Nov 23
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

It’s a peculiar week for new releases, especially given the time of year. But while there’s no easily identifiable big name title, we still have a few titbits to tide us over.

Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier on PS4 (Xbox One version due at a later date) had the potential to be a sleeper hit. Sadly, reviews suggest this isn’t the definitive PotA game fans of the franchise have long waited for. It’s less of a game and more of an interactive movie, only requiring minimal input such as dialogue choices. Despite the £15.99 asking price, it’s reportedly quite short too. Think along the lines of a typical Telltale adventure.

Then we have Hidden Agenda, a choose-your-own-adventure wrapped in party game exterior, from the creators of Until Dawn. It uses Sony’s PlayLink tech, but not to the best possible extent – some critics claim that the interface is clunky. Scores are wildly mixed so far, varying from as low as 4/10 to as high as an 8.5.

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV also makes waves on PSN, being an expanded version of FFXV’s fishing mini-game with VR support. Reviews have been just as mixed as those for Hidden Agenda, perhaps even more so.

Also of note this week is the lovely Lumo on Switch – a homage to ZX Spectrum isometric adventures of yore – and The Count Lucanor on PS4, a slightly sinister pixel art adventure likened to Undertale. It’s great to see the Arcade Archives series make a surprise return too – Elevator Action is a game with more ups than downs.

New release showcase:

Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier – PS4

6.6 – IGN Spain: [Translated from Spanish] “As an animation movie, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier would be better. Understanding this product as a videogame, we believe that it is quite limited and we only have a couple of dialogue options to choose, being irrelevant in most cases”

6/10 – Spazio Games: [Translated from Italian] “Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is basically a story driven tie-in, inspired by the trilogy from 20th Century Fox’s franchise. Too short, too smart. In one word: forgettable”

5/10 – Game Reactor UK: “It’s not one you’ll need to keep your stinking paws off necessarily, but neither is it a particularly memorable cinematic romp”

Hidden Agenda – PS4

85/100 – Gaming Trend: “Hidden Agenda is like stepping into a crime drama and influencing how it plays out. The branching narrative is a welcoming aspect and makes me want to play it multiple times. It’s fun to play alone, but taking it on with friends is a treat all on it’s own”

6.5 – PlayStation Universe: “Hidden Agenda is a great concept with some impressive set pieces and performances, but its narrative lets it down and it lacks any major impact”

2/5 – Slant Magazine: “The game is already pretty bad at getting people to interact and discuss the rationale for their choices, and this is especially true in the last chapter, which gives everybody a different final agenda and one hint on how to achieve it”

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV – PS4

8.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Getting to see these iconic characters and creatures in a new way is simply fascinating, and it has me delighted at the prospect of future Final Fantasy virtual reality titles”

7/10 – Destructoid: “It’s just silly enough to work for the select few that will meet all of the requirements to actually boot it up”

1.5/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “The visuals are stunning and it could have been a great fishing simulation, but ends up being lazy and broken”

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Nov 20
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Call of Duty: WWII has managed to hold onto the UK chart’s top spot for a third week running, fending off EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2.

According to Eurogamer, physical sales of Battlefront 2 were down 60% over its predecessor. However, it’s highly likely that Battlefront 2’s digital sales were far higher than that of the original. If Destiny 2 was anything to go by, we’d wager by around 30%.

As you’ve no doubt heard, fans haven’t taken kindly to the game’s pay-to-win nature and the ludicrous requirements to unlock heroes.

The backlash was so immense that license holders Disney allegedly stepped in, concerned that EA’s actions were harming the Star Wars brand.

FIFA 18 moved down to #3, while Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon made #4 and #5 respectively.

AC Origins fell three places to #6, The Sims 4 made #7, LA Noire Remastered entered at #8 – with the PS4 version being the biggest selling – while Super Mario Odyssey sticks around at #9.

Then at #10 it’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, again with the PS4 version out in front.

The UK top 40 also sees two new iterations of Skyrim make an arrival. Skyrim VR managed to make #19, becoming the fastest selling third-party PSVR title, while Skyrim on Switch made a not-particularly-impressive #26.

Worry not, as it did manage to make a far more respectable #3 in the Switch chart.

Nov 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The storyline in Sonic’s latest adventure could have easily existed within the Archie comic universe. After one of Eggman’s plans finally comes together, Sonic is taken captive and locked away in an off-world prison. The hedgehog’s homeland soon descends into chaos once Eggman’s army takes control, prompting Tails, Knuckles, Silver, and Team Chaotix to form a band of freedom fighters.

From a secret base they formulate strategies to take back captured zones and counterattack Eggman’s forces, hence the crimson-hued ‘generic Che Guevara T-shirt’ style presentation.

Your custom-made avatar enters the fray as the newest member of the resistance. There’s a choice of different animal types, each with a unique skill, and they can be kitted out using the wealth of colourful attire that unlocks at the end of each mission. Around 500 parts in total, ranging from Mega Drive branded sneakers to shimmering bodysuits.

