Platforms: PS3 | PS4 (reviewed) | X360 | XO | PC
Developers have been left fruitlessly chasing the ghost of 2004’s excellent Spider-Man 2 tie-in, with each of the releases since fixing and breaking things in equal measure. We’ve had cool cel-shaded art makeovers, noir and future settings to change things up, but we’ve also seen devs knacker the web-swinging and flush us down more sewer pipes than we’d care to remember.
Despite the numerous letdowns, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about Spidey’s next-gen debut, although this is more of a port rather than something purpose built for the new machines like Infamous: Second Son.
One parallel with the latest Infamous game and Spider-Man is the importance of that superhero feeling when moving around the city. Web-swinging through New York’s tall streets has always played such a pivotal role in any Spider-Man game. Keen to add their own stamp to swinging (stop laughing at the back), Beenox has changed things again, this time by assigning individual left and right hand swinging to the shoulder buttons. This is supposedly to give you greater control, but if I’m honest, it’s a needless addition as leaning with the left stick was always enough to turn. Beenox also made a bit of a fuss about how webs would no longer attach to the ‘sky’ meaning you’d always have to be near a building to swing. I know, they didn’t attach to the sky in 2004’s game anyway. Despite Beenox’s claims, during the closed-off outdoor base levels Spidey’s webs are clearly attaching to thin air.Click here to read more...
Publisher: Bandai Namco
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. That's fine. It's not supposed to, unless you happen to be a die-hard British fan of Hirohiko Araki's superb but cruelly under-localised manga.
Are you both sitting comfortably? Good, because this game is very much directed at you. CyberConnect2 are no stranger to decent-but-not-exactly-brilliant licensed games, and All Star Battle is one of their most ambitious yet: a playable journey through the entire canon with loads of playable characters, sweet visuals and unbridled personality.
For everyone else, All Star Battle is a slightly stiff fighting game in which you can defeat your enemy with a thousand baseballs and ride a horse around the arena. Or summon robotic bees and deadly bubbles mid-battle. Making sense is for chumps.Click here to read more...
I've decided that I like Bound By Flame. It's won me over by virtue of its clunkily-gruelling, Dark Souls-lite combat system, its rich and varied approach to crafting, its plethora of throwaway one liners and non-sequiturs, and by generally being a little bit bonkers. For every mechanical misstep, jagged pixel, or dreadfully uttered line of dialogue, there are moments when the sheer force of the game's accidental B-movie personality just sticks a smile on my face.
But that doesn't make it a good game.
You play Vulcan, the powder master for a band of badass mercenaries known as the Freeborn Blades. Pleasantly, you can opt to be either male or female, but the customisation options beyond that are hilariously limited to six heads or so apiece. To the game's credit, you can actually rename your character, but it's completely pointless as the game and all of its characters will still call you Vulcan.
A war has ravaged the land of Vertiel, with seven Ice Lords invading from the North (it's always from The North) and sweeping all before them with an army of undead warriors and monstrous generals. The Freeborn Blades have been hired by a group of magicians known as the Red Scribes who seek to tap into the source of the world's power -- the Worldheart -- and seek a way of vanquishing the Deathwalker army that has never lost a battle. Unfortunately, the Deathwalkers show up at the time of the ritual, everything goes tits up, and though the Red Scribes end up summoning something, it breaks free of their enchantment and seeks out the nearest available host... which would be you.
And so it is, half-possessed by a demon, that Vulcan sets out to "purify" the Worldheart and bring peace once more to Vertiel.Click here to read more...
Etrian Odyssey Untold is handily the best game in the series, though it probably shouldn't be.
In fact, I shouldn't be able to recommend it at all. Following a heartbreaking European delay (still, at least we got Bravely Default a few months before the US - not that we're bitter or anything), it arrives on our shores as a remake of the 2008 DS original that borrows Etrian Odyssey IV's engine, right down to plundering plenty of assets. The fantastic old-school dungeon crawling is present and correct, the brutally tough yet rewarding exploration and combat that requires us to make our own maps on the lower screen, yet years of improvements have left it behind.
