May 21
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The EGX 2018 showing of Team Sonic Racing didn’t leave much of an impression, presenting show goers with a sluggish racer lacking spectacle and void of personality. The six-month delay came as no surprise, and many applauded SEGA for giving Sumo more time.

Reviews of the budget price (£25-£30) racer are now live, and it seems Sumo was able to turn something shaping up to be mediocre at best into a competent, if unspectacular, affair. The presentation is reportedly lacking still, but with no review scores lower than 6/10, it’s way beyond being middle of the road. IGN actually thought it was pretty great, dishing out a remarkable 8.5.

This week also sees the release of the Epic published Dauntless, a free-to-play co-op adventure with a whiff of Monster Hunter – it entails taking down giant beasts and forging new weapons and armour from their remains. News that it supports cross-platform play came as a surprise – it’s the first game to allow PS4 and Xbox One owners to buddy up.

We’re still waiting on reviews of Curve Digital’s American Fugitive to surface, but it sounds intriguing enough to take a punt when it goes on the lam tomorrow. It’s a top-down sandbox crime caper set in 1980’s deep south that’s inspired by the original GTA. It reminds us of the original Postal, too.

If you’ve tried the recent demo, then you’ve probably been swayed by Everybody’s Golf VR already. We’ve rounded up scores below. They aren’t quite as high as we imagined – mostly clocking in at 7/10 – but at £25 it looks like a safe purchase for PSVR owners.

Survival horror throwback Back in 1995 piqued our interest, featuring low-poly PSone style visuals, texturing warping and all. Sadly, the first review to surface is a miserable 2/10 from The Xbox Tavern. “Back in 1995, survival horror games were much deeper, better refined, and a lot more engaging than this,” they said.

Psychological horror Dollhouse on PS4 – which pays homage to 1950’s film noir – looks like a more appealing alternative.

Sticking with the theme of horror, Observation (out now on PS4 and PC) uses the isolation of space to create a haunting atmosphere. It’s on track to become one of the highest rated games of the month, in fact.

New release showcase:

Team Sonic Racing

Reviews:
8.5 – IGN: Team Sonic Racing adds a creative twist on the arcade racer with its exciting team-based mechanics that put strategy and precision at the forefront alongside blistering speeds across mesmerizing tracks.

8.5 – PSU: Team Sonic Racing is a blast to play. The unique team based racing puts a spin on an already successful formula that encourages players to work together while also feeling competitive enough to not keep those away who always want to prove they’re the best.

7.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: I absolutely recommend giving Team Sonic Racing a whirl for its new kind of kart racing play, but if you want to play locally with your friends, you’ll have to put up with some potholes.

7/10 – PlayStation Country: Team Sonic Racing is a solid kart racer that suffers from some unfortunate drawbacks. The team-based racing works well and mixes up the usual kart formula. However, the game is marred by game modes that lack fun, missing polish and an inescapable feeling that this is a downgrade of what has come before.

6/10 – The Metro: A spirited attempt at innovation and some competent driving mechanics are not enough to escape the shadow of either Mario Kart or the previous Sonic & Sega racers.

Observation

Reviews:
9.0 – God is a Geek: Observation is a fantastic game, bringing gripping science fiction and unique gameplay together for a truly remarkable experience.

9.0 – GameInformer: Observation is a fantastic horror game thanks to its twisting plot, well-realized setting, and challenging puzzles

8/10 – VideoGamer: An exquisite atmosphere and fresh premise make up for some slightly obtuse puzzles. Observation brims with ideas and images that fill your head.

8/10 – Push Square: Observation uses the unfathomable vastness of space to wonderful effect, conjuring a palpable sense of both isolation and dread that rarely falters across the six or seven hours it’ll take for you to see it though. Minor quibbles with some aspects of the storytelling and a couple of quality of life issues don’t detract from what is an engrossing adventure that thrills far more frequently than it frustrates.

7.5 – PSU: Observation does a lot of things correctly. Honing in on the isolation of space generates a wonderful tension on its own. Some pacing issues keep it from excellence, but there is plenty of appeal here for many different gaming preferences.

Everybody’s Golf VR

Reviews:
8/10 – Destructoid: You can get a feel for Everybody’s Golf VR in a few short hours, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t want to move on quite so fast. It’s an earworm of a game. Just thinking about it makes me want to dig out my PlayStation VR and clear the room. That’s no small feat

7.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: VR tracking issues aside, this is an absolute must-play if you’re into arcade golf games, and if you’re looking for something relaxing to play in PSVR. I do wish the game worked better from a technical standpoint, but given the limitations of the hardware in its current state, it works well enough.

