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Nov 27
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games 4 Comments

It’s a potentially expensive week for Nintendo fans – this Friday sees the launches of Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and the first wave of Amiibo figures. Ka-ching!

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There’s also Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth and WayForward’s apparently not too bad Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom on 3DS (also out on PS3 and Xbox 360) plus the presumably pap Penguins of Madagascar on 3DS, Wii U and Wii. Torus Games has been knocking out titles for Little Orbit at an alarming rate recently. Heck, they even admit on their website that this movie tie-in was made on a “very tight” schedule.

At least we can vouch for the quality of thoroughbred system sellers Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Nintendo’s all-star brawler currently has a Metacritic of 92%, putting it on par with GameCube fan favourite Melee. Scores so far include 9.8 from both IGN and GamesBeat, plus an almost equally lofty 9.75 from GameInformer. Even Polygon enjoyed it, handing out 9.5. “Pound for pound, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has been the most fun I’ve had playing video games in 2014, and a well-polished crown jewel in the Wii U’s library” they said.

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Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire meanwhile stands proud with 9/10s from Pocket Gamer, God is a Geek and Destructoid in addition to 4.5/5 from JoyStiq. The Metro meanwhile gave it 7/10, reporting that all of Ruby and Sapphire’s core faults are retained. It appears they aren’t alone in noticing this.

Over on the PlayStation formats LittleBigPlanet 3 – from good old Sumo Digital – makes its arrival on both PS4 and PS3. Reviews have been a little mixed, ranging from Eurogamer’s 6/10 to EDGE’s 9/10. Word has it that more than a few nasty glitches regularly occur. With a bit of luck Sumo will have a patch ready to roll out soon.

PS Vita owners shouldn’t feel jealous as they get LittleBigPlanet: Marvel Superhero’s Edition. Well okay, maybe they should feel a little jealous. It’s just a simple superhero filled re-release, after all.

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TropicoT
Nov 27
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The Tropico series can easily be compared to EA’s FIFA. Each update adds a handful of new features and has a spot of fine tuning under the hood, but these improvements alone aren’t enough to prevent more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor. Sim City went leaps and bounds from one iteration to the next. In comparison, Tropico has progressed in baby steps.

But here’s the thing. And it’s a pretty major “thing” – the foundations Tropico 5 is built upon are rock solid. Visually it’s starting to look a little dated, but as series veterans will already be aware the engine for the Xbox 360 versions of Tropico always favoured performance over beauty. You’ll find none of the restrictions that plagued last year’s Zoo Tycoon here – it’s possible to plan, build and tinker to your heart’s content.

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Developer Haemimont knows their city building sim well, refining Tropico 5 to the point where the campaign mode is easily the best and most accessible yet. The majority of campaign missions take well over an hour to complete and the objectives that they feature are pleasingly varied. The first few quests simply involve setting up your own ‘banana republic’ so that it can survive without handouts from other countries. Once stood on your own two feet, you’re soon faced with such challenges as building an army to fend off enemy invasions and becoming a shipping mogul by exporting luxury goods all over the world.

While Tropico 5 may not to be much to look at, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes

While Tropico 5 may not to be much to look at, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes. For starters, the humble townsfolk don’t materialise out of thin air. It’s entirely possible to observe their arrival on your sun drenched island – either via ship or airplane – before finding a place to live and seeking employment. Stalkers, if nobody else, will be in their element. If no accommodation is available shanty towns will start to appear, ruining the serenity of the island in the process. A lack of jobs meanwhile leads to anger and poverty. If quality of life continues to deteriorate then the population swiftly turns against the government, torching buildings and hurling petrol bombs at the palace belonging to El Presidente – your customisable persona.

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One of the few new features is the ability to raise an heir. New additions to the family tree can then be sent overseas on missions or forced to manage a business of your choosing. Managers can boost job satisfaction for all employees, reduce the amount of pollution in the vicinity and also help to sneak cash into your Swiss bank account. This ill-gained money can then be spent increasing El Presidente’s perk-bestowing skills.