If this gimmick sounds a little pedestrian, that’s because it is. There’s nothing wayward in Sonic Forces to make you question what going on inside SEGA’s marketing department. No werewolves, princess smooching, or anything of the sort – this is the most ordinary Sonic game we’ve had in a while. It also forgoes everything Sonic Boom forced onto fans, meaning Knuckles is no longer the comic relief character. Vector now fills that position.

Instead of the standard spin-dash attack, avatars use ‘Wispons’ – a leftover from Sonic Colors. These include lightening whips, flamethrowers, and a screen-filling void that inhales enemies and nearby rings. Oddly, rings act differently in Forces. 100 is the maximum that can be carried, and you only lose a small amount when hit. Gaining 100 no longer bestows an extra life either, as the age-old concept of a lives system has been cast aside. Instead, the amount of retries affects your ranking.

There’s a heavy focus on obtaining an ‘S rank’ on each stage, which ties in with a long list of mission objectives to clear. You don’t have to worry about striving for perfect runs too much, fortunately, as it’s still possible to achieve an ‘S rank’ even after dying a few times.

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Nov 17
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

It’s doubtful we’ll see another eShop line-up as jampacked as this in 2017. The Switch gains several big-name releases and a few new indies of note, while the 3DS receives Pokémon Ultra Moon & Sun.

Despite it simply being an enhanced version of a game barely a year old, it’s easily the handheld’s biggest release of 2017. While some critics wished that Nintendo had held off revisiting Sun & Moon until further down the line, reviews claim that this is by far the superior version with plenty of improvements. The Metro opted for a 9/10, while Nintendo Life felt it was deserving of full marks.

Switch owners get a meaty RPG of their own, in the form of the 100+ hours The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (£49.99).

Word has it it’s an impressive conversion, but signs of the game’s age are showing in places. Review scores are a mixture of 8s and 9s, leading to a Metacritic of 85%.

Then we have L.A. Noire (£44.99), another conversion of a game that’s knocking on a bit. Scores for this one are a tad less positive than Skyrim, mostly being 7s and 8s. “L.A. Noire isn’t the prettiest project, but it still holds up because there isn’t anything quite like it even today,” said Destructoid, before handing out an 8.

Rocket League (£15.04) also makes a very welcome appearance this week. Like the above, the mighty Switch has managed to do it proud – it has lost very little during the jump from PS4/XO.

Batman – The Telltale Series (£39.99) and RiME (£29.99) are also of note, but you may want to curb your enthusiasm as both display a lack of polish when compared to other versions. RiME’s developers have even talked openly about the struggle of bringing their indie hit across.

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Nov 15
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Not only is Star Wars Battlefront II one of the biggest releases of the year – it’s also one of the most controversial. Loot boxes and pay-to-win elements have been a major cause for concern since the open beta, and in the run-up to release things have spiralled further into despair.

It apparently takes 4,528 hours – or $2100 – to unlock all base-game content, which goes to show how heavily EA are pushing time-saving microtransactions this time around. We guess this is the price we must pay for of all future DLC being free.

Despite Battlefront II boasting far more content than its predecessor, we have a strong feeling that launch week sales will be lower than that of the original.

EA also releases The Sims 4 on PS4 and Xbox One this week. We haven’t seen a Sims game on consoles for quite some time, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one fares in terms of sales.

Staying on the subject of tardy conversions, Rockstar has dusted off their crime thriller L.A. Noire. The £34.99 asking price doesn’t seem to be going down too well, this being a six-year-old game and all. That said, the Switch version appears to have quite a bit of thought and effort put into it. It may even end up becoming the best-selling version. We shall see.

The Switch also gets The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is reportedly a very impressive conversion with fewer bugs and a steadier frame rate. Pokemon Ultra Moon/Sun on 3DS should have no problem setting the charts ablaze next Monday, either.

We’re also going to give Maximum Games’ Road Rage a shout out, not that it deserves it. The motorbike racer left us pining for an official Road Rash reboot even more, failing to capture anything that made EA’s celebrated series so great. It’s really quite a mess, as our review explains.

New release showcase:

Star Wars Battlefront II – PS4/XO

4/5 – Games Radar: “A very strong multiplayer offering tarnished by overly complicated character progression, and a lavish, beautiful story campaign lacking in substance or subtlety”

7.0 – EGM: “We are off to a rocky start with Star Wars Battlefront II, but I wouldn’t outright dismiss it without a fair look”

7.0 – Post Arcade: “There are frequent glimpses of what could have been a truly great game drawing us in with engaging solo and multiplayer modes, but they’re often obscured by preventable problems”

The Sims 4 – PS4/XO

8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Thankfully, most of the features of the PC version are intact, and this is a full-featured port you can happily play for hours from the comfort of your couch”

7.0 – GameInformer: “Although the console version features some dodgy controls, it largely delivers on its promise of bringing a faithful port to the console audience”

3.5/5 – We Got This Covered: “This console port – while not perfect – has been carried out with enough skill that those who want to create their own slices of domestic bliss will indeed be able to do so, even if they’ll occasionally trip over some of the less polished aspects of the control system”

