Mar 18
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

As the weeks go by the UK chart – which only includes physical sales – becomes more irrelevant.

Case point: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2‘s physical sales were just 20% of the 2016 original, but without digital sales data, it’s impossible to gauge how successful its launch actually was.

Nowadays physical sales only paint part of the picture, whereas years ago, they were the most reliable way to tell if a big new release was proving popular. Or flying off shelves, to coin a phrase.

As an online-focused game, and due to Ubisoft heavily pushing the Gold and Deluxe digital versions, it has no doubt performed incredibly well on the digital storefronts. That said, the lack of pre-launch reviews and open world sandbox fatigue may have resulted in fewer sales than Ubisoft predicted.

A combined digital and physical sales chart can’t come quick enough, really.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 had no trouble topping the UK chart though, dethroning Devil May Cry V in the process. Capcom’s hack ‘n slasher had a poor second week, in fact – it’s now at #6.

Red Dead Redemption 2 held onto #2, while the evergreen GTA V rose to #3.

FIFA 19 moved up one position to #4, while the arrival of the Switch version of The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame pushed the movie tie-in up to #5.

At #7 it’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, down from #3. Far Cry New Dawn dropped two places to #8 while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fell one place to #9. Then at #10 it’s another Switch release – NSMB.U.

Anthem and Metro Exodus both left the top ten, meanwhile. EA’s loot shooter went from #4 to #11 while Deep Silver’s post-apocalyptic road (train?) trip is now at #15.

Bandai Namco’s One Piece World Seeker was the only other new release, making #28. It also made #17 in the PS4 chart, but failed to break the Xbox One top 20.

Mar 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This wave-based zombie shooter is so lacking in content and creativity that not only is its £8.00-£9.00 price tag unable to withstand scrutiny, but we also began to question its very existence.

That asking price – roughly double that of Sometimes You’s previous games – gets you an alarmingly bareboned tower defence shooter, featuring one playable character (a bland Lara Croft clone), a single circular arena set inside what’s presumably a tomb, and no online/MP modes to speak of.

As for presentation, there’s nothing in the way of cut-scenes or backstory. Not a deal breaker, but some explanation as to why the female lead has riled up the undead wouldn’t have gone amiss.

We may have been able to live with the lack of content if the core gameplay was fun and engaging, but it simply isn’t. It is at least structurally sound, if beyond familiar. Starting with a knife and a pistol, you take down waves of zombies – with reaching wave 30 being the ultimate goal – earning cash for each kill.

Once a wave has been completed a passageway to a concealed armoury opens, where you can purchase new weapons, barricades, turrets and zombie churning grinders, as well as upgrade health/defence stats and improve the effectiveness of your arsenal.

Defences and traps can be placed anywhere on the map. Unlike some wave/horde shooters, there’s no nagging time-limit between waves. A good thing too as the trek to the upgrade store is considerably time-consuming alone. Incidentally, the upgrade dispenser – decorated by a glowing ominous skull – is the only example of creative flair. The rest of the experience is so visually formulaic and bland that it could easily be mistaken as a Steam asset flip.

It’s the lethargic pace that outright kills the few things Blood Waves does get right. This isn’t a shooter where the enemies come thick and fast, satisfyingly exploding into a shower of gore. Quite the opposite, in fact. The shambling undead trickle out the catacombs at a rate of two or three at a time, shuffling towards your defences in hope of tearing them down.

Things don’t kick up a notch until wave five – which due to the slow pace can take a good 10-15 minutes to reach – and because there are no checkpoints or retries, you’re always forced to endure the irksomely slow waves before getting onto the good stuff. Or as good as Blood Wave gets.

More problems soon arise. It’s from wave five onwards that the ‘special’ zombies start to appear; the kind that can destroy your turrets and other contraptions in one fell swoop, putting an end to your plans and ruining all sense of progression. It’s very easy to overlook special zombies appearing on the battlefield, and so a momentary lapse of concentration can set you back to square one.

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Mar 14
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Don’t be fooled or mislead by Baba Is You’s simple visuals – this 2D puzzler is a game changer, literally. The rules of play can be changed at any time, pushing words around to create sentences that manipulate the world. It’s smart. Very smart.

