Nintendo are usually fairly strict when it comes to their own IPs, especially when it comes to their big hitters. But their slight history of sharing isn't without success stories... along with other, admittedly contentious, results. Take the Metroid series, for instance. Retro Studios' Prime trilogy is still a benchmark in fantastic reimaginings of a yesteryear favourite, even if Other M proved that sometimes there'll be mixed results when a Nintendo IP is loaned out into other creative hands.
Unlike those games, though, Hyrule Warriors is not representative of Nintendo giving another studio relatively free rein with one of their most beloved franchises. Here we find a very specific mashup, and one that tends more towards the latter part of its name than the former. Hyrule provides the sizzle, but Warriors the steak.
It's worth bearing in mind that I like the various Warriors series that have emerged over the years. My favourite is still probably Dynasty Warriors 4, but that has more to do with it being an incredibly cathartic game at a certain point in my life rather than anything that game does especially well over any of its fellows. You generally know what you're getting with a Warriors game: a range of playable heroes, amusingly nonsensical cutscenes, 1-vs-1000s combat stuffed with button mashing and epilepsy-inducing special attacks, taking over enemy keeps and knocking out Outpost Captains.
Hyrule Warriors does all of those things.
But it does them in better fashion than I've ever seen from a Warriors game before.
Hyrule Warriors is basically a Warriors game as modded by the world's biggest Zelda fan. It's a spectacular piece of fan service that manages to frame everything in terms of the various adventures of Link and Zelda over the years, from playable characters and weapon sets to fairly pretty maps based upon locales from a number of different Zelda titles, to an entire adventure mode that plays out on a retro map plucked from the original Legend of Zelda NES game. Rupees burst out of downed enemies, fulfilling certain requirements on the battlefield will cause chests to spawn that tinkle in familiar fashion when they appear, and deliver the same anticipatory music when you take a peek inside. Variations on Koji Kondo's musical themes weave in and out of the wildly-soloing electric guitars that accompany most Warriors titles.Click here to read more...
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: NIS America Europe | Reef Entertainment
Oh look. A quirky parody JRPG with female character designs that resemble a head-on collision between a Victoria's Secret truck and a Kill la Kill cosplay competition. This must be another Compile Heart game then!
As much as I enjoy their wares, Compile Heart infuriate me. They're clearly competent developers, having honed a truly fantastic combat model and experimented with crazy layered gameplay systems throughout the Hyperdimension Neptunia and Mugen Souls games, but they always stop short of delivering a genuinely well-rounded JRPG. In fact, they make the same killer mistakes every time: concentrating on cheeky dialogue and flagrant fanservice instead of delivering technically proficient field maps, acceptable 3D visuals to match the gorgeous 2D anime art, non-clichéd characters with more than one jump sound effect and interesting dungeons that are worth grinding through.
I'm as partial to cheesecake as anyone, but for Compile Heart it's usually the starter, main course and dessert rather than the end of a big delicious meal.
Fairy Fencer F makes me take heart, though. It's still guilty of the same issues to some degree, but at least the stockings and cleavage and comically erotic misunderstandings are backed up by a strong storyline, more diverse characters and an interesting setting. Plus a few songs from the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. Compile Heart aren't quite there yet, but they're definitely on the right track.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Sony has repositioned the Vita as a champion of indie titles and Murasaki Baby has been on our radar for what seems like forever. The wait is over though and we finally get our hands on one of the most visually-striking games to land on the handheld in ages.
The aim of this 2D puzzle platformer is to help this incredibly creepy, yet somehow adorable, little girl find her ‘mummy’ as we guide her through the nightmare-like environments via a multitude of touchscreen and rear touchpad controls. Early Vita adopters may hear a few distant alarm bells ringing if they remember the infuriatingly clunky launch title Escape Plan. Thankfully, the controls in Murasaki Baby are much better. Mostly.
To move the child, you use the touchscreen to hold her hand and drag it across the screen as her arm stretches out and she follows your movements. Pull too far and too fast and she’ll trip, so you must be mindful of moving at a consistent pace. Players also need care for balloon she carries. If it pops, you must restart the scene, so you’ll need to use another finger to drag it around the screen in order to move it past thorns or avoid flying safety pins, the latter of which you can also flick from the screen.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (Steam, £5.99, releases tomorrow)
Developer: Curve Studios
Oh yes. Iron Fisticle is the good stuff.
