Nov 18
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

All it took for Activision to finally cave-in and revive both Crash and Spyro was for one of their multi-million-dollar franchises to crash and burn. That franchise was, of course, the toys-to-life phenomenon Skylanders. So, before we go any further, let’s thank all the parents who refused to buy into Skylanders for a fifth year in a row. Without even knowing it, you’ve given many gamers their childhoods back.

While Crash Bandicoot is often cited as being the PlayStation’s mascot, Spyro achieved something even Naughty Dog couldn’t – to bring free-roaming platforming to the 32-bit format. When it launched in 1998, Spyro was billed as a technical marvel that pushed the system to provide an open-world ripe for exploration. All kinds of trickery happened behind the scenes to ensure a (mostly) seamless experience, including using low-poly backdrops that became more detailed as Spyro made his approach.

Spyro’s two methods of attack – breathing fire and charging like a rampaging bull – weren’t the most innovative of game mechanics, and no steps were ever taken to test player’s proficiency with these abilities or even evolve attacks over time, but the way Spyro bounds around the colourful environments remains playful and fun, collecting gems always proves compelling, and soaring through the air takes a degree of skill.

Some 20 years on, it’s fascinating to see the evolution of the trilogy. The first Spyro focuses on exploration, using Spyro’s gliding ability to reach new areas. Spyro 2 opts for increasingly tricky challenges, introducing the bipedal cheetah Hunter and featuring automatic difficulty scaling, while Spyro 3 is bulked to the brim with mini-games and introduces new playable characters.

There are telling signs in the first Spyro that the developers were still getting to grips with the flight mechanics and camera controls. Even in this remake, the camera has to be manually adjusted far too frequently. Levels during the first half of the adventure feel rather boxed-in too. In fact, that it’s possible to whizz through some early stages, obtaining a 100% completion rate along the way, in a matter of mere minutes.

It’s a shame Toys for Bob didn’t enlarge some of the tighter, more camera confusing, areas. Indeed, Spyro Reignited Trilogy is faithful to a fault. That said, it’s easy to comprehend why the level design hasn’t been tinkered with – scaling obstacles and gliding to hard to reach locations plays a huge part, right to the point of prompting you to stop and look around to find vantage points. We would have liked to have seen the outdated concept of ‘extra lives’ ditched, however – infinite retries not only would have reduced frustration during the tougher sections but also reduce the amount of peculiarly long loading times players are forced to endure.

In the original Spyro, the plucky dragon is out to rescue his elders, trapped inside large – and subsequently easy to spot – dragon-shaped crystals. When it comes to presentation, no expense has been spared. Each of Spyro’s cohorts is as well animated and charismatic as the last, full of detail and personality. From squiffy low-poly characters, Toys for Bob has created magic.

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Nov 16
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

When compiling our multi-format new release round-ups we observed publishers and indie developers keeping their releases away from such big hitters as Red Dead 2, Black Ops 4, and AC Odyssey. Over in camp Nintendo, it appears nobody wants to get in the way of the almighty Pokemon – there’s roughly half the amount of eShop releases as usual.

While the Switch does gain a reasonable amount of full prices releases, there’s a small catch – most are of questionable quality. We’d imagine Bass Pro Shops: The Strike, Cabela’s: The Hunt, Bibi & Tina – Adventures with Horses, and fellow equitation adventure Windstorm struggle to justify their hefty price tags, with the first two mentioned arriving at £44.99.

The rest of the full-price releases are worth a look, thankfully. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI gained a stonking 9.4 from IGN, SNK 40th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is a genuine labour of love – US developer Digital Eclipse even travelled to Japan to tracked down rare arcade cabinets – while Trailblazers is an arcade racer borrowing ideas from Splatoon.

Then, of course, there’s Pokemon Let’s Go. Critics are seemingly in agreement that it’s accessible enough for newcomers, but also has enough depth for franchise veterans. “Pokemon Let’s Go is a superb surprise, a fully-fledged Pokemon RPG with interactivity that brings the series to life in a way that’s never been done before,” said GamesRadar.

As for new indie games, we have the canine caper Mimpi Dreams, retro space shooter Super Hydorah, and Arcade Archives Atomic Robo-Kid.

Take a look at the full list below:

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Nov 14
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Capcom is on something of a roll currently, listening to fan feedback in order to bring back such franchises as Mega Man, Resident Evil, Onimusha, and Devil May Cry with a bang.

A new Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is only a matter of time, but until then, there’s Battle Princess Madelyn to look forward to.