7.5 – PSU: It shouldn’t be surprising that Everybody’s Golf is a good fit for PSVR, but the manner in which Clap Hanz has interpreted its accessible take on the sport into the realms of virtual reality is indeed surprising. Though it may be relatively limited, it has essentially kept the spirit of Everybody’s Golf intact whilst changing the very way it’s played, and done so by stripping back the fluff and keeping things relatively simple. That’s very much the Everybody’s Golf way.

7/10 – The Metro: Everybody’s Golf VR is not a large game, but it is polished and fun, with enough challenge to keep devotees of closely sheared grass swinging away in an attempt to perfect the back nine of the Dinosaur Course, the bellow of the T-Rex paling into insignificance compared with the involuntary gargles of players missing yet another short and practically level putt.

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May 20
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

After enjoying three weeks at no.1 Sony’s Days Gone has succumbed to madness, dethroned by the anarchy-loving Rage 2.

Coming as no surprise in this digital age, physical sales were only around a quarter of what its 2011 predecessor managed at launch (thanks GI.biz).

However, Rage 2 has achieved something the original couldn’t by heading straight to no.1. The original was up against the almighty FIFA 12, causing it to settle for #2.

Days Gone dropped to #2. It’s followed by FIFA 19 at #3, Mortal Kombat 11 – down two positions to #4 this week – and Red Dead Redemption 2 at #5.

The evergreen Mario Kart 8 Deluxe held onto #6. Fellow chart stalwart GTA V dropped to #7, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 fell to #8, and then at #9 it’s a new entry – Focus’ well-received A Plague Tale: Innocence.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe rounds off the chart at #10.

Forza Horizon 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were the two titles giving way to the duo of new releases, now at #11 and #12.

The next new release isn’t far behind – Rebellion’s Sniper Elite V2 Remastered at #13.

Elsewhere, Metro Exodus and Kingdom Hearts III both re-entered the top 40 – at #24 and #32 respectivey – thanks to retailer activity.

And after debuting at #15 last week, the Switch re-release of Saints Row: The Third has made a swift descent, dropping to #38. We guess word of its poor framerate has spread.

May 16
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered on Switch isn’t the first Sniper Elite game to grace a Nintendo platform – the original version launched on Wii U in 2013, where it sold so poorly that it’s now one of the hardest PAL games to find for the system. The cheapest pre-owned copy on Amazon is currently a stonking £55.

In comparison, the £29.99 asking price for this week’s Switch remaster seems an absolute steal. While reviewers are in agreement that it’s a decent remaster, in terms of the visual upgrade, it’s apparently starting to show its age in a few areas. Nintendo Life awarded it a 6/10, stating that “while its long-range action is as gripping as ever, the more traditional run-and-gun sections stick out like a sore thumb, and the absense of auto-saving can lead to some frustrating moments.”

SEGA’s Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder also comes rocking its way this week. We have something of a soft spot for this series – it’s Super Monkey Ball goes tower defence, with a dollop of Monty Python-style humour. The first review out the door is an 8/10 from GameSpace who praised its pick-up-and-play value but warned of small text in handheld mode.

Blades of Time is another lesser-known title receiving a belated Switch release this week. This hack and slasher dates back to 2012, and to be fair, it wasn’t exactly top-tier stuff back then. Echoing this, Digitally Downloaded could only muster a 1/5 review score for this re-release. “Time hasn’t been good to Blades of Time, and other than for the morbidly curious, I can’t see anyone being masochistic enough to derive any value out of it,” they said.

Then we have the sandbox crime spree Thief Simulator, which Nintendo Life described as a cross between Thief and Payday 2. If you’re up for something different, it seems to be worth a look. “While it’s not the prettiest of games and it soon starts repeating itself, the sense of freedom you’re given to rob neighbourhoods full of unsuspecting victims is still an intriguing one,” was NL’s verdict.

Castlevania Anniversary Collection is definitely the most anticipated release of the week, bringing together Castlevania, Castlevania II Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania The Adventure, Castlevania II Belmont’s Revenge, Castlevania Bloodlines, Kid Dracula.

We’ve started to sink our teeth into the Xbox One version and can safely say it’s well worth the £15.99 asking price. Konami has announced today that the Japanese versions are being added at a later date too. Result!

The full line-up of new releases can be found below. Other highlights include Arcade Archives Buta san, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, and the futuristic racer Redout – a game once feared cancelled.

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May 16
By Matt Gander In Retro, Reviews No Comments

We’ll be honest – we didn’t even realise an Xbox One release of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection was planned, believing it was destined for Switch and PS4 only. It may have arrived later than the other versions (and it’s also digital only, which defeats the point of video game preservation somewhat), but Xbox One owners still shouldn’t overlook this belated collection.