Reckless innovation isn't the only way to make a cracking boutique game. Take a classic genre from yesteryear as a foundation, then build a rock-solid experience on top of it that's mechanically refined, satisfying to play and forward-thinking without losing the nostalgia factor.
Iron Fisticle nails it: an uncomplicated and deeply wholesome fusion of Robotron and Gauntlet that absolutely delivers where it counts. Hectic action, a fantastic arsenal, deceptively deep moment-to-moment action and an addictive progression system that makes each game over a little victory of its own. It's not going to change the face of the industry, but it's bloody good fun.Click here to read more...
Developer: Digital Extremes
"Free-to-play cooperative space ninjas."
I could probably end the review right there, to be honest. Since its PC release, Warframe has boasted what's probably the most kickass high concept on the market; a F2P yet massively expanded take on Mass Effect 3's cooperative multiplayer, which casts us as ancient spacefaring ninjas free to bring death to power-armoured marines, robots and zombies with outlandish guns and Sci-Fi samurai gear. It's a game in which you can throw down on a spider tank with an electric katana, breed a mutant dog to bring into combat, enhance your equipment with collectible cards and even find yourself abducted by a cyborg Frankenwolf in the middle of a match because you insulted one of the factions.
It's also shonky, unpolished, grindy, hinges around a bizarre economy and throws in a huge number of overlapping gameplay systems without worrying about whether they all work properly. Warframe is too crazy to live. And I love it.
If you haven't jumped into Destiny yet, I'd highly recommend giving Warframe a whirl, especially now it's out on Xbox One. And free. It might just be the cure for your Science Fiction slaughterfest bug.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Vita
Futurlab may have just gone and made one of the best games of the year. And for anyone on PS+, you can download it for free now on PS4 and Vita.
The original Velocity title on the Vita was a cool retro shoot ‘em up that had you teleporting through barriers to reach other parts of a scrolling stage. We would have been happy enough with more of the same, but Futurlab really went the extra mile by adding in on-foot 2D platforming sections when you leave the ship. The game effortlessly shifts between the two modes with no loading screens to complete one of the slickest experiences we’ve seen on PS4.
But let’s go back to the flying parts of the game. Like many classic shooters, you travel up the ever scrolling screen to reach your goal at the top. Rather than fly to the top of the screen to speed up the scrolling, you hold R1 to boost, which effectively scrolls the screen a bit faster, with you needing to stick near the bottom of to have more time to avoid getting smushed.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (£6.99)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
For the last few days, I've been the only human girl in a high school for birds. I've flirted with Rock Doves, agonised between chasing a haughty Fantailed pigeon and his dreamy half-brother, entertained the notion of dating my narcoleptic button quail teacher and embarked on a quest for the One True Pudding. All between trying to ace my tests and pass the semester.
It's was weird, even for someone who reviews localised Japanese games and doujin titles on a weekly basis. Thankfully I've loved every delightfully bizarre and comfort zone-shattering minute of it.
At its core, Hatoful Boyfriend can best be described as a dating sim with birds instead of people. Like any visual novel, you'll click through reams of quirky text dialogue and narration accompanied with crude character portraits, occasionally choosing between a few different options to push the narrative in a new direction. Hanging out with and being nice to your harem of clichéd potential boyfriends (the shy bookish one, the complex Tsundere one, the hyper one, the childhood friend after something more, you know the drill) may make them fall for you, at which point you'll enjoy an intriguing ending, unlock some character artwork and then start all over again like a pigeon-fancying version of Groundhog day.
Only, again, the boys are birds. And if you don't manage to find love you'll be brutally murdered in your bed.Click here to read more...
Developer: Lets Get Kraken
At the end of the day, blasting a pixelated rat with a fireball doesn't feel hugely different from blasting a pixelated rat with a lightning bolt. Or a magic missile. Or a spiralling steam helix. No matter the devastating elemental spell at your disposal, you're still shooting rats in a box.
That's the big problem with Runers, which in fairness, brings some great ideas to the brainstorming table. As a Roguelike hybrid, it retains the procedural dungeon crawling and permadeath of its ASCII ancestor, but replaces turn-based tiles with a completely different core gameplay mechanic. In this case, top-down shooting a la Geometry Wars. However, in a neat twist, you'll choose from a selection of classes with different active spells and racial traits, then combine elemental runes to form totally new attack spells on the fly. One round you're a lizardman bard shooting out rock spikes and entropy missiles, the next you're a Dwarven Paladin wreathing the levels in flames.
It's a brilliant conceit that's fun for a while. Unfortunately, if we're honest, Runers' core SHMUP gameplay just isn't quite strong enough to prop up the rest of it.
