Platform: PC (£7.99)
Developer: Magiko Gaming
Publisher: Namco Bandai
It's here! It's finally here!
Excuse my excitement, but Platformines has been on our radar for years. Halfway between Spelunky, Contra and Borderlands -- Borderconky, perhaps? -- this retro-themed platformer has been in development for an eternity, promising us seed-generated mines full of traps to overcome and enemies to blow up with enormous guns. Looting, shooting and exploration beckoned to us way down in the depths, and I've been beside myself with anticipation. We covered Platformines extensively since 2011 until it fell off the radar, only to be reborn and finally playable on Steam. I feel giddy and silly like a kid at Christmas.
Ooh, actually, Contralunkerlands might sound better.
The problem with excitement, though, is that it can lead to unrealistic expectations... and Platformines has a lot to live up to. Maybe a little too much as it turns out.Click here to read more...
That Final Fantasy X-2 ever existed is frankly fantastic. Back when it emerged on the PS2 as the first true sequel to ever bear the name Final Fantasy, it confused the hell out of people. Picking up two years after the end of its direct predecessor, X-2 can basically be summed up as "What Yuna Did Next", yet it abandoned much of what made FFX a classic and what we ended up with was a strikingly pretty, utterly revamped, female-led, undeniably Japanese, all-singing all-dancing hot mess.
And it was thoroughly entertaining.
The Vita version of Final Fantasy X-2 HD sparkles. It looks absolutely fantastic, and on occasion I had to remind myself that this was made over a decade ago. The main characters look brilliant, the character models approaching current-gen quality at times, though this is offset by NPCs that range from the passable to the downright ugly. The fact that the opening video has been redone in HD, along with all of the other cutscenes, is frankly excellent. There's nothing else to say, really -- FFX-2 HD looks better than quite a few native Vita titles. It's one of the finest HD remasters I've ever witnessed in that respect.
Just as important as the changes to the visuals, though, are the lack of changes when it comes to the soundtrack. So much of what makes X-2 such a crazy romp is it's J-Pop soundtrack, and I'm pleased to report that the only thing that seems to have changed is the sound quality. FFX's soundtrack has been noticeably tampered with, and not entirely for the better, but here it seems like guns have most certainly been stuck to, and that'll surely delight long-time fans. Let's face it -- X-2 was always something of a Marmite game, but that was down to the fact that it's one of the most identifiable Final Fantasy title out there, positively oozing with character and personality. It's nice to see that none of that has been lost in the remastering process.Click here to read more...
Developer: Polytron and BlitWorks
Despite critical acclaim two years ago when released on XBLA and PC, Fez has taken its time to come to the PlayStation Platforms. Rather than a discount for its tardiness, the asking price of £7.99 gets you a cross-buy copy of the game that you can download to your PS4, PS3 and PS Vita complete with cloud-based cross-save functionality.
For those of you new to the world of Fez, allow me to catch you up. This is a puzzle platformer that opts for an 8-bit retro style. What’s decidedly not retro though (unless you count Echochrome and Crush as retro) is the rotating mechanic adding depth to the 2D platforming. With a tap of a shoulder button, the whole game world rotates 90 degrees. This begins simply enough when you’re just navigating a singular structure, you could even be forgiven for thinking it’s just a gimmick as it’s essentially a traditional flat 2D stage that you push forward with these ‘rotations.’
But then stages start to get more elaborate with extra platforms and multiple floating islands to navigate. Upon rotation, many of these areas see additional platforms moved into position allowing you to reach higher places. Hidden doors leading to new parts of the map are featured on the sides of buildings too.Click here to read more...
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Reaper Of Souls is brilliant.
It makes Diablo III feel like a full game, complete, floating on a raft of exceptional patches. With Jay Wilson now a footnote in franchise history, Blizzard cut out the fat, replaced it with muscle and used the new expansion to genuinely expand their dungeon crawler. The new act and class are pure gold, while Adventure Mode turns the campaign into a glorious interconnected sandbox ripe for the pillage, giving the game an unpredictable personality and solid backbone. Effectively Reaper Of Souls is to Diablo III what adamantium is to Wolverine.