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 – PS4/XO

8.0 – IGN: “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 doesn’t change much from the LEGO formula, but rarely has the variety been so satisfying”

7/10 – The Metro: “One of the best Lego games of the entire series, with a dizzying array of bizarre characters and some genuinely compelling gameplay for younger players”

6.0 – PSU: “Apart from a small UI overhaul, a fragmented hub, and a batch of new and redesigned characters, this is more Lego, more Marvel, and more collecting. For better or worse”

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Nov 15
By Matt Gander In Features, Retro No Comments

When it comes to discussing bad games it’s all too apparent that many internet pundits rely on second-hand impressions and recycled knowledge. Why experience the true horror of something first-hand, when you can head to YouTube and watch half-a-dozen gameplay videos and chalk up a few key observations? The answer, of course, is because it’s extremely lazy.

Attack of the Flickering Skeletons‘ creation was anything but. When the time came to seek out more terrible games for a sequel to his first book, popular YouTuber Stuart Ashen tracked down original copies of each title and played them on authentic hardware. This removed any chance of a game’s terribleness being down to emulation quirks.

Subsequently, Ashens has now ended up with a house full of rickety ‘80s computers; quite possibly a nightmare scenario for some.

For a game to be eligible, it had to be commercially released on a computer during 1980-1995. This meant no public domain games, and certainly no console/handheld games. Those hoping to see SEGA and Nintendo software get a grilling aren’t entirely left out, however, as we’ll soon reveal.

Boasting far more pages than his first book, the full-colour Attack of the Flickering Skeletons was clearly a large undertaking. As well as looking at 20 terrible computer games, there are pages dedicated to the worst joystick of all-time, eye-offendingly awful box art, and a (very) brief tribute to the ill-fated Commodore 64 Games System.

Ashens has dug deep to find truly awful titles for the likes of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, and Atari ST

The Commodore 64 Coin-Op Conversion Battle Royale is by far the most substantial extra, chalking up the differences between the US and European versions of several big-name games. Elsewhere, the lowest scoring games from a variety of ‘80s gaming magazines receive shout-outs.

Like before, chances of being familiar with the main entries are slim. Ashens has dug deep to find truly awful titles for the likes of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, and Atari ST. A select few are so bad that they’re borderline unplayable, or – as is the case for Mystery Manor – completely broken.

Speaking of broken games, Ashens finally figured out how to get past the first screen in SQIJ – a past entry – so that receives a second look.

The main entries are presented in a uniform fashion. The intro page merely features the title screen and box art, along with a chunk of text that begins to explain the aim of each game and why they fail miserably to entertain. Ashens’ descriptions are so thorough and detailed that it’s possible to get a good idea of how a game looks before turning the page and witnessing the true horror for yourself.

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Nov 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews 1 Comment

Have you ever played a game so glitchy that you’re left in perpetual fear of it crashing? Warning signs start to appear, and you knuckle down for the worst. NPCs begin behaving oddly, collision detection goes to pot, and the frame rate takes a nosedive. All the while you’re hoping that the last auto-save was before your character gained the ability to walk through solid objects.

After being thrown into a colourless void outside the game’s boundaries within the first ten minutes of play, Maximum Games’ Road Rage – not to be confused with the recently released Road Redemption – constantly had us on high alert. Turns out those fears were well placed. It crashed twice during the 4 hours we spent with it, and we also had to restart a race after becoming stuck to the pavement, flailing ragdoll physics and all.

Suffice to say, set expectations low. Those hoping to find similarities with EA’s celebrated Road Rash series will be left particularly disappointed, as you’ll find no long and winding US freeways here.

Also cast aside all hopes of brutal motorbike-mounted fisticuffs. The combat system is woeful – rivals go down with just one hit, shoddy collision detection permitting – and the races are ridiculously short, with most entailing a couple of laps around small city blocks.

What we have here is an open-world racer, set in a fictional crime-ridden city. The city’s layout is one of the few things Road Rage gets right. The map is reasonably large and designed in a coherent fashion, split into seven districts. They’re suitably different from one another, right to the point where it’s easy to tell which district you’re in just by taking in the surroundings. There’s a fair bit of detail on the storefronts and such, too. Cruise slowly through the retail district and you’ll spot a greengrocer’s window advertising “massive melons and XXL bananas.”

Yes, this one of those games.

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Nov 13
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Call of Duty: WWII has managed to retain the UK chart’s top spot. Thanks to word of mouth and heavy promotion it had a remarkably strong second week, beating FIFA 18’s second-week sales.

FIFA 18 and AC: Origins swapped positions, filling slots #2 and #3.

EA’s Need for Speed Payback entered at #4, once place lower than 2015’s NFS.

Then at #5 it’s Sonic Forces, which isn’t the only new arrival from SEGA this week – Football Manager 2018 made #10.

Super Mario Odyssey fell two places to #6, Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 3 took #7 and #8 respectively, and then at #9 it’s Gran Turismo Sport.

Microsoft’s Super Lucky’s Tale had to settle for #24. The Sims 4: Cats & Dogs put in a showing too, arriving at #27.

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