Click here to read more...
Developer: Nine Dots Studio
Publisher: Bandai Namco
GoD Factory: Wingmen is the definition of an underdog success story. Nine Dots Studio poured their heart, soul and thousands of Pounds of their own money into creating an extraordinary multiplayer arcade space sim, which then subsequently failed on Kickstarter. However, thanks to a strong prototype, great gameplay and backing from Bandai Namco, the finished product has finally made it onto Steam.
Forget the backstory, though, because we're finally able to take GoD Factory: Wingmen out of the hangar, rev up its engines and listen to her howling roar. Two teams of four pilots leap into the cockpits of painstakingly customised fighters, screaming into what's truthfully billed as 'a mix of Ace Combat, Armored Core, Star Fox, DoTA and more.' Fast-paced, thrilling, visually lavish and pleasingly tactical, it's a very different breed of space shooter.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (£6.99, reviewed) | Also on iOS & Android
Sorry, no, this isn't the stealth sequel to Beneath A Steel Sky. Instead, the developers behind Incredipede and Pineapple Smash Crew have collaborated on one of the most bizarre and intriguing game concepts you'll see this year: an alien jellyfish procreation simulator set beneath the thick Venusian clouds, which challenges us to help an intrepid Cnidarian spread its seed and fertilise a variety of extraterrestrial flora.
Or looked at another way, it's a groovy and relaxing one-button casual game that feels partway between Worms, Angry Birds, Tiny Wings and Machiavelli's Ascent.
The brief opening cinematic sets the stage. Venus' dark side actually glows -- in real life as an unexplained scientific phenomenon -- emitting a faint auroral effect known as the 'Ashen Light.' Deep Under The Sky finally has the answers that have long eluded NASA's top boffins: beneath the crushing acidic clouds lives a thriving ecosystem of bio-luminescent creatures. Playing as one of them, a whopping wobbling jellyfish, we'll blast aerodynamic packets of seed material across 2D levels with the aim of exploding them within range of receptive plants, thus ensuring that the species will live on.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Here we go again. I reviewed Diablo III on PC... then the last-gen console version... then the Reaper Of Souls expansion pack... and finally we come to this. The Ultimate Evil Edition. The final showdown. It's time for the last dance with the devil -- that is, unless Blizzard brings out another expansion.
To be honest, I'm still in two minds about whether Diablo III really works on consoles. Despite pretending to be a glorious last stand against the forces of hell, all it really involves is holding the A button (X on PS4) until all the enemies are dead or you've passed out from boredom. The leap from mice to controllers removed an entire dimension of precision priority targeting, so instead you'll just mash that button and then mash it a few more times to pick up all the loot in the vicinity. Then roll. Then hold down A for another five minutes.
This shouldn't be fun. It should be torture. But ultimately, somehow, Diablo III's Ultimate Evil Edition ends up being enjoyable and annoyingly addictive to the point where I'd rather be playing it than leaving my den -- let alone writing this review.
Basically, Just Add Mates.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Once more with feeling: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is magnificent.
Seriously, I'll keep banging on about it until you buy it or show me a letter from your GP proving that you're allergic to visual novels. Halfway between Corpse Party, Cluedo, Battle Royale and Ace Attorney, this grim and frequently disturbing tour de force managed to be both an engrossing page-turner and a gripping videogame. Great characters, fantastic story, despair and hope in equal measure. It's still my GOTY thus far.
The reason I'm telling you this now is that you absolutely mustn't play Danganronpa 2 without fully enjoying the original. Partly because the sequel builds on the revelations of its predecessor, but also because it's worse.
Not bad, mind you. It's actually rather good. But stacked up next to Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2 lacks the subtlety, pacing and restraint to be a truly effective mystery, and often feels like a fan-service holiday special instead.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS Vita
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Handhelds and strategy RPGs were made for each other, and Disgaea continues to be one of the biggest names in the business for those in the know. Nailing that sweet spot between quirky upbeat humour, insane social life-destroying tactical depth and adorable exploding demon penguin murderers, the irreverent series always feels more at home on portable consoles than it does in the living room.
Case in point, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, which provides the ultimate definitive edition of arguably the strongest game in the franchise.
