Platform: PC (£6.99)
Developer: Flump Studios
Publisher: Kiss Ltd
Every once in a while, we encounter a game that's simply too bonkers to ignore. Ready? Okay, brace yourself. Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection is a bullet hell shooter... that makes you answer multiple-choice maths questions... while listening to tasty British rock hiphop from The Sixtyfours.
If Her Majesty's Government tasked CAVE with designing the civil service entrance exams on a boozy night out in the Midlands, the result might look something like this.
It reminds me very strongly of those barmy old Amiga days when bedroom coders and import publishers could fill our floppies with all manner of eccentric wonderful nonsense. Anyone who played Brian Conrad's Deluxe Hamburger and the totally bizarre Apidya will know that anything is fair game when it comes to shoot'em ups, from delicious fast food to inexplicable bee fairies.
Unfortunately Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection also reminds us that eccentricity and quality aren't mutually inclusive.Click here to read more...
Developer: Vertigo Games
Sometimes you need to take a break from all the cover shooters, the chequered flag chasing and alien blasting to exercise the old grey matter with some puzzles for a change. PSN has been a bit bare of late for head-scratching titles, which is why we’re so keen to give Adam’s Venture Chronicles a go.
The name may sound familiar to PC gamers as the game was originally released in episodic chunks in 2009 through 2012. So, while not exactly fresh, it’s nice to see the game eventually reach another platform.
The lead hero of the piece is an odd little concoction. He sounds like Bruce Campbell, but looks like a meerkat thanks to the dark rings around his eyes and a completely beige outfit. Vertigo are clearly aiming for a bit of Nathan Drake/Elena back and forth banter with his co-star, but he’s pretty unlikable to be honest. The one-liners fall flat and his partner doesn’t seem to enjoy his company either, instead she seems to be lamenting that failed audition for the Elena role.Click here to read more...
Developers: Necrophone Games
Publishers: Adult Swim Games
A game built around consistent comedy is a rare thing to find in this medium of ours, so subjective is the art of making people chuckle. But Jazzpunk presents one of the most singular visions of interactive humour that we've seen in some time, delivering an absurdist tour-de-force that presents a Pythonic cartoon of sorts, sending up everything from James Bond to Space Invaders.
Jazzpunk is set in an alternative, Cold War-era world where robots appear to have infiltrated the service industries -- the year 1959b to be exact -- and you step into the shoes of agent Polyblank, who is tasked by his sozzled, shifty, Cockney director, operating out of an abandoned Tube carriage in an airport, to undertake several spots of espionage. Each operation begins with Polyblank popping the cap off of some prescription medicine named Missionoyl, which carries instructions telling the player to "take one capsule every mission, or until reality is sufficiently augmented".
If you think that sounds weird, it's nothing compared to the bonkers stuff that greets you when you wake from your pill-induced reverie at your destination.Click here to read more...
Developer: Astro Port
Publisher/Localisation: Nyu Media
There's nothing so satisfying as stomping across the battlefield in an enormous walking tank, gears grinding and servos screeching, shredding through unending robot legions with a gun the size of a railway carriage. It's an intoxicating feeling for any mech aficionado, and Gigantic Army absolutely nails it.
I'd expect nothing less, given that Gigantic Army is heavily based on the legendary Cybernator and hails from the veteran Doujin circle behind Satazius. Snuggled within the mighty GMR-34 SALADIN, players crush, blast, smash and generally brutalise their way across an alien homeworld in a one-mech orgy of destruction, facing off against enormous bosses with truly outrageous weaponry. And just when things couldn't possibly get any better, Gigantic Army lets us punch a skyscraper-dwarfing arachobot with a massive hydraulic ram.
Oh baby. I'm tempted to end the review and hand out an Editor's Choice Award right there, frankly, but behind the massive explosions and rampant Pile Bunker shenanigans lurks an impressively versatile SHMUP that's more nuanced than it lets on.
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Platform: PC (£11.99)
Developer: New World Interactive
My first competitive Insurgency match did not go well. In fact, "embarrassing rout" might be a more appropriate term.
As I picked my way through a warren of dense urban alleys, knowing that any balcony or doorway could hide an enemy combatant, I suddenly saw movement in my peripheral vision. I dropped prone and squeezed off my first shots fired in anger... directly into my squad leader's chest, killing him instantly. With only the tiniest of UI prompts and no radar to guide me, how was I to know? Though he laughed off my apology with a hearty "no worries, mate," the experience left me timid and shaken, cowering behind a burned out car until a shotgun-toting terrorist rounded the corner. I hesitated, and died poorly.
In the very next round, however, I was a hero. Tasked with destroying enemy weapon caches dotted around the map, my squad systematically laid down their lives to push me forward, seeing as I was the only player left alive with any C4. As my last compatriot hit the ground, the whip-crack of a sniper rifle ringing in my ears, I sprinted into the control zone, threw my explosives and mashed the detonator while desperately diving for cover. As the dust settled, my entire squad respawned thanks to my last-ditch run, and I felt like an utter legend. At least until two pistol rounds ended my life less than a minute later.
Like the original Source mod that bore its name, Insurgency is an unforgiving and old-school shooter that focuses on authenticity and immersion, wherein two bullets from any weapon are enough to put you down. It punishes both the timid and the brave, instead rewarding methodical teamwork and patience. If you're willing to sacrifice K/D ratios, experience systems, stat tracking, unlocks and other modern contrivances in the pursuit of a truly skill-based arena, Insurgency deserves to become your new online addiction despite its dated looks.Click here to read more...
Developer: Telltale Games
After the brilliant and bittersweet gut punch that was The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1, it's no surprise that Episode 2 gives us time to recover. Time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start making sense of the preceding few hours.
Yes, it's time for the difficult second album. Smoke & Mirrors is exactly what you'd expect: a slower, shorter, more thoughtful and somewhat less satisfying episode that still keeps you raptly glued to the screen for its two hour runtime.
If you're reading this, I assume that you've already got a working knowledge of Bill Willingham's Fables universe and played Episode 1. Here's the skinny just in case: all your favourite fairytale characters are real, living in 1980s New York in an underground society and doing awful things to survive. After a hunt for a serial killer and sickening revelation leaves sheriff Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf) reeling, Episode 2 opens with our antihero facing police interrogation, before eventually picking up the scent of a shocking new lead.Click here to read more...
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...