Feb 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

On paper, this ‘90s platformer tribute sounds like a bum deal. The Kickstarter funded PC version – released in December 2016 – was subtitled ‘World One’ due to merely being the first part of an ongoing series. The new PS4/XO versions lose this subtitle, but as before, Rad’s adventure both begins and ends in the first world – a magical forest realm. While this may sound like a swizz (imagine if the first Sonic the Hedgehog was set entirely in Green Hill Zone), all the stops have been pulled to ensure nobody feels short-changed, despite it not quite feeling like a self-contained adventure.

The plot sees typical ‘90s youth Rad Rodgers and Dusty, his foul-mouthed sentient game console, (a sanitised ‘kid’s mode’ is an option, incidentally) sucked into a video game world. Fully aware of their virtual surroundings, fourth-wall breaking jokes and film/gaming references are rife, in addition to some vulgarity from Dusty (voiced by Jon St. John). The duo work as a team, with Dusty’s mechanical arms used to traverse monkey bars, as well as wallop enemies with an almighty clout, while Rad mows down foes with a rapid-fire machine gun.

The PC version was likened to a mixture of Jazz Jackrabbit and Commander Keen, but in our eyes, Earthworm Jim is a better comparison due to the backpack buddy system and a mix of run ‘n gunning and traditional platforming.

Those fond of mopping up collectables and hunting down enemies will be in their element

We had concerns before diving in, worried about a poor sense of progression and a fleeting runtime – hence the opening paragraph – but it soon becomes apparent that Rad Rodgers has been put together by a dedicated and experienced team. It’s no slapdash effort, leaps and bounds over the likes of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams and Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back. Visually, it’s on par with these two though. Colourful, but due to the constantly zooming camera some texture work occasionally becomes lost or grainy.

The levels are huge – some taking as long as 30 minutes to beat – and they’re packed with secrets galore. All eight levels (two more than the PC original, prior to an incoming update) are remarkably different from one another too, commencing in a bright and colourful woodland glen before leading into dank swamps, a horizontally scrolling waterfall stage, and a few labyrinth-like caverns. Each level involves tracking down four ‘Exit Chunks’ and the occasional door key or two, some of which can be easily missed because of branching paths and non-linear layouts.

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Feb 16
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

Thanks to featuring some delightfully playful tech, first impressions of this physics-based puzzler are incredibly positive. You’re presented with a sandbox filled entirely with squidgy clay, which can be manipulated by carving into objects, adding new blocks, and deforming surroundings to create slopes and other means of reaching mission objectives.

It’s the small touches that really impress. While under your control, objects (balls, mostly) become grubbier over time, smeared with the traces of whatever surface they’re currently bounding over. Bring the camera in close and you may spot the occasional fingerprint too. To top it all off, many puzzles are centred around a handy rewind feature, which leaves copies – or stamps, as they’re known – of objects left behind in order to fill in gaps and repair structures.

After spending around half an hour creating makeshift staircases out of blocks, carving ravines and gullies for mysterious blue goo to flow into, and reaching waypoints high off the ground – all in the name of clearing objectives off a list – it soon emerges that developer Second Order, a studio formed of just three people, hasn’t put this delightful tech to the best possible use.

That’s to say, what’s on offer here (Claybook is still in early access) doesn’t come remotely close to meeting its potential, feeling like a small slice of something bigger that’s still to come. To call it an elaborate tech demo would be unfair, however – the structure of a typical puzzle game is in place, including a three-star rating system, and each mission is set in its own clay world with different structures and obstacles, with the final stage taking place in a colourful Mexican town.

To elaborate, 17 missions feature in total. Book One is formed of ten missions, including the tutorial and a simplistic time-trial race, while Book Two has seven tougher missions set in a candy realm, two of which are endless races. All missions are ranked against time taken, and in a few instances, the end goals are tricky to reach, making you think carefully about the order in which to tackle things.

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Feb 15
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

As time goes by, reasons to own/buy a Wii U become fewer. This week it’s the turn of former system exclusive Bayonetta 2 to make the jump from Wii U to Switch, gaining access to a far larger audience in the process.

To sweeten the deal, the original Bayonetta is included. It comes as a download code with the physical release or can be purchased from the eShop for £24.99. Alternatively, those who purchase Bayonetta 2 digitally for £39.99 can grab the original for £10. £49.99 for both, in fewer words.

Nintendo Life awarded Bayonetta 2 a lofty 9/10. “Despite being a three-plus-year-old port, Bayonetta 2 shines brightest on Nintendo Switch. It runs without a hitch at 60fps, looks incredible in both TV and tabletop modes and offers an addictive free-flowing combat formula that sprinkles in platforming, light exploration and a ridiculous story to create something that you simply need to experience,” was their verdict.

The original walked away with an 8/10, incidentally.

Other games hitting both stores shelves and the eShop include NIS America’s top-down 2D RPG The Longest Five Minutes (£39.99) and Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame (£49.99). The PS4/XO versions of Monster Energy Supercross reviewed well, but the absence of reviews of the Switch version is a tad concerning.

On 3DS meanwhile there’s the time-travelling JRPG Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (£34.99), published by Deep Silver.