Sardines, dood! Yes, once again, Disgaea isn't ashamed to be deeply silly when it comes to the storyline. We find ourselves following Lord Valvatorez, a once-terrifying vampire tyrant now relegated to a lowly exploding penguin instructor in the depths of hell thanks to some hastily-made promises. His mission, not to mention his obsession with the nutrient value of sardines versus human blood, quickly derails as all manner of crazy characters show up and hilarious diversions poke fun at established conventions, but a strong central theme and great localised dialogue keeps things interesting even if you've never played a Disgaea game before.
It's a surprisingly engrossing tale, even providing alternate 'bad endings' with their own non-canonical epilogue when you fail certain battles. Just remember not to save after seeing one! More importantly, though, Valvatorez is by far the most interesting protagonist in the series. Older and more experienced (but no less bizarre) than his predecessors, he's genuinely hilarious, likeable and benefits from a believable and relateable motive. Move over Laharl.Click here to read more...
I had a blast with Infamous: Second Son. For me, it was probably the best game in the series thus far, a polished experience that did the basics incredibly well, delivered some cracking performances from its leading stars, and dazzled the senses with a gorgeous Seattle sandbox and plenty of interesting abilities. It didn't seek to really break new ground or reinvent the wheel, but Second Son was supremely satisfying because Sucker Punch managed to nail things where they counted -- combat, traversal, scale, story. Would it have been nice to have Seattle live and breathe a little more rather than simply being an obviously gamified sandbox? Perhaps. But frankly I was having too much fun to really care.
Given the hot topic of female protagonists in the gaming industry, it's not surprising really that Sucker Punch were asked in the run up to Second Son's release about the possibility of a female playable protagonist. That questioning only became stronger when we were introduced to Abigail "Fetch" Walker -- a Neon-powered Conduit with some serious baggage in her past and a heavy chip on her shoulder. That Sucker Punch followed through and have given us a fat slab of Fetch's backstory to play through here in First Light is admirable.
More importantly, it's pretty damn good.
Laura Bailey is back to voice Fetch, and once again, the strength of Sucker Punch's performance capture really comes through. Anyone familiar with her story in Second Son will already know the end state of this prequel, set two years before the events of the original game. Fetch is making a living on the streets with her brother in First Light, making ends meet by doing unsavoury jobs for unsavoury people. By the time we meet her in Second Son, she's lost a huge deal, not least a sense of control, and First Light tells the story of how she goes from being a woman trying to hide her powers to being a Conduit fixer and assassin, to eventually becoming a powerful renegade filled with rage and anger.Click here to read more...
Remasters and reduxes are all the rage right now. It's an easy way to make a quick buck, after all, and recycle some of the best experiences of last-gen, keeping the cash coming in and hopefully picking up one or two newcomers along the way. There'll always be questions as to the deserving nature of these revamped games, particularly when it comes to titles barely a generation old, but there's something to be said for 4A Games' Metro double header getting the current-gen treatment.
Metro 2033 once used to be the benchmark for graphics card tests, and the original version still holds up pretty well on PC, but the Redux version really is a step up, with 4A porting 2033 over into Last Light's engine. The visual tweaks and upgrades are all as you'd expect: textures have been overhauled and remodelled, there's a deeper colour palette, and noticeably improved lighting -- all of which makes for a game that's somehow even more atmospheric than when it came around the first time. Better yet, 4A have redone a number of the cutscenes in 2033 to keep players in first-person mode, minimising immersion-breaking occurrences.
PC gamers might not necessarily find these upgrades particularly worthwhile, but on PS4, the games really do feel new-gen, particularly Last Light which is now far closer to its PC sibling and has some absolutely dazzling lighting effects to behold. The visual detail across both games is now realised fantastically on consoles, and the improved clothing physics, improved facial constructions and character animations in 2033, really make for a seamless experience. The console versions still can't quite boast the particle effects of the PC equivalent, but it's a marked step up.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | PC
Developer: Mimimi Productions
Publisher: Loot Entertainment
It’s a little sad that I begin most of my platformer reviews by stating what a shame it is that the genre has all but disappeared from modern console line-ups, with only Ratchet & Clank doing their best to keep it alive. But with Insomniac aligning their studio closer to Xbox nowadays, it may be a while before the duo return. Let’s not talk about Knack either.
So, when browsing this week’s releases I was pleasantly surprised to see a new IP amongst the PSN releases and a quick trailer search later revealed it to be a new platformer. One download later and I’m in the world of The Last Tinker: City of Colors.
