Apr 09
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The titular Anima is not a person, place, or thing, but rather a mystical energy found deep underground. By channelling this power, Shapers – as they’re known – can summon creatures forged from ancient stone, as well as reverse damage on objects made of said sacred material.

Plucky protagonist Otto isn’t quite a master of Anima yet though, introduced as a scholar still in learning. Forever humble, he also believes the summonable stone creatures should be used to create huge cities and other wonders, instead of merely being used as guardians during conflicts.

But after his hometown is raided and his fiancée snatched by a sinister elder Shaper known as Zahr – dressed in obligatory red garb – the floppy-haired hero has no choice but to create legions of stone protectors to defeat Zahr’s army of gargantuan golems.

The tutorial is cleverly disguised as Otto’s graduation day at the Shaper academy, focusing on how to summon and command guardians. Those familiar with Nintendo’s Pikmin (or Codemasters’ Overlord, if you prefer) will feel right at home as the control scheme is uncannily similar, allowing groups to be separated and given orders with minimal effort. Huge blocks need shoving, switches flicked, and path blocking rubble piles reduced to smaller piles of rubble. All in a day’s work for lower ranking guardians.

It’s here the Pikmin comparisons end. Masters of Anima is far more combat focused, and the guardians have vastly different skill sets to Nintendo’s colour-coded critters. Ingeniously, each of the five guardian types has unique skills to employ outside of combat, shifting the focus to exploration and puzzle solving when not engaged in battle.

RPG elements feature too, including an XP system and unlockable skills such as damage boosts and the ability to roll out of harm’s way. It’s clear a degree of thought has gone into upgrades as the benefits are immediately noticeable, enhancing chances of acquiring an elusive ‘S rank’ at the end of each battle. In fact, Masters of Anima doesn’t fall short in any area – every aspect feels polished, refined, and substantial. This is one trim package, with no flab or filler. Even the fixed camera system works perfectly, keeping track of the action from a quasi-isometric angle.

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Apr 09
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

So far this year the weekly UK chart has been a case of all or nothing – quiet spells and flurries of activity. This week is a quiet spell, following last week’s dearth of new releases.

The top three remains unchanged, meaning Far Cry 5 celebrates a second week on top.

That’s followed by FIFA 18 and Sea of Thieves. We’d wager some are surprised to see SoT performing well.

At #4 it’s another Xbox exclusive – Forza Motorsport 7. A price drop to the £20 mark propels the ravishing racer back up to #4.

Incidentally, a price cut for Star Wars Battlefront II – presumably to tie-in with The Last Jedi’s home release – has helped the controversial shooter re-enter the top 40 at #16.

Going back to the top ten, PUBG and Call of Duty: WWII hold onto #5 and #6 respectively.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fell three places to #7, GTA V moved up two places to #8, while Super Mario Odyssey re-joins the top ten at #9.

Then at #10 it’s good old Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, up from #12. We wonder if last week’s Spyro announcement generated a few extra sales.

As for other recent releases, Burnout Paradise Remastered sees a slump, falling from #16 to #28. Kirby Star Allies is making a swift descent too, dropping from #20 to #32.

Apr 05
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

A slightly smaller assortment of Switch titles lies before us this week. Much like this week’s Xbox One and PS4 line-up, there’s no big-name game to speak of – just a dozen indies vying for attention.

The Trials Fusion-alike Urban Trial Playground (£17.99) is available from today as a download, with a physical release to follow at the end of the month. Review scores are positive so far, with the amount of content in particular being praised. GameSpew awarded it 7/10, while Nintendo Life opted for an 8/10.

“Tactile controls and pacy, highly replayable levels make this an accomplished cut-price racer package,” said NL.

At the time of typing, Nintendo Life are the only site to review 2D platformer Spartan (£9.89), and the four-player shooter Super Rocket Shootout (£8.99), dishing out a 6/10 and a 7/10 (respectively).

Spartan was compared to Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, but ultimately, NL felt there are better ways to spend your money. Super Rocket Shootoutmeanwhile was called an “excellent party game package” and in fact worthy of an 8/10 if you have three friends to take on.

Metropolis: Lux Obscura (£7.19) is one we’ve covered ourselves. It’s a ‘mature’ match-three puzzler, featuring comic book cut-scenes packed with nudity, violence and swear words. It’s very short, taking just around an hour to finish, but there are four different paths through the story. A little hard to recommend, in all – we felt it was only worthy of 4/10.