Unfortunately it also costs thirty British quid. Is Reaper Of Souls a rip-off or a devil's bargain?
That's a lot of money for 25% more story and a single new class, so I'm delighted to report that you're paying for quality. Act V is easily the biggest, best and most interesting segment of Diablo III hands-down, both in terms of art direction, enemy variation, storyline and some fantastic bosses. Blizzard has pushed the boat out on memorable set pieces (such as a dramatic showdown atop an active siege weapon) and thoughtful new foes who require different tactics to defeat. Plus, we get to tie up a massive loose end in the most violently cathartic way possible, while learning about exactly why The Angel Of Wisdom decided to go rogue.Click here to read more...
Betrayer is a bit odd, that much is evident from the outset. You find yourself plonked down on a nondescript shingle beach somewhere in the New World as the ship that presumably brought you ashore sinks into the shimmering sea and another, more sturdy vessel, sails off into the sunset. No context, no explanation, no seeming reason or rhyme.
It's a puzzling opening, made all the more puzzling by the striking monochrome aesthetic that greets you from the very beginning. Everything is drenched in high-contrast black and white, with only the occasional vibrant streaks of bloody red breaking through at striking intervals. You make your way inland and in the space of a few moments discover a bow and arrow, and a strange, red-cowled figure who fires a message-bearing arrow into a nearby totem and vanishes.
This is Betrayer: a game that throws up more questions than it answers -- one that encourages you to puzzle things out for yourself.
The monochrome aesthetic is brilliant, and makes the game look better than it probably has any right to. Betrayer wears its inspirations on its sleeve, and the semi-open feel to it, not to mention that little scrolling navigational compass at the top of the screen is highly reminiscent of Skyrim in many ways, though not nearly as expansive. The narrative that unfolds through scraps of journals and interactions with ghasts and ghouls is heavily based on the mysterious mishaps that befell the Roanoke Colony. It's all too easy to make immediate visual comparisons to films such as The Seventh Seal and Schindler's List, though one gets the feeling here that the substance never quite manages to step out from behind the shadow of the game's style.
Unfortunately, you could go a step further and actually ask the question what substance?Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (reviewed, £14.99) | PS4 version incoming
Developer: Tribute Games
Mercenary Kings is amazing, but we already knew that months ago. Tribute's early access blasterpiece was worth buying since last summer and has only become more explosive, more ridiculous and... well, longer, since it first smashed onto our radar. Basically this review is just a formality.
Premise-wise, Mercenary Kings plunges straight into Saturday morning cartoon territory with a great big silly grin on its face. The evil CLAW organisation are up to no good on Mandragora island, so it's up to the best mercenaries in the world (the titular Kings) to kick down the doors, storm their fortresses and shoot henchman by the hundred. A perfect setup for a sidescrolling run & gun action platformer in the vein of Contra or Metal Slug, brought to life by the developers behind Scott Pilgrim's superb videogame tie-in. It's as nostalgic, tightly-designed, satisfying and gorgeous as you'd expect from the veteran retronauts at Tribute Games.
However, not content to stop there, Mercenary Kings also channels the persistent progression, upgrades, hunting and exploration of the Monster Hunter series; resulting in a shooter that's truly enormous and great for hours of play. If perhaps a little too grindy for its own good at times.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (£14.99)
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Cloudbuilt was always going to be great. How could it not be? Here we have a cel-shaded Sci-Fi platformer that straps you into a sleek mech suit, points you at sprawling versatile levels and then lights the blue touch paper under massive rocket boosters. Free to defy gravity and pull off insane jet-powered parkour against the clock, we're loosed into a speed running playground. It's effortlessly stylish, overcoming humble roots with achingly beautiful art direction, set within the unrestrained imagination of a mysterious military operative with time on her hands.
And it's fast. So impossibly fast, quick enough to literally take your breath away and put some windburn on your cheeks. First impressions are like being strapped to a Saturn V and holding on for dear life... but once you've learned how to steer it, you'll point yourself straight up at Cloudbuilt's distant skill ceiling and never look back.
