Apr 25
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Considering it’s an accessory pack requiring a vivid imagination to get the most out of, it’s no surprise that most critics chose not to give the first wave of Nintendo Labo kits a review score.

Post Arcade was a rare expectation, giving the Toy-Con 01 Variety Kit a lofty 9/10. “Nintendo’s cardboard-construction-cum-video-game experiment makes for a pricey but extremely entertaining crafting project for kids,” they said.

Nintendo World Report also went ahead and gave the Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit the review treatment, which makes more sense seeing it’s more of a standalone game.

“I had a lot of fun building the Robot Kit, but I question whether it felt like $79.99 worth of fun. With only one project the Robot Kit might be best saved for Labo enthusiasts,” they warned.

The Switch also receives a belated release of South Park: The Fractured but Whole. It’s a very good conversion, reportedly, save for a few technical hiccups and some long loading screens. You’ll find a sampling of review scores below. Incidentally, we reviewed the Xbox One version upon release. Our review can be found here.

Indie adventure The Swords of Ditto, and the interactive Agatha Christie-style story The Invisible Hours are getting decent reviews too, as you can see below.

Sadly, but understandably, Death Road to Canada won’t be joining them on the digital stores. The developer has chosen to delay its release following the recent attack in Tornoto.

In an official statement, managing director of Ukiyo Publishing Paul Hann said: “We feel it would be deeply inappropriate to launch the game at such a time. We would like to express our deepest condolences to everyone affected by the tragic events in Toronto.”

Lastly, Rick and Morty Virtual Rick-Ality on PS4 finally gets a physical release this week. Expect to see it in the UK chart on Monday – if the turgid Bravo Team can break the top ten, we’re sure this can.

New release showcase:

The Swords of Ditto – PS4/PC

8.5 – PSU: “Vibrant, ridiculous, endearing and just plain enjoyable to play, The Swords of Ditto is an absolute pleasure to tuck into. It doesn’t always marry its creative streak to its combat particularly well, but it doesn’t prevent this adorably gorgeous action RPG from winning hearts and minds”

8/10 – Push Square: “Although some slight technical issues are a bit of a pain, they’re not enough to detract from what is otherwise a delightfully charming experience. Tight and tidy, this is an addictive time sink that’s well worth a look — especially if you bring someone along for the ride”

7.5 – EGM: “Devolver Digital and Onebitbeyond’s action RPG, The Swords of Ditto, isn’t a complete reinvention of the roguelike subgenre, but it has enough modern twists and artistic charm to stand out. Players new to such games might have trouble jumping in, though, as a few important mechanics of the subgenre aren’t explained as well as they should have been”

The Invisible Hours – PS4/XO/PC

7/10 – Destructoid: “It’s the rare video game that requires no real player intervention to complete. But, the best possible payoff is a result of diligently following all the stories and getting a full picture of all the proceedings”

7/10 – GameSpot: “It strikes the same tone as an Agatha Christie novel and at times feels campy for it, but the characters are interesting and well-acted, making each trip through the same few minutes worth it just to see a different character’s side of things”

3.5/5 – Xbox Hub: “The gathering of evidence, clues and secrets is rewarding, but I fear its lack of interactivity will be a big downside for certain players”

South Park: The Fractured but Whole – Switch

8/10 – Pocket Gamer: “The Fractured But Whole is a brilliantly funny and entertaining RPG perfect for players who love strategy and love South Park. While the more hard-core folks out there may not find much challenge in its combat, its humour is enough to keep you playing on”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “While it’s a fair few months behind the releases that graced other platforms in 2017, the Nintendo Switch version South Park: The Fractured But Whole isn’t diminished by its later arrival”

7.5 – Nintendo World Report: “There are other areas that could use polishing, but putting up with the little annoyances was worth it to see the game through”

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Apr 25
By Matt Gander In Features, Retro No Comments

The creators of the vastly popular PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds made gaming news headlines last week, taking legal action against a handful of games mimicking PUBG a little too closely.

One clone features a frying pan as a melee weapon, while another uses the term ‘Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner’ in their marketing. Both are under heavy scrutiny and may end up being yanked.

While PUBG Corporation/Bluehole have every right to protect their brand, some allegations push the boundaries somewhat. It’s almost as if they’re taking credit for creating the whole Battle Royale genre, despite a few examples – including DayZ and H1Z1 – existing before PUBG’s release.

Can you imagine if Nintendo claimed ownership of the side-scrolling 2D platform genre following the success of the original Super Mario Bros? The NES would have missed out on several key titles, most of which became long-running franchises.

Indeed, it’s impossible to stop rival developers from copying currently popular trends. Once a studio finds themselves with an unexpected hit, a dozen imitators will surely follow. This is how new genres are formed, inducing some friendly competition.

