Oct 23
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

If you strolled into a McDonald’s during July 2002 you may have walked away with more than a paper bag full of fat, salt and sugar. The popular fast-food chain had penned a deal with Sony to give away four free PlayStation demo discs, available only with the ‘big bag’ PlayStation Meal – a selected burger, medium fries, medium soft drink and an exclusive demo disc for the princely sum of £3.19.

Although the PSone was knocking on a bit in 2002 (the PS2 was already two years old by this point), you’d think this deal was still worth shouting about. This seemingly wasn’t the case, however – publicity was very low key. We recall the staff at our local McDonald’s being rather baffled upon being asked if they were running the promotion, with one instance resulting in a manger being called over. After rummaging behind the counter for a couple of minutes, they eventually finally found an unopened box full of discs.

Each disc featured a mixture of old and new(ish) demos, packaged in a grease-absorbing cardboard sleeve. Due to the PSone’s current demographic (and that of McDonald’s, presumably) the games in question were all suitable for younger gamers. Fans of 3D platformers, in particular, were well catered for. In terms of presentation, the demos were compiled in an identical manner to the Official PlayStation Magazine’s demo discs; a simple menu with a trippy/abstract background.

Disc One brought together WipEout 3, Alfred Chicken, Gran Turismo 2 and Vib Ribbon. An odd combination, for sure. Disc Two had a peculiar assortment too: Ape Escape, Ace Combat 3, Cool Boarders 4 and FIFA 2002. When this promotion was running, FIFA 2002 was already nine months old. Hardly a hot new release.

Disc Three contained WRC Arcade, The Pink Panther, Destruction Derby Raw and Ubisoft’s often-forgotten Rayman R – an on-foot racing spin-off similar to Sonic R. WRC Arcade was one of the last big first-party releases, launching alongside Formula One Arcade and Firebugs. Sony stopped supporting the PSone in early 2003 with the last first-party title being Jinx – a 3D platformer starring a colourful jester.

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Oct 22
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

This week’s UK top 40 sees four new arrivals. Or five if you count the Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered – technically, it’s a re-entry.

None of the newcomers could disrupt the top of the chart though, with Call of Duty: Black Ops III taking the top spot for a second week. The online-focused shooter is followed by fellow non-movers FIFA 19 at #2 and AC Odyssey at #3, while Marvel’s Spider-Man moves one place to take #4. Forza Horizon 4 also stays put for a second week, remaining at #5.

At #6 it’s the first of the new arrivals – LEGO DC Super-Villains. The ever inciteful GI.biz reports launch sales were lower than this year’s summer LEGO tie-in – LEGO The Incredibles. We doubt Warner Bros. are too concerned though as it’s bound to be a steady seller.

SoulCalibur VI was the second highest charting new release, making #8. Peculiarly, a whopping 80% of sales were on PS4, with the remaining 20% on Xbox One.

Which brings us onto Starlink: Battle for Atlas rather nicely. Ubisoft’s toys-to-life title debuted at #14. As some may have predicted, sales of the Switch version – which features Fox McCloud – were way ahead of the pack. Sales were split a resounding 82% on Switch, 10% on PS4 and just 8% on Xbox One. It may have performed better digitally on PSN/Xbox One – not everybody wants a room full of plastic spaceships, after all.

Dark Souls Remastered on Switch charted slightly higher than the multi-format Starlink, making #12. It also took #2 in the Switch top 20; Super Mario Party remained at #1.

Sticking with Nintendo, the perfectly timed Luigi’s Mansion on 3DS was the final top 40 new arrival, making a mildly respectable #23. It seemingly had no trouble taking no.1 in the 3DS chart.

Check back next Monday to see how well Red Dead Redemption 2 has performed. With slow sales of FIFA, Assassin’s Creed and even Call of Duty, it’s hoped it’ll set tills ringing on the high street.

Oct 21
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Future Publishing’s GamesMaster and gamesTM magazines are about to transcend to the great paper bank in the sky, joining such long-defunct publications as NGamer, The Official Nintendo Magazine, PSM2, and Xbox World.