Rather than feature SNK’s big hitters from their golden age (Metal Slug, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, et al), it focuses on SNK’s lesser known games from their earlier years to provide a mixture of curios and classics. The Xbox One version also features an exclusive game – Baseball Stars on NES, which gave other baseball games a run for their money back in 1989 before becoming part of a long-running series.

Heading up the classic side of things, there’s the entire Ikari Warriors trilogy, Bermuda Triangle-based shooter Prehistoric Isle, eccentric auto-runner Psycho Soldier, top-down run and gunner Time Soldiers, gloriously grisly shooters Beast Busters and SAR: Search and Rescue, scrolling brawler P.O.W, early platformer Fantasy, and the Wonder Boy-esque adventure Athena.

There’s also the 1990 NES RPG Crystalis, which is something of a cult classic due to failing to sell well upon release.

To elaborate more on our definition of ‘curio’, Munch Mobile, SASUKE vs COMMANDER, OZMA WARS, and sports sim PADDLE MANIA all entertain for ten minutes or so, but all fall well short of ‘classic’ status. Munch Mobile – an odd vehicular collect’em up – requires ridiculously precise movements; the rest are either crude or aquired tastes.

Iron Tank, TNK III, Vanguard, Bermuda Triangle, Chopper I, and Alpha Mission fall in-between. They aren’t necessarily bad games, but they can prove to be a bit of a slog, even with the ability to rewind gameplay.

The same can be said for Street Smart, a basic one-on-one brawler with loose controls and awkward movement – the fighters slide across the ground as if it were covered in ice. In fairness, though, calling out bad games is to miss the point – SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is intended to be a ‘warts and all’ walk down memory lane.

The package is presented in a stylish manner, complete with a museum full of advertising scans, a jukebox, concept art, guidebooks, and even a look at Tangram Q – an unreleased puzzle game from 1983. Using the limited resources available, developers Digital Eclipse do their best to describe how it would’ve played.

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May 14
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

If you’re under the impression the gaming scene is currently going through a quiet spell then maybe this week’s assortment of new releases will change your mind.

Tuesday alone sees three releases of varying hotness, in the form of the eagerly awaited Rage 2, the bleak story-driven European adventure A Plague Tale: Innocence, and a ravishing remaster of Sniper Elite V2 – a fan favourite entry in the series.

After reading through reviews of all three (we haven’t played any of this week’s new releases for ourselves yet) we can deduct that Rage 2 boasts brilliant and satisfying gunplay – building on DOOM 2016’s foundations – but the world building falls flat and mission objectives soon become dull. Sniper Elite V2’s remaster brings the visuals up to current standard but it’s showing its age in the AI and level design departs, while A Plague Tale: Innocence is surprisingly polished – even gaining comparisons to Ninja Theory’s work – but the stealth mechanics let it down slightly. It still sounds excellent, mind.

Castlevania Anniversary Collection – due out on Thursday – is another anticipated release, bringing together the original Castlevania (NES), Castlevania 2: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy), Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse (NES), Super Castlevania 4 (SNES), Castlevania The Adventure (Game Boy), Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest (NES), Castlevania Bloodlines (Mega Drive), and Kid Dracula (Famicom). That last entry was only ever released in Japan (although it did gain a GameBoy adaptation).

While this may sound like a tempting package, word has it that only features the ROMs for a single region, so if you were hoping to play the Japanese versions you’re out of luck.

Thursday also sees the launch of Bubsy: Paws on Fire. The fact that it’s launching the same week as Rage somehow feels apt. All joking aside, this comes from the minds of the BIT.TRIP series, so it stands a chance of being the first ever decent Bubsy game.

What could possibly go wrong?

PS4 owners can also get involved with Shakedown: Hawaii’s top-down chaos, while the Dragon’s Lair Trilogy makes a belated Xbox One appearance. Over on the Switch, meanwhile, there’s Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary Edition and Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut to consider.

New release showcase:

Rage 2

Reviews:
8.0 – IGN: Though Avalanche hasn’t quite figured out what makes a world feel alive and dynamic or how to make good use of its vehicles, it absolutely nails the moment-to-moment combat thanks to a Doom-inspired energetic pace that few shooters manage to pull off. Combined with a steady stream of great weapons, abilities, and upgrades, its firefights are constantly reinvigorated even as mission objectives become repetitive.