A conversion of D/Generation (£9.99) is easily this week’s biggest surprise. The original wowed Amiga, Atari ST and PC gamers way back in 1991, with the CD32 version being one of the few reasons to own the failed CD system. It’s a cyberpunk adventure set in the far-flung future (2021!), with puzzle elements. This remake packs in new save system, improved visuals, and new music.

As for new Switch discounts, Layers of Fear: Legacy (£15.29), League of Evil (£5.75), Xeodrifter (£4.49), The Jackbox Party Pack (£12.34) are all on offer this week.

3DS owners curious about Detective Pikachu can also give a demo a whirl from today.

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

It’s another one of those weeks where there’s no easily identifiable big name new release, giving smaller indie titles a chance to claim the limelight.

Despite being on the receiving end of mixed reviews – varying from as low as 3/10 to as high as 7/10 – and featuring questionable themes, ‘mature’ match-three puzzler Metropolis: Lux Obscura has pride of place on the Official PlayStation Store currently.

We awarded it a below-par 4/10 yesterday, due to its scrappy storytelling and uneven difficulty. However, some reviewers were more positive about it, as you can see in our mini round-up below.

Monochromic adventure Minit – so called because the hero only has 60 seconds to explore before ending up back at their homestead – is gaining far better reviews, including top marks from Destructoid.

Family-friendly 2D platformer The Adventure Pals is going down well too. Take a look at the reviews below. If you have younger gamers, it’s a recommended purchase.

After hitting PC back in 2012, the free-to-play MMO TERA makes an incredibly belated jump to consoles. It’s the action combat system that sets this one apart from other online RPGs. If you’re curious, the PS Blog has a beginner’s guide.

Reviews are starting to filter through now. In short: it has huge potential, but many critics claim a patch to fix bugs to rectify performance issues can’t come quick enough.

New release showcase:

TERA

Reviews:
7.8 – Wffctech: “TERA’s console launch may be off to a rough start, but the amazing combat system should keep players coming back for more, even for players that just want to enjoy an MMORPG without paying a dime”

C+ – Gaming Age: “It does a number of things right, while making some mistakes along the way. Mistakes that can easily be perfected over time. While it’s a good experience overall, it will have trouble hooking players for the long haul in its current state”

2/5 – True Achievements: “TERA could have been a great MMO. The world is large, beautiful and full of content. The gameplay itself is exciting and fresh, with plenty to offer in terms of depth and accessibility. But TERA on Xbox is not a great MMO. In its current state, it’s not even a good one”

Minit

Reviews:
9.0 – PlayStation LifeStyle: “Minit is pure fun from beginning to end, and it’s too short for its own good. When length is the only complaint against a game, I think that’s saying something”

8/10 – PlayStation Country: “Devolver Digital have always been great at sourcing great little indie games that surprise, Minit is yet another in their already impressive portfolio of gems. If you fancy a fun, short game with oodles of charm then this is a good one to sink a few hours into”

7/10 – Push Square: “Playing in 60-second bursts can initially be frustrating, but once you wrap your head around the game’s structure, it becomes an addictive and memorable little title that doesn’t outstay its welcome”

Metropolis: Lux Obscura

Reviews:
B- – Defunct Games: “It’s occasionally buggy and the game could use a little more polishing, but if Metropolis is anything to go on, Ktulhu Solutions has a bright future ahead of them”

7/10 – Nintendo World Report: “I will say I’ve never played a game like Metropolis: Lux Obscura and I’m glad I did, but I think it has narrow appeal. If you like Sin City, it’s worth a look”

3/10 – Cubed3: “The tough man’s Match-3 puzzler, Metropolis: Lux Obscura, is simply not worth anyone’s time, because, underneath the dark and sexy comic book art style, lies a lame excuse for a story, and equally lame excuse for a game – and, no, the low price, as well as the undressed, busty ladies, can’t save this”

The Adventure Pals

Reviews:
9.5 – GameSpace: “Adventure Pals is a great platformer for all ages. From the great, wacky story and visuals to the tight controls and smart progression systems, It has something for the whole family”

7.5 – God is a Geek: “As a platformer it could do with a little tightening up, but it’s hard to not fall in love with what’s there. If you’re a parent with a Cartoon Network loving kid give this a go, as you’re likely to find a lot of love here for the whole family”

7.1 – VideoChums: “The Adventure Pals is a huge 2D platformer with a fantastic sense of humour. However, the lack of challenge will make genre veterans wish that they could put their skills to the test instead of just going through the motions”

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Apr 03
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The casual gamer market may have fizzled out over the years, but the popularity of match-three puzzlers remains strong. By associating with such brands as Marvel, Star Wars and Family Guy, as well as throwing RPG-elements into the mix, match-three puzzlers have found a way to appeal to larger audiences, while removing the stigma usually associated with the genre.

