Aug 09
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Monomi Park’s slime nurturing sim possess one of the most important hallmarks of video game excellence: the ability to make hours fly by like mere minutes.

This is mostly achieved via the shrewd inventory management system. That’s shrewd from a design perspective; from the player’s perspective, the small amount of backpack storage makes for a lot of busywork, diversions, back tracking, and advance planning.

Some 10 hours in, we were still unlocking new stuff

Like Harvest Moon and Minecraft before it, this is very much a game for those who like to keep themselves busy. The more you play, the more your ‘to do’ list grows. Some 10 hours in, we were still unlocking new stuff to mess about with and hadn’t even touched the challenge mode.

The opening hour or so is mostly centred around exploration, as you work through the tutorial and get to grips with the slime vacuum – the only means of interacting with the colourful creatures that inhabit the dusty plateaus, underground caverns, and overgrown wildernesses. The vacuum is far being from a precision instrument. Quite the opposite, in fact – it often sucks up unwanted items, pulls vegetables out the ground, and sends slimes spinning through the air. While this may sound irritating, the sloppy and unsophisticated nature is what makes to such a fun and inviting tool to use.

The game world is one that’s fully alive, complete with a day and night cycle, wild plants that regenerate over time and hapless feral slimes of varying types. An evil slime-scoffing entity can also appear without warning. Their existence appears not to be down to keeping players on their toes, but rather to keep the slime population under control. If left to their own devices, slimes will rapidly reproduce, eat everything in sight, consume other slimes – evolving into new variations as they do so – and generally cause a right old ruckus.

coming across a new slime variation is genuinely exciting

This is where you come in, playing as Beatrix LeBeau – the proud owner of a new slime ranch. Why collect slimes and keep the population in check? Because they produce valuable crystals if fed the correct foodstuff. These crystals, known as Plorts, can be exchanged for Newbucks – the currency used to build and upgrade the ranch, construct temporary gadgets and gizmos, and improve Beatrix’s vacuum, shields and such. In short, there’s a lot of stuff to blow your hard-earned bucks on.

To begin with, you’ll probably be perfectly content to head out into the wild and collect Plorts from feral slimes. Exploration is actively encouraged – hidden paths are numerous, some only accessible via jetpack – and coming across a new slime variation is genuinely exciting due to the prospect of being able to capture, evolve and ultimately harvest their valuable Plorts. There’s a rather ingenious changing economy to keep an eye on too. Over time the commonly found Plorts become less valuable, so you need to start looking further afield to find more elusive slimes.

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Aug 08
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Ignoring the fact that a whole bunch of Monty Python games were released during the ‘90s, Oh…Sir! The Insult Simulator is essentially Monty Python: The Game. It even uses the famous ex-parrot scene as a scenario for an insult slinging stand-off. The only cause for concern here, outside of using Monty Python references a little too heavily, is that some in-jokes may go over younger gamer’s heads.

Which begs the question: isn’t it about time Monty Python was added to the national curriculum?

Anyway, we digress. Oh…Sir! The Insult Simulator is a halfway house between a word and party game. It isn’t as po-faced as most word games, but neither does it have a fast pace to match a typical party game, as most matches last around ten minutes. The set-up is similar to that of a fighting game though, due to the presence of beat’em up style health bars and the ability to form combos.

A choice of quintessentially British characters are available. In addition to a stiff upper lip, each has a weakness (age, sense of style, wealth, appearance and weight, etc) to find and exploit. Additional characters can be unlocked by playing through the five-stage tournament mode too, including a guest appearance from a video game character who’s managed to elude the spotlight recently.

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Aug 07
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

With no new releases, and ample stock now available, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy takes the UK chart’s top spot for a fifth week.

In doing so, it becomes the only PS4 exclusive to claim no.1 for five weeks or more. No other game released in 2017 has been able to remain at no.1 for this long either.

Presumably because the kids are off school, GTA V rises one place to #2.

Bethesda’s triple-whammy of Fallout 4, DOOM and Dishonored 2 all rise a few places to take #3, #4 and #5 respectively. As reported last week, GAME currently has a ‘3 for 2’ promotion on Bethesda titles, most of which are £9.99 currently.

