Developers: Avidly Wild Games
Publishers: Avidly Wild Games
It's been nearly three and a half decades since the release of Rogue - a text-based Dungeons & Dragons style game. Its launch seemed innocuous at the time, but its focus on traversing dungeons, equipment, fighting enemies, and the fact that if you died you had to start the whole adventure again (now coined 'perma-death') garnered legions of fans, and as such this style of game became a sub-genre for 2D RPGs - the roguelike.
Our Darker Purpose is Avidly Wild Games' first stab into this sub-genre, available now on Steam after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Set in the Edgewood Home for Lost Children, you play the role of Cordy, a lonely student, who after the disappearance of all the teachers, must battle through the hordes of warring factions of children to make her way to the top of the building to seek The Administrators to find out what has happened to everyone.
It plays as a 2D adventure game from a top-down perspective, with you having to move around and fire at enemies. When you come into contact with an enemy, obstacle or projectile, you take damage, and when your health reaches zero it's game over. In your arsenal as well as an infinite ranged attack, you also have a fixed number of juice boxes to refill health, and chalk which works as a one-time use area attack against enemies in close proximity.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | Xbox 360
Developers: Plastic Piranha
Publishers: 505 Games
There are times when I wish Valve took a little bit more notice of some of the things that get released on Steam. The past few months have been filled with mixed emotions from all corners as the label "Early Access" has come to mean anything from a deserted combat demo to feature-complete alpha builds to buggy, crashing messes. We can forgive that enormous umbrella of opportunity to some extent -- after all, the clue is in the word "early" -- but it becomes rather more difficult to be patient and understanding when a game, with publisher backing no less, lurches onto Steam and declares itself fit for battle, only to collapse in a heap of execrable design and damnable bugs.
It's that fine line between gated marketplaces and maintaining at least some standard of quality control. We need the latter, because nowhere on the Rekoil page on the Steam store is there a big red sign that says: "DO NOT BUY! AWFUL, BUGGY MESS!" And there should be. Because it is.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, though, and what Rekoil is aiming for is fairly worthy. A throwback to the good old days of Quake and Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament, this is good old-fashioned FPS arena combat at its purest. None of this XP malarky, no killstreaks or tactical packages to be found here, just a handful of loadouts, some rapid, twitchy gunplay, fast respawns , and a whole bunch of bullets. So far, so good.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (free to play)
Developer: Edge Of Reality
Publisher: Edge Of Reality
Loadout is not what you'd call a subtle game. At all. But with over 44 billion weapon combinations at your disposal, it really doesn't need to be.
Electrified cluster rockets, burning laser beams and steely spiked balls fill the air as players bring crazy bespoke boomsticks to bear on each other in short objective gametypes, harking back to the all-or-nothing days of PC shooters. Instead of syrupy cover systems, we have slippery movement, circle-strafing and dive rolls. Sprawling maps are replaced by small, vertical stages with four players per side. And classy sophistication takes a back seat to flapping pixelated willies, Gangnam Style taunts, swearing, dick jokes and explosions. It's unashamedly old-school, a welcome shock to the system after years of shooters getting progressively more involved... and free to boot.
Edge Of Reality also aren't shy about their influences, proudly proclaiming that Loadout is the deranged third-person lovechild of Team Fortress 2 and Borderlands. Or more specifically, bringing TF2's objective gameplay and Borderlands' wild weapon creation together in a single package. Unlike most shooters that just unlock a selection of scopes and attachments, Loadout lets you build outrageous bastardised firearms out of dozens of separate components and ammo types, then scandalise your opponents with the resulting monstrosity.
This is my flame-gouting, six barrelled, bio-scanning, fireball-lobbing pulse rifle. There are few like it, and this one is mine.Click here to read more...
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Formats: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One
With the PS3/360 generation of gaming pumping out some excellent games right up to the release of the new generation of gaming consoles, there was always going to be the question of whether some of these games should have waited for the new hardware.
