Jan 17
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Developers and publishers have well and truly woken from their Christmas slumber, collectively bringing over 30 new releases to the eShop. We even have a new Wii U release – El Silla – Arcade Edition – which appears to be based on The Simpsons’ chair meme, of all things. So much for letting the system fade away gracefully.

The biggest release on Switch is between the self-aware party game collection Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and Capcom’s remaster of Onimusha: Warlords.

Both have received mixed reviews and for different reasons. Travis Strikes Again reportedly suffers from being repetitive and requiring a co-op buddy to make the most of it, although the boss battles help to elevate some of the boredom. The quirky humour is apparently hit and miss, too. As for Onimusha, it’s a relatively straightforward re-release with its PS2 roots still clearly visible. Some critics were fine with this, while others wished it was given a slightly bigger budget and more attention.

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG has also gained mixed reviews. It’s intended to be Earthbound for the hipster generation, but reviewers claim that it falls flat in several areas, as well as having irritating design choices. Scores are as high as 8/10 and as low as 3/10.

Gunman Clive HD – a shining beacon of quality on the 3DS and Wii U eShop – makes the jump to Switch this week too, as does the notorious Dragon’s Lair Trilogy. The £17.99 price tag has killed all interest we had in the latter, which was minimal to begin with.

Fight of Gods – a fighting game where religious leaders duke it out – is one to stay away from likewise, gaining a reputation on Steam for being shovelware of the highest order.

Space exploration game Holy Potatoes! We’re In Space?! Is a better way to blow your cash, gaining an impressive 81% from VideoChums. “If you enjoy strategic battles and management games with a side of fries, this is a game for you,” they said.

Sticking with the theme of space there’s also Planet RIX-13, which we reviewed on Tuesday. It’s a very simple and short 2D adventure game, launching at a mere £4.49. Although over in less than an hour, we still found it to be reasonably engaging.

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

Considering the time of year, it’s a surprisingly busy week for new releases. Also surprising is how mixed reviews are for this week’s assortment, as you’ll doubtlessly notice in the round-ups below.

Capcom’s remaster of Onimusha: Warlords leads the way, out now on PS4, Xbox One and Switch. Critics claim it has a low budget feel, which explains the £15.99 price tag, but it still seems to be going down reasonably well. We hope Onimusha 2 isn’t far behind – it was an outright gem on PS2.

We’re still waiting on reviews for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, due out Friday. Expect them to surface either tomorrow or on launch day. This series has a strong following, giving a good chance of breaking the UK top ten next week.

Don’t expect to see many reviews for Amazon’s The Grand Tour Game, however. Being episodic, new content is rolling out alongside the show. The price dropped from £24.99 to £11.99 just a week before launch, which really wasn’t a positive sign.

Reviews for Switch mini-game collection Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes went live today and have been rather mixed so far – we’ve seen scores as low as 4/10 and as high at 9/10, plus everything in between. The Metacritic currently stands at 71%, formed from 51 reviews.

As for digital-only offerings, abstract adventure Vane on PS4 arrived to a lukewarm reception, top-down 2D survival game Smoke and Sacrifice has been described as compelling and addictive – even gaining a few 8/10s – while the pixel art adventure Planet RIX-13 has received a bit of a mauling due to its shortness and simplistic nature. We quite enjoyed it, though.

Then we have YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG, which, and as you may have guessed, is off to a bumpy start – COG Connected dished out a miserable 35% while Nintendo World Report awarded it a resounding 8.5. The former did note of rough edges and a few faults, however.

And after a hefty wait, The Walking Dead’s penultimate episode is also finally with us. Game Revolution felt it worthy of a 4/5, while claiming that it sets up last episode well. Hopefully fans won’t have to wait quite as long for the final episode.

New release showcase:

Onimusha: Warlords

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “Almost two decades on, Onimusha: Warlords lives again thanks to a handful of truly impactful changes. Those tank controls are lighter to the touch and the improvements to the visuals help take the edge off those clunky PS2-era looks”

6/10 – The Metro: “A low budget but competent remaster of a game that’s showing its age – and yet still makes a good argument for a future franchise revival”

3/5 – The Telegraph: “There are archaic quibbles that can’t be ignored but, for nostalgia’s sake or an intriguing history lesson, Onimusha is a thoroughly enjoyable blast from the past”

Vane

Reviews:
8.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “It’s hard to speak of Vane with authority, because so much of it is unraveling what happens in front of you, and interpreting it for yourself. This is not a straightforward story, nor is it your typical indie puzzle-platformer”

5/10 – GameSpot: “There are moments where you can see what the game could have been–like when you soar through a valley in bird form, or morph the world around you–but Vane lacks a voice and a strong sense of purpose”

