NeverAloneT
Dec 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

When first presented with one of Telltale’s episodic adventures we compared the £3.99 asking price to that of a cinema ticket, due to the price: length ratio.

A similar comparison can be made with this snow covered side-scroller, albeit with the price of a new DVD – it too costs just over £10 and provides around 2-3 hours of entertainment. And just like a DVD, it has a wealth of bonus content that complements the main feature perfectly, helping to extend its worth somewhat.

Never Alone’s background alone is remarkable – it comes from a development team comprising of Alaska Native elders and storytellers, plus industry veterans who have worked on numerous well-known titles. The story it tells comes from Alaskan Native folklore, detailing the unlikely friendship between young Iñupiaq girl Nuna and an Arctic fox. As they traverse harsh Alaskan environments, varying from coastal villages to snow covered forests, they face danger on more than a couple of occasions. A case of sheer survival more than anything, the story makes for a compelling adventure.

NeverAlone1

Due to size and stature Nuna can only run or use what’s around her to escape danger. Likewise, the fox is too small to harm attackers directly. We found this non-confrontational nature to be surprisingly appealing, with each threat requiring a degree of thought to outwit. Fans of fellow indie hit Limbo in particular will notice familiarity within the physic-based puzzles.

It’s not long into the proceedings that Nuna gains a bola formed of glowing rocks. By flicking the analogue stick back and forth this hunting tool can be used to knock down walls of ice and other obstacles. An aiming guide would have helped hugely as in most instance it takes around three throws to eventually hit a target. Perhaps the developers were looking for authenticity here? You’d have to be a crack shot to hit a target every time, after all.

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Loadout
Dec 18
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Last month publishers were clambering over one another to get their games onto store shelves. This month? The final retail release of the year was in fact launched last week. So let’s take a look at this week’s downloadable offerings, shall we?

The timing for console renditions of Risk and Trivial Pursuit couldn’t be any more perfect. What’s more festive than getting friends and family around for a friendly, and instantly familiar, multiplayer game? It’s not hard to imagine Risk being the more exciting of the two. That’s out on PS4 and Xbox One, priced at £11.99, while Trivial Pursuit Live! (to use its full name) is out on Xbox One and Xbox 360, also priced at £11.99. The PS4 version appears to be coming later.

TrivialP

Trivial Pursuit Live! is one we’d approach with caution. We spent some time with the recent Xbox One iteration of Monopoly and found it to be too tedious to even write about. The card-based Monopoly Deal didn’t impress us much either. The core concept is sound enough but having to wait for online opponents to play their hand is monotonous to the extreme. All we could hear through our headset was players telling one another to hurry up.

Anyway, we digress. After appearing on handhelds last month Ubisoft’s Tetris Ultimate paves its way onto both Xbox One and PS4. Reports suggest it runs poorly on PS4 – menus are said to stutter and the controls are unresponsive to the extreme. Until a patch is released, it’s best to avoid it. We’re unsure as to how the Xbox One version performs.

Edge of Reality’s grizzly FTP shooter Loadout also launches on PS4 while futuristic racer Switch Galaxy Ultra (£11.99) heads to PS4 and PS Vita with Cross-Buy support. A couple of people who worked on the original Wipeout have lent their talents to it. A few more details can be found over on the PS Blog.

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at8
Dec 17
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

When rummaging around online for screenshots of WayForward’s Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom to accompany our review, we were quick to spot a few less than subtle differences between pre-release screenshots and the final version.

It’s not uncommon for a game’s visuals to change slightly during development, but here the differences are actually quite jarring. In some instances the pre-release version even looks a little fancier.

Starting with the first dungeon, the finished version has no tubas in the doorway. We assume this was simply to make it appear less cluttered.

Pre-release
AT11

Final version
AT1

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BananaHurl
Dec 17
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

A year has passed since Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon… was released yet we’re still dumbfounded as to how WayForward managed to create something so joyless. A harsh and gruelling slog, those who had patience to see it through to the end genuinely have our respect.

Whereas ‘Explore the Dungeon’ took influence from good old Gauntlet, this third Adventure Time tie-in takes inspiration from the 16-bit classic Zelda: A Link to the Past. The Zelda template not only suits the license like a glove but also gives it a wider appeal than some may expect.