That said we were blown away by what our old machines were capable of with the likes of Beyond: Two Souls (visually at least), Bioshock infinite, The Last of Us, and of course Tomb Raider. So how much do we really need a re-release of a game that's not even a year old? I admit I was sceptical, but as a fan of the game and a visuals enthusiast (my new name for 'graphics whore'), there was no denying I'd struggle to pretend a PS4 version wasn't of interest.
At the RRP of £50, this is a hard sell, but we've seen prices as low as £35, making this very tempting, especially for any of you yet to play the original game. And if you've not played the game yet, you're in for an absolute blast from start to finish. I'll get onto the new features of this Definitive Edition later on. But first, a refresher about the game itself.Click here to read more...
Developers: Young Horses
Octodad: Dadliest Catch stems from what is, quite frankly, one of the best comic foundations for a game we've ever come across. Octodad is a loving family man -- a doting husband and father -- who flips burgers on weekends for his kids in the back yard, mows the lawn and weeds the flowerbed, chops firewood, does the grocery shopping, and takes his family on day trips to the aquarium.
But he's also an octopus, meaning that everything he does is hilariously awkward.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is what you'd get if you stuffed QWOP into a blender with The Ministry of Silly Walks and a Sea Life Centre. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve too, with numerous nods to Bennett Foddy’s brilliantly farcical athletics game, and an abundance of comedic calamity that call to mind the shctick of Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and the absurdist creations of Monty Python. It's wonderfully silly, and it's been some time since we've seen a game revel in such a simple yet effective joke. It's likely to be this year's Surgeon Simulator in that regard.
Octodad draws its challenge and its charm from a deliciously warped control system. You control four of the cephaloprotagonist's limbs -- ostensibly arms and legs -- independently: one trigger to lift the left leg, one trigger to lift the right, with direction then controlled by the left stick. What follows is a slithering, tumbling, lolloping motion that would probably be disgusting if everything wasn't so brightly saturated in the aesthetics of a CBBC cartoon. It's hilariously haphazard, even more so when trying to climb anything such as the stairs on a slide or a ladder of cereal boxes on display in a shop.Click here to read more...
Developer: Team6 Game Studios
Publisher: Kiss Ltd
Hyper Fighters has a truly excellent name. Hyper Fighters. It sets you up for fun, gratuitous explosions and the tastiest of crunchy overdriven riffs; harking back to the good old days of uncomplicated thrills.
It's also the kind of name that could easily sucker unwary punters into buying a shonky port of a terrible Wii rail shooter. "Well, it's called Hyper Fighters," they'll say. "How bad can it be?"
Good question, that. Luckily I've spent hours finding out exactly how bad it is, so you'll never have to go anywhere near this abysmal danger zone.Click here to read more...
Developer: Airtight Games
OUYA needs exclusives like Toejam needs Earl. Following months of what can charitably be described as plucky fumbling, the Kickstarted cube is struggling to find its calling as more than an XBMC box, emulation station or novelty paperweight. For those of us who backed the console, there's been precious little to get fired up about beyond a few cracking titles that are readily available on other platforms. Those groovy crowd funding days are just a distant memory now.
So when the creator of Portal announced an OUYA exclusive action RPG... featuring funky Vikings... and rhythm-based combat... and sweet fresh jams scored by Journey's Austin Wintory... you'd better believe we scampered straight into the office cupboard to locate where we'd stashed the power cable. We eventually found it wedged between our dusty Leap Motion unit and my personal bag of John Carmack's hair clippings [I'm not actually sure if he's joking - Ed].
Soul Fjord is a funky take on Norse Mythology, an epic saga directed like a cheesy 70s Blaxploitation flick. After legendary warrior Magnus Jones dies and finds himself barred from the disco at the top of the World Tree by a chump bouncer, he embarks on an quest throughout a selection of procedurally generated dungeons, matching the rhythm of his attacks to the beat of the funkified soundtrack; with the ultimate goal of ascending back to the top and funk eternal. It's a little like a blend between Dungeon Hunters, Patapon and the original Toejam & Earl, perhaps, only Toejam is now a fly Viking sporting a massive axe and afro to match.Click here to read more...