4/5 – US Gamer: In Rage 2, you move fast and kill faster. It’s the synthesis between id Software’s 2016 reboot of Doom and Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max, bringing together some of the best ideas from both. Moment-to-moment play on foot is fantastic with each weapon and ability just opening up your options for destruction. Driving could be improved and it’s a little on the shorter side, but Rage 2 is a damned good time.

7.5 – GameSpace: Rage 2 is a great game for the right reasons. If you’re looking for a game with a phenomenal story, you’re in the wrong place. The story is boring to me, and rather short at 13 hours of leisurely gameplay. At the very least it doesn’t drop off the planet like Rage did. Gameplay is fun, and vehicle combat works well, giving you an open world Mad Max-esque experience that is simply enjoyable and hard to put down.

3.5/5 – ATOF: As a shooter Rage 2 is incredible. It’s everything around that core competency that brings the game down. A lack of narrative, world building, and questionable design decisions in terms of progression leave the experience feeling flat.

6/10 – GameSpot: Rage 2 is at its best when you’re given the chance to keep up a gratifying momentum in combat, but struggles to setup the scenarios its combat deserves. It’s satisfying in the way clearing out an open-world checklist is, especially because powers are such a joy to use. The disappointment comes from the fact that those activities are rudimentary in nature and the decent ones end well before you get your fill.

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered

Reviews:
9/10 – Xbox Tavern: Overlooking the occasional technical fault, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is well worth your time and attention, especially if you’re a fan of the series. The game bundles together the core experience and all its pre-existing DLC, complete with additional extras and wonderfully remastered visuals. Comparing it to its original version is truly night and day, and it remains every bit as deep, as action-packed, and as brutally delicious as it ever was.

7.5 – PSU: Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a solid remaster that allows you to experience the campaign, DLC levels, and visceral, satisfying shooting the game is known for again in 2019. Some aspects of the game have not seen much of an upgrade if any upgrade at all, with the game’s AI and the audio system showing its age. Despite that, the game is an enjoyable way to hop back into Rebellion’s classic franchise.

6/10 – The Metro: There are still problems with artificial intelligence and level design, but despite its age this is still one of the best sniper games around.

5/10 – Push Square: Sniper Elite V2 Remastered isn’t a terrible game, but it feels outdated and completely outclassed in 2019. While its x-ray exterminations are still appealing, it’s just about the only factor making up this package that could turn one’s head in today’s world. Simply put, there are just so many better experiences you could have through the scope of a sniper rifle, including those sequels that make up the very franchise in question.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Reviews:
9/10 – PSU: Arguably one of the best surprises of the PS4 release calendar so far this year, A Plague Tale: Innocence is the sort of effort one might well have expected from Hellblade developer Ninja Theory – as this game bears that studio’s penchant for deftly combining big budget spectacle with great storytelling and remarkably robust genre mechanics.

8/10 – GameSpot: Powerfully ghoulish depictions of the plague and rats aside, Innocence is ultimately an emotive story of resilience against harrowing odds.

7.0 – IGN: A Plague Tale: Innocence has a great story, but the gameplay has a level of convenience that undercuts the perilous world.

3.5/5 – GamesRadar: Its pace is slightly too uneven, but A Plague Tale: Innocence has flashes of potential

6/10 – Push Square: A Plague Tale: Innocence deserves respect for daring to be different, funnelling you through a bleak European backdrop that’s seldom seen. Despite some neat ideas, though, the stealth and puzzle mechanics drag, and the story can’t quite make up its mind about what it wants to be. Furthermore, while the presentation is spectacular, the project lacks polish in key areas and overstays its welcome at times.

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May 13
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Despite a belated physical release of Mortal Kombat 11 on Switch, Sony’s Days Gone has managed to hold onto the UK chart’s top spot for a third consecutive week.

The top six positions in the UK top 40 remain unchanged, in fact. This means Mortal Kombat 11 remains at #2, duly followed by FIFA 19, Red Dead Redemption 2, GTA V, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 climbed one whole position to take #7. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe fell to #8, Forza Horizon 4 held onto #9, and finally at #10 it’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (up from #11).

Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package was the only new arrival in the top 40, making a respectable #15. It also made #5 in the Switch chart, outselling the likes of Yoshi’s Crafted World and Pokemon: Let’s Go. Not too shabby.

Rewinding back to the multi-format top 40, after a brief resurgence Anthem has departed the top ten once again – falling from #10 to #14 – while both Minecraft: PlayStation Edition and Far Cry New Dawn rose by 13 places.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice saw its biggest sales slump so far, meanwhile, plummeting from #12 all the way to #39. That’s…a pretty significant drop.

