Jul 16
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

None of last week’s new releases could topple Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, which remains the UK’s no.1 for a third consecutive week.

LEGO The Incredibles settles for #2, with the PS4 version proving the most popular (followed by Xbox One and then Switch).

At #3 it’s Square-Enix’s Octopath Traveler, which also had no trouble topping the Switch chart.

GamesIndustry.biz reports that if the UK top 40 was based on revenue alone Octopath would actually be no.1, due to the higher price point of both Crash and The Incredibles.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker took #4 meanwhile. This Wii U conversion also made #3 in the Switch chart and #4 in the 3DS chart, charting below Mario Kart 7, AC: New Leaf and Pokemon Sun.

Then at #5 it’s God of War, up one position. FIFA 18 fell two places to #6, the surprisingly popular Jurassic World Evolution dropped five places to #7, Mario Tennis Aces is at #8, Far Cry 5 takes #9, and then at #10 it’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

On the topic of Nintendo, precisely ¼ of the top 40 is formed of first-party Nintendo games this week. That’s pretty good going.

SEGA’s Shining Resonance Refrain was the only other new entry, making a lowly #27. Worry not – we have a feeling a certain hedgehog will climb the chart next Monday.

Jul 12
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

It’s a corker of a week for the Switch eShop – over 25 new releases, most of which appear to be worth a look. A rare case of quantity and quality, certainly. The majority look rather swish and stylish too, with Bomb Chicken’s impressive 2D artwork, razor-sharp monochrome boxing sim Pato Box, and the smartly drawn management game Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! all standing out.

Octopath Traveler (£49.99) falls into this category as well, boasting classic Square-Enix pixel art placed on rich and detailed 3D environments. It has been said that this JRPG shouldn’t launch at full price due to featuring simple 2D visuals. Critics beg to differ – it currently has an impressive 84% Metacritic, incorporating top marks (5/5) from Digitally Downloaded, a lofty 9.3 from IGN, and an 8/10 from The Metro.

“A fantastic balancing act between old and new, creating a Japanese role-player that’s full of charm, innovative ideas, and clever nods to the past,” was The Metro’s verdict.

Wii U conversion Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (£34.99) is another big-name release, hitting Switch and 3DS. Both versions are going down well. In fact, the 3DS version is yet to receive a score lower than 7/10.

All-Star Fruit Racing (£34.99) meanwhile has seemingly come out of nowhere, being a reasonably slick and polished kart racer. While reviews are far from glowing, they’re certainly positive enough to make it worth a look. It’s also hitting store shelves as a physical release, incidentally. The same goes for Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard (£34.99), which we’re going to assume isn’t an all-time classic. Stick with the fun and colourful LEGO The Incredibles (£49.99) for movie tie-in thrills.

Then we have SEGA’s Shining Resonance Refrain (£44.99), a JRPG that’s turned out to be an unexpected throwback to 32-bit role-playing games due to a low budget. “Shining Resonance Refrain isn’t a terrible game, it’s just riddled with incredibly poor decisions which almost overshadow a great combat system” warned God is a Geek.

As for this week’s indies, strategic bombing sim Bomber Crew (£11.99) is worth investigating, as is the retro rogue-like platformer 20XX (£12.99). Heck, even this week’s NeoGeo release – ACA NEOGEO THE SUPER SPY – has caught our eye, boasting some of the largest sprites of the era.

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Jul 12
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

It’s perhaps a cliché to say it, but Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is another Wii U conversion more than deserving of a second chance on Switch. Or in this case, not just on Switch but 3DS too.

Both conversions are well worth your time, mostly gaining 8/10 review scores. The Switch also sees the release of Square-Enix’s traditional JRPG Octopath Traveler, a game that has been anticipated since the first demo went live back in September 2017.

A few naysayers claim a game with relatively simple 2D visuals shouldn’t retail for full price. This may impact review scores slightly, but we believe it’s still on track to become another Switch smash. We’ll take a closer look later in the week.