Publishers: Namco Bandai
The Ultimate Ninja Storm series is arguably too good at capturing the spirit of Naruto Shippuden's long-running anime.
Superbly choreographed and memorable battles are bookended by countless hours of grinding exposition, usually involving two angsty youngsters growling intense monologue at each other for what feels like an eternity. All while the tone teeters uncomfortably between lighthearted fun and gritty emotional outpouring, as characters schizophrenically transform from happy-go-lucky kids into depressive angst merchants like flicking a light switch. There's a lot to love once the shuriken start flying (along with corpse puppets... and animated wood... and crazy magical eyeballs...), but you've got to put up with an awful lot of bumf to get to the good stuff.
I could equally be describing the anime or the games, and the clumsily-titled Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3: Full Burst is no exception. The enormous campaign delivers a blow-by-blow playable recap of the Fourth Ninja War story arc featuring intense one-on-one battles, which in turn unlocks characters to use in freeplay. As always, the fighting mechanics are a cut above what you'd expect from a licensed tie in, but only hardened series fans will be able to wade through the storyline. And understand what all the jargon means. Be warned: if you don't know what a "Jinchūriki" or "Sharingan" are and why Sasuke Uchiha is on a bit of a downer, the rest of this review is better off skipped. It's not for you.
However, as effectively a 'complete' edition of a game that released last year, I'm not entirely sure who Full Burst is for. Swimsuit aficionados, probably.Click here to read more...
Developers: Double Fine
'Shut up and take my money!' That was the first thing I said when I learned that Tim Schafer and co. were making a new point-and-click adventure game. It didn't matter that they'd incorrectly assumed everyone thought that the genre was dead, it didn't really phase me when they announced that the game would be split into halves; after all, some of the finest of these extinct adventure games we've had in the last few years have been episodic in nature. It miffed me a bit when they decided that big name Hollywood talent was more important than getting the whole thing out on time, but to be fair, the voice acting in this thing is fantastic, so no complaints there really.
Put simply, there was a lot of excitement for Broken Age.
It is, in many ways, a delight. In one universe, Shay, brought to life with a marvellously understated performance from Mr. Wood, gets up for another day of routine aboard the spaceship Bossa Nova. He lives out his days in a childish paradise -- eating ice-cream, playing with train sets, and rescuing little knitted critters from staged peril before enjoying their hugs. The ship is a daycare prison, guarded by an overbearing AI (Jennifer Hale is fantastic) who addresses Shay as if he were her toddler son, and shields him from anything even remotely involving risk or danger. But adventure comes a-calling, and Shay learns the hard way that to be an adult is to make hard decisions, and that seeking danger has its consequences.
Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (£7.99)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Dead Rising 3 deserves some quality downloadable content. Anyone who's hacked, slashed, burned, melted and creatively brutalised their way to the end of overtime mode will know that two returning series characters beg to be fleshed out in greater detail, with backstories and unanswered questions to explore over the course of several hours. Or completely ignore in favour of carving hordes of undead into tiny pieces while wearing lingerie and reindeer antlers.
Never mind all that, though, because Capcom Vancouver are more interested in telling the mediocre stories of four total randomers who you'll struggle to care about even as you forget who they were. Case in point: Special Forces commander Adam Kane, who apparently ran around Los Perdidos for two hours doing some boring fetch quests, scrutinising lamp posts and and racking up the kills in an awesome minigun-equipped APC.
Okay, in fairness, that last bit was pretty cool. Broken Eagle is fantastic fun because Dead Rising 3 is fantastic fun, but at £7.99, fails to deliver anywhere near enough meaningful content... and makes the season pass even more of a mug's game than it already is.Click here to read more...