Etrian Odyssey IV introduced overworld airship exploration and other new features when it released last summer, so even with the delay, Untold ought to be obsolete. Lest we forget the cheekily ambitious Demon Gaze, which beat Untold to the punch on Vita.
And yet Etrian Odyssey IV feels like a prototype, a beta test, for something truly remarkable. A game that knows how tough an on-paper sell it is, and boldly flies in the face of the established franchise formula by adding something simple yet devastatingly effective.
Character. Real, genuine, vintage character. Or should that be characters?Click here to read more...
Platform: PS4 (tested) | PS3 (tested) | PS Vita (reviewed)
Developer: Puppy Games
Publisher: Curve Studios
PlayStation might not have Titanfall, but it does have Titan Attacks. Which is no bad thing seeing as it hails from Puppy Games, who are a little like a cross between Mister Kipling and Doctor Wily. They make exceedingly good games based on nostalgic tradition, only stuffed full of awesome robots. Having released several years ago on PC, this superb shooter has been polished up almost beyond recognition and lands squarely on PSN - available as a single purchase on PS3, PS4 and PS Vita.
Where, frankly, it deserves your immediate attention if you even have the slightest interest in shoot'em ups. Especially if you also own a PS Vita.
The premise is simple. You control a tank at the bottom of the play field, all that stands between Earth and an armada of 2D aliens. The extraterrestrial attack force gradually advances down the screen with the aim of reaching the fragile planet, blasting down ruinous beams of sizzling death to dodge and weave through, while saucers loom menacingly overhead to... look, it's Space Invaders, alright? We've seen it all before, but trust me, you've never seen it quite so stylish, slick and stuffed full of meaningful upgrades.Click here to read more...
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Hometown Story ought to be a lovely little thing. The creator of Harvest Moon sets the stage for another heartwarming tale of self-discovery and graft as a young lad (or lass) returns to their childhood village to take over their late grandmother's shop. We'll stack shelves, go fishing, meet a cast of characters and generally learn the value of a hard day's work, all brought to life in appropriately colourful fashion. After all, Yasuhiro Wada usually manages to turn chores into an addictive adventure.
It certainly hits the right emotional notes right from the off. The pastel cel-shaded visuals, adorable chibi stylings and uplifting soundtrack do a great job of making us feel like we're in a home away from home, a relaxed yet playful town to live in, explore and peddle your wares to at as high a price as possible.
Shame it doesn't last.Click here to read more...
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PS3 | PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox 360 | Xbox One | PC | Wii U
RPG games are usually big-budget epics with the promise (threat?) of at least forty hours running time. Ubisoft's Child of Light is here to change that assumption by providing a low-priced downloadable alternative. Others have failed quite miserably (Hello, Mars: War Logs), but ze Germans made a solid effort with the tough Rainbow Moon. But with Ubisoft providing genre classics in action, shooters and platforming (Assassin's Creed IV, Far Cry 3 and Rayman Legends if you're asking), we can't wait to see how they handle an RPG.
The first thing we all noticed about Child of Light was of course the visuals -and they don't disappoint. Using Rayman's UbiArt engine, Ubisoft have this time favoured a watercolour approach to the visuals instead of bright colours and cel-shaded lines. This has resulted in a classic fairy tale aesthetic that gives the game its own unique endearing personality throughout the ever-changing landscapes.
Less lovable though is the way the story is told in achingly forcing rhyming verse. It's downright painful at times and the only genuine sour note in the whole experience. The story itself sees a young girl awaken in the dreamy landscape of Lumeria, trying to make her way home to her sick father. To do this though she must overcome an evil queen and help out a few locals with fetch quests. Hardly breaking the mould, but in all honesty I wasn't pinning my expectations on the story for this one and am happy enough to trade it off for the sake of the purdy visuals.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Kadokawa Games | Experience Inc.
The Vita isn't short of fantastic localised JRPGs for British connoisseurs to enjoy. Here's another one, again courtesy of those fine folks at NIS Europe and Reef Entertainment.