4/10 – PSU: “Though it boasts a resoundingly striking aesthetic, a haphazard save system coupled with a raft of glitches and a misjudged waypoint system all manage to tarnish what should have been one of the first major indie darlings of the year. Vane is simply too frustrating to recommend in its current form”

Smoke and Sacrifice

Reviews:
8.0 – God is a Geek: “Smoke and Sacrifice is a dark and compelling adventure that deserves to be played”

4/5 – The Xbox Hub: “The story and narrative is strong, dark and very well told, while the world is fascinating. Making your way through it can be a bit unwieldy at times, but for those who are looking for a well crafted RPG that tries something different then look no further than Smoke and Sacrifice”

7/10 – The Metro: “An enjoyably distinctive survival game, in terms of gameplay, visuals, and an unusually affecting story”

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Reviews:
90% – Gaming Trend: “Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is outrageous. The game is uncompromisingly zany: full of smart design, fluid combat, and laugh out loud personality front to back. While some may be turned off by its low budget feel and disjointed design, those who can look past these rough edges will find a hack-and-slash so quirky that it’ll be tough not to fall in love. This title stands as a shining beacon of bold creativity and anyone who values risk-taking in games owes it to themself to give Travis Strikes Again a shot”

7/10 – Destructoid: “Travis Strikes Again has some undeniable lows but the No More Heroes charm and the prospect of co-op lifts it up. Whether it’s learning the intricacies of individual types of ramen or watching Travis curse at a talking cat, this is something that could only be born out of the mind of Suda 51 and his team at Grasshopper. Go in with an open mind and possibly a co-op partner”

4.5/10 – Critical Hit: “Fans might get a kick out of this self-aware spinoff, but its referential meta-jokes ultimately fall flat. Worse though is that it’s just not very much fun to play. It’s repetitive to the point of being tiresome, and not even its occasionally enjoyable boss battles save Travis Strikes Again from being dull and dreary”

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “While some gamers may not see anything special going on here, YIIK will likely really resonate with some players. If a Weird Stuff RPG appeals to you, strap in and prepare for a wild ride. Surreal themes aside, if you’re simply looking for an RPG experience on the Switch with far-out visuals, YIIK should satisfy your turn-based desires”

5.5 – Destructoid: “There’s a fantastic game buried somewhere here, but its merits are clouded by a plethora of bad design choices, uneven writing, and a protagonist who nobody in their right mind would ever want to spend any time with”

4.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “It’s obtuse and poorly balanced, making each encounter a frustrating exercise in attrition. YIIK has big ideas but they rest on top of a shoddy foundation, one that crumbles the more you try to stay on top of it. I’d rather just play EarthBound again”

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Jan 16
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

Capcom’s hack ‘n slash role-player Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen arrives on Nintendo Switch this April.

As one of our favourite games of the last generation, which we sunk well over 60 hours into, last week’s announcement was a cause of celebration around these parts.

Don’t let the fact that it’s 6 years old put you off – we recently revisited the Xbox One remaster and found it no less exciting than it was in 2013. It still feels remarkably fresh.

Here are five reasons why Switch owners should be excited:

It isn’t a traditional role-player

Dragon’s Dogma was intended to appeal to a broad audience, hence why it features many staples and tropes from traditional JRPGs but resembles a western developed RPG, complete with a heavy Dungeons & Dragons/Tolkienesque influence to the artwork direction. Imagine Skyrim, but with the craftsmanship of a typical JRPG.

It’s a case of east meets west, with rugged knights in shining armour and gruesome mythological beasts, married to traditional JRPG-styles quests and a familiar feeling of progression to character development, levelling up at a respectable rate.

Moreover, this is an RPG of the hack ‘n slash variety, heavy on both scripted and completely unscripted events due to a focus on unbridled action. A typical character move list features numerous heavy hitting attacks and a wide range of defensive manoeuvres. There’s also scope for experimentation thanks to the ability to attack while jumping, adding impromptu downwards strikes to your repertoire, in addition to one game-changing ability worthy of its own bullet point.

Also pleasing is how over the top some attacks are. Rangers can fire arrows so powerful that they send weaker enemies flying across the screen; genuine blink and you’ll miss it moments that make battles wildly unpredictable.

It has a fresh approach to online play

Prior to release, RPG fans were disheartened to learn of DD’s lack of online play. After the game launched, however, Capcom’s vision became clear. Instead of allowing gamers to team up online, the online functions involve creating and sharing AI controlled Pawns, cultivating a different kind of community.

Although humanlike in appearance and in nature, Pawns come from another realm; who and what they are forms part of the game’s lore. They level up and can be kitted out with weapons and attire of your choosing, sticking by your side from start to finish. Over time they grow more experienced, learning how to dispatch certain enemies swiftly. They even gain quest knowledge, so if your Pawn is used by another player they may be able to give pointers for quests they haven’t completed yet.