So far it has yet to receive a review score below 8/10, with We Got This Covered settling on a 4/5 and Nintendo World Report opting for 9/10. “The degree of ingenuity and creativity in Baba Is You is breathtaking at times,” said NWR.

Another innovative puzzler launching this week is Claybook, set in a manipulative world formed of squishy clay. We recall being moderately impressed by the Xbox One version back when it was in early access.

This new Switch version garnered an 8.5 from Nintendo Enthusiast, who called it “a great pick-up-and-play game”. VideoChums felt it deserving of a 7.3, meanwhile.

You won’t be solving any puzzles in RICO, that’s for sure. Plenty of door kicking and bad guy shooting, though. This roguelike FPS is going down well, gaining praise for its arcade-like sensibilities.

“It’s great fun in single-player, but when you head into each randomised set of rooms in co-op, you’ll shoot your way into an interactive buddy cop movie right there in the palm of your hands,” said Nintendo Life.

Review scores for the JRPG remake The Caligula Effect: Overdose – one of this week’s few full price releases – are all over the place, meanwhile. Pocket Gamer enjoyed the combat but despised just about every other feature, resulting in a poor 4/10. Digitally Downloaded, on the other hand, dished out full marks (5/5), calling it an “unapologetically smart and thoughtful game”.

Square-Enix’s cult 1993 JRPG Romancing SaGa 2 is a cheaper alternative, launching at £9.99 (50% off for a limited time). It sold over 1.5 million copies on Super Nintendo back in the day.

Which brings us onto this week’s retro releases – Arcade Archives ELEVATOR ACTION from 1983, and the 1994 platforming sequel Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe and Mac Returns.

‘90s throwback FPS Apocryph: an old-school shooter also piques our interest, as does the surprisingly in-depth Motorsport Manager for Nintendo Switch, the cyberpunk adventure The Red Strings Club, and the hand-drawn action brawler Dusty Raging Fist.

If none of these take your fancy, perhaps something from the full list below will. There’s also a new release for New 3DS, but don’t ask us what it entails – the description is beyond cryptic.

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

Here’s hoping you’ve had your fill of Anthem, Far Cry New Dawn, Metro Exodus, Crackdown 3, and Apex Legends as another colossal time-sink is upon us – Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

The DC-set loot shooter is out now for those willing to shell out £93 for the Ultimate Edition or £85 for the Gold Edition. The standard edition is out Friday, and no doubt more sensibly priced.

Reviews are yet to go live but early impressions are positive, suggesting it’s the game the first Division should have been. “Despite my misgivings with the narrative The Division 2 is a polished shooter and that counts for a hell of a lot. Mission variety is on point, there seems to be a decent amount of progression available, and there’s a lot to do,” said Destructoid.

The Metro’s early verdict echoed this: “Unlike Anthem, we don’t think anyone’s going to be complaining about a lack of things to do or a disappointing endgame in The Division 2.”

RICO is a shooter of an altogether different variety, inspired by Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, and other arcade-like first-person shooters. It entails kicking down doors, slow-mo style, and clearing out rooms one at a time. Scores are clocking in at 8/10, with the Switch version going down well in light of the system’s shortage of FPSs.

Then there’s the JRPG remake The Caligula Effect: Overdose, out on PS4, PS Vita, and Switch. Scores are mixed so far, varying from Digitally Downloaded’s 5/5 to Pocket Gamer’s 2/5.

Scores for the PSVR spell-casting shooter The Wizards: Enhanced Edition are far more consistent, being 7/10s. We’ve rounded up a smattering of reviews below.

Blood Waves sees indie publisher Sometimes You branching out into new territory, meanwhile. It’s a wave-based (zing!) third-person zombie shooter heading to Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 this Friday. Shoot zombies, buy defences, rinse and repeat.

We’ve spent a few hours with the Xbox One version and suggest approaching with caution. It’s clunky, slow paced, and lacking on content – one arena, one playable character, and no online features to speak of. Check back soon for a full review.