After a lot of vicious and uncontrollable swearing, mind, because Cloudbuilt is made of seriously stern stuff.
Click here to read more...
When looking online for headsets you’re usually flooded with options and a range of incomprehensible user reviews or samey tech descriptions lazily copied from the manufacturer’s PR sheet. Well we thought it was about time to try out a few and give you an in-depth opinion.
With the free bundled headset with the PS4 offering terrible mic quality, I looked towards some third-party manufacturers to do better. So today, I’m reviewing three different PS4 headsets from Orb Accessories including the Wired Chat, the Elite Chat and the GP3.
Average Price £9.99 – Available at time of writing for £6.38 via GameSeek (use code CELEBRATE for free delivery)
First up in my Orb review trilogy is the one simply listed as Orb Wired chat Headset (PS4). This is the entry model in the series and can be found online for between £7.50 and £10. It’s the lightest headset of the three, weighing in at around 50g.
The lightweight adjustable frame sits comfortably on your head with an adjustable mic arm rotating the boom mic to whichever angle you please. This is primarily designed to be worn with the earpiece on the left, but thanks to the bendable hardwire casing on the mic you can wear it on the other side too. The soft foam padding on the earpiece is extremely comfortable and lightweight, which is especially appealing if you feel like larger earpieces are a bit ‘sweaty’. The earpiece volume can be adjusted via a dial on a lightweight block on the cable.Click here to read more...
2014 has already been a great year for localised Japanese gaming, especially on PS Vita. Us Europeans have been thoroughly spoiled by the likes of Danganronpa, Sorcery Saga and Ys: Memories Of Celceta... and SEGA have just released the motherload. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F was a smash hit in Japan, but now the Vocaloid rhythm game has finally made it over to British shores. A gutsy move to say the least, especially since much of the hardcore fanbase will have probably imported a copy.
In case you're not au fait with the term 'Vocaloid,' here's a grossly oversimplified crash course. Hatsune Miku is effectively a musical instrument: a synthesised voice represented by the image of a young lass with huge pigtails. However, canny marketing, massive fan support and an army of talented musicians turned her into a phenomenon, a virtual pop star whose songs and performances are provided by the community and those who use the software. She doesn't exist, yet absolutely does, her personality being interpreted differently by each fan and artist, whether online, in videos, in concert or even the imagination. It's fascinating and rather wonderful, especially since the resulting music is often brilliant.
Still not with me? Okay. Erm... the Nyan Cat song. She sings that. Let's move on.
If you're a fan of rhythm games, J-Pop and J-Rock, Project Diva F is going to suit you down to the ground. If you're a fan of Hatsune Miku and Vocaloids in general, however, this is going to be an essential purchase.Click here to read more...
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Being imprisoned in a poisonous swamp all your life is likely to leave you bitter and twisted, so it's no surprise that Swamp Witch Metallia is thoroughly fed up with her lot. The evil mage finally decides that enough is enough, resolving to turn the entire world into a swamp with the help of a demonic ally from the realms beyond. Through the darkest of magicks, she summons the legendary Hundred Knight, the most powerful demon in all existence.
Who turns out to be an adorable diminutive creature with a cheerful smile, gangly arms and cuddly round body who frankly cries out for a great big hug. Can this loveable blob of demon-stuff really become Metallia's weapon of retribution?
The stage is set for great things. Hailing from the developers behind the Disgaea series, The Witch And The Hundred Knight promised to merge the hectic hack & slash combat of an action RPG with the deep layered systems of a more strategic title, tied together with the quirky off-the-wall hijinks we expect from the boutique studio. What could possibly... no, scratch that.
I was tempted to play the tired old "what could possibly go wrong?" card here, but you're savvy enough to see where this is going. Sadly, despite getting a lot right, The Witch And The Hundred Knight is held back by Nippon Ichi' relative genre inexperience and the shocking depravity of its leading lady.Click here to read more...