SEGA’s Shining Resonance Refrain is another new JRPG out now, gracing all three major formats. Despite the franchise’s heritage, the reception has been mixed. It’s a very low budget affair, apparently.

After reaching the US a few weeks ago, the rest of the world finally gets LEGO The Incredibles. It’s a little short and easy, even by LEGO game standards, but the open world is fun and inviting to explore. If you’re looking for a way to keep the kids quiet this summer holiday, look no further.

We’ve also got a few surprise hit indies on the agenda – stylish puzzler The Spectrum Retreat, 2D retro throwback 20XX, and stylish strategy shooter Bomber Crew are all going down well. We’ve rounded-up scores below. You’ll also find a smattering of reviews for the multi-format All-Star Fruit Racing, a slick looking kart racer.

Co-op shooter Earthfall – arriving for around the £25 mark – may prove to be a surprise hit too, putting the focus on defending holdouts with portable defences instead of merely blasting everything in sight. User reviews on Steam are ‘mostly positive’ so far.

Defiance 2050 pushes the boundaries of the word “new” meanwhile – it’s a mere HD re-release of the original Defiance from 2013, rather than a new game. The biggest change is the title screen. It isn’t a bad way to blow a few hours, but even in 2013 the shooting mechanics felt dated. Set expectations low and you may have a reasonably enjoyable time. Damning praise, there.

New release showcase:

The Spectrum Retreat

Reviews:
4.5/5 – The Xbox Hub: “Some may find it a little tricky, but if you love a puzzler and an intriguing story then The Spectrum Retreat should ensure you see the Penrose Hotel as somewhere to consider a short stay”

7.0 – God is a Geek: “The puzzles themselves are enjoyable and challenging, culminating in a monster puzzle at the end that brings everything you’ve learned together. However, the design of them feels ordinary most of the time, with each setting feeling like a collection of hoops to jump through, and only occasionally feeling like grand, clever, interlinked design”

6/10 – Destructoid: “There’s a narrative worth hearing here, but the cadence at which it’s told is just a little bit off. That, mixed with the good-but-not-outstanding puzzle design, keeps The Spectrum Retreat from being a truly great stay”

All-Star Fruit Racing

Reviews:
4/5 – TrueAchievements: “With an irresistibly cheerful aesthetic, plenty of game modes, great track variation, and good customization options all built on top of a fun kart racing foundation, there’s no reason to expect genre fans won’t adore this game”

6/10 – Xbox Tavern: “All-Star Fruit Racing is a decently structured kart racing game that offers up quite a chunk of content in return for its fairly generous asking price. The main issue here is that despite being fun, much of the content lacks originality, refinement and depth”

6/10 – Nintendo Life: “All-Star Fruit Racing takes a unique karting weapon system, throws it into a blender with some cute presentation ideas and an unfortunate series of technical annoyances, and ends up with a pretty mixed bag as a result”

Shining Resonance Refrain

Reviews:
7/10 – Nintendo World Report: “Fans of previous titles in the series and seasoned RPG players may find the enjoyment that alluded me. I wouldn’t tell you to avoid this game, but there’s a whole lot I would recommend before it”

6.5 – God is a Geek: “Poor dialogue, poor AI, inconsistent rule-sets, terribly cliche, but an excellent combat system and being able to turn into a dragon really saves the game from being considered as bad, it’s enjoyable, like a film that’s so bad that it’s actually good, plus, you get one and a half games for the price of one and that’s really why it deserves a chance and not to be written off”

6.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Shining Resonance Refrain feels very much like a budget RPG. While it does some things really well such as well-written characters with excellent voice acting and awesome music, there are plenty of things that just don’t really work”

Bomber Crew

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “Favouring roguelite progression, strategy and resource management over frantic arcade-style combat, if you can get past the simple, cute visuals and steep learning curve you’ll find a rich, intense and satisfying experience here”

8/10 – PSU: “There’s a pleasing amount of depth to the game’s equally impressive array of systems and mechanics, hidden behind a charming, low-res visual style and sense of humour”

