skyt
Dec 09
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Twelve years have passed since Sky Force’s Pocket PC debut, yet the vertical shooter remains delightfully refreshing. Released at a time when almost all shmups were of the ‘bullet hell’ variety, partly thanks to Rising Star bringing such games as Deathsmiles and Under Defeat HD to the west, Sky Force dared to be different.

With PSN and the Xbox One Store rife with pretty but vacuous – and dare we say amateurish – shooters, the expertise in which this retro revamp has been designed stands out now more than ever.

It begins with a short sequence showing the protagonist’s craft at full potential, spewing bullets, lasers, and missiles. General Mantis sends your supercharged ship to the scrapyard, and so the quest begins to become an almighty force to be reckoned with once more. This is achieved one upgrade at a time, and with every improvement scores become higher and chances of achieving the 100% shot down rate for each stage increases, bagging an elusive medal in the process.

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Medals aren’t just for show – they’re used to unlock new stages. The idea is to replay past missions and aim for perfection: take no damage, rescue all survivors, and shoot down every craft. It sounds like a tall order, and on later stages it is precisely that, but with practice comes perfection. Also: satisfaction and enjoyment. Sky Force’s difficulty level is impeccable, rising gracefully.

Things start off rather pedestrian; enemies (planes, tanks, and turrets) pose minimal threat, waves of bullets are easy to dodge and attack patterns are simplistic. Over time enemies with stronger armour are introduced, as well as laser turrets with slow burning beams that require precise movements to avoid.

Rescuing all survivors during the first run of a stage is easy enough, but you’ll probably take a few hits when coming to their aid and thus miss the medal for taking no damage. Cue a second run. After replaying a stage a couple of times the attack patterns start to become familiar. Cue a third run to wipe out every foe, and so on and so forth. Given time, and additional firepower, medals once deemed impossible to acquire become easily obtainable.

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the-last-guardian-recenzja-1480877151
Dec 07
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

This week sees the final big name releases of 2016. Like last week’s Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian is something of a Christmas miracle – a game ten years in the making, often feared cancelled.

Then there’s the festive themed Dead Rising 4, which has been mostly well-received despite a brainless nature. We’ll refrain from making a predictable zombie/brains joke.

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As for reviews of The Last Guardian, they’re rather mixed – everything from top marks from Time and The Guardian to 6.5s from Jim Sterling and God is a Geek.

It’s a beautiful game that’s as majestic as they come, but the experience is said to dragged down by technical faults, with the AI of Trico coming heavily under criticism. There are instances when Trico is so unresponsive that it makes you wonder if you’re tackling puzzles in completely the wrong way. Then suddenly, after five minutes of trying and waiting around, he’ll finally leap into action. Some critics found that problems like this were impossible to look past. Others said that the odd glitch and frame rate hiccup are easy to excuse considering it was once in development for PlayStation 3.

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dead-rising-4_willamette-cop-car
Dec 06
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Capcom’s Dead Rising 4 doesn’t just bring back Frank, but also the silliness. This appears to have come at a cost, though – it’s more mindless than ever before.

If you want nothing more than to slay zombies while dressed in daft attire, then Dead Rising 4 is an incredibly safe purchase. A few critics did however warn that by diluting the formula – Dead Rising and its sequel were rather challenging in places – it does feel as if it has lost its way a little.

It’s also interesting to note that some refer it to as a franchise reboot. Odd, considering that when it was first revealed, some mistook it for a remake due to Frank’s return and the use of the original game’s setting.

Is this one slay ride you should embark on? Take a look at these critical views:

90% – GamingTrend: “Dead Rising 4 is bloody, chaotic, and downright hilarious. If you’re looking to turn your brain off this holiday season, and destress with gratuitous violence, this is the game for you”

4.5/5 – Windows Central: “The game world is vast and beautiful, filled with countless things to see and do, and all the time you need to do them. Not only does the game look fantastic and colorful (although some parts of the mall aren’t lit well enough), but the story and writing are strong enough to match”

8.75 – GameInformer: “In many ways, this is the game that people who just wanted to be a one-man zombie wrecking crew were probably hoping for all along”

8.1 – IGN: “Dead Rising 4 has the best core gameplay the series has ever seen. Its inventive and humorous ways to put down the dead are something I still haven’t tired of, and its surprisingly interesting plot is more than just a zombie-killing delivery system”

80 – Xbox Achievements: “Dead Rising 4 is undoubtedly a great zombie game, with Capcom Vancouver nailing the open-world and tone once more, but the lack of true psychos in the world does detract from the overall experience. It’s no Dead Rising 3, but it’s still a bloody good game”

8.0 – Lazy Gamer: “Dead Rising 4 is fun, silly and gleefully absurd in its execution of thousands upon thousands of undead fodder as it aims to make the apocalypse fun again”