The pixel-art action platformer hit its Kickstarter target some time ago. After two years in development, it finally has a release date – 6th December 2018.

It’s set to launch simultaneously on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC (Steam), with a Wii U and PS Vita launch planned for 2019. Yes, it’s due on Wii U. Presumably, this was one of the Kickstarter goals.

“It’s been an exciting, exhaustive, stressful, enjoyable, frustrating, etc. period over the last two years developing Battle Princess Madelyn and I would do it all over again. The feedback that has been given in the creation of the game, the positive remarks, the way social media, the specialist gaming press, etc. have supported the game throughout this long period has been nothing short of remarkable.

The end result is a game the team are all proud of and went beyond what was envisioned. Within a very short time gamers will be able to play Battle Princess Madelyn. I hope it will give them as much enjoyment as it has to the team that created it!”, said Christopher Obritsch from the Canada-based Causal Bit Games.

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Nov 13
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

It’s time to free up some storage space. This week sees more than a few big hitters, two of which come packing colossal install sizes; the kind so large that they’re deemed newsworthy.

Despite being a mere remake, Spyro Reignited Trilogy weighs in at 67GB – only 19GB of which is on the disc. The online focused Fallout 76 is larger still, launching with a 51GB patch on top of its standard 45GB install. Big game season is definitely upon us.

After last week’s early access Gold Edition, Hitman 2 finally falls into the hands of all and sundry. EA’s Battlefield V now follows suit, arriving this week via the Deluxe edition. Reviews started to surface over last weekend, mostly clocking in at 8/10.

In fact, it’s a case of 8/10s all-around – the Metacritics for Hitman 2, Pokemon Let’s Go, Spyro and Battlefield V currently stand at 82%, 82%, 85% and 84% (respectively). We’ve rounded up reviews below.

As for Fallout 76 reviews, the servers only went live this evening – a few hours ahead of schedule – so don’t expect them until the end of the week at the earliest. We’d like to think most gaming sites will hold out until early next week, giving plenty of time to acquaint, but that’s perhaps wishful thinking.

PSN is also awash with Playlink titles – Knowledge is Power: Decades, Chimparty, Ticket to Ride, and Just Deal With It! We wonder if Sony kept these on the backburner for a full Playlink assault.

New release showcase:

Battlefield V

Reviews:
90% – Xbox Achievements: “Battlefield V builds upon its predecessor in meaningful ways, DICE stripping away practically every one of the series’ fripperies to get to the nub of what truly makes the series tick. This is Battlefield at its most undiluted and raw, and it’s all the better for it”

9/10 – Press Start Australia: “Battlefield V retains heart in its single player War Stories mode and variety in its multiplayer modes. New & improved personalisation within ‘Your Company’ gives each of the classes a fresh, personal feel to your soldiers, while remaining authentic to the era. A solid road map of content is set to deliver new maps, modes and seasonal events to keep gamers coming back, which is a good thing as no other game does raw gun play and bullet physics quite like Battlefield. It just feels right and Battlefield V is no exception”

3.5/5 – GamesRadar: “Not as drastic a change up as its WW1 predecessor, nor as wild or wondrous, Battlefield 5’s deliberative design sidelines its strengths as a simulative sandbox”

Hitman 2

Reviews:
8/10 – VideoGamer: “Hitman 2 walks familiar ground and provides the type of delightful moments you expect in the maps on offer, as well as a multiplayer mode with bundles of potential”

8/10 – GameSpot: “The addition of other minor mechanical changes–like concussive weapons, a picture-in-picture enemy activity alert, and visible security camera sightlines–help to improve Hitman 2 overall as a dense and accessible stealth assassination game. But the new locations are the real stars, impressive and inventive sandboxes ripe for picking apart with exciting experiments”

7.7 – IGN: “Hitman 2 is like a hearty stew: not pretty, but so full of nutrition that you’re bound to walk away full and happy”

Pokémon Let’s Go

Reviews:
4.5/5 – GamesRadar: “Pokemon Let’s Go is a superb surprise, a fully-fledged Pokemon RPG with interactivity that brings the series to life in a way that’s never been done before”

8.3 – IGN: “Powerful friends and new mechanics make for a delightful return to the Kanto region in Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Eevee”

Recommended – Eurogamer: “Pokémon’s Switch debut deftly toes the line between returning fans and all-new ones, with a few small wobbles along the way”

Chimparty

Reviews:
7.5 – VideoChums: “If you’re looking for a fun party game that gamers of all skill levels can enjoy together then you certainly can’t go wrong with Chimparty. The intuitive gameplay, enjoyable mini-games, and cheerful graphics and sound make for one happening party”