The next issues – due 1st November – will be the last, with reason cited that neither no longer generates a profit. “Despite the company’s strong performance overall, unfortunately games™ and GamesMaster are no longer profitable parts of the business, which means that their next issues, on sale November 1st, will be the final editions,” said Future.

Despite the magazine’s high quality, gamesTM’s closure doesn’t come as a huge surprise. It was launched by Imagine Publishing in 2003 as a competitor to EDGE, but in 2016 Future acquired Imagine, meaning they now had two very similar magazines in their portfolio.

Although gamesTM ran different cover stories to EDGE, as well as featuring a dedicated retro section, the forever shrinking market was bound to reach a point where it was no longer large enough to sustain to mags aimed at the same demographic.

GamesMaster’s closure does come as a surprise, however. We’re also rather sad to see it come to an end – we can vividly recall buying the first issue in 1993, and have purchased the occasional issue ever since. GamesMaster – originally launched to tie-in with the TV show of the same name – was aimed at the late teen market, and was the only magazine to be targeted at this age group.

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Oct 18
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Following one hefty delay, Dark Souls Remastered finally reaches the Switch, taking pride of place in the system’s winter line-up.

Worth the wait? Nintendo Life’s 9/10 would suggest so. “While it’s no less forgiving – and its menus are a little fiddly – this slick Nintendo Switch iteration offers the only way to experience Lordran’s ultra-challenging odyssey in true handheld form,” they said.

Backing this up, we have IGN’s 9.5. “While the Switch version may lack some of the higher-end features available on other platforms, it still presents a more pristine version of the original, and importantly adds the exciting and absorbing dimension to explore Lordran on a portable device,” was their verdict.

Anther Souls-alike also hits the Switch this week, in the form of SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption. This boss-rush style adventure has a unique feature – it’s about levelling down, rather than levelling up. Despite much promise, review scores are wildly mixed so far – everything from The Xbox Hub’s 8/10 to The Daily Dot’s 1.5/5. Ouch!

A swarm of other big-name releases either are out now or due tomorrow (Friday). These include the NBA Jam inspired NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, SEGA’s sensibly priced (£15.99) HD re-release of Valkyria Chronicles, the Elite Dangerous/No Man’s Sky hybrid Starlink – which features Fox McCloud exclusively on Switch – and LEGO DC Super-Villains, which aims to prove it’s good to be bad.

Going back to indie titles, there’s The Room – a highly acclaimed puzzler, which garnered several awards on mobile and PC – and Pizza Titan Ultra, which we described as a combination of Crazy Taxi and Blast Corps in our review.

They’re joined by Passpartout: The Starving Artist – an enticing curio that entails living the life of a starving artist, creating and selling paintings to fund an expensive baguette addition. Colour us intrigued.

The 3DS also gets its big winter release this Friday – a remaster of the GameCube launch title Luigi’s Mansion. Don’t let the fact that it’s 17 years old put you off, as it remains a joy. Digital Foundry’s exposé is well worth a read.

Here’s the full line-up of new titles, along with discounts and pre-orders.

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Oct 17
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Let’s not beat around the bush – Boom Ball: Boost Edition is Arkanoid in 3D.

How much can you do with 3D Arkanoid? It’s nicely presented. There are sixty levels, grouped into themed sets like a harbour, penguins and farms. The graphics recall PopCap’s classics – cute, colourful and tactile. The music reminds me of being stuck in a lift. There are time goals and medals to unlock. It’s Arkanoid in 3D!

You can play using touch or use the Joy-Cons like a set of table tennis paddles, rebounding balls with motion control. Playing using touch is functional but feels lifeless and flat. I was flicking and swiping, watching blocks disappear, but I wasn’t really having fun.

Things spring into life with Joy-Con control. The physical movement makes you feel more connected to the experience. We wish you had to jump around a bit, however. A simple flick of the wrist will move one of your two paddles across the screen. We miss the days of sweaty Kinect workouts.

So, would I recommend this game? Well, what if I was to say that playing Boom Ball: Boost Edition ultimately lead to an unmatched gaming experience. Allow me to explain.

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Oct 16
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Ubisoft aims to rejuvenate the toys-to-life genre with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, a deep space adventure that mixes interplanetary exploration with dogfighting. It’s aimed at a slightly older demographic than Skylanders and Disney Infinity, which may help it succeed where others failed.

