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Oct 23
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

From first-party exclusives such as Forza Horizon 2 and DriveClub to third-party titles including Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within, Xbox One and PS4 owners have had a lot to get excited about recently. Now it’s time for Wii U owners to rejoice – Bayonetta 2 is finally here.

The first review out of the door couldn’t have been any more encouraging – a 10/10 from EDGE. Since then it has also received top marks from The Guardian, GiantBomb, God is a Geek, GameSpot, Destructoid and a handful of other well-known gaming sites. 9/10s from gamesTM, The Metro and VideoGamer aren’t to be sniffed at either.

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“The worst thing you can say about Bayonetta 2 is that it’s still not much of an improvement over its predecessor, but even that supposed criticism still confirms it as one of the best action games of all-time. Creating Bayonetta 2 may not make much business sense but unlike most sequels today this isn’t a game made for the love of money, but for the love of gaming itself,” said The Metro’s GameCentral.

As Wii U owners are no doubt already aware, the original Bayonetta is also being released on Wii U this week as either an eShop download or part of the Bayonetta 2 Special Edition. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry reports that it holds up incredibly well: “While it’s not dramatically superior to the original Xbox 360 version, we’d have to give it the nod as the definitive version of the game.”

The Bayonetta double-whammy is currently still in stock at Amazon, priced at a very reasonable £39.85 as opposed to the £31.85 asking price for the standalone version. If you have some GAME reward points to spend, the standard version can also be had for £32.99 from GAME as either a download code or physical copy.

There’s another game from Platinum out this week, but whereas Bayonetta 2 is dazzling the critics with its glorious visuals and masterful combat, downloadable cartoon tie-in The Legend of Korra has left many feeling disappointed.

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IGN’s review in particular paints a very bleak picture: “I have no idea who The Legend of Korra: The Game is for. It’s definitely not for young fans of Korra, as the combat is too unforgiving, the boss battles too tedious, the economy ridiculously punishing, and the story too weak and lacking any of the show’s charm. It’s not for older people who enjoy a good action game, because next to contemporaries like Batman: Arkham City, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and even Platinum’s own Bayonetta 2, Korra looks terrible with its simple two-button combos and poor combat scenario design. I can’t recommend it to anyone.”

GameSpot wasn’t impressed either, giving it a miserable 3/10: “Korra looks the part on the most superficial level, but possesses not one ounce of the flair and depth that characterize the television series.”

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We can only speculate as to what went wrong. With Platinum no doubt busy finishing Bayonetta 2 off, we presume a lack of both time and resources is to blame. Getting two games ready to ship in the same week must be no easy task.

In addition to The Legend of Korra there are a couple of other new arrivals on the download services. Need for Speed Rivals: Complete Edition makes a surprise pitstop on both PS4 and Xbox One while Saints Row IV Game of the Century Edition makes its way to PS3 via PSN for £19.99. Nothing like blowing your own trumpet, eh?

Curiously, two Disney games are out this Friday as well – Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved on Xbox One/Xbox 360 and Disney Magical World on 3DS.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved comes from the home of Dance Central – one of the few games worth buying a Kinect for. This too is Kinect only, which does worry us about how well it’s going to sell. Reviews suggest that it deserves to do well though, with critics finding much to enjoy. “Fantasia’s diverse music selection, beautiful realms, and blended co-op mode, combine to create a great new experience” said IGN, who conjured up an 8.6.

Joystiq on the other hand gave it 4/5: “If you have an Xbox One and a Kinect, you should have Fantasia: Music Evolved in your library, not only because it’s the thing that shows off how well your Kinect can work, but also because it’s an immediately accessible and fun party game.”

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A demo is available now for both Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Dust off your Kinect – you may be surprised.

With some favourable comparisons to Animal Crossing, Disney Magical World has also been getting good reviews. “If you’re beginning to get burnt out on Animal Crossing and you’re seeking something similar that also manages to feel fresh, Magical World is the perfect way to start a new life once again” said Nintendo Life who gave it a glowing 8/10. Pocket Gamer meanwhile gave it a 7/10: “For more seasoned gamers, Disney Magical World might be a pleasant surprise. For kids, it could feel genuinely magical.”

Also out on 3DS this week – Power Rangers Super Mega Force. It’s yet to be reviewed, but I think we all know how this one is going to turn out.

Another currently review shy is Invizimals: The Resistance on PS Vita. Invizimals: The Alliance was only released in March, so we assume this will offer a similar good-but-not-quite-great experience.