Not only this, but their fighting styles and classes can be chosen to complement yours. They can be instructed to charge into battle and hit danger head-on or hang back and help with magick and support items.

Adding to a sense of community, Pawns can be rated on their usefulness and appearance before being returned to their maker. You can also send them away clutching a gift for their master, picked from your inventory. Often they’d return to us with a bunch of junk, but every now and then they’d come back to us bearing something of worth. Remember: caring is sharing.

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Jan 15
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Achievement/Trophy unlock ratios can be mildly fascinating. When researching our annual round-up of terrible games, for instance, we discovered most gamers gave up on the hellish adventure Agony before even reaching the second level. As for fellow 2018 flop Extinction, it seems that the majority could only stomach its inane repetition for a couple of hours, tops.

Now here’s a game that’ll leave nobody behind. Planet RIX-13 is not only an incredibly straightforward affair, to the point that it’s hard to imagine anybody becoming stuck for more than a couple of minutes, but it also takes just an hour to complete.

Don’t jump the gun here. While short and a little lacking on challenge, this pixel art adventure – a modern take on the point ‘n click genre – is also hard to fault without resorting to nit-picking. That’s to say, it’s a short experience that’s executed in a manner most confident. We should also note that it’s launching at a low price point of around £4, depending on format, which excuses its brevity.

You play as a space traveller who has crash landed just outside of an off-world science facility. After escaping the wreckage of their craft and patching themselves up, it soon becomes apparent something has gone awry. Not only is the facility in need of repair, but the scientists have suffered a cruel fate, seemingly at the hands of something unworldly.

It’s up to you to finish their work, discover what happened, and escape the facility.

The first port of call is getting the facility up and running by collecting server parts, repairing the power generator, and recalibrating the radars. Or to be more exact: item scavenging and some light puzzle solving. There are also a few instances where vital information, is cryptically hidden within e-mails and similar documents, accessed via computer terminals.

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Jan 14
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Proving that you can’t keep a good plumber down, New Super Mario Bros. U on Switch is the UK’s new no.1.

The ever-informative GI.biz reports launch week physical sales were almost 25% higher than the Wii U version’s launch week. That’s pretty impressive – NSMBU launched alongside the Wii U itself.

This means the four Switch titles have now managed to take the UK chart top spot – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition didn’t perform too badly either, entering at #11.

Going back to the top ten, FIFA 19, RDR2, Black Ops 4, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate dropped one position each to occupy positions #2 through to #5.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe moved up to #6, Battlefield V fell to #7, good old GTA V re-entered the top ten at #8 – up from #16 – while Crash Bandicoot dropped one place, now at #9.

Xbox One pack-in Forza Horizon 4 then sees us out at #10.

The popular Spyro: Reignited Trilogy left the top ten, meanwhile, falling from #9 to #13.

Jan 11
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

We sincerely hope Christmas hasn’t left your wallet empty, as it’s a surprisingly busy week for the Switch eShop. A trio of titles standout, while a few smaller indie releases have also turned heads.

Leading the way are New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. Reviews of NSMBU, which also features Super Luigi U, have been slightly mixed due to the game’s age – it was a Wii U launch title, lest you forget. Some critics claim it’s still a must play due to the excellent course design, while others felt let down by the lack of new content and the £49.99 price tag.

Review scores for Tales of Vesperia are more consistent, clocking in at 8/10. “If you’ve ever slept on this classic, there’s never been a better way to rectify that error,” said Nintendo Life.

Then we have SEGA AGES Out Run, which features new motion controls, optional mods, and other extras. Nintendo World Report felt the arcade racer was worthy of a 9/10: “While the game remains a short one, plenty of fun options make it one of the best rides out there.”

Bury me, my Love – an adventure based around text messaging, involving Syrian refugees and tough decisions – also seems to be going down well, gaining an 8/10 from GameSpot and an 8.25 from GameInformer, who praised the refreshing humanistic approach.

The creators of Runbow have a new release out this week too. Double Cross features 2D platforming mixed with adventure-game style investigations. Scores are wildly mixed – everything from Nintendo Insider’s 9/10 (“The combat is surprisingly deep, the platforming is equal parts satisfying and immensely punishing, it is all brilliantly balanced”) to DualShocker’s 4/10 (“unoriginal and bland”).

After a last-minute delay, Battle Princess Madelyn is finally out in Europe. This Ghouls ‘n Ghosts homage features an excellent, appropriately challenging, arcade mode but the story mode is a bit of a mess, due to poor signposting, cheap deaths, and annoying backtracking. We reviewed the Xbox One version back in December. “This is something that’ll put your finely-honed platforming skills to the test, while occasionally pushing your patience too,” was our final word.

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Jan 09
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

A month of remakes, remasters and re-releases is upon us. No less than three launch this week including Hitman HD Enhanced Collection, officially announced just days ago.