Ubisoft has another fallback, too – the Switch version features Fox McCloud and his trusty Arwing. If you aren’t fond on plastic clutter, the £89.99 digital version includes all the add-ons sans plastic.

Sticking with plastic and toys, this week sees the arrival of the annual big-name winter LEGO game. LEGO DC Super-Villains aims to put a spin on things, giving DC’s evil-doers a spot in the limelight. We’ve rounded-up reviews below.

You’ll also find a smattering of reviews for Warriors Orochi 4 – which arrived to a rather mixed reception – and indie release SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption, a rather accomplished Souls-alike. If you’re both curious and an Xbox One owner, then good news – it’s available on Game Pass.

The humble 3DS also gets a look in, with a re-release of the original Luigi’s Mansion – the system’s one and only major new release this winter. It allegedly holds up rather well for a 17-year-old game. Yes – 17 years.

All these titles, and there’s still another big’un to come – SoulCalibur VI. We’ll add a review round-up once scores go live. Outlook? Pretty good – we were left impressed by its EGX showing. [Update: Reviews are now live]

New release showcase:

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Life: “With its exclusive use of some substantial Star Fox content, you’re getting the best version of Starlink: Battle for Atlas on Nintendo Switch. And with a more accessible and ultimately enjoyable version of No Man’s Sky’s gameplay mechanics and Mass Effect’s original vision, you’re getting one of the best dogfighting/space exploration games you can buy outside of Elite: Dangerous”

7/10 – GameSpot: “Starlink is an interesting and enjoyable open-world game, one that fully understands the appeal of exploring new planets and dogfighting in the cold depths of space”

6/10 – The Metro: “A muddled mess of good intentions and corporate greed that ruins a promising space adventure with needless repetition and horribly expensive toys to life gimmicks”

SoulCalibur VI

Reviews:
8.5 – Destructoid: “Soulcalibur VI rights a lot of the wrongs from six years ago. It’s still absolutely gorgeous inside and out with an appropriately regal soundtrack that’s so incredible that I often just leave it on as I’m making a sandwich or preparing for a match. It ticks all those boxes. But it also steers the ship back in the right direction for casual and hardcore fans alike”

8/10 – GameSpot: “For those committed to ploughing the depths of its systems to get tournament ready, it has plenty to unpack and understand. Better still, those that want to play alone will find SoulCalibur VI has some of the most substantial single-player content in any fighting game today”

8/10 – The Metro: “The best SoulCalibur VI of recent generations, with an accessible but tactically deep combat system. But while the single-player options are much improved they’re still far from perfect”

3DS Luigi’s Mansion

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “After nearly two decades, we’re playing Luigi’s Mansion as it was originally intended, and it is as fun now as it was when the GameCube launched. If you’ve never played it before, you should definitely pick up this version”

7/10 – Nintendo World Report: “It’s not really any longer, even with the achievements, Most probably aren’t going to play for every ending. But all that said, it still works well, and I walked away pleasantly surprised. Then again…what ghost up, must come down”

7.0 – IGN: “Luigi’s Mansion is a fun exploratory adventure game that remains pretty enjoyable despite some annoying design anachronisms”

LEGO DC Super-Villains

Reviews:
8.5 – GameInformer: “I was disappointed with last year’s Lego Marvel Super-Heroes 2, but Lego DC Super-Villains addresses virtually everything I saw wrong with that release. If you hate Lego games, this isn’t going to change your mind. For everyone else, this is a delightful return to form which hopefully serves as a reference for TT Games’ future projects”

3.5/5 – We Got This Covered: “Although the formula for LEGO games has remained mostly unchanged over the past six years, LEGO DC Super Villains is still an enjoyable experience, provided that you aren’t suffering from LEGO fatigue”

Warriors Orochi 4

Reviews:
9/10 – PSU: “Conquering the battlefield with new improvements and a neat new magic system, Warriors Orochi 4 is a welcome addition for the series and stands as one of the best overall games in Koei Tecmo’s beloved hack n’ slash genre”