Demon Gaze looks quirky and moe enough to whip Japanese gaming fans into a frenzy, but that isn't doing it justice. Taking aim at the hardcore 'gridder' RPG genre popularised by early MegaTen games, Ultima, Dungeon Master and Legend Of Grimrock, this superb effort throws us into tightly-designed first person dungeons with parties of our own creation, challenging us to out-think and outlevel some outrageously tough encounters to survive. Its as rewarding and difficult as you'd expect, versatile enough to provide deep and meaningful choices at every turn.
Yet while its fellows delight in making things as impenetrable as possible for new players (indeed, I died within minutes in Legends Of Grimrock because it didn't tell me how to attack), Demon Gaze does its best to open up the genre to everyone. Before punishing them.
Oh, and it's also a bizarre pan-sexual odyssey, seeing as your crazy digs make frat houses look tame. Anything goes... and don't say I didn't warn you.Click here to read more...
Publisher: Paradox Entertainment
Considering the success of War of the Roses, we weren’t too surprise when we learned Fatshark were to create another multiplayer slaughter-fest. Its large scale battles, providing up-close sword slinging alongside raining arrows and mounted cavalry, were an impressive sight, mainly thanks to its high-performance netcode and unique hit detection. It may have been chaotic, but it was the closest any of us would get to a real battle. Well, unless you like LARPing. And foam weaponry, but that takes the danger out of combat, really.
But I digress – War of the Roses was a brutal but unique multiplayer experience, and its move to Free to Play last year meant everyone could get involved before deciding if they want to spend any cash. So, a spin-off exploring a different battlefield in history was inevitable, and a setting where Vikings battle Saxons over monasteries and/or mead seemed like the perfect place to set it. With the ground work already laid with the game engine, all Fatshark needed to do was make the weapons and characters fit the period, create some new maps, and perhaps throw in a new game mode that makes sense to the conflict. Not exactly a simple undertaking, but not as huge as designing an entire game from scratch.
The problem is, even after using Early Access to help develop the game for some time now, the end result is a smaller and frankly more restrictive experience for your money.Click here to read more...
Developer: Souvenir Circ.
Publisher/Localisation: Nyu Media
Publishers can get away with shovelling all manner of atrocious crap onto Steam these days, but Nyu Media are made of sterner stuff. The localisation maestros could have easily pushed doujin brawler Croixleur straight onto the store following a successful Greenlight campaign, but decided to port over a brand new edition stuffed with big improvements, more features and extra content instead. They even pulled an all-nighter fixing an oversight I tweeted about, because they're lovely like that.
Which is a good thing too, because the original Croixleur was a load of old cobblers. Cheap and cheerful fun for a few minutes, but quickly becoming crushingly tedious thanks to a tiny variety of enemies, it never matched up to the likes of Fairy Bloom Freesia, Alltynex, Gigantic Army and all the rest of Nyu's localised lineup.
Everything is noticeably tweaked up and polished now, and there's more of it too, from a whole new character with a unique storyline to crunchy new music, challenges and more. Unfortunately Souvenir Circ wasn't able add more enemies, the biggest flaw that dragged down the original in the first place. So the million Yen question is whether Croixleur Sigma can distract us from its half-dozen palette-swapped foes with all the new bells and whistles.
Well... yes, it can. At least for long enough to earn its £5.99 if you're a fan of hacking, slashing and Japanese indie gaming.Click here to read more...
The middle of the road has never been a good place to be -- you just end up getting run over by traffic from either side. And trust me -- as someone who once went sailing through the air and landed squarely either side of a sturdy, roadside, wooden perimeter -- there's little solace to be found in sitting on the fence. I wrote an article a little while back about identity and the importance of knowing, as a developer, what your game is, what you want to achieve, and who your target audience is. Unfortunately, The Elder Scrolls Online finds itself in a bit of a dither.