New release showcase:

RICO

Reviews:
8/10 – PSU: “A fiendishly compelling re-imagining of the gun-toting cop shows of yore, RICO is an effortlessly playable, highly enjoyable and deceptively clever roguelike FPS that is at it’s very best when enjoyed with friends”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “It’s great fun in single-player, but when you head into each randomised set of rooms in co-op, you’ll shoot your way into an interactive buddy cop movie right there in the palm of your hands. Loading times and the occasional bit of pop-in aside, this is another fine addition to the console’s growing list of first-person shooters”

The Wizards: Enhanced Edition

Reviews:
7.5 – Upload VR: “Its spell-casting system is interactive without being too cumbersome and the campaign mode packs a solid amount of content. Plenty of collectibles, a replayable Arena mode, and lots of mission augmentations add up to this being a really fun journey”

7/10 – PlayStation Country: “The Wizards offers a slight change of pace from the wave based shooters PSVR is flooded with. You’re still taking out waves of enemies as they run towards you but this time you’re using gestures to conjure spells and it works very well. It’s quite short and even then the constant battles do become repetitive but the spell upgrades do give a decent incentive to replay levels”

6.5 – PSU: “Beautiful visuals and a cool gesture-based magic system can’t save The Wizards: Enhanced Edition from an inscrutable progression system and some dire technical issues. Fantasy fans will find some enjoyment from the puzzles and the fun narrator, but some strange design decisions end up kneecapping the experience”

The Caligula Effect: Overdose

Reviews:
6.5 – Destructoid: “The Caligula Effect: Overdose is still definitely a flawed, frustrating work. Its shortcomings are many, and might still be too intractable for some, but the refinements and additions have,for me at least, papered over the cracks just enough to make it worth putting up with”

5.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “While The Caligula Effect: Overdose has some interesting ideas, none of them really work. I suspect that after some time with The Go-Home Club, players will be longing to go home to the cozy comfort of a classic JRPG. Better to avoid this simulation from the start”

2/5 – Pocket Gamer: “Interesting combat system aside, it’s a mess of mixed metaphors, dreary writing, annoying music, and worn-out graphics.Take the combat and put it in a more interesting world, and you’d have a hit on your hands. But as it stands, this is a hard pass from me”

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Mar 12
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Critics have long complained about the staleness of the LEGO franchise’s once winning formula, even suggesting that if you’ve played one LEGO game you’ve played them all. A change was inevitable, and it looks like TT Games has chosen this movie tie-in as a test subject for a long overdue shake-up.

The focus on teamwork and swapping between characters has been ditched in favour of a single central character with a bag of universal tools and an ever-growing list of objects to build. By removing the unique abilities linked to each character, they’re reduced to being little more than skins. Once unlocked, it’s even possible to stick with a single character for the whole game. Gone are the days when somebody small is required to squeeze through a gap, or a someone with superhuman strength needed to smash…whatever.

As a side note, it also seems Chris Pratt didn’t want to be involved with this project. Well, that or they were too expensive to hire. His character, Emmet, doesn’t utter a single word throughout, reducing him to a shadow of his former happy-go-lucky self. Lucy (Wildstyle) takes centre stage instead, narrating all tutorials and cut-scenes.

To accompany the newfound ability to free roam in open worlds there’s also a fresh structure in place. Each world has 40-50 ‘Master Piece’ bricks to collect, gained by completing straightforward quests for NPCs or found tucked away behind structures and such. Only around 15 ‘Master Pieces’ are required to unlock the portal to the next world, however, usually gathered while working through the simple quests that lead up to the whereabouts of one of the movie’s stars. Once they join the crew a new tool is unlocked, such as Benny’s blow torch and Rex’s brick destroying gloves.

All characters have access to these tools, which also include a (krazy) glue remover, the paint gun from LEGO Worlds, and an object scanner which adds new decorative items to your catalogue. Buildable objects, meanwhile, require resources to construct and take the form of self-explanatory bounce pads, water sprinklers, and power generators. They’re deployable only within designated areas and are used to complete quests, solve simple puzzles, and access new areas.

This tie-in only loosely follows the movie’s plot, with a premise that involves visiting different worlds to reunite Wildstyle and Emmet with their chums before confronting the new villain. In fact, the events of the movie go mostly untouched until the final, ridiculously spoiler-filled, cut-scene which provides a synopsis of all the twists that occur in its silver screen counterpart. If you’re yet to see the movie this cut-scene will spoil the whole shebang in one fell swoop, so consider yourself warned.

The opening world set in Apocalypseburg does at least put on a good show. While getting to grips with the new menus and tools there are a few bombastic set-pieces to take in, along with a boss battle against a colossal Duplo beast, and one humorous cut-scene involving Batman’s inflated ego.