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GloriousChariot
Oct 22
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Even with a concept that’s quirkier than most, we’d argue that Chariot’s standout feature is that it brings back good old local co-op gaming. With a friend by your side this physics-based platform puzzler evokes memories of when online gaming was a thing of the future; a time when two gamers could bond on a sofa, sharing strategies and revelling in victories with one another. If you haven’t splashed out for a second Xbox One or PS4 controller yet, then Chariot could very well be the game that opens your wallet.

It’s lamentable that Chariot’s co-op isn’t of the drop-in/drop-out variety, but let’s not rain on Frima Studio’s parade just yet as there’s plenty to praise. The concept is a perfect place to start – playing as princess or her suitor, it’s your job to traverse the cavernous royal catacombs to find a suitable resting place for a recently departed King. What should be a relatively easy task soon becomes a herculean quest however, with the King himself coming along for the ride. Taking the form of a ghostly spirit he’s something of a fusspot, constantly complaining about, well, just about everything. In addition to frequently changing his mind about where his resting place should be, humorously pointing out even the smallest of problems, the royal one also demands that the chariot be filled with loot. Thankfully, the catacombs are rife with shiny gems for the taking.

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The labyrinth-like levels start off small, giving plenty of scope to learn the ropes. Quite literally in this case – using the joypad’s trigger buttons, a rope can be attached to the chariot and the slack reduced or lengthen as need be. Nuances are numerous, including the ability to flip the chariot in the air and use it as a temporary platform before it hurtles to the ground. In most instances you’re left to figure these little time-saving tricks for yourself. Soon they become second nature, not to mention highly beneficial for collecting loot located in hard to reach areas.

Chariot’s pace may be slow but it’s no walk in the park

If the chariot rolls out of view for too long then back to the checkpoint you go. This is the only means of failure – there are no grizzly deaths here, even when it comes to fending off gremlin-like looters. These mysterious creatures, with their glowing red eyes, are simply after loot and as such cause the protagonists no harm. They’re attracted by the noise of the chariot falling from great highs or colliding into walls, and if they aren’t catapulted off the royal wagon in good time they’ll make off with some of your valuables.

As the story unfolds – taking our intrepid adventurers across snow, sand and more – the looters become bigger and more menacing, requiring more hits from your trusty slingshot to cast back into the shadows. Fortunately the catacombs contain upgrade blueprints, some of which are essential to locate in order to progress.

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outthisweek_fifa15
Oct 20
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

There’s no stopping FIFA – EA’s soccer sim has successfully managed to fend off another week’s worth of new releases. Specifically, The Evil Within, F1 2014 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

Last week’s top trio did however all make the top 10. Available on formats new and old, The Evil Within did – rather unsurprisingly – perform the best out of the bunch. The new IP is in at #2, dislodging fellow survival horror Alien: Isolation.

At #3 it’s Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! Curiously, The Borderlands Collection has managed to re-enter the top 40 this week at #25. We’d wager that’s because it’s a mere £5 at Tesco currently.

The brilliant Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Forza Horizon 2 shift down one place to #4 and #5.

They’re then followed by Alien: Isolation, Destiny, DriveClub, Minecraft: PlayStation Edition and finally new arrival F1 2014 at #10.

After just one week Skylanders Trap Team departs the top ten, falling from #7 to #11, while Super Smash Bros. on 3DS goes from #9 to #12. We’re mildly confident that both will be back in the run up to Xmas.

Over in the single-format charts meanwhile we spy Falling Skies: The Game make #38 in the Xbox 360 chart while the sub-£15 Killer Instinct: Combo Breaker Pack makes #20 in the Xbox One chart.

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Oct 20
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

This week’s Nintendo eShop line-up is mostly comprised of premium-priced retail downloads. When Bayonetta 2 is amongst them though we aren’t going to complain.

Especially when the price is pretty reasonable – £39.99, or £24.99 if you’ve downloaded the original Bayonetta. That’s £24.99, or £9.99 if you’ve downloaded Bayonetta 2.

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As you’ve no doubt seen by now, Platinum’s latest has been getting a steady string of 10/10s with many critics calling it the action game of the year. The conversion of the original Bayonetta holds up incredibly well too, being the timeless classic that it is.

Bayonetta is being joined by Just Dance 2014 (price TBA) on Wii U and 3DS titles Power Rangers Super Megaforce (£24.99) and Animal Crossing-alike Disney Magical World (£34.99). Free DLC will be available for the latter on launch. Halloween themed, from the sounds of it – we highly doubt Mickey Mouse wears a “skull T-shirt” any other time of the year.

Virtual Console releases this week include the second dose of Donkey Kong titles – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (£5.49) on Wii U VC and Donkey Kong Land 2 (£3.59) on 3DS VC.