BEWARE: Here be spoilers. If you don't want to know anything about the plot spark or powers beyond Smoke and Neon, don't read on.
Hot damn, inFamous: Second Son is pretty.
Even twenty hours in, on my second playthrough, there are still moments when I have to stand on a rooftop and gawp at the details and the draw distance.
Of course, this is not the first time that a PS4 exclusive has impressed me with its pinsharp vision and next-gen graphical sensibilities. Killzone: Shadow Fall made my retinas weep with joy, but that visually stunning veneer belied a game that was rather by-the-numbers and uninspired in terms of design. I'll admit that I was a little worried inFamous: Second Son might follow suit.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Combining open world design with a strong story, and allowing you to colour in the patches of moral uncertainty with red or blue is something inFamous has long stood for, embodying the grand question of what would an ordinary person do if they developed superpowers? Second Son sees us step into the shoes of Delsin Rowe, a youthful, energetic fellow who discovers he has the ability to pilfer the powers of other Prime Conduits -- that is, superpowered mutant folk with special abilities. However, thanks to decades-long propaganda by the Department of Unified Protection, the public perceives Conduits to be "Bio-Terrorists" and menaces to society, and certain DUP officers have been imbued with concrete powers of their own to combat the Bio-Terrorist "threat". Delsin, after a run-in with the DUP and an escaped Conduit results in his family and friends being brutalised at the hands of DUP brass, vows to journey to the base of operations in Seattle, and steal the power that inflicted the damage back from the organisation's director -- Brooke Augustine.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (£7.99)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Is "less pointless than usual" a compliment? It's hardly the most glowing endorsement of a DLC pack, but compared to the rest of Dead Rising 3's noxious season pass content, The Last Agent manages to claw itself into the giddy heights of mediocrity.
Don't misunderstand me: the fourth and final season pass offering is still fairly pointless and a waste of £7.99 on paper. It lasts roughly two hours, contains recycled missions, starts with yet another vehicle driving section and doesn't bring anything new to the core experience.
Except railguns. And a jet engine turbine that fires gems. And a laser cannon. And a hydraulic power fist. Come back, The Last Agent, because much is forgiven.Click here to read more...
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Much like when you meet someone you haven’t seen for ten years, there’s a familiar yet oddly different feel for Dark Souls II. You know it’s the same person, but time has changed them and it’s up to you to figure out if their new quirks are worth your time and energy. Of course, in real life your old friend won’t brutally murder you time and time again in an effort to give you the knowledge of how to defeat them, but I think it’s a decent metaphor in the case of From Software’s sequel.
Just about, anyway. But then that’s very Dark Souls in and of itself – just about scraping by to victory. In fact, writing this review has been in keeping with playing it - I scrapped everything I had written twice before getting it right and proclaiming myself the victor. Take that, words and opinion!
If I’m completely honest, I really do not think that, for the most part, Dark Souls II will be changing opinions on From Software’s game design. If you hated Dark Souls, considering it cheap and broken, you’re almost certainly going to remain on that side of the fence, but the new tutorial section that I call Newbie Canyon helps matters in a very Dark Souls manner that, at the very least, is a damn sight better than the Undead Asylum.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS3 (tested) | PS Vita (reviewed)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
My customised fighter screams into the sepia sky from the holds of a lurking Unterseeboot, a lone aeroplane against an entire air force. The enemy is on my six in seconds, swarming around me like gnats, filling the skies with fire as patrol boats throw up a hail of anti-air ordinance. I merrily dance through the flack, redline my engines towards the stratosphere, then turn on a sixpence and lock into a controlled stall; shredding an entire squadron of fighters as I plummet towards the ocean. My plane hits hits the water, but keeps going, erupting back out of the waves as my machine guns pummel the enemy frigates into twisted metal.
Luftrausers makes me feel like an ace pilot - no, I am an ace pilot. I am Baron Jon Richthofen! I'm a force of nature, the Sky Captain, a real slam-bang honest-to-goodness three-fisted humdinger. I'm a bona fide supraman... oh no, wait, now I'm just a small pile of burning canvas. A battleship zeroed its ruinous deck guns on my position and brought me quite literally down to Earth. Damn.