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Blackguards shouldn't exist, at least by conventional logic. Even as publishers and focus groups tell gamers that we crave cinematic multiplayer shooters, Daedalic Entertainment bring us a rock-hard fusion of hex strategy with mechanics lifted straight out of a quirky German tabletop role-playing game. Starring morally bankrupt rogues. With no multiplayer. That's forty hours long. From a studio who've only previously created point & click adventure games.
It's too stubbornly obtuse to be hip, a real old-school niche-filling humdinger, the kind of game that makes you genuinely proud to own a half decent PC... or very glad that you don't. Personally, I'm so deep in the former camp that I'm pitching a tent.
Wait, no, I need to rephrase that. What I mean to say is that Blackguards' unapologetic desire to brutalise and reward a hardcore niche audience is intensely refreshing, harking back to the days when fortune favoured the bold and brainy. And honestly, as someone who rolled more than his fair share of D6 back in the day, I find its unabashedly esoteric ruleset almost physically arousing. Phrasing be damned.
Mind you, what makes Blackguards irresistible for some will prove utterly miserable for others.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS Vita
Back when Tony Hawk's Pro Skater first arrived on the PSOne in demo form, I spent an entire day playing that same Chicago skatepark level over and over again with my freind Aaron. You had one minute to get the highest score that you possibly could: GO!
The beauty of that game, even in that small demo, was a simple control system married to expansive, imaginative level design, provoking a competitive mentality and encouraging planning the perfect route to achieve your goal. I've tried skateboarding in real life. I suck at it. But these games provided pick-up-and-play brilliance combined with the dominant sub-culture of the decade. I could bust cool moves with my friends whilst keeping knees unscathed, and headbanging along to pop-punk outfits and the ska-rock bands of the decade.
Skate came along as THPS reached its most bombastic zenith, and brought with it a completely revamped control system and a focus on doing the simple things well rather than embracing the overblown ridiculousness and Jackass mentality that had crept into the later iterations of its competitor. At heart, though, the aim was the same: pull tricks, beat scores, and delight in the physics of it all -- the feelings of momentum and motion and responsive, taut controls.
And OlliOlli is all about that.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PSN (reviewed) | XBLA
Developers: Ubisoft Sofia
Releasing at the busiest time of year, Liberation went largely unnoticed when it released towards the back end of 2012 on the PS Vita. So when Ubisoft announced they would be polishing it up for a downloadable release on PSN and XBLA it was collective high fives all-round. Sorry Vita, but the big TV wins again.
So often, I cringe when I see the prices of digital games or HD remakes, but Liberation’s £15.99 asking price is very reasonable. Mainly because the original Vita version costs more and the visual upgrade is huge. Some of you may be disappointed to hear that the multiplayer options have been ditched, but this makes sense really. Why would Ubisoft want to dedicate resources to keeping more servers alive when they know most fans will be enjoying the superior multiplayer offerings of Assassin’s Creed IV?
You’d be forgiven for losing track of the plotlines in recent games, as ACIII had you playing as the grandson of the protagonist in ACIV, and now Liberation HD takes you back to the same timeline as ACIII in America. On the plus side, Liberation is only loosely connected with the main events of the series and doesn’t punish newcomers or anyone without an eidetic memory.Click here to read more...
Developer: Mind Over Matter Studios
Publisher: Nordic Games
Don't even think about buying Spellforce 2: Demons Of The Past if you're not a die-hard series veteran.
It's a standalone expansion to a niche game that released eight years ago, and to their credit, Mind Over Matter Studios make this crystal clear from the off. The tutorials are choppy low-resolution videos of the tutorials from the previous expansion. An unhelpful intro cinematic plunges you straight into the last chapter of the impenetrable story, a battle for world survival involving the terrifying demonic villain Zazhut and a dark elf named... Craig?! That's not exactly the most imaginative hard fantasy name I've ever seen, though since my heroic avatar is called "Dealspwn," I suppose we should stop throwing stones in this glass house. If you don't already know how to play and what a "Shaikan" is, there is nothing for you here.
