Mar 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Acclaim’s Turok: The Dinosaur Hunter was an N64 pioneer. Not only was it the first major third-party release for the system in the west, launching just a few days after the system itself in the UK, but it also proved that the N64 was ideal for first-person shooters; a genre not associated with consoles at the time. It also saved Acclaim’s skin, helping to fill their coffers with cash during a troubled time.

Current rights holders Nightdrive Studios gave both Turok and Turok 2 digital re-releases on Steam and Xbox One late last year. Now it’s the Switch’s turn, receiving the original Turok this week. Thanks to new HD visuals and a wealth of options, it apparently holds up rather well. “Turok influenced a lot of first-person shooters that came after it, and it’s still very enjoyable in 2018—thanks in large part to Night Dive’s boatload of options,” said Nintendo World Report before handing out an 8/10.

Nintendo Life opted for a solid 7, meanwhile. “It’s arguably more interesting as a piece of history than it is an FPS shooter in 2019, but Turok is still worth a look if you’re a fan of the genre.”

You may want to hold out for its vastly improved sequel – we have a feeling it isn’t too far away. We can also expect Shadowman and Forksaken at some point, it seems.

As for stuff shiny and new, there’s the Dynasty Warriors alike Fate/EXTELLA LINK, the sequel to 2017’s Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star. Scores are a mixture of 8s and 7s and so far. “If you’ve never much been a fan of mindless hack ‘n’ slash games, we’d say this is a great way to test whether this genre is for you, and if you consider yourself to be a Musou nut, this is one of the best distillations of the concept we’ve yet seen” said Nintendo Life.

“It takes the ideas of the original and executes them all even better than before,” formed part of The Sixth Axis’ conclusion, meanwhile.

EA is back with a new Switch release as well – Unravel Two, which received a surprise Xbox One/PS4 release during last year’s E3. The general consensus at the time was that it’s a decent sequel, albeit one lacking the spark of the original. It should suit the Switch rather well due to its focus on co-op puzzle solving and its simple control scheme.

Bargain Hunter sounds like of this week’s more innovative offerings – it entails rummaging around yard sales and thrift stores looking for antiques, which are then sent off for auction. It’s possible to head to the beach for a spot of metal detecting, too. Consider us intrigued.

System 3’s Impossible Mission and James Pond Codename: RoboCod re-releases have also showed up, priced £9.99 a pop. Impossible Mission includes the C64 version and a new re-skinned iteration. It’s hard for us to tell which version Robocod is based on. We’re hoping it’s the Amiga original, but it looks like it might be the PSone rejig.

If that wasn’t enough, this week’s Nintendo Direct dished up two surprises- side-scrolling/top-down hybrid action-adventure Blaster Master Zero 2 and Vlambeer’s top-down roguelike shooter Nuclear Throne.

Here’s the full list of new releases and demos, along with a single new title for 3DS.

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Mar 20
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Microsoft’s love affair with Nintendo continues to blossom, with news that Cuphead launches on Switch 18th April. The UK price has been revealed as £16.99, and it’s available to pre-order now.

“It’s no secret that Cuphead is a direct descendent of retro action games like Contra on the NES, so it’s surreal to finally have one of our own games on a Nintendo system,” said Studio MDHR Co-Director Chad Moldenhauer.

“We’re beyond thrilled to be able to bring Cuphead to a brand new audience on Nintendo Switch. Playing the game on a console with such a big focus on local co-op really reminds Jared and I of our days gaming together as kids,” they continued.

What’s more, all versions are due to receive a free update the same day. It’s the biggest update yet, adding many fan-quested features. To quote: “playable Mugman in single-player, new fully animated cutscenes, never-before-seen art and fight intros, ten additional languages, a plethora of bug fixes, and plenty of secrets for players to discover.”

Word also has it that by tinkering under the game’s hood in order to get it running on Switch (60fps/720p confirmed), it now loads twice as fast on Xbox One X. We don’t recall the loading times being bothersome, but that’s a nice surprise nevertheless.

Mar 20
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

When it was revealed Activision are involved with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, some folk were left scratching their heads. If you’re still confused as to why the house of Call of Duty has picked up publishing rights, ask yourself this: which publisher wouldn’t want a Dark Souls spin-off in their line-up?

It’s pleasing to see Activision hasn’t pushed DLC, retailer exclusive content, deluxe editions with early access and all the other gimmicks publishers are keen to flog. Less pleasing is the fact that reviews are under embargo until a day before launch. FromSoftware rarely puts a foot wrong though, so we imagine it’ll be a safe purchase. In fact, FromSoftware are one of the most consistent developers out there.

For the uninformed, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is set in 15th century Sengoku Japan, starring a disgraced and disfigured warrior who uses prosthetic tools as weapons. Stealth and the ability to wall-run should make for a remarkably different experience to past Souls-likes. [Update: review scores added below]

Devolver Digital’s The Messenger is an altogether different ninja adventure, influenced by Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi and other retro classics. It first hit the Switch a few months ago to rave reviews, and it’s looking like this belated PS4 version hasn’t lost anything.

“It perhaps flies a little too close to the sun later on as you hunt down the final few collectibles, but by and large, it’s a cloud-stepping joy. Fans of 2D action games should have a blast with this, and that’s a message we’re happy to pass,” said Push Square before dishing out an 8/10.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection also makes the jump from Switch to PS4. This isn’t a collection of NeoGeo games, but rather a package featuring 24 titles from the company’s early years. There’s some obscure stuff on here – developers Digital Eclipse even trekked around Japan to find arcade cabinets so rare that little to no information existed.