It helps, of course, that it’s a very competent Zelda alike – WayForward are clearly well versed with Link’s top-down adventures, including what makes them just as compelling as one of Nintendo’s fully fledged fairy-filled outings. It’s a somewhat shorter experience than the majority of Zelda games, which is mostly down to a far smaller – and less varied – world map but even so the 10-12 hour runtime is nothing for WayForward to be ashamed of.

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The plot sees Finn and Jake out to find three princesses who have mysteriously vanished inside the Nameless Kingdom. Although set in a realm unique to this tie-in, appearances from key characters are frequent. One unexpected element given the (presumably) low budget is that all character dialogue is backed by a voice over. Some vocal talent is seemingly provided by sound-alikes (Tree Trunks doesn’t sound quite right) but when combined with dialogue that remains true to the show’s peculiar nature the overall presentation is solid enough. Some artwork has clearly been lifted from previous Adventure Time games but regardless the 2D sprites are nicely drawn and well animated.

Music impresses too. The upbeat main world music adds a jaunty vibe to the proceedings while the sombre tones that play during dungeon quests create a surprisingly eerie atmosphere.

It’s within the four dungeons that the majority of time is spent. For those unfamiliar with Adventure Time, the world of ‘Ooo’ is in fact a post-apocalyptic iteration of Earth. Following suit, the dungeons are in pre-apocalyptic structures including a school that clearly favours the musical arts and an elaborate swimming pool that features puzzles based on rising and lowering water levels. A 2D version of Ocarina’s notorious Water Temple, if you will.

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ArtofBalance
Dec 16
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Digital versions of ancient Activision titles, a couple of obscure Virtual Console re-releases and another handful of 3DS themes. If you’re finding it hard to get excited about this week’s eShop schedule then you’re not alone.

Those Virtual Console releases are Capcom curios Mighty Final Fight (£3.49) and Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (£3.49) for Wii U. Both were released on 3DS VC a few months ago. As we said back then, Mighty Final Fight is worth a look but don’t be tempted by Street Fighter 2010 – it has nothing in common with the series we all know and love.

Castle

We can’t muster much enthusiasm for Activision’s incredibly belated downloads either. Transformers Prime and Angry Birds Trilogy arrive on both Wii U and 3DS eShops this Thursday while Moshi Monster: Moshlings Theme Park makes its way to 3DS. Despite knocking on a bit (Transformers Prime was a Wii U launch title, if memory serves) they’re being launched at full price – £39.99 for the aforementioned, no less. Oh, Activision.

As for new stuff, there’s Enjoy Up’s 99Moves on Wii U. The garishly coloured retro shooter is available for a mere £1.37 to those who already own 99 Seconds, Abyss, Darts Up, Rock Zombie or Unepic. £2.49 otherwise.

The Wii U also get an Art of Balance demo this Thursday. With a Metacritic of 83%, you should certainly give this addictive puzzler a try.

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GTAV6
Dec 16
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Car windscreens aren’t the only thing feeling the wrath of winter – the UK top five is frozen too. A tenuous link, we know.

This means FIFA 15 is the UK’s number one yet again. Last week saw it take the top spot for the first time in six weeks.

Just for those who missed last week’s chart, EA’s soccer sim is then followed by Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, GTA V, Far Cry 4 and LEGO Batman 3.

The Crew entered at #6 last week. That’s now at #11. Just Dance 2015 and Destiny meanwhile re-enter the top ten at #6 and #9 respectively.

Price cuts have seemingly helped WWE 2K15 and The Evil Within rise back up too; the former is up seven places to #12 while the latter twelve places to #16.

It appears Nintendo’s latest paring of Pokemon are on the slippery slope down the top 40 as both have now departed the top 20. Disney Infinity 2.0 is on the descent too, falling all the way from #15 to #26.

As for new entries, the retail version of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris made #17 in the PS4 chart while The Penguins of Madagascar entered at #24 in the Wii chart.

Next Monday’s chart will reveal the UK’s Christmas number one. Unless GAME significantly cuts the prices of GTA V or Far Cry 4 later this week, expect either FIFA 15 or Call of Duty to take the annual festive crown.

Never underestimate the power of a GAME price drop – that’s what helped Skyrim to become Christmas number one back in 2011.

Lara
Dec 10
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Last week saw the amount of new releases begin to slow. This week it’s all but a trickle, with just one title heading to retail. The last retail release of the year, no less.