Is it just Skyrim with multiplayer? Is it a WOW-ish MMO with pretensions towards being an Elder Scrolls game? The Elder Scrolls Online demands to be judged by two completely conflicting groups of fans. On the one hand, the Elder Scrolls series has long served up several of the most expansive, enriched, singleplayer experiences to be had in this industry -- games that place you as an empowered individual, the only one who can save Tamriel from whatever mischief has befallen it this time around. On the other, you have this massive world, filled with warring factions and steeped in millennia of lore, just ripe with possibilities for a Massively Multiplayer Online experience.
So how do you consolidate the two into one game successfully? That is the question that lies at the heart of The Elder Scrolls Online.
And the answer is... you don't.
Tamriel itself is a bit of an empty husk. It's a showroom more than a showstopper, a simulacrum of the worlds we've previously explored in detail. But whereas before, we could be anyone we wanted and do anything we liked, here there are invisible forces at work compelling us to follow certain paths. There's no crime in this version of Tamriel, little opportunity for the fleet-footed and light-fingered, and NPCs are fairly few and far between. TESO is set a couple of millennia before the events of Skyrim, so having a more empty world might be just about justified, but the lack of interaction is troubling. If you saw a sword on the ground in previous games you could pick it up. Now, however, it's most likely just painted decoration.
For a series that has always been synonymous with immersion, that's not a good thing.Click here to read more...
Developer: Escape Hatch Entertainment LLC
Publisher: Escape Hatch Entertainment LLC
If you claim that your game is the "rebellious stepchild of Wing Commander, X-Wing and Freespace 2," and "the return of the space simulation genre," you'd better make damn sure that the finished product delivers. Especially when you ask for -- and receive -- $150,000 on Kickstarter to make it on the back of that promise.
Starlight Inception certainly talks the talk on PS Vita and PC, and it's exactly the sort of ambitious indie project that I usually evangelise from the rooftops, but I'm dismayed to report that this latter-day space sim falls drastically short of what I'd consider to be an acceptable level of quality. It's not enough to crib from legendary sims and hope for the best, indeed, the constant references to Wing Commander and other better games just reminds us how good we used to have it.
The action takes place "one hundred years from tomorrow," wherein a new war is breaking out between Earth and the non-aligned nations. As a new threat emerges, it's up to the brave fighter jockeys of the
TCS USF Midway carrier to scramble into the black, defend Earth's interests, lead strike missions and a undertake bit of mild escort duty. Though the story is told through stilted, poorly-acted, monotonous, awkwardly-animated cutscenes that do their best to make you fall out of love with the setting before each mission, who cares, because we're here to "light up the sky."
Developer: Crispy's Inc.
Publisher: Bandai Namco
This is by far the hardest and most futile review I've ever had to write.
See, I review videogames, but Short Peace is absolutely not one of those. It's a feature-length compilation of five standalone anime shorts, each hailing from a luminary in the field or left-field upstart. We have an opportunity to savour Shuhei Morita's Oscar-nominated Possessions, a fascinating and playful tale of animism that puts Pixar to shame, while Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo sallies forth with the breathtakingly lovely Combustible. Hiroaki Ando and Gundam mech designer Hajime Katoki join them, bringing unique storytelling and eyepopping visual flair to the mix.
...and then there's Goichi "Suda51" Suda, the madcap if inconsistent auteur behind Killer7 and No More Heroes, who lobs a spanner into the works. His offering, Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day, absolutely is a videogame - yet the gorgeous, bonkers and fleeting experience can only be purchased alongside the rest of the compilation on a single Blu-Ray costing a whopping £40.
So over the next few hundred words, I'm going to try and make sense of the package as a whole, step out of my comfort zone to review an anime compilation, assess the game on its own merits and work out whether it can possibly be worth the premium price. Before desperately finding an appropriate number to slap on the end.
Stick around. This is going to be fun!Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed) | Xbox 360 | PC
Developer: Irrational Games
Here it is then, the final piece of Irrational and Ken Levine’s adventures with the Bioshock series. With Levine’s decision to close down the studio, the only Bioshock content we’ll be seeing in the future is if 2K decides to put a new team together and go on ahead without the game’s inspirational creative lead. Today though, we’re here to see how Irrational bow out on one of the most respected legacies in gaming.