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Mar 12
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

It seems Capcom has another s-s-smash hit on their hands – Devil May Cry 5 has topped the UK chart, dethroning Anthem in the process.

For reasons unknown, Chart-Track has provided a handful of physical sales figures this week – information usually kept hush-hush. Sales of DMC5 totalled 20,872, outperforming Red Dead Redemption 2 – at #2 with 5,980 physical sales – by some margin.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe had a substantial sales boost, rising from #8 to #3. Then at #4 we find EA’s loot shooter Anthem, boasting 4,974 sales.

FIFA 19 fell from #2 to #5. Far Cry New Dawn dropped three places too, now at #6. Continuing this theme, The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame went from #4 to #7 during its second week on sale.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate rose to #8, Metro Exodus prepares to depart to the top ten at #9, while the evergreen GTA V sees us out at #10.

Dirt Rally 2.0 and Trials Fusion: Gold Edition both had rough second weeks – Codemaster’s racer went from #6 to #21, while Ubisoft’s racing/physics/party game tumbled from #10 to #27.

Square-Enix’s universally panned Left Alive – which currently has a dismal 40% Metacritic – was the only other new release, scraping in at #39 and selling just 947 copies. We guess this means a new release only has to shift around 1000 copies during this time of year to break the top 40.

Also of note is Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn on 3DS failing to make the top 40. The Wii re-release managed to top the 3DS chart, at least.

Mar 08
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

Peripheral manufacturer EasySMX prides themselves on producing high-quality products at low prices, with most of their multi-format gaming headsets and PC USB joypads retailing for less than £20.

We recently received the 2019 model of their popular EasySMX ‘Cool 2000’ gaming headset – which boasts over 1,500 Amazon reviews – and was left impressed not just by the sound quality, but also the build quality. It packs in a lot of features, even doubling up as a decent pair of stereo headphones with surprisingly deep bass.

The ‘Cool 2000’ – a name that’s perhaps not the greatest – comes with a 3.5mm splitter cable, allowing it to be used on Xbox One, PS4, Switch (audio only), and PC.

There’s also a USB connection present, used solely to provide extra juice for the LED function – a circle of lights in a tyre-inspired formation with a choice of three patterns. Ours featured blue LEDs, although red and orange are also available. It’s a cool, if throwaway feature, that’ll no doubt appeal more towards younger gamers. Regrettably, this does mean there’s a USB lead constantly dangling when not in use.

Both the USB and audio connectors come with transparent dust covers – an unexpected extra considering the headset’s low cost. The audio connector covers seem pointless, but the USB cover will protect it should it ever take an accidental dunk in a cup of tea.

All cables are covered in braided material instead of regular plastic, and the tip of the flexible microphone also contains a small glowing LED.

The soft padded twin speakers prevent a remarkable amount of background noise. They’re connected by an adjustable headband consisting of two, twistable, steel supports and a soft foam strap. Some of EasySMX’s product descriptions inform that it’s memory foam, but we aren’t best convinced. Either way, it’s soft and provides extra comfort.

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Mar 07
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

It’s impossible to say how many big-name 3DS games Nintendo has left in the pipeline. The ageing handheld is at least going out in style – Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is out this week, gaining decent reviews.

This 9-year-old Wii platformer reportedly holds up well in a shrunken down form, gaining 9/10s from both GameSpot and Nintendo Life, and an 8.5 from EGM.

“The strong gameplay design from Kirby’s Epic Yarn still shines a decade later, and the carefully-crafted additions in Extra make the original feel threadbare in comparison,” was EGM’s verdict.

The Switch receives a few belated conversions, meanwhile. The very good Assault Android Cactus+ brings colourful, hypnotic, twin-stick shooting while Valley is an underrated first-person platformer. A fantasy Mirror’s Edge, if you will, involving discarded World War II technology. We’ve played through both of these on Xbox One, and while both are a little short, we can safely say they’re worth considering.

There’s also 12 is Better Than 6, a sketchbook top-down shooter set in the wild west, and Beat Cop – a retro, pixel art style adventure in New York, inspired by ’80s cop shows. Failing that, there’s good old Pong, in the form of Proficient Paddles Deluxe. Hurrah?

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