4/5 – TrueAchievements: “Gameplay is fun and addictive, with added suspense from the constant threat of permadeath for the current plane and crew. Small problems can rapidly escalate into disasters, and disasters can lead to the frustration of dealing with a new under-levelled and under-equipped crew and plane while well into the campaign”

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker


Reviews:
8.7 – IGN: “A brilliantly smart meld of classic platforming with perception puzzling, no matter where you play it”

8/10 – Pocket Gamer: “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a beautifully charming perspective puzzler that deserved a second chance at success. It’s also a decent – though not quite perfect – fit on Switch”

8/10 – The Metro: “Utterly charming on (literally) every level, it may not offer much in terms of fast action but this is just as imaginative and engrossing as any Super Mario game”

LEGO The Incredibles

Reviews:
8/10 – PlayStation Country: “A great fit for the Lego game template released ahead of the new film. One of the better Lego games in recent memory that shows what can be done when the source material is right”

7.6 – Video Chums: “Lego The Incredibles is a smooth entry in the long-running Lego video game series. It doesn’t do much to break out of the mold but there’s no denying how ultimately solid and satisfying it is”

6.5 – Destructoid: “I enjoyed playing through the game, but felt some of the questionable decisions and creaking technology kept it from achieving its potential”

20XX

Reviews:
4.5/5 – The Xbox Hub: “I’ve really enjoyed my time with 20XX, and my trip down gaming’s Memory Lane – back to a time when games were hard and gamers were determined. And it is for that reason you may as well give 20XX a try”

7.5 – Xbox Tavern: “Despite its difficulty fluctuations and some minor design issues with its procedurally generated content, 20XX offers a solid Mega Man-like action platformer that plays well and is distinct enough to stand out”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “The procedural engine does a good job of mixing things up, but after a while you can start to see a little repetition, but that’s easily overshadowed by the sheer variety and amount of upgrades and customisation”

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Jul 11
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

I’m currently 30 hours into Puyo Puyo Tetris with my wife. She keeps beating me. I see Puyo Puyo’s fall across my vision as I sleep at night. Her nonchalant face, as she beats me for the fifth time in a row, causes sweat to form on my brow as I slumber. I awake in the middle of the night, panicking as I imagine our play stats enshrined on my gravestone. I look at her, fast asleep, as I turn on the Switch. I alight my face with it’s LCD as I desperately practise T-Spins. She snoozes. I will defeat her one day.

The latest Switch puzzle game trying to claim my time is Yuso, a puzzle game that’s also available on iOS and Android. The aim of the game is to rid the screen of coloured blobs called ‘Yuso’. You do this by tapping on them (or selecting them with the controller). Once tapped, a Yuso will destroy itself and all Yusos surrounding it. However, you can only tap a Yuso if it is directly vertically or horizontally next to another Yuso of the same colour. This rule means it’s easy to trap yourself or leave yourself with a single Yuso on the board. Luckily, you can rewind a tap with the B button, or reset the board instantly.

As you progress through the 80 levels, complications are added in. Different coloured Yuso create a big challenge, as do sleeping Yuso, who need to be woken up by popping Yuso around them.

At this point, we’ve got to mention that the presentation of Yuso is excellent. The different coloured Yuso are drawn nicely and all the different colours also have different facial expressions, which animate nicely. The popping of the Yuso is also really tactile, with a great use of rumble. In a simple game it makes a real difference, and you can tell that real love and care has been spent in making the game feel as nice as possible.

Unfortunately, there’s not much game here. The best puzzle games make you feel clever, and I never felt clever. A lot of the time I was using trial and error to pop Yuso, resetting when I went wrong. It’s often quicker to explode a Yuso and observe the result (and rewind if necessary) than it is to work out what the result will be from tapping a Yuso. This means the it’s never quite satisfying to play.

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Jul 10
By Matt Gander In Features 2 Comments

Terrible games are relatively few these days. Publishers have so much riding on big releases that to put out something sub-par would only result in poor sales, consumer backlash and angry shareholders.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, publishers were rather fond of releasing utter tripe in order to make a quick buck. In fact, throughout the ‘90s it wasn’t uncommon to see new releases gain scores as low as 1/10 in gaming magazines – a score rarely seen today.

