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Aug 25
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

The last-gen formats have reached the age where they’re being handed down to younger siblings, with the Xbox One and PS4 taking pride of place under the main TV instead. Both consoles have also fallen in price heavily over the past year or so, making them affordable (and more viable) for children.

Unlike the Wii and Wii U, the Xbox 360 and PS3 never saw a steady slew of children’s games – just the odd movie or cartoon tie-in here and there, plus the usual LEGO, Skylanders and Disney Infinity games.

The aim of this guide is to highlight some of the alternative kids’ games out there while sorting the good from the bad. Contrary to popular beliefs, kids can tell the difference. They may not be able to exactly point out why a game is bad, but they know the difference between boring and entertaining.

With this guide you hopefully won’t be hearing “this game is boring” too often.

The obvious choices

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Let’s get these out the way first, as chances are your child already owns a few of these. We’re talking about the games that are always prominently placed in supermarkets and GAME, such as LEGO, Skylanders, Disney Infinity, Just Dance, FIFA Soccer and Minecraft.

Disney Infinity was axed earlier this year, meaning retailers are starting to clear out stock. The first DI features Disney and Pixar franchises and packed in a lot of content, with worlds based on Monsters Inc, The Incredibles and Pirates of the Caribbean. You do however need two characters from the same universe to play two-player in these worlds, which obviously goes against the whole ‘Infinity’ aspect.

Disney Infinity was axed earlier this year

The second DI favours Marvel superheroes and has a quickly cobbled together feel to it, with just one campaign that soon becomes tedious. The Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man add-on packs also scored poorly by the gaming press.

For the third and final DI, Star Wars is the theme and this iteration focuses heavily on the premium priced add-ons. Despite featuring characters from all different Disney lines, the majority can only be used in the Minecraft-style Toy Box mode…which is due to go offline next year. It can still be accessed, but the ability to share creations with the community will cease.

Children are likely to lean towards their favourite franchise, but for our money, the original DI is the one to go for. With three campaigns lasting around 3-4 hours each, it offers the most out-of-the-box value.

As for Skylanders, we recommend the recent Skylanders Superchargers – which has online co-op play and Mario Kart-style races – and Skylanders Giants, which wasn’t too demanding when it came to extra figures. Although Skylanders Giants is also knocking on a bit now, it’s the prices for the giant figures have hit rock bottom. A full set can easily be obtained for around £20.

While not bad games – the Skylanders games have a rare consistency to them – both Trap Team and Swap Force lock a lot of content away, with the former requiring £5 coloured crystals to capture bad guys in, and Swap Force adding new areas that only Swap Force characters can enter. These two are by far the most money grabbing.

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Then we have the LEGO games, which too are constantly good…and sometimes even great. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings are generally seen as some of the weaker entries, while Harry Potter, Star Wars, Batman, Marvel Super Heroes and The Avengers are perceived as the best.

LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga are the ones commonly found in bargain bins nowadays, both of which are recommended.

LEGO Dimensions stuff meanwhile is slowly starting to come down in price due to the arrival of season two. The starter set hasn’t quite hit the magical £30 mark yet, but it’s almost there. Out of all the ‘Toys to Life’ franchises, LEGO Dimensions is the most demanding on the wallet, and the upcoming second season looks set to be even more so with packs based on Sonic the Hedgehog, Gremlins, Adventure Time and dozens more. At least LEGO tends to hold its value, eh?

This leaves us with Minecraft, which needs no introduction. Several years from launch, it’s still a big seller and just as popular. Thankfully for parents, it isn’t a full price release – expect to pay between £15-£20. If your child is into Minecraft in a big way, also be sure to check out Minecraft: Story Mode – which features a collection of episodic adventures to play through – and Terraria, which is often referred to as Minecraft’s 2D cousin. It’s slightly trickier to master, but chances are your child has friends who’ve already learnt the ropes and will be keen to show off what they know.

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Aug 24
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

We’re back in the realm of retail releases this week, with seven new games about to descend onto store shelves.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, The King of Fighters XIV and Madden NFL 17 are the big hitters, followed by Worms W.M.D, A.O.T. Wings of Freedom and Assetto Corsa. This leaves us with a physical release of Kholat on PS4, a Polish survival horror – narrated by Sean Bean – which received mixed reviews when it hit PSN back in March. It’s currently £12.99 to pre-order from Zavvi, if you’re curious.

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We rounded up early Deus Ex: Mankind Divided reviews last week – general consensus has it that it’s pretty similar to its predecessor, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Since penning that round-up, Jim Sterling’s review has gone live. His review was full of praise, resulting in a 9/10: “At its very worst, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is just as good as Human Revolution, which is really not a problem if you think Human Revolution was absolutely bloody marvelous.”