In fact, blatant plagiarism in the video game market can be traced back all the way to gaming’s inception, as we dare to delve into below.

Breakout – 1976

Clones of Atari’s Breakout were so rife that you may not even know it by its original name. Even the genre it belongs to has different monikers. In France, the genre is known as ‘casse-briques’ (brick breaker), while Japanese gamers refer to it as ‘block kuzushi’ (block destruction). Generally, though, Breakout clones are known as either ‘paddle’ or ‘bat and ball’ games.

Arkanoid was Taito’s rendition – released ten years after Atari’s original – and it became a huge arcade hit, gaining numerous sequels. The Game Boy also had its own brick breaker in the form of Alleyway. Although a popular release, being one of four GB launch games, it wasn’t rated highly by critics due to failing to add anything new to the genre.

The Watara Supervision (known as the QuickShot Supervision in the UK) even came packaged with a bat and ball game, known as Crystball. It wasn’t the best choice to bundle with the system, highlighting how blurry the screen became when handling fast moving objects.

Sticking with handhelds, SEGA had their own take too. Woody Pop for the Game Gear was a popular release during the system’s early days, so called due to the bat being a wooden log known as Woody. A tree spirit, no less. It was a darn sight more imaginative than dull old Alleyway.

Space Invaders – 1978

We don’t need to tell you that Space Invaders was a colossal hit. It was a pop culture phenomenon, leading Taito’s classic to become a household name. Even now, 40 years on, it’s still possible to purchase Space Invaders merchandise. T-shirts, keyrings, baseball caps, mugs and more are readily available in high street stores and supermarkets.

It has to be one of the most imitated games of all-time. Why didn’t Taito clamp down on clones? Quite simply, the copyright of the original game hadn’t been properly protected – only the name ‘Space Invaders’ had been trademarked. In short: it was a free market.

Pretty much every system ever released has a Space Invaders style game, with early examples including the Intellivision’s Space Armada – the first Intellivision game to animate more than eight sprites – and the Fairchild Channel F’s Alien Invasion.

We can’t forget Galaxian either, which was Namco’s attempt at creating a bonafide rival rather than a mere clone, boasting full-colour graphics, a scrolling starfield, and background music. In many ways, it set the standard for all arcade games that followed.

Pac-Man – 1980

The moment Atari felt somebody treading on their toes, they beckoned their lawyers. After the biggest name in gaming bagged the prestigious Pac-Man license from Namco, Atari’s rivals tread very carefully when it came to developing their own Pac-Man style maze games.

This pussyfooting resulted in K.C. Munchkin, published by Philips for the Magnavox Odyssey. The creators went great lengths to add several key differences to Pac-Man, so that should they end up in court they’d have a leg to stand on. Instead of four ghosts, there were just three. Mazes – which featured optional random generation – had just 12 pills (known as munchies) to collect, and K.C himself was blue rather than yellow. Sadly for Philips, these changes weren’t enough – Atari managed to convince the courts that Phillips had copied Pac-Man, and so K.C. Munchkin ended up being pulled from shelves. It had a good run, however, making it to store shelves a whole year before the notorious Atari 2600 rendition of Pac-Man.

Lock ‘n’ Chase – published by Data East in Japan and Taito in the US – managed to elude Atari’s grasp by taking the cops ‘n robbers route, adding the ability to erect walls. Other clones tasked players with filling a maze with indefinable pills and pellets, rather than emptying it.

Atari’s reach extended to the European microcomputer market, forcing Commodore to yank the Vic 20’s Jelly Monsters – one of the system’s most impressive looking games. Luckily for Sinclair, Hungry Horace for the ZX Spectrum got off scot-free.

For those unable to afford a microcomputer or console, Grandstand’s Munchman tabletop electronic game was the only way to bring the Pac-Man experience home. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a knockoff as it was, in fact, a rebranded officially licensed Pac-Man game from Tomy.

Later Pac-Man clones were far more creative and unique than those that preceded them, including Shigeru Miyamoto’s Devil World, an innovative maze game that was denied Nintendo of America’s approval due to religious imagery.

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Apr 23
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

We’ve always said UK chart purveyors Chart-Track go beyond the call of duty, compiling charts for formats barely alive. This is even though most gaming sites rarely share information on the individual format charts, focusing solely on the all-formats top 40.

While penning today’s chart run-down we were surprised to find Chart-Track continues to record the minute amount of physical Nintendo DS and PSP game sales. These two systems haven’t had a new release for over four years – the last game released for the Nintendo DS was Big Hero 6 Battle in the Bay in 2014, while PES 2014 was the final PSP release.