Metropolis: Lux Obscura is the latest to distance itself from Candy Crush, Farm Heroes Saga, Bejewelled and similar games mostly played by bored housewives. This is achieved not just by the noir comic book styling, but also by featuring ‘mature’ content such as violence, sex and nudity, swearing – including one liberal use of the ‘c-word’ – and drug references. It’s fair to say this isn’t aimed at those who purchased a Nintendo Wii solely to play Wii Sports.

The storyline is seemingly woven from snippets found on Sin City’s cutting room floor. Jon Lockhart is the strong but silent type, preferring to let his fists do the talking. His introduction shows promise for what’s to come, taking place in a grimy dive bar. He’s fresh out of jail and looking for those who double-crossed him, as well as a means of earning a few quick bucks. Due to his criminal history, only the local mafia boss is willing to provide Lockhart with work. The dirtiest work imaginable, of course.

It so transpires Lockhart has a soft spot for ladies of the night, with numerous missions taking place in a seedy strip club. Cue dozens of comic book panels with topless females, and one awkward sex scene. Lockhart keeps a watchful eye on the girls – Candy, Goldie, and Bliss – and soon unlikely friendships form, with the chisel-jawed protagonist stepping into harm’s way to keep the girls safe. These good intentions eventually become tangled with the mafia’s operations, resulting in lots of opportunities for fisticuffs, in addition to four optional paths through the storyline.

Unusually, the odds are always stacked in your favour

Gang members, teenage troublemakers, security guards, crooked cops, and rabid dogs all feel the sting of Lockhart’s fists, with battles taking the form of fast-paced match-three puzzles.

Substantial damage is caused by matching fist and blood-stained boot icons, while toxic gas and tasers cause minimal harm. Matching three health packs allows Lockhart to heal, with health icons becoming scarcer during later battles, while accidentally matching police icons inadvertently causes self-damage. Not that this affects the difficulty to any major degree. Unusually, the odds are always stacked in your favour – there’s no countdown timer, giving infinite time to plan every move, and it’s easy to raise available health higher than the 100hp default.

Peculiarly for the genre, any icon either in the horizontal or vertical axis can be used. While this keeps battles flowing swiftly, it also makes things feel overly simplistic.

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Apr 02
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Ubisoft timed Far Cry 5’s launch perfectly, it seems. It’s the UK’s new number one this week, dislodging Sea of Thieves from the top spot while becoming the fastest-selling entry in the series.

It’s also the most successful new release to launch during ‘week 13’, trouncing previous record holder Bioshock Infinite, which launched a few days ahead of 2013’s Easter weekend.

The PS4 version of Far Cry 5 accounted for 60% of sales, leading it to become Ubisoft’s 6th fastest selling individual format title.

Finally, it had the biggest UK launch of 2018 to date.

The reason for the game’s success goes beyond the huge marketing push and positive reviews. It’s the first major ‘AAA title’ since January’s Monster Hunter World, and the first entry in the series since 2016 spin-off Far Cry Primal.

AC Origins’ runaway success may have had a positive effect here too, renewing faith that Ubisoft can still deliver a polished and content-heavy experience on day one.

Price drops and retailer promotions have given the rest of the top ten a good shuffle.

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Mar 29
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

PS4 and Xbox One owners are currently getting stuck into Far Cry 5, featuring new antagonist Joseph Seed and his religious cult organization. A similar twisted tale also hits Switch this week, in the form of the Arizona-set Outlast 2 (£26.99).

In this horror adventure, you encounter a pseudo-Christian cult bent on protecting the world from the birth of the antichrist. Visually it’s slick and polished, and it sounds like this conversion has made the jump mostly intact.