5/10 – Push Square: “Warriors Orochi 4 feels like it was developed on a shoestring budget. It cuts corners everywhere, from the removal of several game modes that were in previous titles, to the the fact that 95 per cent of the game’s story is told through static character portraits and text boxes. However, after the dismal open world structure of Dynasty Warriors 9, Warriors Orochi 4 at least plays like a proper Warriors title, and in that sense, it’s good to be back”

4/10 – The Metro: “Omega Force touts a fresh story, new mechanics, and a massive cast of characters but this is yet another Warriors title that succumbs to the series’ repetitive hack ‘n’ slash formula despite signs of passion from its developers”

SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption

Reviews:
4.5/5 – The Xbox Hub: “Sinner draws inspiration from several existing titles, but stands apart with its unique approach to development by incentivizing the player to become better, instead of merely improving a character’s skill set”

7/10 – Stevivor: “The concept of your character levelling down rather than up is a clever and original idea and it changes how a player needs to think about their progression (or should I say degression)”

6/10 – Nintendo World Report: “I can only recommend SINNER to those looking for an almost insurmountable challenge, and even then, you’re probably better off just sinking those hours into further exploration of Lordran”

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Oct 15
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The retail sector has been hit hard recently with physical sales of FIFA 19 and AC Odyssey down considerably over last year’s iterations. Amazingly, or perhaps alarmingly, not even the almighty Call of Duty can fill retailer’s coffers with cash – Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII’s physical sales were the franchise’s lowest in eleven years.

This doesn’t necessarily mean CoD is suffering for franchise fatigue, however. Quite the contrary, in fact – it has performed exceptionally well on the digital stores. The PS4 version became the fastest selling PSN download of all-time, while the Xbox One version was Activision’s biggest ever digital launch, beating Destiny 2. Sales of the PC edition were twice as high as CoD: WWII, meanwhile.

Our theory is that news of Black Ops IIII’s 50GB day one patch ushered many towards digital this year. The series’ MP-only focus likely played a part in this, too.

GI.biz also reports that WWE 2K19’s sales have slumped over last year, this time by 37.5%. It still managed to chart at #4, though.

Typically, sales of FIFA, Call of Duty, WWE and Assassin’s Creed see a boost in the run-up to Christmas due to new promotions, such as TV advertising. So there is some hope to regain some lost profits. Black Friday will doubtlessly give the retail sector a sizeable cash injection too, and let’s not rule out RDR2 breaking sales records.

As you may have guessed, Black Ops IIII’s sales were still strong enough for it to take the UK chart top spot.

FIFA 19 fell to #2, while AC Odyssey also dropped one place down to #3. Forza Horizon 4 wasn’t as lucky, falling two positions to #5.

Marvel’s Spider-Man swung in at #6, Super Mario Party dropped to #7 during its second week on sale, Crash Bandicoot held onto #8, while Shadow of the Tomb Raider fell to #9. Then at #10 it’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Square-Enix’s The World Ends with You on Switch was the week’s only other top 40 new arrival, taking #22. Goosebumps: The Game did manage to take #20 in the Switch chart, however. Not bad going for a full price (!) conversion of a three-year-old game.

Oct 11
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

While Xbox One and PS4 owners get busy with Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII (and continue to flood our Twitter feed with images of Zeus’ dong) Switch owners have a slew of time-consuming gems to crack on with. Pull the curtains, grab a hot drink, and get ready to be glued to your Switch.

Firstly, there are two remastered JRPGs to consider – Square-Enix’s anticipated The World Ends With You -Final Remix- and the slightly more strategic Disgaea 1 Complete. Both seem to be going down well, although some critics couldn’t get on with TWEWY’s newfangled controls. Thankfully they’re optional.

Then we have not one, not two, but three management games from Kairosoft – Dungeon Village, Game Dev Story, and the luxury resort sim Hot Springs Story. If you’ve never played these before then you’re in for a treat as all three are ample timewasters.

2D stealth adventures Mark of the Ninja: Remastered and The Swindle are also worthy of your time, as is the Mexican Metroidvania Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. Its arrival presumably means the sequel isn’t far off.

Also of note: the Bomberman alike Bombing Busters, Ubisoft’s whimsical role-player Child of Light, motion-controlled brick breaker Boom Ball: Boost Edition, and the physics-based tower stacker Tricky Towers.

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