To fully appreciate everything that Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 2 has to offer, you really need to have completed not only Episode 1 and Infinite, but also the original two Bioshock games. Gameplay innovations are thin on the ground here, but Burial at Sea carries on where it left off by serving as a tribute to the fans and a link between the worlds of Columbia and the underwater city of Rapture.
Instead of hopping into the boots of yet another version of Booker/Comstock, you find yourself popping on the heels of Elizabeth as she tries to track down Suchong for Atlas (from Bioshock 1) who is holding Sally (the Little Sister from Episode 1) hostage. Elizabeth is travelling alone, but frequently speaks with Booker on the radio. Well, a version of Booker that lives in her head at least. It’s a touching relationship despite what we know of the events of Infinite and Episode 1 as this is a version of Booker that Elizabeth has broadly separated from the Comstock paradox. Thankfully, third time around, the mind-bending narrative is more evenly spread, easier to fathom and doesn’t clumsily hit you with an information overload in the closing scenes.Click here to read more...
Exploration, discovery, the joy of flight -- these are the concepts at the core of Secrets of Raetikon, the strikingly beautiful flap-em-up from Broken Rules that has finally enjoyed a full released on Steam after a lengthy early access period. As I noted in my Let's Play feature, Secrets of Raetikon is a game that unfolds at a leisurely pace, putting you in control of a flame-coloured bird and encouraging you to explore a wonderfully-drawn world made up of angular shapes and held together with papercraft whimsy.
The first couple of hours are an exploratory delight. Though you can take flight with mouse and keyboard, the game suggests that using a controller might prove more intuitive, and so it seems to be. The controls are simple: you press a button to flap your wings, press and hold a second button to grab onto objects with your beak, and nudge a third to warble away with a spot of birdsong.
Imagine if Flappy Bird was an open-world game, filled with other creatures, weird and wonderful totems, statues, and the other remnants of a lost civilisation, and it was your job to piece these snippets of historical curios together and uncover the secrets of the world around you. So nothing like Flappy Bird, then.
Secrets of Raetikon doesn't give you much to go on, and that's fine for a little while. The game does a good job of nudging you on towards the next shiny thing or puzzle. You flutter about, seeking out shiny shards to add to the enormous statue that forms the hub of this world, restoring totems to their former glory, helping out foxes, dodging wolves and magpies and eagles and other pests that'll try and harm you. To access new areas, you'll often need to fix smaller, broken statues. There's always a full one to give you some idea of what the end result should be, but it's up to you to scour the nearby area, pick up the pieces, and arrange them correctly.Click here to read more...
Platform: Wii U
I love the idea behind NES Remix. Nintendo often comes under fire for just repackaging age-old games, but the truth is that they're often willing to subvert and tinker with familiar gameplay, and their latest minigame collection a key case in point. It cheekily crunched classic 8 bit gaming moments into addictive bite-sized time attack challenges, letting us enjoy our favourite titles from yesteryear in exciting new ways, and often blending games together with hilarious results. A nostalgia trip, highlights reel and zany WarioWare-esque funhouse all rolled into one.
Unfortunately the original NES Remix fell short, mainly because its sub-par collection of games (Clu Clu Land? Really?) didn't lend themselves particularly well to a pick-up-and-play experience. It felt like Nintendo were holding their big guns back for a sequel.
Turns out that they were, because NES Remix 2 is an improvement in every respect. Boasting a superb library of games from Metroid and Kid Icarus to Punch-Out! and Super Mario Bros 3, wild 'remixed' stages and even a pleasingly tricky extra game for £8.99, this really is a retronaut's dream package.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS3 (PSN, free client download/trial) | Other platforms TBA
Developer: SingOn Inc.
SingOn feels like the next generation of living room karaoke.
If you want to sing without complications, fuss or spending much money, this revolutionary Finnish upstart is pretty much everything you could want. It's a streaming service client as opposed to a locked-in boxed game, granting you access to hundreds and hundreds of songs that are updated on a weekly basis, always including the very latest charts alongside rock, jazz, cheese, rap, film classics and even Finnish folk music. Every decade is represented, every genre has plenty of choice on offer, and it's all delivered on our terms.