This digital-only collection brings together Hitman: Blood Money and Hitman: Absolution, running in 4k/60fps and boasting improved lighting, updated controls and upgraded textures. While this may sound rather enticing, there’s a slight sting in the tale – it’s an eyebrow-raising £44.99.

Bear in mind here that both games are Xbox One BC and available for just a few quid each pre-owned. Absolution was also far from being a franchise high note, feeling more like a generic cover-based shooter than a Hitman game. A package for hardcore fans only, perhaps.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is launching for around £35, a price that’s easier to justify due to the wealth of new content. In addition to two new characters, it also features new music tracks and an expanded story. Reviews are starting to surface, mostly clocking in at 8/10. Time has been kind to this 10 year old JRPG, it seems.

Then we have New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Switch, which combines the Wii U launch title with New Super Luigi U. These two a knocking on a bit, but there’s no denying there’s a lot of platforming fun for your bucks – 164 courses in total. We’ve rounded up scores below, and will take another look during our weekly eShop round-up.

Incidentally, we’ve also rounded up scores for Legendary Eleven on Xbox One, a retro football game that first launched on Switch. It was one of last week’s few new releases.

Absolver makes the jump from PS4 to Xbox One meanwhile, available via Game Pass. It has a similar structure to Dark Souls – with a looping open game world, aggressive AI, and NPC’s that provide lore – it but plays completely differently due to the melee combat-based fighting system.

The main quest only takes 5-6 hours to finish. And then? Then the ‘real’ game begins, with more features and modes open up, as well as high-level PvP. We chalked up a few impressions late last year.

Also of note is Void Vikings on Xbox One, a 2.5D space shooter that entails paying off your student loan, of all things. Let’s hope it’s more accessible than last month’s Final Star.

New release showcase:

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

Reviews:
9.0 – EGM: “If you’re a Switch owner who leapfrogged the Wii U like I did, then New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a no-brainer. It isn’t as revolutionary as its predecessors, but it’s about as polished and expertly executed as a 2D platformer can get, and the inclusion of New Super Luigi U makes this as valuable a package as pretty much any you’ll find on the Switch”

8.5 – GameInformer: “While I’m disappointed that this release doesn’t include more additions to the original package, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a great game at its core”

7/10 – GameSpot: “While it can feel a bit stale for those who have been round the Mushroom Kingdom one too many times before, Deluxe is well worth playing, especially if you didn’t get a chance to play NSMBU on Wii U”

Legendary Eleven

Reviews:
6/10 – Xbox Tavern: “If you’re looking for accessible arcade fun, Legendary Eleven isn’t really a bad choice. The game’s field of play and its fairly robust features remain well set for the most part, allowing even newcomers to sink right in and score some outlandish, memorable feats”

3/5 – The Xbox Hub: “It’s not realistic, it’s not a world beater in terms of gameplay or likenesses of your favourite players, and it’s not going to challenge FIFA on any level, but as a bit of short-term fun, Legendary Eleven has put a smile on my face”

3/5 – VideoChums: “Even though Legendary Eleven is essentially a very basic take on soccer, its gameplay is easy to pick up and play and the visuals on display will be appealing for those looking for an arcade-style soccer game”

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Jan 08
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

From engaging in cannon battles to finding lost treasure, this 2D pirate simulator allows you to partake in all kinds of nautical activities. No one can accuse creator Sebastian Nigro of not being ambitious enough.

You start by creating your pirate. The character creation screen is neat, with a diverse choice of options including gender, skin colour, hair-styles, and clothing such as various pointy hats. This is a good place as any to talk about the art style. I really liked how Don’t Sink looks. It’s full of big, blocky pixels reminiscent of the Amiga era. Sebastian Nigro has done a really good job of injecting loads of character into his sprite work, too, and each island has its own tone and style.

Particularly pleasing are the snowy islands to the eastern side of the world map. The soundtrack is also nicely “shantyfied” – a word I just made up.

Talking of that map, the world consists of 14 islands. During the course of the game, you’re going to be sailing to and fro, buying food to keep your crew fed, gaining new recruits from the tavern, sourcing wooden planks and cloth to keep you afloat, and talking to people (and rodents!) to take on missions.

Most of the missions come in the form of delivery jobs, shuttling goods from one island to the next. 21 additional story missions also feature, with lovely and witty bits of dialogue. Shame the missions themselves aren’t particularly complex.

While sailing to islands random encounters occur. You could find a desert island, be attacked by gulls, or be forced to confront an enemy vessel. The problem is, none of these elements are engaging. Let’s take the battles as an example. During a battle you have four options: fire your cannons, retreat, repair your ship or board the enemy vessel. Each is denoted by a direction on the left stick. Holding one of the directions charges that option, when it’s charged, you can use it.

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