Every platform holder from the era was guilty of allowing garbage to flow through quality control. SEGA, Nintendo, Sony, 3DO, and Atari – providing a game booted up and was in a “playable” state, it would be allowed onto store shelves. Contrary to popular belief, the coveted ‘Nintendo Seal of Quality’ covered little more than that.

For some reason, the worst games the N64 had to offer live in infamy. Terrible titles that are still to this day mocked, scrutinised and frowned upon. The SEGA Saturn had just as many poor games – if not more – but they’re rarely ever paraded about in such a fashion. As for the PSone, YouTube would have you believe Bubsy 3D and The Simpsons Wrestling were as bad as it got.

Search for Superman 64 on YouTube and you’re presented with over 600k results; over half a million. Over 117k videos are dedicated to Crusin’ USA, Mortal Kombat: Mythologies clocks in at 46k, Carmageddon has just over 23k, while ClayFighter 63 1/3 can claim 15.5k videos. Even Aero Gauge, which many would refer to as an obscure release, has over 33k videos in its honour. In comparison, most bad PSone games have half as many dedicated videos, if that. Bubsy 3D being the exception – every angry gaming YouTuber across the globe has seemingly covered it at one stage.

Question is, then, what’s so special about the N64’s worst games? It’s almost as if they’ve been granted special status within the halls of video gaming. If you care to indulge, we have a few theories about why the likes of Superman 64 have remained in our collective minds instead of fading into obscurity.

Nintendo set the bar high

Nintendo released several genre-defining gems within the N64’s first year of sale. By the end of 1997 it could boast of a catalogue featuring such first-party greats as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart, Star Fox, Wave Race, GoldenEye 007, Pilotwings, Diddy Kong Racing, and Blast Corps.

Each and every one was a system seller. It was expected that third-parties would follow suit, harnessing the system’s power to create all-new experiences. Nintendo wasn’t allowing any old riffraff onboard the N64 party bus either, spending the best part of three years assembling a ‘Dream Team’ of handpicked outside studios.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy was arguably the first game to suggest that third-parties were struggling with the new hardware, not to mention the constraints cartridges posed.

Nintendo, it seemed, wasn’t willing to lend a helping hand to ensure third-party quality. As such, it came as a mild surprise to see a few stinkers on the shelves during the N64’s early days.

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Jul 09
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Even though it hit the digital stores a few weeks ago, Jurassic World: Evolution still managed to debut at #2 in the UK chart.

Even more impressive is the fact that it’s #1 in the PS4 chart, toppling God of War.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered – last week’s only other new release – wasn’t quite as fortunate, settling for #20. We imagine it performed better digitally.

Activision must have produced enough copies of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy to go around (the PS4 version sold out at launch, if you recall), as it’s no.1 for another week.

On its second week of release The Crew 2 fell one place to #3 – which is mildly surprising considering the lukewarm reception – while FIFA 18 dropped to #4.

Mario Tennis Aces also fell one place, now at #5.

God of War and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe take #6 and #7, while Far Cry 5 rises to #8.

The recently reduced Star Wars Battlefront II and the permanently discounted Fallout 4 take #9 and #10.

We should see a significant shake-up next Monday – Octopath Traveler, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, LEGO The Incredibles and Shining Resonance Refrain are all due out this week.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard may make an appearance, too. People still like easy achievements and trophies, right?

Jul 05
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Pocket Rumble, a 2D fighter influenced by SNK’s NeoGeo Pocket beat’em ups, has been a long time coming. If memory serves, it was originally due not long after the Switch itself.

After one hefty delay (“technical kinks” were to blame, apparently) it’s finally out this week for a mere £6.99. The first review to surface suggests it’s worth the wait. “This is great for newcomers and veterans of retro fighters as this one is easy to learn and hard to master”, said Nintendo World Report before dishing out an 8/10. They did however warn of online connection issues.