May 09
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Among this week’s assortment of new eShop titles you’ll find such big hitters as Shakedown: Hawaii, Puyo Puyo Champions, Saints Row: The Third, and For the King. If none of these takes your fancy, then Nintendo has you covered – the Go Digital! sale is underway, boasting over 130 games on offer.

There are too many discounts to list in full, but we can rattle off some choice picks: Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap (£8.99), Night in the Woods (£11.96), Iron Crypticle (£3.74), Snake Pass (£6.39), Rogue Aces (£3.99), Bulb Boy (£1.79), Velocity 2X (£5.99), CAPCOM BEAT ‘EM UP BUNDLE (£12.79), and Raging Justice (£3.39), and SEGA AGES Out Run (£4.49).

Speaking of SEGA, the e-sports orientated puzzler Puyo Puyo Champions launches at the low price of £7.99. However, it’s not quite the bargain it may seem – it’s a very slim package, offering just the basics. The addition of the ‘Fever’ ruleset should be able to open the wallets of Puyo Puyo diehards, though, and review scores for this colourful ditty are still clocking in at 8/10.

“This is a great option if you want to play this puzzler online against pros or locally with friends,” said Nintendo World Report, while suggesting that Puyo Puyo Tetris is a better option for those expecting a story mode.

After a lengthy development period, Vblank was no doubt hoping to see higher review scores for their Retro City Rampage follow-up Shakedown: Hawaii. The 16-bit GTA-style crime caper received a 6.5 from Nintendo World Report and an equally lukewarm 6/10 from Nintendo Life.

“Despite all of its numerous shortcomings, there’s still some fun to be had when you’re not toiling through menus, but it’s hard not be disappointed when you consider VBlank’s previous work; hopefully, like Retro City Rampage, we’ll see a better DX version in the future,” said the former.

Scores for the twin-stick roguelike Blazing Beaks are both higher and more consistent, gaining impressive 8/10s from both The Digital Fix and Video Chums.

“Blazing Beaks is a lot of things, all at once, splitting focus between a rogue-lite Story mode and twin-stick local multiplayer shenanigans. Neither mode is perfect, and there might be stronger options available if you’re only interested in one of these genres, but there’s an astonishing level of replay value here, across the board. You’d be quackers to miss it,” was The Digital Fix’s verdict.

Then we have the tabletop RPG For The King, which also features roguelike elements. This too has been on the receiving end of 8/10s. The Metro called it “one of the most enjoyable roguelikes of recent years” while also praising its low poly visuals.

Finally, Saints Row: The Third joins the Switch party this Friday, available both at retail and on the eShop. Reviews aren’t live yet, but it’s hard to imagine anything going disastrously wrong with this conversion – the original dates back to 2011, after all.

We recall enjoying the base game – especially flying around the city in a helicopter – but felt the three add-on packs were over too quickly. Regardless, it’s nice to see another open-world game on Switch.

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May 08
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

It’s fair to say the Nintendo Entertainment System wasn’t a massive success in Europe. Thanks to the bustling 8-bit microcomputer scene the European gaming industry didn’t suffer from the infamous 1984 market crash, so when the NES finally arrived on European shores in 1987 – two years on from its US launch – it struggled to carve its own niche in an already overcrowded market.

It certainly wasn’t perceived as an oddity from the far east in the same way the NeoGeo and PC Engine were – indeed, you could stroll into Argos, Dixons or Woolworths and buy one – but it still failed to make the same impact here as it did in the US, outsold by the Master System and overshadowed by the then-upcoming Mega Drive and Amiga 500.

Many NES games never left the US, and this is what makes Chris Scullion’s unofficial NES Encyclopedia (or The NES Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, to use its full title) so compelling. Its pages are full of obscurities, unlikely TV tie-ins, and of course, the occasional stone cold classic. It also helps that Scullion is something of a long-standing NES fan, falling hard for the 8-bit system from a very young age.

All 714 officially licensed NES games are covered here, presented in a uniform fashion and receiving a quarter of a page and a single screenshot at the very minimum. The NES’s celebrated classics (Super Mario Bros. 1-3, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, et al) all receive a page each – with Scullion going more in-depth into their development and legacy – while a handful of more noteworthy titles are granted half a page. There’s also a four-page history of the NES itself, along with a foreword from the legendary scribe Julian Rignall.

Scullion tends to stick to just the facts for most entries – brief outlines of a game’s plot or premise, along with details of any noteworthy features and/or novel gameplay mechanics. Differences between regions are often covered too – in some instances, UK and US versions differed. And yes, European exclusive games are covered. You can always count on Asterix and the Smurfs to show their faces whenever the words ‘European’ and ‘exclusive’ are muttered.

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