Never mind, though, because next time my plane will have a thicker hull, detonate in an enormous explosion and carry a brace of lasers on its chin.
Vlambeer are masters of taking classic arcade concepts and making them sing, and they've done it again.Click here to read more...
Developer: Kojima Productions
"Kept you waiting, huh?"
As soon as Snake opens his mouth and Kiefer Sutherland's soft voice growls out, it's clear that nothing will ever be the same again. Metal Gear Solid V is the biggest shakeup the series has ever received, a complete mechanical overhaul that brings the classic stealth gameplay into a new console generation, keeping the depth intact but making both stealth and action infinitely more intuitive. Everything has changed, from regenerating health to slick gunplay, but in the main it's a change for the good.
However, this ain't Metal Gear Solid V. Neither full game nor free demo, Ground Zeroes is a gaming oddity; a bridging point that acts as a graphical showcase, ephemeral tutorial, versatile replayable sandbox and shameless cliffhanger designed to whip the fanbase into a frenzy before The Phantom Pain's rumoured 2015 release. As such, what will delight some will deeply disappoint others, leaving its value very difficult to pin down.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed) | PS3
Reviewer’s note: This is a review of Final Fantasy X HD, which will be released in a collection with Final Fantasy X-2 HD. As I received this game first, I’ll bring you a separate review of FFX-2 soon.
Has it really been thirteen years since Final Fantasy X on the PS2? The biggest name in RPGs hasn’t had a great time with the PS3, as the XIII trilogy consistently misfired and many of us are still clinging to the hope of a remake for VII. So, a HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and X-2 didn’t exactly strike me as much to celebrate, despite enjoying the first game all those years ago.
I was wrong though. Dead wrong. Final Fantasy X is arguably better than ever and an essential purchase for anyone pining for the good old days of Square Soft-developed RPGs. If Final Fantasy is to have a bright future, the developers need to look back at games like this to understand why the series went global post FFVII in the first place.
Final Fantasy X is a traditional turn-based RPG experience that turned heads all those years ago for its excellent combat, in-depth levelling system and the debut of voiced characters in the series. This was an incredible-looking title in 2001 and the Vita version looks fantastic today. Characters are more detailed and environmental textures now sport rich detail compared to the blurry scenes of the original.Click here to read more...
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
As I leap from the exploding carcass of my massive exosuit after crushing an entire squad of enemies underfoot, wall-run across the side of a building, jump several stories into the air and kick an opposing player in the back of the head in the space of ten exhilarating seconds, I can't help but wonder where Titanfall was all my life. It promised to be The Next Big Thing, a new FPS paradigm from the creators of Modern Warfare, replacing traditional military ground pounding with enormous mechs, parkour-enhanced mobility and verticality we've rarely seen from the genre. We were so ready.
Well here it is, and to coin a cliché: "believe the hype." Titanfall doesn't do anything truly revolutionary, but it delivers a welcome shot of adrenaline directly into the heart of the genre, packaging familiar components in a truly satisfying and accessible way. More importantly, though, it's fantastic fun, regardless of whether you're a hardcore FPS gamer or just want to blow off some steam. Every match feels like an epic battle, from first charge to desperate extraction, set throughout some of the best maps that we've rampaged through in years.
However, The Next Big Thing probably should have been bigger in a few key areas.
Click here to read more...
60 years is a long time, just ask my dad whose celebrating the milestone later this year. A lot can happen, and in fact a lot did happen since that post-war era with it's moody, atmospheric backdrop. There was also a very famous prison still in operation. And Daedalic Entertainment want to take us back there, to 1954, and, more importantly, back to Alcatraz. As such 1954 Alcatraz (a suitably named title I'm sure you'll agree) is their latest offering in their growing catalogue of Point & Click games.