At #6 it’s Splatoon 2, down from #2.

Battlefield 1’s fortunes were far greater, rising from #14 to #7 due to a price cut.

The 3DS’s Miitopia fell a single place to #8, FIFA 17 remained at #9 and then at #10 it’s good old Rainbow Six: Siege.

Also of note is Rugby League Live 4’s swift descent. It arrived at a respectable #8 last week but now rests at #26.

Movie tie-in Cars 3 managed to re-enter the top 40 meanwhile, making a pitstop at #37.

Aug 03
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

There’s a nostalgic tinge to this week’s eShop line-up. For starters, we have two vertical shooter re-releases on Switch – 1994’s ACA NeoGeo Aero Fighters 2 (£6.29), and the catchy named Strikers 1945 for Nintendo Switch (£6.99) from Japanese publisher Zerodiv.

Alongside these two, we also have Retro City Rampage DX (£12.99) – a game that needs no introduction, having graced just about every system going since its original release back in 2012. It even made a belated WiiWare appearance, where it was primed to become the last WiiWare release…until Maximum Games slipped out Deer Drive Legends almost a year later in 2013.

We aren’t done with this retro kick yet. Slime-san (£10) is a fast-paced 2D platformer with pixel art visuals, while GUNBARICH for Nintendo Switch (£5.99) is yet another Psikyo re-release, this time being an arcade puzzle game dating back to 2001. Like Strikers 1945, this too is being published by Zerodiv.

Then we have Puzzle Adventure Blockle (£5.99), a rotating block puzzler with anime characters.

Lastly, for new Switch releases there’s Use Your Words (£11.79), a party game for 3-6 players that prompts participants to think of the funniest answers they can muster. Phones and tablets can be used as additional controllers.

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Aug 02
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Imagine Minecraft but with a focus on farming and harvesting rather than crafting and constructing. Now imagine that the only means of interacting with livestock – cute and colourful slime balls, in this case – is via a giant vacuum cleaner. That, chums, is Slime Rancher in the nuttiest of shells.

First impressions of this Games with Gold freebie are positive – it’s lovingly made and encourages both self-discovery and exploration. The more you play it, the more involving it gets. If you’re looking for something to keep the kids quiet this summer holidays, look no further.

The Long Dark is another Xbox One game leaving preview status this week. This survival game is set in a frozen wilderness and calls for cunning to survive. With a million early access copies sold and a movie adaptation in the works, expect to hear lots more in the not too distant future. As for reviews, they’re a tad slow to surface. User reviews on Metacritic and Steam are overwhelmingly positive though, so it appears to be well worth the eyebrow raising £29.99 asking price.

Mr. Shifty meanwhile makes the jump from Nintendo Switch. It’s a superhero game minus a license, pretty much, putting you in control of a teleporting chap who’s also rather adept with his fists. Think along the likes of X-Men’s Nightcrawler. The physics engine allows for all kinds of non-scripted chaos, with Mr. Shifty launching enemies through windows and propelling doors off hinges. The trial is well worth downloading if you’re curious – it’s a nifty little game, this.

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Aug 01
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

Call of Duty 2 and Guitar Hero 2 have more in common than having the same publisher. Both represent their respective franchises before being propelled into the big leagues. Once Activision realised their potential, both received bigger budgets and sizeable marketing pushes. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, these two sequels arguably illustrate each series at their purest.

The more money a publisher outlays, the more measures to ensure success are put into place. This usually entails making a game appeal to the largest user base possible, often a more casual audience. Celebrity endorsements, flashy CGI, licensed music, product placement and more start to creep in. Difficulty levels become dumbed down, and the number of “cinematic” cut-scenes increase tenfold. This was especially the case for Call of Duty. As for Guitar Hero, we recall progressing through GH2 to be appropriately challenging, but finding GH3 – the instalment that bought plastic guitar strumming to the masses – to be a breeze.

