Developer: Strange Loop Games
The sun was shining when I started playing Vessel. Birds were singing in the trees. Kids were tearing around the streets on bikes and scooters, enjoying the crisp Spring air. Small furry creatures were presumably frolicking in the underbrush. Or eating each other. They could have been gnawing my leg off for all I knew, because by the time I tore myself away for a quick refreshment break, the sun had long since sunk below the horizon and the urban foxes were out in force. It was past the kids' bedtime, the birds had retreated to their nests... and I hadn't even eaten lunch.
Barely two months in, and 2012 may now have its indie champion in Vessel: a game that offers a staggering amount of content along with innovative mechanics, sensational puzzles, gorgeous artwork and competency that would astound from the biggest publisher-backed boutique outfit.
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Platform: PC (reviewed) | Mac | Linux
Developer: Charlie's Games
Scoregasm originally caught our attention at Eurogamer Expo 2010, where its name alone (on top of arousing robotic moans of pleasure emanating from the headphones) warranted our undivided attention. Then it released last August. Then it was included in a Humble Bundle towards the end of the year. And now, finally, Scoregasm has made its way to Steam.
So it's probably high time we reviewed it.
Charlie Knight, the one-man indie SHMUP machine behind Irurkandji and Bullet Candy Perfect, has crafted a seriously hairy bullet hell shooter set inside a selection of small arenas. As enemies pour into the fray, you'll need to leverage the tried-and-tested twin stick control setup and your own faltering reflexes to weave through their insane onslaught, beat them back and accrue massive high scores in the process. It's business as usual as first sight: a hectic, pulse-pounding retro romp that might seem overly reminiscent of Geometry Wars and similar downloadable games to some players.
However, Scoregasm's brilliance lies in it's reckless innovation... on top of a few incredibly innovative touches that elevate Charlie's latest shooter into serious contention.
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Have you ever heard of Occam's Razor? This familiar figure of speech suggests that 'the simplest solution to a problem is usually the best,' (if you paraphrase massively) and Nintendo certainly found themselves in a bit of a pickle. The 3DS' single circle pad simply wasn't capable of supporting the increasingly complex titles that third party publishers like Capcom and Namco wanted to release, so after being subjected to what we can assume to be some serious pressure behind closed doors, Ninty applied Occam's Razor with all the foresight, wit and grace of a Diplodocus.
Our console needs two thumbsticks. So let's slap another one on the side. Job's a good'un.
The result is the Circle Pad Pro: a cradle that locks the 3DS in its plastic embrace while providing an extra thumbstick, triggers and all the other features it otherwise smothers. It's a strange beast to be sure - good, bad and ugly in equal measure - so whether it works and whether you should actually buy one are two very different arguments.
The Circle Pad Pro packs a fair bit of functionality into its chunky, asymmetrical design. As well as the second analogue slider pad, the peripheral also features an extra right shoulder button to accommodate for the increased depth on the right hand side, along with two brand new digital triggers that bring the handheld in line with traditional console controllers. An IR bar on the rear of the unit communicates wirelessly with the 3DS and will function from a few centimetres away.Click here to read more...
The 3DS finally has its hardcore champion.
It's no secret that Nintendo's handheld has struggled to resonate with the hardcore gaming crowd, and even last Christmas' Mario splurge did little to convince them that they'd made the right buying decision. But Resident Evil: Revelations has now arrived to make everything better. By blending effective horror scares with slick visuals, system-defining multiplayer and an impressive amount of content, Capcom's latest horror game is one of the most proficient games to grace portable consoles in recent years.
Set between Resident Evil IV and V, Revelations chronicles Jill Valentine's search for missing partner Chris Redfield aboard a seemingly abandoned luxury cruise liner. In true Resi style, however, this is just the tip of a conspiracy iceberg that locks them into a terrifying race against time and introduces a new infected organism: the Ooze. These disgusting viral hybrids are much slower, fewer in number and more deliberate than the frenzied Ganados and Majini of more recent titles; evoking the series roots as a tense corridor-crawling horror experience rather than a fast-paced action game.
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Infinity Ward has a lot to prove. Hounded by a ferociously capable competitor, still smarting from the scandalous dark days of early 2010 and surrounded by an unprecedented amount of expectation and hype, the stakes have never been higher. Modern Warfare 3 is one of the most anticipated titles of all time... yet over the last few months and years, a growing segment of the gaming community has started to question whether Call Of Duty has gotten too big and too popular for its own good.