That game is Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris: Gold Edition, which includes the season pass, a Lara figurine, an art book and a map. It’s available for between £20-£25 whereas the standalone game can be downloaded for £15.99 on PSN and £14.99 on Xbox Live. Making that difference in price slightly easier to swallow, PS Plus members can get it for £13.49 for one week only along with some ‘Hitman DLC’.

LaraCroft

The first review to surface was from good old GamesMaster magazine. They gave it 87%, lavishing praise on both the puzzles and boss battles. Since then we’ve seen an 8.1 from IGN and 7/10s from both Eurogamer and VideoGamer. “Playing alone, discovering the different flavors of each new temple and figuring out the solution to a brain-busting puzzle all by myself is satisfying; replaying with others doubled that satisfaction because developer Crystal Dynamics renews the challenge with creative new twists on previously conquered obstacles that require teamwork to overcome” said IGN.

Also causing a stir on the download services, and not necessary for the best of reasons, is Destiny’s first piece of significant DLC – The Dark Below.

To quote the Metro’s “sort of review”: “What you’ve got here are three new story missions, one new Strike (two if you have a PlayStation 3 or 4) and one new Raid. And that’s it, except for three new competitive maps and sundry new weapons, armour, and a gaudily-painted new speeder bike. By the low standards of most DLC it’s not that bad, but then most DLC doesn’t cost £20 (or £35 if you buy the Expansion Pass that also includes the next one)”.

If you couldn’t tell by their tone, they wasn’t very impressed. “It’s particularly offensive give [sic] the high cost and the fact that Xbox owners are denied the better (relatively speaking) of the two Strikes, and yet are expected to pay the same price” they continued.

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SuperT
Dec 09
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

The indie uprising continued in full force this year, with numerous download-only titles bagging incredibly high review scores.

Not all caught the attention of critics and gamers alike though, and so this round-up gives a small handful a second chance to glimmer in the limelight. We’ve thrown in a few big budget games you may have missed too. Hey, we’re all for equality here.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved – Xbox One, Xbox 360

Fantasia

We feel sorry for Harmonix. We really do. See, it wasn’t long after Fantasia was announced that Microsoft finally caved in and began to sell the Xbox One without the Kinect. Turns out people didn’t want a glorified webcam prying into their living room. Who would have thought it, eh?

Although Fantasia obtained positive reviews it would appear that pre-orders were so low that some retailers didn’t bother stocking it at all. In fact, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks after launch that we spotted our first copy in ‘the wild’. It gets worse – not only did it fail to enter the UK top 40, but also the top 40 Xbox 360 chart. Considering even incredibly obscure stuff manages to break the lower echelons of the Xbox 360 top 40, we’d wager that copies sold during launch week struggled to break double figures. We’re speculating of course, but it stands to reason.

At the time of typing Fantasia can be picked up for around £20 and will likely swiftly plummet to the magical £10 mark. Those with a Kinect would do well take advantage of that alluring price tag. Bringing the worlds sorcerer Yen Sid has created to life is a joy, while the chance to unlock additional mixes mid-song is a neat idea. From Elton John to Gorillaz, the track listing is pleasingly diverse too.

While it may not have sold well, Harmonix can still take solace in knowing that Fantasia will be remembered as being one of the best Kinect titles. At least by the few who played it, anyway.

Volgarr the Viking – Xbox One

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As much as we wanted to review Volgarr, the fact that we aren’t very good at it scrubbed that plan. Harsher than a Norwegian winter, it puts both memory and reflex skills to the test.

Although tough, it’s all the better for it. Every death heeds a valuable lesson; learn from these mistakes and on your next attempt you’ll get a little further. Controls are precise and enemy placement pixel-perfect. Sure, you’ll curse when you die for the umpteenth time but you’ll also dust yourself off and try again. For us, that’s the hallmark of impeccable design.

The aesthetic design is likewise pleasing. Every reviewer seems to have their own opinion on which 16-bit classic Volgarr resembles. In our eyes, Tatio’s Rastan Saga from 1987. In terms of how it plays however it has more in common with Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts. It’s the power-up system we have to thank for this – Volgarr starts with a simple sword and spear combo, gaining shields and armour from chests that often require a spot of risky exploration to discover. One hit is all it takes to lose these items, and so keeping hold of them for lengthy periods proves to be a highly rewarding challenge in itself.

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