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Nov 25
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

This week belongs to Nintendo. Not only do we have the biggest Wii U launch of the year – in the form of Super Smash Bros. – but also the eagerly anticipated Pokémon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby on 3DS.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is due on the eShop this Friday, but at £49.99 you’d be better off looking online as it can easily be found for around £35. The digital version of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby is rather steep as well, priced at £39.99. Guess Nintendo really didn’t want to undercut bricks and mortar stores on these two titles. Well, three titles.

Other retail releases heading to the eShop this week include Little Orbit’s The Penguins of Madagascar (£34.99 Wii U/£24.99 3DS) and Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom (£24.99 3DS – there’s no Wii U version, oddly), Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (£34.99) and Horse Vet 3D (£24.99).

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As for download-only titles there’s the much loved Thomas Was Alone (£6.99), delightfully retro RPG Pier Solar and the Great Architects (£11.99), the 16-bit Zelda flavoured Ittle Dew (£8.99) and a conversion of PC platformer Shiny The Firefly (£6.29 until 31st Dec). A pretty decent selection, all told.

This week’s Virtual Console offerings may pique your interest too. Wii U owners get Capcom’s SNES RPG Breath of Fire (£5.49) while cult puzzler Pokémon Puzzle Challenge (£4.49) heads to 3DS VC.

The 3DS’s line-up of new arrivals is nowhere near as exciting as that for the Wii U. Talking Phrasebook – 7 Languages (£4.49) and My First Songs (£4.49) anybody? Thought not. Castle Conqueror EX (£3.49) might be worth a look though.

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gtav
Nov 24
By Matt Gander In UK Charts 1 Comment

Grand Theft Auto V has retaken the top spot of the chart, becoming the UK’s best selling game of all time in the process. Sales generated during last Tuesday’s PS4/Xbox One launch alone were enough to push it past Call of Duty: Black Ops, Chart-Track reports.

Ubisoft also has a reason to be cheerful. Far Cry 4 – which entered at #2 – has become the most successful iteration of the franchise in terms of week one sales.

To make way for the above Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare falls to #3. FIFA 15 holds onto #4 and then at #5 Dragon Age: Inquisition makes an appearance. Chart-Track claims sales were almost equal to that of Dragon Age II.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity drops from #2 to #6 while WWE 2K15 is on the rise from #20 to #7 due to the new PS4/Xbox One versions.

LEGO Batman 3, Minecraft: PlayStation Edition and Halo: Master Chief Collection round off this week’s top ten.

Leaving the top ten are Assassin’s Creed: Rouge (now at #12), Destiny (#13) and Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 (#19). Also spare a thought for Alien: Isolation which falls all the way from #15 to #36.

Escape Dead Island, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Rabbids Invasion: The Interactive TV Show are, somewhat predictably, top 40 no shows.

Watch_Dogs on Wii U also failed to set the charts alight. It limps in at #14 in the Wii U chart, outsold by launch title FIFA 13. Now that’s ruff (rough) going.

Ridge
Nov 23
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Chances are the trio of upcoming titles below have managed to escape your attention. They’re flying so low under the release radar that even the almighty Google brings up very few search results.

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As reported by VideoGamer back in September, GAME’s pre-order section suggests System 3 are dusting off city simulator Constructor for a HD revamp. It’s allegedly due out on PS4, Xbox One and PC in January for around the £29.99 mark.

Expect that date to slip – it took System 3 several attempts to get Putty Squad out of the door, eventually canning the Xbox 360 retail version in favour of a XBLA release.

Constructor HD (to use its proper title) hasn’t been officially announced yet either. They should probably get round to doing that soon.

Constructor was first released on PC in 1997 and then converted to PlayStation a year later. Although we wouldn’t say that it’s an obscure game – original publisher Acclaim did promote it quite heavily – it still strikes us as an odd choice to dust off as we don’t recall it being particularly good.