But in the grand scheme of things, franchises tend to become popular for one reason and one reason alone: because they're great. Rest easy, FPS fans, because Modern Warfare 3 takes care of business. Activision's holiday blockbuster is essentially three games in one, resulting in an inclusive tripartite experience that offers something for everyone.
Click here to read our Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review >>
The 3DS has finally hit British shores. In terms of power, specs and features, it's Nintendo's most powerful console to date - and competition has never been greater in the fierce handheld market. Will this plucky little machine have what it takes to face down its rivals... and justify its staggering volume of preorders?
Whilst the 3DS externally resembles a DS Lite right down to the dimensions of the case, Nintendo's newest handheld is a very different beast. The clamshell hides two screens; the uppermost being the all-important 3D screen with its lower (and smaller) counterpart providing the touchscreen. The new Circle Pad supplements the D-Pad with responsive, comfortable movement and a perfect amount of resistance. A recessed strip of buttons now lies beneath the touchscreen, with the traditional Start and Select keys nestling around the new central HOME key that brings up the main menu when pressed.
Naturally there's a lot more grunt under the hood. Processing power has been significantly beefed up since the DSi thanks to the increased demands of 3D gaming, along with the ability to render much more detailed action and output at a stable framerate. Pleasingly, it also contains 2GB of onboard storage space via the included SD card. Arguably the most subtle addition, however, is the built-in gyroscope that provides for motion/tilt-controlled gameplay. It's integrated very well indeed, with most applications providing perfect sensitivity on the default settings.
The new telescopic metal stylus feels much sturdier and more comfortable to hold compared to the original plastic prodder, though it's worth noting that the location has inconveniently changed to the top of the device. Ho hum.
The entire unit feels solid without being clunky, light without being fragile and... well, put simply: it's absolutely gorgeous. You can mug up on the full specs here, if you're interested.
Unless you've actually seen a 3DS first-hand, you'll likely be surprised by just how impressive it looks. Rather than a plasticky finish, the shell has a metallic lustre that simply can't be conveyed by photgraphs. Even the aqua blue version looks like an expensive piece of professional gaming technology rather than a child's toy. The downside, as you'd expect, is the fact that fingerprints will soon cover every square inch of the device.Click here to continue reading our exhaustive 3DS review...
Developer: Smart Bomb
In the 1960s, Snoopy started fantasizing about being a World War One fighter pilot. Sitting atop his kennel with flying goggles and red scarf billowing rakishly in the breeze, the beloved beagle lived a rich fantasy life where he dueled the Red Baron and won the war along with his trusty yellow copilot. It's an obscure basis for a videogame, but Smart Bomb have once again delved into the fictional delusions of a fictional character for their inspiration.
Using conventional videogame logic, this game should suck. Badly. It's a colourful arcade shooter that cashes in on a popular license- and I bet that most of you rolled your eyes far enough back into your skull to see your own optic nerves when you heard about it. Yep, Snoopy Flying Ace should suck balls by all rights... especially when you consider that its developers were responsible for the Bee Movie game and inexplicable Pac Man karting franchise. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that it delivers some of the finest online multiplayer XBLA has to offer!
Snoopy Flying Ace is an effective arcade dogfighter that mixes the simplicity of Freaky Fliers with the hardcore maneuvers and weaponry of Crimson Skies. The left stick controls pitch and roll, with the A and X buttons providing a burst of speed or a powerful airbrake to tighten your biplane's turning circle. Flicking the right stick engages a barrel roll or loop that can shake off projectiles or put you on an enemy's six. The controls are easy to master and soon become second nature, leaving us free to concentrate on gunning down our opponents. A range of machineguns, rockets, missiles and mines will suit any play style; with seven customisable planes providing a mix of heavy armour, speed and maneuverability. Oh, and seamless avatar support lets us meet our foes enemies face to face.
The online multiplayer is the main event; featuring nine game modes, solid netcode and an experience-based ranking system. The ten maps are very cleverly designed to encourage close range dogfights and hit & run tactics: with numerous caverns, valleys and obstacles to carefully pilot your way through. Gametypes range from standard deathmatches to bouts of frenetic airborne rugby: and I've genuinely had more fun in 24 hours than most full price Xbox Live titles offer me over several weeks. The mix of hardcore skill with arcade game mechanics guarantees everyone a kill or two, and Flying Ace provides a genuinely refreshing experience amongst all the FPS and sports titles.Click here to discover whether the singleplayer forces Snoopy Flying Ace into a tailspin...