5/10 – Push Square: “Chimparty is fun in places, but the repetition and occasional frustrations of its minigames means it’s not likely to stay that way for long. As a family game it’s too fiddly to be enjoyable for a sustained period of time, though its visual style is appealing enough to soften the blows of the substandard gameplay”

5/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Chimparty is fun enough to break out for an occasional bout of light-hearted multiplayer when you’ve got friends round, and accessible enough to cater for all ages, but its limitations soon being to show if you spend any extended period of time with it”

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Reviews:
8.5 – IGN: “The Spyro Reignited Trilogy recaptures the magic of Spyro’s original adventures in one nostalgic package”

8.5 – GameInformer: “From a historical standpoint, you can clearly see the foundation for Insomnaic’s Ratchet & Clank series in each level. As a game, Spyro is a blast to control, and collecting gems is an oddly satisfying thing to do. You’ll watch the credits roll on each game before you know what hit you”

4/5 – Windows Central: “Overall, Spyro Reignited Trilogy is an excellent remake of the originals. It’s a lot of fun to play and looks stunning. Unfortunately, the lack of a 60 FPS option, even on the Xbox One X, and the awkward camera controls in some levels detract from the experience. Despite these issues, the remake pays homage to some of the best platformers ever created, and it’s evident that developer Toys for Bob spent many years crafting this package. It’s a labor of love and that shines above all else”

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Nov 12
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

It’s the busiest time of year for the gaming industry, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at this week’s chart. The top five remains unchanged, and there’s just one new arrival in the top 40.

This means Red Dead Redemption 2 claims a third week at no.1, with the usual culprits trailing behind – Black Ops 4, FIFA 19, Forza Horizon 4 and Marvel’s Spider-Man, in that order.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rises to #6, Crash Bandicoot holds onto #7, while AC Odyssey dropped two places to #8.

During its second week of release LEGO Harry Potter Collection dropped one place, taking #9. LEGO DC Super-Villains isn’t far behind, seeing us out at #10.

Carnival Games – a reboot of the ridiculously popular Wii series – is the aforementioned new arrival, debuting at #20. We have a feeling it’ll be a slow but steady seller over the festive period.

Unfortunately, this means neither GRIP – the spiritual successor to Rollcage – or the Aardman Studios co-developed 11-11 Memories Retold managed to break the top 40. Both also failed to make appearances in the PS4 or Xbox One charts.

As for other recent releases, Football Manager 2019 saw just a minor dip in sales – dropping from #9 to #13. Diablo III: Eternal Collection also saw a similar drop-off, falling just two places to #17.

Nov 10
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

We’re confident in saying this week’s 42-strong assortment of new Switch releases is an unprecedented amount.

There’s the usual mixture of retro re-releases (URBAN CHAMPION, THRASH RALLY, Break Thru, and the Spectrum classic Saboteur!), belated conversions (Valiant Hearts, Battlezone Gold Edition, Rogue Legacy, Moonlighter and Road Redemption), new titles (GRIP, The Shapeshifting Detective, and WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY MAXIMA) and stuff to pique your interest (the Rampage-style Roarr! Jurassic Edition and THQ’s city builder Townsmen).

It looks like there’s a couple to avoid as well, with both Carnival Games and the budget-priced Superhot alike SkyTime receiving a critical mauling.

Here’s what you can expect to see on the eShop this week:

New Switch eShop releases

Carnival Games – £34.99
Carnival Games brings the party back for the entire family – now for the first time on Nintendo Switch! With both fan-favorite and brand-new mini-games all in one package, Carnival Games offers fun for everyone and can be played alone or with up to three others. Hit home runs, pile the highest stack of cakes, and take your horse to the finish line. 20 total mini-games will have you and your friends stepping right up to win again and again!

GRIP – £34.99
GRIP is a high octane, hardcore combat racer, packing ferocious speed and armed to the teeth with heavy weapons.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two – £39.99
Now that Jesse and the gang have vanquished the Wither Storm, saved the world, and become totally super famous heroes, life has gotten a bit more…complicated. With more responsibilities and less time for adventure, old friendships have started to fade — at least until Jesse’s hand gets stuck in a creepy gauntlet that belongs to an ancient underwater temple. Together with old pals and new comrades alike, Jesse embarks on a brand new journey filled with tough choices, good times, and at least one temperamental llama.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War – £16.00
This is the story of crossed destinies and a broken love in a world torn apart. All of the characters will try to survive the horror of the trenches following their faithful canine companion. Choose your favorite control mode and experience the game with either a Joy-Con controller or the touch screen.