The first review of this PS4 iteration clocks in at a stonking 10/10. “SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is one of the coolest, most fascinating video game releases out in 2019,” was PlayStation Lifestyle’s verdict.

Speaking of belated conversions, tower defence hack’n slasher Hell Warders has finally made it to Xbox One. The Xbox Tavern wasn’t left too impressed, disappointed by the visuals and sloppy controls, ultimately resulting in a mediocre 5/10.

Switch owners get EA’s Unravel Two, meanwhile, avaliable both digitally and physically.

Also of note: Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon EVERY BUDDY! on Switch and PS4. It’s an enhanced version of 2007’s FINAL FANTASY FABLES: Chocobo’s Dungeon with a new two-player buddy system. The jury is still out on this one.

Check back next week for more Square-Enix re-releases, with the legendary Final Fantasy VII receiving a digital dust off on Switch and Xbox One. Now, this is the kind of Cloud-based gaming we can get behind.

New release showcase:

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Reviews:
9.5 – IGN: “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a stylish, focused stealth-action take on the FromSoftware formula that evolves in a different and refreshing direction. It may be a bit easier than a Souls game, but it’s something amazing all its own”

9.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “It blends mechanics and narrative in a way that is too rare in games today, allowing for a deep level of immersion that begs for just one more clash of blades no matter how difficult the encounters get. Seeing each one to its bloody finish is well worth the trials it takes to get there”

9.0 – GameInformer: “Sekiro is a wild ride through narrative twists and shocking boss battles, and an amazing triumph or crushing defeat is only ever seconds away”

4/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “Set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Japanese aesthetic, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice combines what makes a From Software title special into an excellent, solid package that fans are going to love. Death may be a constant in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but it’s worth getting up each time”

Fate/Extella Link

Reviews:
4.5/5 – Digitally Downloaded: “Fate/Extella Link is a delight. It takes beloved characters from a beloved anime franchise, and then appropriates the Koei Tecmo Warriors gameplay structure with such style and panache that Koei should be taking some notes itself”

4/5 – ATOF: “If you’re a fan of the franchise and like musous, then I see no reason why you won’t enjoy this. On the other hand, I recommend checking out Extella if you’re new. You can go in blind if you want, but I don’t think the gameplay alone is good enough to carry the whole package”

7/10 – Push Square: “As far as Warriors-style action games go, Fate Extella Link is near the top of the pile on PS4 — it’s a robust and refined sequel that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss out on. The process of levelling up, collecting skills, and bonding with your favourite Fate characters is both satisfying and rewarding, and although repetition does become a factor later on, the flashy combat has enough kick to keep you engaged”

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Mar 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This comic book style first-person shooter feels like a breath of fresh air, arriving at a time when the genre leaders are only willing to imitate (cough, Battle Royale) rather than innovate.

Bristol-based Ground Shatter (Binaries, Skyscrappers) has looked to the past to give shooter fans something new, with RICO being influenced by such fast-paced, quick-draw, arcade shooters as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop. Or to be more exact, it’s a thoroughly realised version of Time Crisis 4’s often forgotten FPS mode, which was no longer on-rails but still possessed arcade-like sensibilities. Perhaps not the most useful of comparisons, but rest assured we aren’t in typical shooter town.

Here, you’re kicking down doors and shooting smartly dressed drug lords and tattoo-covered thugs in glorious slow-mo, clearing out one room at a time. Once the dust settles, it’s then a case of collecting evidence (briefcases full of miscellaneous contraband) and scavenging for crucial health/ammo pickups before finding another brittle door to boot.

The developers have implemented ways to keep backtracking to a minimum while hunting for evidence. Not only is the map surprisingly helpful, showing rooms yet to be peppered with bullets (cleared), but items of importance are also highlighted.

Thanks to procedural generation each level is different from the last, and there’s a decent variation in themes: posh mansions, apartment blocks, construction sites, offices, and more. It’s a mystery as to what lies behind a door – anything from a trio of enemies to a dozen, maybe an explosive barrel to thin the numbers if you’re lucky, or a ticking bomb if luck isn’t on your side. If that wasn’t enough to keep you on your toes, destroying servers and defusing bombs will often summon reinforcements too.

The level randomisation isn’t faultless – we came across a few peculiarly narrow rooms and one corridor that lead to nowhere – but for the most part, it does a good job of providing varied layouts.

Mission objectives are likewise doled out at random, complete with a few bonus targets such as performing a certain number of headshots. Generally, though, you’re tasked with either collecting evidence or clearing out every room, with later levels set over multiple floors. Get in, make a mess, and get out while there’s still time on the clock – cases must be cracked within 24 in-game hours.

Completing objectives earns merit points, used to purchase new weapons, larger clips, laser sights, and both frag and flash grenades. Weapons are loud and punchy, becoming more exuberant as things progress. Only two firearms can be taken into battle, and as some have drawbacks – such as heavy recoil, slow rate of fire, or a small ammo capacity – it’s worth mulling over which to buy.

Health carries over from one stage to the next, so occasionally merit points must also be spent on health top-ups. Single-use resuscitators, meanwhile, can bring you back from the jaws of death.

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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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