Then we have a retail release of acclaimed 2D indie adventure Teslagrad, via Soedesco. An Amazon listing reports that the boxed version is due to arrive on Wii U, PS4, PS3 and PC at the end of January.

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Although a very good game – the Metacritic currently stands at 80% for the Wii U iteration – the fact that it’s almost full-price is highly off putting.

Incidentally, it appears that Soedesco are also bringing Awesomenauts Assemble on PS4 to store shelves. If Soedesco believes they can repackage a £7.99 download as almost full-price release then good luck to ‘em.

Finally, there’s motorbike racer Ride. This was first announced in September to very little fanfare. Heading to PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360, it features customisable bikes, online play and fifteen tracks.

Milestone specialises in racing games – they’re the Italian Codemasters, pretty much – so we can expect this one to be ‘good’ at the very least. There’s a short teaser here.

Atari Dig_Evidence
Nov 23
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Back in 1982, Atari could have easily used the E.T. license to create an uninspired Pac-Man clone. It really doesn’t take much of an imagination at all to envision E.T. running around a maze, gobbling up Reese’s Pieces while collecting “phone” parts and avoiding FBI agents.

Instead Atari handed the license to Howard Scott Warshaw, creator of million sellers Yars’ Revenge and fellow movie tie-in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Faced with just five and a half weeks to get something ready for Christmas, Howard rose to the challenge and went on to deliver a curiously ambitious adventure.

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It’s often said that E.T. is one of the worst games of all time. Warshaw did perhaps forget what made a videogame fun – slowly floating out of holes in the ground is hardly an exciting pursuit – but what he was able to create in just over a month was a huge accomplishment.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial began with an attractive title screen complete with a recognisable rendition of the famous John Williams score. The game itself meanwhile spanned numerous screens, giving players a ‘cubic’ world to explore as they filled E.T’s inventory with the various objects required to help the alien return home. Despite the tight time schedule Howard was able to sneak in a couple of ‘Easter Eggs’ as well, including cameos from his previous work.

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Christmas 1982 came and went and although the game was a big seller reports soon emerged of people demanding to know Atari’s return policy. Too complex for its own good, word spread that the game was far from what people were expecting and stock came flooding back. In addition to returns, Atari had also a huge amount of surplus stock. They had ordered 20m copies in advance – a baffling amount considering the 2600 had a user base of around 12m at the time.

Eventually the unwanted stock was buried in a New Mexico landfill. Over time this story went on to become a legend of mythical proportions.

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Nov 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

If you find yourself buying more games than ever before, there’s a very simple reason for this. With budgets as expensive as they are, games nowadays are designed to appeal to the largest possible audience. An easy way to achieve widespread appeal, especially when it comes to first-person shooters, is to add sci-fi elements. Indeed, this is the approach Respawn took with Titanfall by mixing military and mechs. Sledgehammer’s Advanced Warfare follows in its footsteps, with a side order of Kevin Spacey for good measure.

Spacey fills the role of Jonathan Irons, the head of private military corporation Atlas. Refusing to work with governments is one of the key elements to Atlas’ success – with bureaucracy pushed aside they’re able to get things done quickly and efficiently, even helping to turn Baghdad into the technologically advanced New Baghdad. Another reason for Atlas raking in countless contracts is that their soldiers come packing some impressive kit, including armour-coated Exo suits and grenades that automatically home-in on their hapless targets.