Syberia 1 & 2 – £29.99
This version includes two complete games: Syberia and Syberia 2.

ACA NEOGEO THRASH RALLY – £6.29
“THRASH RALLY” is an original racing game released by SNK in 1991. Two game modes “World Rally Championship Mode” and “Rally Mode” have been featured. Travel through cities and the countryside as you make your way through the various courses.

Arcade Archives URBAN CHAMPION – £6.29
“URBAN CHAMPION” is a beat ’em up fighting game, first released by Nintendo in 1984. True to its namesake, fighting men duke it out, fist to fist, for the title of “Urban Champion”! Go into battle with light and heavy punches, as well as dodging and other defensive maneuvers. Take on a 2 player battle, and try to read your opponents’ moves to become the victor!

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Nov 08
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Here’s an example of the age-old saying “as one door closes, another opens” – this month sees the final issues of both gamesTM and GamesMaster hitting newsstands, but just as word broke of their closure came the reveal of a new gaming magazine.

At a time when print is seemingly on the way out, its reveal came as quite the surprise.

Wireframe – published by Raspberry Pi Press – appears to be a response to the frequently heard criticism that gaming magazines are out of date by the time they reach stores. For not only is it a fortnightly publication, but it also mostly focuses on features that aren’t time-sensitive, ditching news and other gaming mag staples.

Wireframe promises to lift the lid on video games, filling its pages with development-focused features, complete with insight supplied by developers themselves. In this issue’s ‘Toolbox’ section, Howard Scott Warshaw – creator of some of the Atari 2600’s bestselling games – shares tips for great game design, while Will Luton examines the curves, probabilities and formulae that shape the likes of Fortnite, Hearthstone and similar games.

It looks like we can expect a pleasing amount of retro gaming content too. Issue #1 boasts features on the history of the British gaming industry, the C64 ‘demake’ of Portal, and a four-page piece on the celebrated Japanese developer Treasure. Reviews and previews still feature too, we should note, with this issue casting a critical eye on Darksiders III, AC Odyssey, No Man’s Sky Next, and more.

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Nov 07
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

HomeBearStudios are currently wrapping up work on NAIRI: Tower of Shirin, a story-driven puzzle adventure for Switch and PC, featuring hand-drawn 2D visuals and a cast of curious critters.

It stars Nairi, a troubled upper-class girl who’s forced to abandon her luxurious way of living after discovering the titular Tower of Shirin – a mysterious place with secrets and puzzles aplenty.

With just three weeks to go until the game’s launch, the developers kindly took time out of their undoubtedly busy schedule to take part in a mini Q&A session.

Games Asylum: Protagonist Nairi is forced to abandon her rich, sheltered life. What was the inspiration behind giving her this background?

HomeBearStudios: At first, we planned for Nairi to enter Shirin as a complete outsider, and discover the city that way, like the player would. But we eventually decided the current setup was more interesting with regards to Nairi’s character development.

We didn’t have any specific inspiration for this – we just wanted to put Nairi in a precarious situation where she’d be forced out of her comfort zone, adapt, and learn more about the world.

Did the characters exist on paper, or in your mind, before development began?

We took a month or two to really pin down the characters and world of NAIRI before we launched our Kickstarter and development process. So it wasn’t something we’d been itching to work on for years, but couldn’t for some reason. We really started working on our ideas almost immediately.

The JoyCons allow for a large range of inputs. How did you take advantage of this?

The most unique input method we took advantage of is the gyroscope inside of each of the Joycon. Because NAIRI: Tower of Shirin is a point & click game, we thought some people might prefer pointing at the screen over using the analog stick. With motion controls, we could do that.

Then another unique feature would be… you have two almost identical joycon – why not allow for left-handed controls?

It appears Nairi brings a hint of ‘visual novel’ to the adventure genre. What were the inspirations here?

NAIRI: Tower of Shirin is very story heavy, so we’ve always leaned very close to the visual novel genre as well the point & click genre. We didn’t really have any specific games or genres in mind when we made these design decisions.

We needed a budget-friendly way of telling our story, displaying a visually appealing world and implementing puzzles, so we just picked elements from several genres that would work well together.

Do you think the popularity of the ‘visual novel’ is on the rise?

I’m not sure. I do think more people could be attracted to the genre with stronger variations of art styles and narratives. Most visual novels I’m aware of showcase art styles that to me seem only anime fans could warm up to.

There are plenty of people with the patience for a visual novel; they just need something they can relate to.

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