Never mind though, because Demons Of The Past isn't trying to win over new converts, rather it's an attempt to tie up the storyline before what we hope will be a reveal for Spellforce 3. As such you can expect another 20-30 hours of RTS and RPG hybrid gameplay, wherein you'll experience the best and worst of both genres throughout some truly enormous maps. Resource collection, unit building and sweeping strategy goes hand-in-hand with character development, sidequests, inventory management and dialogue galore. Spellforce fans will be in their element, though arguably even they will have to curb their expectations to fully enjoy what Demons Of The Past brings to the table.Click here to read more...
Nidhogg reminds me of a time when I used to play really basic flash games with mates at school during boring lessons ion the computer lab, stuff like Slime Soccer on sites like Miniclip. We'd huddle around a single keyboard and try not to look too amused as we whiled away a quick five minutes with the most beguilingly basic games: titles that were quick to learn in a matter of seconds, yet offered unlimited replayability in competition.
Nidhogg is exactly the same as those games in every way but one.
It costs a tenner.
It's enormous fun, though, especially in short bursts. You have your directional buttons, you have a button to jump and a button to thrust forth with your sword. And that's it. As multiplayer fencing titles go, Nidhogg is as simple in its controls as it is in its archaic visuals. But it isn't long before you begin to realise that the simple inputs can be combined in a number of ways to make for swashbuckling encounters that move back and forth in seconds. Hold up and press attack and you'll fling your epee at your opponent. Tap down and you can pick it up again. Tap down while you're in motion, and you can do a nifty little action roll or a handy cartwheel -- perfect for retrieving dropped weaponry when on the move, or evading a high thrust and skewering your opponent swiftly in retaliation, right through the balls.Click here to read more...
Developers: Stoic Studio
Publishers: Versus Evil
The Banner Saga is a sumptuous feast for the senses. Another magnificent score from Journey composer Austin Wintory rises and falls as gorgeous visuals inspired by Eyvind Earle's work with Disney in the 1950s tell the story of a fantastical world blighted by an ancient evil known as the Dredge. A narrative-driven, tactical RPG of sorts, The Banner Saga casts us into a world that owes much it would seem to Scandanavian myth and legend -- a world that mankind shares with a giant, horned race known as varl. The story flits between a handful of central protagonists; casting you as the leader of a caravan of survivors one chapter, and the head of a band of warriors the next.
Leadership, of course, has its burdens, and the struggle for survival is a tough one. Safety is swiftly proven to be a myth, and each new trek is even more perilous than the last. It's not easy when you have evil beasts stalking the land, brigands lurking in forests who care nothing for the oncoming threat that the Dredge present but will gladly kill you for the food and the valuables your caravan holds, a sun that never sets, and a murderous winter snow. But many of the dangers come from within: squabbling clansmen, drunks who need to have examples made of them, fighters questioning your judgement and your leadership. Desperate times yield desperate people, and unpredictability is rife.
It's clear to see that the small team at Stoic have taken inspiration from a number of sources, but Game of Thrones shines through in resolutely bleak fashion. Sometimes I hear Sean Bean utter "Winter is coming," as more reports pour in of an ancient evil returned, breaching the lands to the North. It's not just the weather, nor the relentless crushing of hope, but rather the fact the choices have real consequences in this game. As you make your way from one town to the next, you're beset upon not only by Dredge but also the troubles of your caravan. Do you accept the help that a band of warriors you've found on the road are offering? They might yield another character for your fighting roster. They might also kill half of your men and steal your precious supplies. And what about when you hear screams coming from a nearby village? Do you rush in yourself to protect those unable to help themselves, do you send others in your stead, or do you turn and run and leave the villagers to their fate? Main characters can and will die, sometimes all too suddenly, and though one or two might make it all of the way through the game with you, you'll be left ruing the fate of those you sent to their deaths with the wrong decision.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (£11.99)
Developer: Press Play
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood may look like a throwaway kids' platformer at first glance, but it plays like a colourful gameplay hybrid of Trine and Limbo.