Xbox 360 launch title Call of Duty 2 – not to be confused with CoD 2: The Big Red One – was released at a time when it wasn’t uncommon for the PC to receive exclusive spin-offs of popular FPSs. The arrival of the Xbox 360, and later the PS3, closed the gap between console and PC tech. And so Microsoft’s shiny new system was graced with a conversion of Call of Duty 2, with the PC and console launches just a month apart. Despite only being the second CoD (2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is attributed to turning to series into a pop culture phenomenon) it became one of the Xbox 360’s most popular games, selling 250k copies during its first week on sale.

Activision has slowly been adding Xbox One backwards compatibility to the Call of Duty series, albeit out of sequence. Call of Duty 2’s arrival didn’t receive the same fanfare as franchise highlight Black Ops II, which begs the following question: is this 12-year-old shooter worth playing today?

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Jul 31
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The UK chart’s top three positions remain unchanged this week.

This means Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has now spent 4 out of its 5 weeks on sale at no.1. Splatoon 2 is at #2; GTA V at #3.

There’s a small shake-up in the remaining top ten positions. GAME’s ‘3 for 2’ on Bethesda titles – which benefits charity Special Effect – helped Fallout 4, DOOM and Dishonored 2 re-take #4, #5 and #6 respectively. Both DOOM and Dishonored sat outside of the top ten last week.

At #7 and #8 we find two new entries – Nintendo’s Miitopia and Alternative’s Rugby League Live 4.

FIFA 17 felll one place to #9, while Ghost Recon: Wildlands rounds-off the top ten.

Hey! Pikmin at a lowly #29 was the only other new arrival in the top 40, meaning the oft-delayed Devilish Brain Training didn’t touch the chart.

The same also goes for the retail release of Epic’s Fortnight.

Jul 28
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can You Stay Focused? (£24.99) is a game many European 3DS owners feared cancelled. We even reported as such last year after our long-standing pre-order from 2013 – which we’d forgotten all about – was cancelled by Tesco, who stated that it was “no longer being published by the supplier”.

The arrival of the New 2DS XL is the perfect time to dust it off and finally release it on our shores, it would seem.

This isn’t the first time Nintendo held games back from certain regions. Crusin’ USA on N64 didn’t make it to Europe until 1998 – two years after the US launch – while 1080 Snowboarding had a six-month delay as Nintendo feared a snowboarding game wouldn’t sell well in PAL regions during the Spring. More recently, New Play Control! Pikmin 2 on Wii didn’t hit the US until three years after the rest of the world, where it was called upon to fill a gap in the release roster.

Speaking of Pikmin, Hey! Pikmin (£34.99) is another prolific title launching alongside Nintendo’s new handheld. Word has it that it’s a step-up from than similar spin-off Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash, but still rather lacking when compared to Nintendo’s usual outputs. Review scores are mostly a mixture of 6s and 7s, resulting in a Metacritic of 69%.

Then we have Miitopia (£34.99), an RPG lite spin-off of Tomodachi Life. Nintendo Life’s review went up earlier, where it was awarded an 8/10. “It’s a fitting celebration of the Mii concept, perfect for short bursts of play, and an absolute riot with the right group of Miis — if you’ve ever wanted to take your friends on a grand adventure, complete with silly cosplay and relationship drama, this is a perfect way to do it,” they said.

Oddly, only two new indies are due on the eShop to coincide with the New 2DS’s arrival. These are Kid Tripp (£3.59), a retro-chic auto-runner spread across four different worlds, and SWIPE (£1.39) – a score chaser from RCMADIAX that involves collecting crystals while avoiding nasties.

RCMADIAX also releases former New 3DS space shooter GALAXY BLASTER (£1.39) on Wii U this week. Wii U discounts are a tad more exciting, including Capcom’s Resident Evil Revelations (£6.39), DuckTales: Remastered (£4.79) and Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara (£3.23).

Switch owners have plenty to mull over too. Six new releases, no less. Namco Museum (£29.99) and Overcooked: Special Edition (£17.99) are the big ones, accompanied by throwback party game Ultra Hyperball (£8.99), NeoGeo Super Sidekicks (£6.29), card game Physical Contact: SPEED (£4.49), and 3D art program Qbics Paint (£4.49).

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