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ProjectSpark2
Oct 17
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

We’re unsure whether Microsoft releasing Project Spark during gaming’s silly season is a sensible idea or not. With so many big name releases out will many gamers have both the time and patience to sit down and experiment with a game creation tool? On the flipside, the evenings are quickly drawing in – winter is the perfect time of year to get cosy and spend hours sat on the sofa with a joypad in hand. While making our first game in Project Spark – the aptly named Super Goblin Bash – we were left captivated in a manner that only the deepest of RPGs can match.

And yes, you can indeed create RPGs in Project Spark. Platformers of both the 2.5D and 3D variety as well, along with first-person shooters and twin-stick shooters. In actual fact, pretty much anything can be created. We even tried out somebody’s rendition of the board game Reversi.

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The first time somebody downloaded one of our creations it felt like a genuine achievement

For those not willing to cough up some cash however the limits aren’t quite limitless. The free to download version is restricted to the Fable-esque fantasy/woodland props, character models and landscapes. It does at least contain all the standard features such as the easy-to-follow tutorial. Coins earned by completing challenges – such as sharing your first creation online – can also be used to buy additional props in the Marketplace. On top this there are gold bars which start at £3.99 for a bundle, used to unlock more substantial items such as playable characters that level-up through use.

The sub-£30 retail version on the other hand includes a bunch of stuff – alien and arctic glacier themes, countless characters and props, a one month premium subscription and Champions Quest: Void Storm Adventure – a 3D action/adventure game. Created using in-game assets, it’s a pretty impressive showcase.

While it makes sense for Microsoft to release Project Spark for free, giving those even with a mere passing fancy a reason to try it, logic dictates that the majority of games created will use the freebie items. Our worry here is that this may – potentially, at least – put people off trying lots of different games. When searching through player’s creations they tend to all look and sound rather similar.

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TheEvilWithinT
Oct 16
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Those who have remained loyal to the last generation of consoles are this week rewarded for their loyalty with Borderlands: The Pre-sequel! and F1 2014.

Why are there no Xbox One or PS4 version of these two? Codemasters claims that they want their current-gen debut to be something spectacular, and with games for this generation taking a good two to three years to develop – hence why we’ve seen half a dozen remasters and remakes this year – that spectacular something is still a while off. As for Borderlands, 2K Games believes that the majority of Borderlands players still play regularly on their last-gen systems. Although that may have well been the case when this prequel was announced back in April, we expect that quite a few players have now jumped ship to PS4 and Xbox One. Next week’s chart will tell, we guess.

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Borderlands: The Pre-sequel! certainly deserves to sell well. God is a Geek’s review is well worth a read, giving 2K Australia’s take on the cel-shaded shooter an 8/10. Eurogamer meanwhile handed out a 7/10, saying that it “does what it had to do but not much more.” The price tag may help to sway a purchasing decision – it’s available online for around £30.

Praise hasn’t been quite as forthcoming for F1 2014. What should have been a step forward for the constantly improving series is in fact a step backwards according to Eurogamer. “When an entirely inconsequential one-lap tutorial is being touted on the back of the box as a standout new feature, you know it’s slim pickings” they said while damming the lack of new content. VideoGamer enjoyed it a little bit more, giving it a 6/10 as opposed to Eurogamer’s 5/10, but still felt that it’s a stop-gap product with lots of recycled content.

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PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners can also indulge in The Evil Within this week, which launched on consoles both old and new on Tuesday. Just about everybody who has experienced Shinji Mikami’s new survival horror claims that it’s the game that Resident Evil 5 should have been. “Evil Within grafts Resident Evil 4′s gold standard survival action to a far less forgiving world” said The Official Xbox Magazine UK. IGN also fell for it hard: “While its story ends up buckling under its own ambition, there is little here that takes away from the joy of experiencing survival horror under the steady hand of a master of the craft.” They went on to give it a resounding 8.7.

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The rest of the week’s retail releases are a bit of an odd bunch. MXGP – The Official Motocross Videogame makes a belated pitstop on PS4, boasting of four new tracks and textures four times as detailed over the PS3 original. It sounds like a degree of effort has gone into the conversion, but whether it’s enough to justify the £49.99 price tag we cannot say.

On 3DS and DS meanwhile there’s the budget priced fairy adventure Winx Club: Saving Alfea while Petz Countryside and Petz Beach hit the 3DS courtesy of Ubisoft. Speaking of budget games, Sniper Elite V2 and Payday 2 arrive on the PS3 Essentials/Xbox 360 Classics ranges this week. Expect to pay around £15 each. It’s worth bearing in mind though that Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is due out on PS4 and Xbox One soon.

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ShadowT
Oct 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

As a relatively new publisher on the scene – at least when compared to EA, Activision et al – Warner Bros don’t quite get the credit they deserve.