So, what games are riding the DS and PSP charts high this week? In the DS top ten, Guinness World Records: The Videogame takes the top spot – a vastly overstocked title from 2010 which retailers are obviously still trying to get rid of. This is its third consecutive week at no.1.

The PSP chart meanwhile currently features just five titles, with NBA 2K10 on top. Four of the games in the chart are “new” entries. Tomb Raider: Legend was on top of the pile last week. The 2011 budget re-release, presumably.

How many copies does it take to top one of these charts? We’d be surprised if the amount was in double figures.

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Apr 23
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

God of War wasn’t able to strip Far Cry 5 of its title as the fastest-selling new release of 2018, but it did have the strongest launch in the franchise so far, taking no.1 in the process.

The previous fastest-selling entry in the series was God of War III, incidentally; one of just two past God of War titles that went straight to number one. The other was God of War II.

SEGA’s Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is also now a record holder in terms of week one sales, beating Yakuza: Kiwami, albeit by only 300 units (according to GamesIndustry.biz).

Yakuza 6 had to settle for #3, with Far Cry 5 – last week’s chart-topper – dropping to #2.

FIFA 18 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe moved down two places, taking #4 and #5 respectively.

Super Mario Odyssey rose to #6. The ever-popular Fallout 4 held onto #7, PUBG – which was free to play over the weekend – fell to #8, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild re-entered the top ten at #9. Then at #10 it’s the evergreen GTA V.

Both Sea of Thieves and GT Sport departed the top ten, meanwhile.

The physical release of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was the only other new arrival, making #11 in the Switch chart. The PS4 version didn’t get a look-in, sadly.

Apr 19
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

American gamers have a choice between digital or physical for Wild Guns Reloaded (£26.99). Sadly, Switch owners in Europe are forced to go digital…or import a copy. We imagine most will bite the bullet and opt for digital. PS4 owners in Europe were also forced to cough up almost £30 or import. Mercifully, it has retained its value.

It also helps that this retro revamp is genuinely good. Two reviews of the Switch version are currently live – an 8/10 from Cubed (“It’s a lean and compact shoot ’em up that’s consistently challenging and rewarding”) and a 7.5 from Nintendo World Report.

“Wild Guns Reloaded is a great revival of a lowkey Super Nintendo game in a genre that you don’t see much anymore,” said NWR.

Manticore – Galaxy on Fire (£17.99) is another prolific Switch release. This vehicular sci-fi shooter promises a storyline lasting around 8 hours. It’s a mobile conversion, but one that’s had extra work put into it, featuring a new HUD and HD Rumble. The first review comes courtesy of IGN Spain, who dished out 7.2.

Then we have Neo ATLAS 1469, an almost full price (£37.99!) map charting simulator of sorts. We dare say that’s a hard sell. The same goes for the officially licensed Skee-Ball (£17.99!) which offers numerous gameplay modes and the chance to win virtual prizes. We can’t see this one riding the eShop chart high either.

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Apr 18
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

The eponymous Bertram Fiddle made his debut on PC a few years ago. Making sense to start at the beginning, the first part of this on-going episodic adventure has now found its way onto the Switch eShop.

A point ‘n clicker with a decidedly British sense of humour, TAOBFEOADB (as we’ll be calling it from now on) sees likeable underdog Bertram Fiddle trying to solve the mystery of Geoff the Murderer.

If you’ve read the Beano or seen anything by Cosgrove Hall, you’ll know what to expect here. That is, puns. Puns, spoofs, and a winningly old-fashioned British sense of humour, albeit with a slightly darker twist. TAOBFEOADB is after the hearts of those who watched Count Duckula as children, and it does a great job of capturing that mood.

More than a few moments gave me a good chuckle, the great voice acting going a good way to selling the jokes.

If you’ve ever played a point ‘n click adventure, you’ll also know what to expect. Visiting numerous locations, picking up objects, and using them in obtuse ways to further your progress. TAOBFEOADB makes this process quite painless. The inventory management is very intuitive, and you can see all the hotspots at each location by a push of a button.

Our only grumble is that you can’t use the analogue stick for movement. Instead, the analogue stick acts as a mouse pointer (or can also use the touchscreen). We get that this port didn’t have the biggest of budgets, but it would have been a helpful optional feature.

Due to being a short adventure, as episodic affairs tend to be, some frustrations associated with the genre are minimised. You don’t have items in your inventory for yonks, wondering when you’re ever going to use them. You generally encounter an item only a few screens before it’s useful.

It’s uncommon to traipse back and forth looking for missed items, too. We completed the game in two sessions, with only one puzzle prompting us to turn off the Switch and have a little think.

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Apr 17
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

PS4-exclusives God of War and Yakuza 6 have more in common than both centring upon parental responsibilities. Sony and SEGA were so confident in review scores being positively glowing that their review embargos lifted long before launch.