Reviews have been full of praise for the Deep Silver-published The King of Fighters XIV too – the Metacritic stands at 81% from 34 outlets, with no reviews currently below 7/10. “Those disappointed in its new visuals may be unwilling to give it a chance, but if you remain steadfast in parsing through the multiple layers of its mechanics, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most accessible, satisfying entries in the series to date” said GameSpot, before handing out a well-deserved 8/10.

Incidentally, The King of Fighters 2000 gets a well-timed PS4 re-release via PSN. That’ll set you back a reasonable enough £7.99.

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MysticalNinja
Aug 22
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Last week Konami caused a commotion upon unveiling Metal Gear Survive, a soulless sounding co-op zombie shooter that’s clearly cashing in on the MGS name. This week the Japanese publisher is deserving of a small pat on the back – The Legend of the Mystical Ninja hits New 3DS this week, complete with an alluring discount.

Until 8th September, the SNES cult classic will only cost a fiver. “If you’re looking for an adventure that’s lighthearted but addictive, difficult but rewarding, it’s hard to go wrong with this one,” said Nintendo Life when reviewing 2013’s Wii U re-release.

BlockForm (£4.49) is another impending title that’s New 3DS only, ignoring the fact that it’s apparently due on Wii U somewhen. It’s a 3D puzzle/platformer in which the colour of the platforms change the character’s mood. Judging by this trailer, we’re in for a very small scale and low budget affair.

The Legend of Kusakari

Over on the vanilla 3DS there’s The Legend of Kusakari (£3.99), a Japanese puzzler that Nnooo has picked up for a western release. There’s more than a whiff of Zelda about it. Make a purchase and you’ll be entitled to half-price discounts on Nnooo’s previous releases, including the 3DS’s Blast ’em Bunnies, escapeVektor and Cubemen 2 on Wii U. Nice.

Pixel art tool Pixel Paint (£3.99) meanwhile makes the jump from Wii U to handheld, complete with all important Miiverse support.

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F120166
Aug 22
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

If we were gambling men we would have put money on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided dethroning No Man’s Sky from the top of the chart.

This week’s top 40 proves why we shouldn’t even step foot in a bookies – Codemasters’ F1 2016 has taken pole position, knocking No Man’s Sky to #2 after just one week.

Sales of Hello Games’ space tourist sim were down a whopping 81% from last week, Chart-Track reports.

Despite gaining decent reviews, F1 2016 isn’t off to the greatest of starts either with sales down 32% over what F1 2015 gained at launch.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens saw a small boost meanwhile, rising it up to #3.

Overwatch dropped to #4 and then at #5 it’s good old GTA V.

Rocket League and FIFA 16 held onto #6 and #7 respectively.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End fell to #8, DOOM moved one place to #9 and for a second week Minecraft: Xbox Edition rounds off the top ten.

The only other occurrence of note was Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst re-entering the top 40 at #27, thanks to price cuts.

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Aug 20
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Inventory management is one of the most laborious elements to a typical role-playing game. Not enough to ruin an experience outright, but certainly a hindrance – almost everybody rolls their eyes when seeing ‘you are over-encumbered’ on screen. Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky does something quite unbelievable. It takes this often frowned upon feature and centres a whole game upon it.

While embarking on a journey to the centre of the galaxy, an untold amount of time will be spent decluttering the two inventories; one for your exosuit, and another for your retro chic sci-fi starship. Although it possible to stack certain items, space is still ridiculously limited and as such you’re actively encouraged to find exosuit upgrades and bigger and better craft. This is how the game is structured, or its backbone if you will. Land on a planet, scan for landmarks, find upgrade blueprints and the resources to craft them, with each upgrade and resource taking up valuable inventory space.

It’s an experience based around self-improvement, pretty much, which ties in with the side narrative entailing material possessions and their actual worth.

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This journey begins with a crashed spacecraft which you’re tasked with repairing in order to take to the stars. Menus are cumbersome to navigate at first, but soon come second nature, allowing new items and upgrades to be crafted on the fly. Another screen keeps track of discovery progress on a planet, and it’s here that both planets and creatures can be renamed and uploaded in return for a few extra credits.

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Aug 19
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

A few months ago we caught wind that content was being cut from Square-Enix’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in order to make its August release date.

Worried that Jensen’s story may be cut short, we were sceptical about Mankind Divided. Only a bit, mind – even if this long-awaited sequel was a case of ‘short but sweet’ would it really be that bad? Like Square-Enix’s own Hitman, Deus Ex is a franchise known for having decent replay value.

Reviews went live this afternoon ahead of Tuesday’s launch, and while there are plenty of reports of it being more of the same, length doesn’t seem to be an issue. So hurrah for that. A few critics did however feel that by copying its predecessor closely, it does feel a little dated as a result. This ultimately lead to 7/10s from Push Square, VideoGamer and GameInformer – the lowest score it has received so far.