But, where’s the jump button? I just hold R2 to run and I’ll just ‘platform’ automatically? What!? So much for rekindling the platformer genre. To be fair, I should have known this game was aimed at a very young audience thanks to the mega-bright hyper-coloured visuals. We’ve nothing against games aimed at the younger kids though here at Dealspwn, as anything that eases new gamers in should be applauded, which is certainly the best way to look at this action-sort-of-platformer.Click here to read more...
Hohokum is beautifully endearing, whimsically comical, filled with bold colours and sumptuous aural dreamscapes. Its fluid mechanics are simple and straightforward, allowing players to concentrate on finding ways to interact with the cartoonish worlds and uncovering little visual rewards for their troubles.
But I found it to be somewhat problematic at first.
Hohokum feels like you're playing through a drug-induced cartoon from half a century ago in some ways. I half expected to be ambushed by Blue Meanies as I meandered through its myriad worlds. It's lovely to behold with its bright, bold colour scheme and cutesy art courtesy of Richard Hogg. I spent a good deal of time in one chamber of the game where the long, snake-like, cycloptic rainbow eel thingy that you control links up with a bunch of friends and they all respond to your controller inputs for a bit. It was like playing with a virtual spirograph, and I just danced for a bit with my rainbow eel chums and I looked up and I'd been doing it for almost half an hour.
That's probably my favourite bit of Hohokum so far, to be honest. it's a simple game once you peel away the quirky art. You steer this one-eyed spectrum snake around, occasionally slowing it down, sometimes speeding it up. And that's it. There are a bunch of multi-screen levels to the game that present you with some sort of bizarre tableau and just leave you to figure things out for yourselves. It's like a PixelJunk Proteus in some ways, or what Nokia's Snake did during the acid years, forgetting all about eating that square pixel, and going on a colourful bender.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita (reviewed)
Developer: Wales Interactive
Gravity Badgers joins the illustrious line of rubbish games with fantastic names. Though nowhere near as bad as the genuinely offensive Hyper Fighters, this Angry Birds clone really does the bare minimum to live up to its sensational monicker.
Seriously: Gravity Badgers. Gravity. Badgers. What a waste.
I never, ever, use the term 'clone' lightly, but I'm afraid that Gravity Badgers earns it hands-down. We find ourselves flinging badgers into outer space by virtually pulling back and dragging them across the screen, only instead of castles, they're presented with an array of physics-based obstacles. Critically, celestial bodies can either attract or repel your furry cosmonaut, deflecting their path towards the exit. Judge it right and you can pull off crazy slingshot effects; mis-cue and you'll send your badger into deep space.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developers: Playrise Digital
Racers, start your engines! Well, charge up your PlayStation Vitas first, as I’ve no doubt many of you haven’t had a reason to put it on for a while unless you’re a fan of niche Japanese titles. But that’s about to change and for a no-excuses price of £4.99 too.
Table Top Racing is an arcade racing title with healthy influences from the likes of Micro Machines and the weapon-sporting Mashed (but not Wrecked, thankfully). You race miniature toy cars across a range of tracks that include sushi restaurants, picnic areas and tables full of junk. Every course is fantastically designed with lots of tight turns and sudden shear edges that keep the racing pack together throughout.
Slight rubber-banding keeps the races tight too, but when some laps are as short as twenty seconds it never feels unfair. The AI is sharp too, especially in the later tournaments. Unlike many racers with weapons though, the AI don’t just focus on you, instead they’ll ruthlessly fight amongst themselves, often providing you with a chance to slip by an angry huddle, although you’ll often risk a rocket up the backside for such slyness.Click here to read more...
The term "game" is rapidly becoming more and more reductive. It implies something frivolous, something inseparable from play, and although so much of what this industry does is provide us with ways to play, to relax, to unwind, and to otherwise entertain ourselves, the term ignores the fact that this interactive medium is better equipped than most to deal with serious subject matter in a profoundly affecting manner.
The term "game" is ill at ease with the first-person exploration titles like Dear Esther and Gone Home, with the experiential delights of Journey and Proteus, and its a term that I apply loosely to MIND: Path to Thalamus simply because we've failed to collectively come up with a better one as an industry. If you were looking for a different description, though, I might tell you it was an interactive narrative journey, or the gamified manifestation of a protagonist's guilty psyche, or a mind-bending first-person puzzler that's heavy on psychological reflection and magical realism.
The elevator pitch is ambitious, and MIND is certainly a game that feels a bit unique, a little bit special at times. When its elements all come together, Path to Thalamus has the capability to really engage and engross. Unfortunately, it's a shame that there are a few things here that conspire to make the game something of an uneven experience.Click here to read more...