The colourful auto-runner/party game mash-up Runbow (£11.99) also makes a belated Switch appearance this week. As anybody who played the Wii U original will testify, it’s a hoot with chums.

Physics-orientated shooter Kill The Bad Guy (£6.29) is another belated conversion. The idea is to cause accidents to kill the bad guys, requiring advance planning. The Xbox One version was panned for feeling like a bite-sized mobile game, so we get the impression it’ll fare a little better on Switch.

As for new stuff, both retro throwback platformer Miles & Kilo (£7.19) – from the creators of Kid Tripp – and the colourful RTS Mushroom Wars 2 (£17.99) were highly rated by Nintendo Life.

“It manages to be an equal parts casual and hardcore platform experience while incrementing on the already abundant charming appeal of the previous game with excellent humour,” was their verdict on Miles & Kilo. Mushroom Wars 2 meanwhile was called “A sumptuous feast in multiplayer” and a “deep and enjoyable real-time strategy experience.”

Here’s a round-up of the remaining eShop releases, including a demo of Wario Ware Gold on 3DS and ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION on Switch – a mech shooter generating a mild buzz.

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Jul 04
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

THQ Nordic picked the perfect time to launch Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered – this week’s line-up of new releases is the slimmest we’ve seen since early January.

The general consensus is that Guerrilla is more than deserving of a remaster, being a franchise high note and all, but it’s hindered by technical issues. Both the PS4 and Xbox One versions are allegedly prone to crashing, and MP stats are being wiped for no apparent reason. Thankfully patch should these issues out. Until then, you might want to hold off until it arrives.

A retail release of Jurassic World Evolution and a belated conversion of BigBen’s Hunting Simulator on Switch are the only two other physical release due this week. For those curious, reviews for Jurassic World were mostly positive, being a mixture of 7s and 8s.

It’s also a quiet week on the download services. PS4 and Switch owners can paint their consoles with a Runbow – an auto-runner/party game hybrid which first hit the Wii U a long time ago. We’ve rounded up scores below.

Then we have The Walker and 18 Floors, two China-developed PSVR horror titles set in Asia. Outlook: cloudy. Incidentally, The Walker is due a budget-priced retail release at some point.

Over on Xbox One meanwhile there’s What the Box? – an innovate online shooter in which players control “living” cardboard boxes hiding amongst regular boxes – and Asdivine Hearts, a mobile JRPG from Kemco that’s knocking on a bit.

Generic top-down racer Wheelspin Frenzy doesn’t entirely fill us with confidence either, showcasing no personality or innovation whatsoever. Oh well.

Next week looks more appealing, with several big name titles due including Octopath Traveler, Captain Toad, and LEGO The Incredibles (which we reviewed last week).

New release showcase:

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered

Reviews:
8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Shedding the excessive complexities that accompany modern open-world games is a surprising breath of fresh, albeit dusty, air. Regardless of whether you are a red planet rookie or grizzled Martian veteran, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to revisit this explosive gem. It really brings the house down”

3/5 – US Gamer: “Unfortunately, the bad stuff still remains: shooting and driving feel floaty, enemy response is tuned too high, and there are a number of glitches present. As such, the remaster merely brings a great game into the modern age, without the improvements that would mark a better re-release”

5/10 – Destructoid: “In all good faith, I can’t recommend you rush out and grab this immediately with how shoddy the performance can be. It would be one thing to deal with a crummy framerate, but having the game crash as often as it did is no good. I want to destroy buildings, not sit through boring-ass dialogue, have my game crash and then sit through that chatter again”

Runbow

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Enthusiast: “If you’re a fan of party games or unique platforming, Runbow is a must-have title in your game library”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “The gameplay is great fun, the presentation is to die for, and unlocking Nindie heroes through a really nicely put together adventure mode is the icing on the cake”

7.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Runbow mixes the chaos of party games, with the urgency of racing games, with the patient precision of platformers to create one unique experience”

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