£2.99 nets you full access to the entire library for three hours, more than enough for an evening of crooning, letting you stream and sing to your heart's content while laying out considerably less than the cost of a London pint. Or an entire weekend sorted for £5.99. The days of having to spend £40 on a limited selection of tracks, many of which you won't like and will never sing, are well and truly over. If you've got a microphone, a PS3 and an internet connection, it's game on.
However, SingOn is more of a karaoke machine than a karaoke game - and it's clear that the service still has a way to go before it can cement its place in the lounge.Click here to read more...
Developer: Arcen Games
I've never played anything remotely like The Last Federation, even if it looks like any number of space 4X games from yesteryear at first glance. Eight unique races reach out to the stars from their home planets, seeking conquest and coexistence depending on their philosophies. They build fleets, research technologies, make treaties and break them with impunity; thriving and dying in a meticulously-modelled situation that's detailed down to internal politics and populations.
And we can't play as any of them... because they're all AI.
We stand alone as the Hydral, the last of an extinct race of interstellar tyrants with dreams of uniting the galaxy into one eternal federation... and crushing any species who stands in the way. We're the dark heart lurking at the centre of the universe, the multi-headed tentacular puppet master, working behind the scenes to apply pressure through political coups, financial skullduggery, science and fleet combat; subtly influencing the balance of power with both the carrot, stick, cloak, dagger and gravity lance.
It's really rather wonderful, and a revolutionary twist on the 4X legends of yore.Click here to read more...
Trials is as punishing and perfect as ever. It's a game of ludicrous excess and controlled restraint, as you scream over a ludicrous gravity-defying jump one moment and deftly feather the throttle to make it across a nasty gauntlet of overhangs the next. The interplay between speed, power, weight, balance, gravity and physics is one again spot-on, challenging us to excel through skill and perseverance, all while desperately attempting to shave miliseconds off our par time, beat our ghost and humiliate our friends.
Trials Fusion should be everything we want from a Trials sequel, then, but some new features and window dressing deserve a closer look.
We're in the future now, and Trials Fusion won't let you forget it. From the first second you boot it up, an annoyingly brain-worming theme song proudly proclaims "welcome to the future! Man! Machine! The futuuuuuuuuure!" while displaying a shiny armour-clad rider atop a slick skyscraper. It'd be a great excuse to introduce some futuristic new technology, but no, it basically boils down to a somewhat forgettable storyline involving two AIs (which features a few fun one-liners that you'll hear repeated ad nauseam each time you restart a checkpoint) and a vibrant colourful new aesthetic to punch up the tracks. We've come a long way since Trials HD's uninspiring collection of brown crates and grey pipes.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS4 (reviewed) | PS3 | Vita | X360 | XO | Wii U |3DS
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Yes, this is a review, not an advanced preview for a game which (with any sense) wouldn’t see a release until December when the final Hobbit movie hits cinemas. Instead, this Lego title encompasses the first two films with the third to be added as DLC later this year.
It would take the most upbeat of optimists to suggest that WB will do the right thing and release the add-on (the rest of the game) for free, but my cynical nature tells me to expect something around £15.99 –an oddly specific guess I admit. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see this game re-released complete with the remaining content in December for the same price it is today. So, I guess the only real question left, is how many Lego games do you need in your life? With Lego Marvel and the Lego Movie tie-in released just five and two months ago respectively, you have to wonder why WB didn’t wait.
But here we are, back in Middle Earth for another action-platformer collect em’ up. As with the Lego Lord of the Rings game, there are lines of dialogue and music from the movie giving the game an authentic air. In the Lego LOTR titles, I found this to be an odd match as the straight-faced dialogue was at odds with the characters messing about in the background. But The Hobbit movies have turned out to be lighter affairs and the seriousness and comedy seems to gel together better than I expected. Or maybe it’s because I loved the LOTR movies have been bitterly disappointed with the drawn-out Hobbit ones.Click here to read more...