8/10 – The Jimquisition: “Those who remain saddened at the series’ removal of key features will likely not find themselves happy about DR4, and the return of Frank will be a poor exchange given the overhaul of not just his voice, but his character. Those looking for an enjoyable zombie-smashing romp, however, will find a choice example in this Christmassy take on the Dead Rising franchise”

4/5 – US Gamer: “While the first two games were about watching the timer and making efficient choices, Dead Rising 4 is about killing zombies in silly costumes with cool weapons. If that’s what you want, Dead Rising 4 delivers good, gory zombie fun in a Christmas-themed wrapper”

4/5 – GamesRadar: “Not always thrilling, but Dead Rising 4 feels like the series getting its sense of fun back. And that’s a great thing”

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excitebike64
Dec 05
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

With few Wii U games due this December, we had a feeling the console would see a new N64 VC release before the year is out.

Step forward Excitebike 64, due Thursday for a modest £8.99. We recall picking this one up upon release (back in the space year 2000) and being a tad disappointed. While mostly well-received by critics, it didn’t have the same magic and mastery of other N64 racers like 1080 Snowboarding and Wave Race. This is probably why Nintendo didn’t ask Left Field Productions for a follow-up. Their next motorbike game – MTX Mototrax – was a budget PS2 release. Nitrobike meanwhile was picked up by Ubisoft.

Having said all this, we struggle to think of a better motorbike racer – it was a bloody good game, just one that lacked that Nintendo magic. Let’s hope it doesn’t suffer from bodged controls like the recent Wii U F-Zero X re-release.

ecitebike

That’s it for new Wii U stuff this week. Things are rather quiet on 3DS too, which is perhaps to be expected after last week’s quartet of big-name games.

On New 3DS there’s RCMADIAX’s GALAXY BLASTER (£1.39) which appears to be a generic space shooter in the Space Invaders mould. Then there’s the four-strong mini-game collection Crollors Game Pack (£1.39), which does in fact feature a game called Space Shooter. Color Switch, Dotch It and Zig Zag Ball are the remaining three.

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tlg_screen_ps4_002
Dec 05
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

After ten years of on-and-off development, The Last Guardian finally rears its head this Friday. The PS4-exclusive adventure, from the creative mind behind ICO and The Shadow of the Colossus, was even feared cancelled at one point.

With the game’s history mind, it’s no surprise to find that there are more than a few technical shortcomings present. The camera, controls, framerate, and AI of Trico – your very own colossi – came under fire from critics. Some could easily overlook such problems, claiming that as an overall experience it’s nothing short of spectacular, but others found it to be stuck in the past. A few critics were simply glad that they’re able to play the blessed thing, no matter how dated it may feel at times.

It’s widely stated that it’s the weakest of Ueda’s creations, but even so, it’s still a phenomenal experience – one of those rare games that reminds us how powerful games can be.

We’ve rounded up as many reviews as possible to provide a decent range:

Essential – Eurogamer: “A wonder of animation and AI smoke-and-mirrors, the beast in The Last Guardian is primarily a masterpiece of observation”

10/10 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “If there were ever a game that was deserving of the word ‘perfect,’ The Last Guardian is it”

5/5 – The Guardian: “Here is an exquisite gem, the brightest in Ueda’s enviable clutch”

5/5 – The Daily Dot: “Imagining the missteps the game could have taken if released in an unpolished rush is easy, but bickering about the build-up to The Last Guardian’s release will be long outlived by its success as an emotionally evocative masterpiece in the annals of modern gaming”

5/5 – Time: “It feels momentous, a design breakthrough I wasn’t expecting, and an experience that seems more likely to stand the test of time than others we like to point to”

5/5 – Digitally Downloaded: “It may well end up being more divisive than Ueda’s previous masterpieces, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a masterpiece, from one of the industry’s true auteurs. Play this game. Even if you hate it, it’s going to broaden your horizons around what games are truly capable of”

9/10 – VideoGamer: “In truth Trico’s guidance issues are one of quite a few annoyances in The Last Guardian. The camera has some BIG problems, there are numerous glitches (I got stuck within a wall twice), character movement across obstacles isn’t nearly as smooth as it should be, and the frame rate tanked on a number of occasions. But I don’t care. It’s not so much that my love is blind (or even partially sighted). I’ll just choose this kind of in-game affection over pixel perfect gameplay mechanics every single time”

9/10 – GameSpot: “The resulting shift to PlayStation 4 has obviously paid off–troubled moments aside, your journey is dominated by awe-inspiring architecture and natural wonder”

4.5/5 – GamesRadar: “The Last Guardian is a fulfilling and emotional adventure, and while framerate problems must deny it the full five stars, but there is nothing else like Trico in games”

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preview_screenshot3_503551
Dec 05
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Road trip adventure Final Fantasy XV is off to an excellent start, becoming the second fastest-selling title in the series behind 2010’s FF XIII. It wasn’t able to dislodge FIFA 17 from the top of the UK chart, though, settling for #2 instead.