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After a brief – and predictably explosion filled – opening, a section set inside the Atlas research facility gives the chance to observe firsthand what the Exo-suits are capable of. Skill sets vary depending on mission – a cloaking ability unlocks for stealthy sections, for instance – and all of these skills can be upgraded by meeting the criteria of four ongoing combat-based challenges. The Exo-suits are by far the biggest ‘game changer’ here, making it easier to escape danger while dishing out some serious firepower. As per previous Call of Duty games, enemies throw grenades if you cower behind cover for too long but now grenade blasts can be evaded by dashing out of harm’s way. The double-jump meanwhile not only allows access to higher plains but can be bolstered with a ground smash that knocks enemies for six. As well as EMP grenades, sonic pulse emissions and more, some missions give access to a portable shield offering temporary protection. This becomes a lifesaver when playing on the harder difficulty levels; on the standard difficulty its purpose is negligible. Still, it does look flashy.

Regrettably, style over substance is something of a recurring theme. A lot of Atlas’ tech can only be used in certain instances, and this can at times make the experience feel like a passive one. Imagine owning a high-tech Swiss Army Knife but permission has to be granted every time you wish to use it. That’s how we imagine Atlas’ highly skilled soldiers feel. Magnetic gloves allow buildings to be scaled but can only be used when prompted, while a rather nifty tool that bestows X-Ray vision has its use restricted to a single non-interactive set-piece. This is where Call of Duty would benefit from taking inspiration from the likes of Far Cry 3, Deus Ex and Dishonored. These games give you the tools and let you use them as you please. Here it’s always when instructed. Even stock arsenal such as mines have to be planted in highlighted areas. As such, the majority of Advance Warfare’s highlights are little more than flashy set-pieces which you have no control over.

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FarCry4
Nov 19
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games 1 Comment

After next week’s heavily Nintendo-oriented slew of releases the annual barrage of big name games starts to slow. December is looking very quiet indeed. This is no surprise – the last month of the year is usually void of major new releases. Why publishers can’t hold a couple of titles back until then, instead of releasing games ten to the dozen in Oct/November is beyond us.

This week it’s Far Cry 4, GTA V and Dragon Age: Inquisition that are setting tills ringing. All three are well worth considering, bagging some impressively high review scores.

Ubisoft can happily boast of a perfect 5/5 from The Guardian for Far Cry 4, along with 9/10s from God is a Geek, The Metro and Destructoid.

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JoyStiq meanwhile handed out a 4.5/5: “There’s a staggering number of adventures to extract from Far Cry 4, whether you chase the ones laid out by the game explicitly, or the ones that develop naturally as you take in the sights. It’s another interesting and absorbing world to fall into, shoot through, burn and then guide to new beginnings. Far Cry 4 may have installed a despot, but it’s still the undisputed king of the open-world shooter”, they said.

There were no ridiculous ‘embargoed until launch day’ shenanigans with Dragon Age: Inquisition, thanks to EA sending out review code well in advance. Reviews started to surface as early as the start of last week, including 9/10s from both EGM and The Official Xbox Magazine, 8.8 from IGN and 8/10 from The Metro. “An excellent return to form for the Dragon Age series, and the biggest and most ambitious Western role-player since the new generation began,” came The Metro’s verdict.

We hope Inquisition does well as this is EA giving gamers what they want. To wit – a colossal adventure that doesn’t have loads of gaps requiring premium-priced DLC to fill.

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As for GTA V, Rockstar has managed do the unimaginable and get PS4 and Xbox One owners excited about a year old game that they probably already own. It’s more than your standard HD conversion, adding a first-person mode, vastly improved visuals and more. Quite possibly the first next-gen revamp deserving of a full-price release. The PS4 version currently stands with a 96% Metacritic, formed of a long list of 10/10s and 9/10s. In fact, there isn’t a single review lower than 9/10 currently.

From good to bad. As our review round-up indicated, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is getting a critical mauling. Not just the Wii U version but the 3DS iteration – from a different developer – too. When the most “positive” review of a game is a 2.5/5 you know you’re in murky territory.

Also out on Wii U this week: the incredibly belated Watch_Dogs and lukewarm underwater racer Jett Tailfin. That last one is a budget release, currently available for just under £17 on Amazon.

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