really thought much during my first few hours with Dying Light.Click here to read more...
#IDARB is free on Xbox One. Go get it! So long as you're reading this in February 2015 and subscribe to Xbox Live Gold, just click here, sign in and queue up the download.
It's a small file, but you'll have just enough time to invite at least three friends over, preferably with their own Xbox One controllers.
Once you've grabbed a few snacks and perhaps thrown a few tinnies into the fridge, I'll have just enough time to explain why this bizarre mashup of Super Mario, Supraball, basketball and FIFA is one of the local multiplayer events of the last year... but a game that absolutely has to be enjoyed with at least three mates or not at all. And preferably while it's free, because value is going to be very hard to call.
In case you don't know, #IDARB (It Draws A Red Box) is a uniquely crowd-sourced project. Other Ocean tweeted an abstract picture of a red rectangle then reached out to the community for ideas about what the game should actually be. The result is a 4v4 team sport with one ball, two goals, enthusiastic commentary and an emphasis on brotastic team play... only with the mechanics of a sidescrolling platformer.Click here to read more...
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 true classic.
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...