That faith was well placed – God of War has gained a slew of 10/10s, along with numerous 9s. It’s bound to be remembered as one of the most successful reboots of all-time, providing a meatier and more meaningful experience. It pushes the system like no game before it, too – if this isn’t the PS4 running on all cylinders, it’s mighty close.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life was met by a steady string of 8s and 9s. It’s the third Yakuza game in just over a year, and so there are some signs of franchise fatigue on display. Like God of War, the presence of a child puts a novel spin on the story, leading to scenes with richer depth and emotion.

It’s the usual assortment of serious storyline quests, and insanely daft sub-sub quests – a combination that works spectacularly well. As for diversions, you’ll find both Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown and Puyo Puyo on hand. If you’re thinking that the presence of VF5 alone is enough to justify the entry fee, then we like where your head is at.

What do Xbox One owners have to entertain themselves with this week? Casey Powell Lacrosse 18, and an assortment of new BC titles – Blinx: The Time Sweeper, Breakdown, Conker: Live & Reloaded, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Hunter: The Reckoning, Jade Empire, Panzer Dragoon Orta and SSX 3. Prices start at £8.99, rising to £11.99. Alternatively, they’ll run from original discs.

The end of April sees another batch of titles, including numerous Star Wars games, Destroy All Humans, Mercenaries, and Full Spectrum Warrior.

New release showcase:

God of War – PS4

5/5 – The Telegraph: “One of the most gorgeous, spectacular and impactful blockbusters of the generation”

10/10 – Polygon: “There’s still plenty of gore, but now the guts have meatiness. Some die-hard fans may fear this isn’t really God of War. I suppose they’re right. It’s even better”

10/10 – IGN: “The obvious care that went into crafting its world, characters, and gameplay delivers by far the most stirring and memorable game in the series”

9.75 – GameInformer: “An enthralling experience from beginning to end, with a mixture of great narrative moments and engaging encounters”

9.5 – EGM: “The end game doesn’t expand on the game’s strengths quite to the extent that it could, but such an omission is only notable due to the uncompromising quality of everything leading up to it. God of War does exactly what it sets out to do, and if it isn’t perfect, it’s damn near close”

9/10 – VideoGamer: “God of War achieves a very impressive balance between the epic and the mundane, between the ultra violent and the domestic. It’s undoubtedly the coolest and most interesting God of War to date”

9/10 – The Metro: “A top-to-bottom revamp of the whole God Of War franchise that matches thrilling, if slightly shallow, combat and exploration with some impressively trenchant storytelling”

8/10 – TheSixthAxis: “A lot of what goes into God of War feels as though it was cherry-picked from the modern gaming zeitgeist. The semi-open world structure, loot system, and a much deeper narrative focus work well, but are all trends being pushed by most other big games”

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – PS4

9.25 – GameInformer: “Yakuza 6 delivers both quality and quantity, so saying goodbye to Kiryu doesn’t feel rushed”

9.0 – God is a Geek: “Yakuza 6 is a fitting end to a great saga, with fantastic combat and lots to do outside the main story”

4.5/5 – GamesRadar: “A touching finale for Kazuma Kiryu, Yakuza 6 manages to surprise and delight in equal measure”

8/10 – Digital Chumps: “While it surrenders the sweeping ambition that defined Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 5, it feels sharper, more focused, and more honest about its intentions”

7/10 – Destructoid: “Given more development time, this could have been the definitive entry in the series, but what we’re left with is good enough. Hopefully Kiwami 2 can make some necessary improvements, because the groundwork set by the Dragon Engine is just awesome”

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Apr 16
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

With nothing to challenge it, Far Cry 5 remains the UK’s no.1 for the third week running. Sounds like sales far exceed FIFA 18 at #2, as Ukie describes its chart position as “comfortable”.

Backing this up, the ever-insightful GamesIndusty.biz states that “selling around 3,500 copies would have got any game into the Top Ten this week.”

This also sheds light on how Extinction – last week’s only notable retail release – has performed, as the critically mauled action game failed to make the top 40. Our guess? A few hundred copies, tops.

Incidentally, Gun*Gal 2 also failed to make the Switch top 20.

Going back to the top ten, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rose to #3. GTA V also moved up a few positions, taking #4. PUBG held onto #5.

Sea of Thieves fell from #3 to #6, golden oldie Fallout 4 re-entered the top ten at #7, Super Mario Odyssey took #8, GT: Sport parked up at #9 – rising from #15 – while Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy remains at #10 for another week.

Call of Duty: WWII and Forza Motorsport 7 both depart the top ten, meanwhile.

Friday’s launch of God of War should help the UK’s currently flagging software sales. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life stands a good chance of breaking next week’s top five, too.

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