After our improbably-coiffured hero banishes his annoying brother to an evil realm with a spell he found on the internet (one weird trick to cast your sibling into another plane of existence?), Max sets forth to save Felix from the evil Mustachio and save a bizarre world in the process. A Saturday morning setup to be sure, but the puzzle gameplay is surprisingly serious business.
Things start out simple, easing players into the extremely basic moveset. Max can waddle at a slow jog, jump over small obstacles and drag objects around, much like the Limbo lad, but is otherwise completely defenceless. A couple of nicely choreographed chase scenes set the tone nicely, before introducing Max to his magic marker, the only object he's thought to bring with him from the real world. As a sort-of-sequel to unappreciated WiiWare puzzler Max & The Magic Marker, Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood uses his Sharpie to twist reality in some excellent brainteasers.
Well, it is a magic marker, after all.
Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (RRP: £6.99)
Developer: Hopoo Games
Risk Of Rain is madly brilliant and brilliantly maddening.
It was always going to be. Blending the thumb-shredding twitchy action of an old-school run & gun platformers with compelling roguelike elements and MOBA-esque skills results in a seriously addictive proposition. Or in less flowery terms: it's the best of three worlds - and fit to kick your arse even as you beg for seconds.
Controlling one of a selection of Sci-Fi heroes, we'll hare around the surface of a hostile planet as foes rain down from the heavens, desperately attempting to blast our way to safety and fill out an enormous list of items and enemies. Now that the two-person student team has ironed out most of the annoying bugs that shipped at launch, it's high time we gave Risk Of Rain our full and thoroughly deserved attention.Click here to read more...
Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: Revolution Software
It’s very rare that my fiancée is more excited for a game than me. Normally it’s me explaining to her why you should pre-order, why a console needs to be had on launch day, and why that musical chest I got free with The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is so friggin’ awesome!
But for one franchise in particular she becomes just like me. The geek within rises, and she gets super excited. Step forward Broken Sword. Now luckily for me we’ve been waiting a long time since the last Broken Sword game – longer than our entire relationship in fact, so this is the first time I’ve bore witness to this excitement. I thought she got excited for Zelda, but Broken Sword is in another ballpark. Apparently this is a big deal – she funded it through kickstarter no less - so I’d better do it justice, or so help me that “big day” next year might never come.
No pressure then right? So, eyes down and concentrate.
For those not in as unique a relationship as mine, Broken Sword first hit the gaming scene way back in 1996. It focused on two individuals – local girl Nico Collard and American George Stobbart – who team up to solve a Parisian bombing, with many twists and turns along the way. The original game was your standard 2D point and click adventure, with sequels sending our heroes further afield to more varied locations, and adopting different gameplay mechanics – and even embracing 3D – with mixed success.Click here to read more...
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), Xbox 360, Windows 8 Devices
Developer: Vanguard Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
It's official: Halo works surprisingly well as a twin-stick shooter.
Perhaps it shouldn't be particularly surprising, in all fairness. Vanguard Games are dab hands at the genre, having brought us the superb Gatling Gears, and absolutely nailed the basics with Spartan Assault. Reliving a Covenant invasion via a holographic training simulation, we'll wield a selection of familiar armaments and vehicles against believably authentic enemies.
One moment we'll smash through entrenched defences in a 'Grizzly' scorpion variant, the next we'll hose down Brutes with SMG fire or engage in tense shootouts against agile Elites using scavenged improvised weapons. The way foes move and act has been perfectly observed (from teetering Grunts to the shield-toting Jackals), while the balance of brave offence, vehicular hijacks and desperately turtling behind a rock during shield recharge is unmistakably Halo. Though more Geometry Wars than Halo Wars, Spartan Assault feels like a Halo game through and through.
Unfortunately Spartan Assault also feels very much like a mobile game that's been shoved onto a home console at twice the original price. Because... it is.Click here to read more...