The majority of critics were full of praise, though, with the golden phrase ‘GOTY’ bandied about a few times. Here are some choice cuts from today’s reviews:

9.2 – IGN: “Layered, intelligent, and impeccably designed, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s gameplay rewards curiosity and creativity”

A- – Gaming Age: “It provided more of what I loved from Human Revolution, and certainly scratches a stealth-action itch that few games not called Metal Gear Solid fail to provide”

4.5/5 – Cheat Code Central: “While Human Revolution was a promising title with some glaring issues, Mankind Divided is the work of a mature development team that has had the time to fix their weak points and improve on their strong ones”

4.5/5 – IB Times UK: “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it need to. Compelling, tightly paced and most importantly, fun to play, Mankind Divided has created an exquisitely detailed world and now it wants to turn you loose in it. A stronger contender for Game of the Year in a year already filled with great games, what are you waiting for?”

4.5/5 – Time: “While Mankind Divided‘s ideas and takeaways never aspire to the heights of cyberpunk writers like Gibson or Stephenson, it wrestles with material that’s at least dotted-line connected to what we’ve been thrashing out recently”

4.5/5 – GamesRadar: “Mankind Divided is full of great moments, from the lengthy journey across The Throat of Golem City, to the simple pleasure of crouching in a Prague bank, wondering how next to proceed”

9.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “This is a game you’ll want to play multiple times, to see how things could play out if you play a certain way, and its save system encourages experimentation. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is this summer’s must-play game”

9.0 – God is a Geek: “Besides a few fairly minor issues and some cracks in the paintwork, Mankind Divided is a hugely playable adventure in a world that will stick with you every time you log off. Beautifully grim, relentless captivating, and humanly flawed, this dystopian vision is a compelling, tightly-crafted experience”

9/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is captivating from start to finish, giving players more freedom to make their own choices”

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GrowUp
Aug 17
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Considering Ubisoft is renowned for extravagant launch campaigns, it’s sad to see Grow Up – the sequel to the rather lovely Grow Home – slip out on the sly this week. We’d even go as far as saying that Ubisoft’s own Uno has received more press coverage, with reviews appearing a few days before launch.

Grow Up marks the first time BUD has stepped foot on Xbox One – the original was PS4 and PC only. With reports of a slight sense of over-familiarity in Grow Home, it could well be newcomers that get the most out of this sequel. “Some of the new features could’ve done with pruning, but Ubisoft’s willingness to nurture indie style experiments continues to bear fruit,” said The Metro before handing out a solid 7/10.

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F1 2016 is another that hasn’t arrived to much fanfare, with no reviews yet available. We imagine that it’ll be a marginal improvement over F1 2015, as opposed to a marked improved. The F1 games tend to see only see small enhancements, rather than complete overhauls.

Codemasters’ racer isn’t the only new retail release for this week – Tropico 5: Complete Collection also launches on PS4. We’d be more excited about it if the vanilla Tropico 5 wasn’t given away for free, via PS Plus, just a couple of months ago.

At least plenty of reviews of Bound are around. Unless mistaken, it’s the first PlayStation VR compatible game out the door (the headset isn’t essential, we should note). It’s an abstract platformer in which a female leap, runs, jumps and dances through heavily stylised environments.

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Aug 16
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

While the core Pokémon games prove to be more than ample time-wasters, the spin-off titles usually leave a lot to be desired. For every high, there are at least two lows. Pokémon Dash, Pokémon Ranch and Pokémon Channel, in particular, are amongst the worst games Nintendo has ever published.

Fortunately for Wii U owners, Pokémon Snap – due out this Thursday for £8.99 – is one of the highs. It’s an on-rails snapper, as opposed to an on-rails shooter, with the idea being to capture 63 different Pokémon on film.

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Some are happy to dive right in front of the camera, while others have to be coaxed out their environment with apples and pester balls. Yeah, pester balls. Presumably throwing rocks at Pokémon was seen as a no-no by Nintendo.

We recall spending several very pleasant evenings finding and snapping all 63 Pokémon. We were left wanting more, but 16 years on it’s a dream still yet to be fulfilled.

This is one of the reasons why the game is held in high regard – it never received a sequel, despite the likes of the 3DS and Wii U – with their gyroscopes and all – being the perfect fit.

And here’s an example of a poor Pokémon spin-off – the DS’s Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is also due on Wii U this week, again from £8.99. Reviews were mostly below average, with IGN, The Metro and Nintendo Gamer magazine all handing out sub-50% scores.

IGN’s review is still up. “It’s a rip off, plain and simple,” they said.

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