Unsurprisingly, the PS4 version was the biggest selling. It takes #1 in the individual format chart, with the Xbox One iteration at #14. That’s a pretty large gap.

battleborn

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare falls to #3, Battlefield 1 is at #4 and then at #5 we find Forza Horizon 3.

Watch_Dogs 2 holds onto #6, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End moves up one position to #7 while Pokemon Moon and Sun occupy #8 and #9 respectively.

Minecraft: Xbox One Edition then rounds of this week’s top ten.

The next highest new entry after FFXV is Ubisoft’s Steep at #24. Chart-Track claims it’s the fourth fastest-selling winter sports game, beating SSX Tricky. Maybe if Ubisoft had sorted out some pre-launch reviews it would have fared a little better.

The 3DS’s Super Mario Maker made #25. 7th Dragon III Code VFD and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse missed out on top 40 positions, and by quite some margin it seems – they entered the 3DS chart at a lowly #26 and #40 respectively. Picross 3D Round 2 meanwhile made #29 in the 3DS top 50.

Going back to the UK top 40, Minecraft: Story Mode – The Complete Adventure showed its face at #32 while Battleborn re-entered at #40. The Borderlands alike was spotted on the high street for as little as £5 last week. Also: £2.99 pre-owned at GAME.

nespower
Dec 02
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

When Nintendo revealed the NES Classic Mini, ergo its game library, retro fans were delighted to discover dozens of third-party hits being included. It was as if Nintendo were finally acknowledging the fact that it wasn’t just their own software that made the NES a success, but also the likes of Mega Man, Castlevania and Contra. It’s an acknowledgement we’ve waited a lifetime for.

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Playing with Power: Nintendo NES Classics – an officially sanctioned product, published by Prima – is clearly being released to tie-in with the nostalgia storm the NES Classic Mini has created. Yet, it’s one step backwards.

It focuses solely on first-party games, and is written in a similar manner to the now defunct US publication Nintendo Power, as well as other typically hyperbolic in-house produced material.

The pages even look and feel like something from a ‘80s magazine, with chunky fonts and blurry screenshots printed on low-quality paper. Sadly, we don’t believe this was intentional.

The back cover promises to take us through three eras of NES history, which soon emerges to be something of a half-truth. This is a compendium of game guides, rather than a detailed history of the NES. Although there are a few features present, they come up short of expectations. The behind the scenes chat with Shigeru Miyamoto regarding Super Mario Bros. 3’s creation is a fine example, spanning a single page.

There’s also a “priceless” (to quote Prima) teardown of the NES itself, lifted from the pages of Nintendo Power. This is a tad more interesting as it shows how far technology has come since the days of 72 pin connectors.

Other features are simply baffling, such as the multiple page look at what’s inside a GamePak. It’s without a single photo of a cartridge PCB, using dull textbook-style images of ROM chips to illustrate instead.

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The writers – Garrit Rocha and Nick von Esmarch – stumble elsewhere. It’s a wildly accepted fact that nobody knows the release date of Super Mario Bros. in the US. The NES had a staggered launch as the videogame market was left fragile after the infamous 1984 market crash. Nintendo provided retailers with NES consoles on a ‘sale or return’ basis and even paid to set-up lavish displays in their stores.

The ‘soft launch’ is mentioned here in mild detail, but it’s also stated that Super Mario Bros. arrived on launch day – 18th October 1985. This is something that has never been confirmed, not even by Nintendo. It’s believed SMB arrived during the NES’s second wave of titles in November, but nobody has been able to clarify the actual date.

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preview_screenshot2_503551
Dec 01
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

There was a time when publishers refused to release games in December, believing that it was far wiser to release them in October and November alongside umpteen others. This year’s winter line-up has been far more stagnated however, with games spread further apart. Right into December, in fact – Dead Rising 4 and The Last Guardian release next week.

Rewinding back a couple of days, Final Fantasy XV launched on Tuesday, making it the final big release of November. Reviews are generally full of praise, but critics did warn that you shouldn’t expect perfection – signs of its ten-year development cycle are apparent, and the changes made to appeal to franchise newcomers won’t be to everybody’s taste. Stick with it, take the rough with the smooth and you’ll eventually be rewarded – that’s the consensus.

steep2

Don’t expect to see reviews of Steep prior to release. Review copies aren’t going out to press until launch day due to Ubisoft wanting the online multiplayer components to be fully populated before critics get their hands on it. Early impressions were favourable enough, though.

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