The LEGO games have improved massively while under their watchful eye, Mortal Kombat is the best it has ever been (save perhaps for that one time in the ‘90s when pulling out a chap’s spine was genuinely shocking) and Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are not just the best Batman games of all time, but two of the last generation’s finest. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor does for The Lord of the Rings what Arkham Asylum did for the Dark Knight.

Protagonist Talion is different to most on account of the fact he’s already dead. Murdered during a grizzly blood sacrifice, the Aragon lookalike returns to the world as a Wraith – a ghostly entity denied from both heaven and hell. The fellow Wraith who resurrected Talion comes along for the open-world ride, in an attempt to remember, well, everything. It would seem that becoming a Wraith makes one quite forgetful.

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Usually we cast a wrinkly frown when a developer has blatantly copied something from another game. Monolith’s decision to have Talion wall running and sneaking in the shadows in a highly similar manner to Ezio and other Assassin’s Creed stars does however make a lot of sense. Developer Monolith’s previous outputs have mostly been first-person shooters, including FEAR and Condemned, and so by studying AC’s animation routines very carefully they’ve managed to provide Shadow of Mordor with a control system that arguably took Ubisoft years to perfect.

This also means that most gamers – with the AC games being as popular as they are – will take to running up walls, shuffling across ledges and leaping off buildings like a duck to water. Being a ghostly Wraith, Talion doesn’t require a hay barrel to land into when jumping off towers and such – he simply slams into the ground in a manner that would make Iron Man jealous. Another benefit of being six foot under already (the plot is one of revenge, if you haven’t guessed) is that Talion can’t die. Instead, each failure passes time – Sauron’s armies grow and shift, and as they do new missions and challenges not only open up but also change location. You may find that the Orc Captain that left you slain has relocated to a different stronghold, and as such is now surrounded by his peers. This provides the choice to try and take them all on at once, or simply wait until he’s on his lonesome again.

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The combat system too has an inspiration, and this time one that’s closer to home. Namely, the Batman Arkham trilogy. When facing a large number of enemies the camera pans out to give a full view, with Talion automatically leaping from one target to the next in the blink of an eye. Countering is a simple case of hitting a button in good time, while as the story progresses new enemies are introduced that either have to be stunned before attacking or attacked from behind. Talion even borrows a few moves from Batman, such as performing a sweeping kick to knock an enemy off their feet before slamming them back to the round with a well-placed punch to the gut. Sadly there’s no chair throwing, but whereas Batman doesn’t kill enemies, our hero here is more than happy to decapitate those in his path. This degree of ultra violence does actually serve a purpose – killing enemies in a brutal fashion can scare those nearby, causing them to flee like cowards.

While it’s true that Shadow of Mordor has some clear sources of inspiration, it has its own merits too. The ‘Nemesis System’ is one fine example. Orc Captains roam Middle-Earth, each of which can be tracked and traced from the menu screen. They’re boss characters, pretty much. Coated in strong armour they’re tough to defeat, sometimes even when you know their weaknesses. Every time a Captain defeats Talion they grow stronger and during the passage of time they move up the ranks to eventually become Warchiefs – even tougher adversaries.

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TrapTeam2
Oct 13
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Update: Activision has dropped us a line informing that Skylanders Trap Team did in fact make #7 in the UK top 40. Chart-Track are aware that their data is currently incorrect and will be issuing a revised UK top 40 tomorrow morning

Original story: This week’s UK top 40 holds a mild surprise – Skylanders Trap Team failed to make the chart. No doubt it’ll belatedly appear in the run up to Christmas, but given the popularity of the series we thought it would make the top 20 at least.

Skylanders Swap Force – last year’s entry – managed to make #3, so it’s certainly a little odd. Trap Team did however manage to break the majority of the individual format charts, entering at #1 in the Wii chart and #2 in the Wii U chart. The Xbox 360, PS3 and 3DS versions were total no-shows.

Out of last week’s other new releases Alien: Isolation charts the highest. SEGA’s sci-fi survival horror made #2 with FIFA 15 holding the top spot. As most could have predicted, it’s was the PS4 version of Isolation that shifted the most copies.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor falls to #3 while Forza Horizon 2 also dropped one place. Then at #5 it’s a new entry – Sony’s DriveClub.

That’s soon followed by another new arrival – NBA 2K15 at #7.

The only other new arrival for this week is Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition at a respectable #12.

Over in the single format charts Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: The American Saga bundle enters in both the PS3 and Xbox 360 charts while Japanese curio Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed made #2 in the PS Vita chart.

Then at #11 in the Xbox One chart, game making tool Project Spark makes an appearance. Seeing that a stripped down version is available as a free download, Microsoft shouldn’t be too alarmed about it not making the top 40.

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