“Outlast 2 ramps up the tension and the technical achievement from the original, with one of the most stunningly atmospheric game worlds around,” said Nintendo Life. Nintendo World Report was left impressed, too. “Outlast 2 is without a doubt one of the best looking horror titles currently available on Switch, if not the most inventive,” was their final word.

Koei Tecmo’s JRPG Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~ (£53.99) is the week’s one and only Switch title to gain both a digital and physical release.

This spin-off is intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the Atelier series. Reviews are mostly clocking in at 6/10. “I was hoping this would be better experience after Nights of Azure 2 on Switch but it is most definitely not,” said God is a Geek.

Isometric brawler Penny-Punching Princess (£39.99) was so very close to receiving a physical release. Sadly, it was cancelled earlier this week due to unforeseen circumstances. Kotaku called it “charming but cumbersome” while Nintendo Life felt that it “offers a great twist on the classic RPG formula.”

8-player sports/party game hybrid ClusterPuck 99 (£7.69) makes the jump from PS4 and Xbox One, meanwhile. The Official Xbox Magazine was smitten by it upon release (Sept 2015), awarding it an 8/10.

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Mar 28
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Easter weekend is upon us, and Ubisoft clearly hopes Far Cry 5 will find its way under your Easter tree. Remember to leave a carrot and a glass of milk next to the fireplace for the Easter bunny.

Far Cry 5 is very much a case of business as usual. A polished experience filled with busywork, and all the trappings we’ve come to expect from the franchise. Some reviewers felt that it was a little overfamiliar in places, while others had gripes with the storyline, but it’s still worthy of attention.

Despite launching a few days ago, reviews of THQ’s MX vs ATV: All Out are slow to surface. Customer reviews on Amazon and Xbox Live suggest it isn’t up to the standard of past games in the series, due to “horrible graphics” and a sluggish framerate. We suggest approaching with caution.

The same goes for the PS4-exclusive The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2, which currently has a lukewarm Metacritic of 57%. RPG Site really wasn’t impressed, handing out a poor 3/10.

Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 5 sees the series end on a high, meanwhile, gaining a mixture of 8s and 9s. It’s the best-received episode in the series, no less.

Several PlayStation sites claim Tempest 4000 is out this week, but it appears they’re mistaken – the recently launched Steam page still says ‘Spring’ and by looking at Jeff Minter’s Twitter feed it’s evident it’s still a little way off. Not long, hopefully.

The PlayStation Blog – amongst others – also has Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3 down for release tomorrow. It isn’t listed on PSN currently, so we dare say the release date is up in the air for this one as well.

New release showcase:

Far Cry 5


Reviews:
9.0 – God is a Geek: “The best Far Cry yet, with well written characters, lots of freedom to play how you want, and a lot of fun to be had on your own or with a friend”

4/5 – The Telegraph: “This is Far Cry at its best. It isn’t the tightest shooter or the most inventive in its mission design, but when its unscripted chaos takes over, few games can match it”

7.5 – EGM: “Far Cry 5 had much to live up to coming in under the shadow of previous games in the series. While it doesn’t quite reach the same level, it stays true to enough of its series staples that fans and newcomers alike should expect a good time”

The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2


Reviews:
7.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “The story may put some off given its plodding pace and numerous quirky side stories, but most people who are interested in this game likely enjoy exactly that kind of storytelling”

6/10 – Cubed3: “Poorly written, with a horrendous story to gameplay ratio, it’s hard not to see Hundred Knight 2 as more visual novel/button masher than action RPG”

3/10 – RPG Site: “At a certain point, I was simply going through the motions to get from one scene to the next, only to watch a character I was interested in doing something that was either uncomfortable or downright atrocious. You’d probably be better off buying the original game that can be had for half the price – most of this game is just recycled content, anyway”

Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 5


Reviews:
9/10 – GameSpot: “Overall, Episode 5 of Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within provides plenty of thrills and is a satisfying conclusion to the story”

9/10 – God is a Geek: “The combat is choreographed superbly in every battle, and the voice acting makes every scene believable. Props to Anthony Ingruber for nailing Joker. If you were put off by season one, and found it lacklustre, this one is magnificent, and features a story worth its place in Batman lore. Go and play this game, you won’t regret it”

7/10 – Push Square: “Batman: The Enemy Within is some of Telltale’s best work since its previous DC Comics-themed season, and while that’s not exactly a high bar to clear these days, this is still a series well worth your time”

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