You play as two protagonists throughout the game, the first of which is the imprisoned Joe, sent down initially for armed robbery, but a successful escape from his first prison landed him a spot in the world's most famous jail. Word's going around in Alcatraz that there's a plan to escape, and Joe wants in. But he's being monitored at all times, and Joe will soon come to realise that not only does every piece of info in Alcatraz have it's price, but also that not everyone on the inside is his friend.
Secondly you play as Christine, Joe's lover on the outside who is doing everything she can to help Joe in his escape attempt, whilst also dealing with the repercussions of Joe's armed robbery. She'll be dealing with the mob and the police in equal measure to keep everyone happy and more importantly far enough out of reach to discover what's really going on.
I won't bore you with the fundamentals of point and click gameplay, because with most games of the genre, they are the same. A combination of items here, using an item on a piece of scenery or person there - it's all fairly standard stuff. As with most Daedalic games, there is the option to have all interactive items/scenery appear at a press of the Space Bar. This speeds up your need to assess and trawl through each screen, but does obviously cheapen the game somewhat. Either way it's up to you, as the "Snoop Key" can be turned on or off in the options menu before starting or loading a game or during play.Click here to read more...
Developer: Strange Loop Games
"Vessel is a truly superior puzzler and one of 2012's biggest indie hitters. More impressively, though, it's also destined to be one of the very best games of the year, period. Quality, quantity, innovation and competence abound, making for an essential PC purchase. Get involved and ensure that this surprise success story becomes a sleeper hit." - Vessel Review, 9/10, March 2012
They say that empty vessels make the most noise, and perhaps the reverse is also true. Despite being a true modern indie classic in this reviewer's opinion, Vessel never received the mainstream recognition lauded on many of its peers, instead quietly languishing on Steam and participating an the occasional bundle. The masterful liquid platform-puzzler failed to materialise on either PSN or XBLA, following two years of delays and an arduous porting effort from Overbyte, who had to lock horns with a bespoke engine and complex fluid modelling that even relatively beefy PCs found taxing back in 2012.
Mission accomplished. Vessel is now available on PS3 for a brand new audience, and we're going to give it some fanfare. Since we've already reviewed the game in detail and the PS3 port is 100% feature complete, we'll keep things snappy.
M. Arkwright really is a clever chap. This maverick inventor revolutionised industry by creating Fluros: devices that can animate any liquid into robotic automatons capable of fulfilling simple tasks. Now that the world has an inexhaustible supply of tireless labour, he's free to sit back and enjoy his success... at least until an uncharacteristically mischievous Fluro locks him out of his lab and kickstarts an epic adventure through the bowels of his own production plants. What follows is 12-15 hours of sublime puzzling, in which you'll utilise the differing properties of various types of fluid to overcome increasingly complex physics-based challenges. Wetter is better.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corporation
Are you sick and tired of JRPGs leading you by the nose from cutscene to cutscene? Do you hear the call of adventure, but crave the thrill of fast and fluid combat? Do you own a PlayStation Vita?
If you answered 'yes' on all counts, Ys: Memories Of Celceta probably deserves to make its way onto your shopping list. This ground-up remake of Ys 4 puts us into the well-worn boots of Adol Cristin, which are definitely made for walking. Having found himself in a frontier town on the edge of civilization with a convenient case of amnesia, the rakish explorer discovers that he lost his memories while mapping the legendary forest of Celceta, so teams up with an old friend and plunges back into the unknown. With little save a sword, a mercenary information dealer and a blank map for company, the scene is set for a genuine adventure.
Celceta is an enormous tract of land, an intricate and confusing labyrinth of glades, swamps, tunnels and ruins that's somewhat reminiscent of a massively expanded Monster Hunter title. Most JRPGs would immediately funnel you down a preset path, but Memories Of Celceta is cut from a different cloth, simply thrusting an empty map into your hands and suggesting, perhaps, that you ought to check over there when you have the time. Most of the game simply revolves around the satisfaction of filling this map in, of discovering new areas, new places, new faces and eventually piecing Adol's memory back together.
And romping through hordes of foes with one of the most responsive combat systems we've seen from the series yet, if not the entire sub-genre in recent years.Click here to read more...