Fe (£17.99) – an EA Originals title, set in a magical forest – launches tomorrow, but it looks like the review embargo doesn’t lift until launch day. That isn’t usually a good sign. Developer Zoink are a more than capable studio, though, and the game itself looks rather intriguing. We’ll reserve judgement for now.

The Fall Part 2 Unbound (£12.79) is another new multi-format release, being a bleak sci-fi adventure with point ‘n click elements. The original hit the Wii U back in 2015, making this sequel a long time coming.

Then we have AQUA KITTY UDX (£6.49), a pixel art horizontal shooter than rather brazenly borrows from Defender (plus a few other arcade classics). While we’ve never reviewed it, we did spend a very pleasurable afternoon with the Xbox One version not long ago. It gets our recommendation.

The same goes for Owlboy (£18.99), an incredibly refined platformer that boasts of rich artwork. The majority of reviews clock in at 9/10. “This is still one of the most emotionally rich video games of recent years, as well as one of the best examples of pixel art to ever take roost on consoles,” said The Metro.

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Feb 14
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

On first glance, this week’s new release line-up looks quite promising. When it comes to the critical opinions of two of the big hitters though, it seems that false promises were all they ever offered.

To elaborate, both Kingdom Come: Deliverance and Dynasty Warriors 9 have arrived to a tepid reception. A few reviewers were left mildly impressed, but literally just a few – most review scores are mediocre at best.

Dynasty Warriors 9 is a long-awaited franchise reboot, giving the hack ‘n slasher the open-world treatment. Jim Sterling’s video review paints a very grim picture – a huge, sprawling, open-world filled with nothing to do but painstakingly ride through dull countryside from one battle to the next. Fights are over too quickly due to the revised combat being too simplistic for its own good. On top of all this, the new grappling hook accessory makes storming castles – a joy in previous games – a breeze. Jump the wall, kill a warlord, then ride your horse for another five minutes before repeating the process. Oh dear.

The ambitious RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance is too ambitious for its own good, meanwhile. It sounds like it suffers from the fate as Risen, Sacred, Two Worlds and other undernourished Euro RPGs, suffering from bugs, glitches, performance issues and a general lack of polish and expertise. Maybe after a few patches it’ll be in a better shape. [Update] A few more reviews have rolled out since, including top marks (10/10) from Xbox Tavern. It has definitely divided critics, that’s for sure.

Another, very different, RPG launches this week – Square-Enix’s remake of Secret of Mana on PS4 and (surprise!) PS Vita. The 3DS isn’t without a slice of role-playing pie either, thanks to Deep Silver’s Radiant Historia Perfect Chronology.

Then on Switch there’s The Longest Five Minutes. Also: the ravishing Bayonetta 1 and 2 double pack, which has arrived to rave reviews. A 90% Metacritic is nothing to sniff at.

Ubisoft dusts off two older releases, too – a retail release of South Park: The Stick of Truth, which for some reason is twenty-five ruddy quid, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege Advanced Edition.

Looking towards Friday, we have Fe – an EA Originals from Zoink, creators of Stick it to the Man and the upcoming Flipping Death. Set in a purple-hued forest, it’s intended to remind us that everything living is in some way connected.

That’s set to be joined by Claybook on Xbox One, a physics puzzler set in a world made of super squidgy clay. It’s bright, colourful and backed by some fascinating tech – zoom in close and it’s even possible to make out fingerprints on the clay models. We’ll have more on it soon.

New release showcase:

Dynasty Warriors 9 – PS4/XO

No Score – Eurogamer: “The musou genre needed new ideas – but reinventing it as a shoddy open-world game wasn’t the answer”

6/10 – VideoGamer: “Dynasty Warriors 9 still has the ‘levelling hundreds of dudes without breaking a sweat’ core loop so you feel like a badass, but the open world removes some of the depth. Fans can still enjoy, but it won’t win any new hearts this time”

4.5/10 – Xbox Tavern: “Dynasty Warriors 9 is a platter full of mess. Take your pick; delayed rendering, lack of rendering, jittery camera, framerate drops, poor animation, dated visuals, bad voice acting, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg”

Kingdom Come: Deliverance – PS4/XO

4/5 – Dark Station: “Kingdom Come: Deliverance requires a whole lot of patience, reading, studying, and analyzing how things work. Beyond these hurdles lies a fine piece of interactive historical fiction”

3/5 – Windows Central: “Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s large open world is packed full of things to do in a setting many can relate to. It’s by no means perfect, which is unfortunately down to the sheer scope of the project for such a small team of developers. Still, you’re going to get many hours of entertainment from this game”

4/10 – The SixthAxis: “If Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a ton of bug fixing to improve the performance drastically, it could be a hidden gem. It’s clear that the game, despite its grand ambitions, was simply not ready for public consumption”

Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame – PS4/XO/Switch

8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Developer Milestone S.r.l. has been making racing games for so long, it comes as no surprise how nicely Monster Energy Supercross turned out. From the detail in the dirt, to the details in the bikes, this is not only a great looking game, but a great racing game too”

7/10 – PlayStation Country: “Overall, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame has a steep learning curve that should keep fans involved. It retains some of the technical woes of Milestone’s previous work but the racing is involved and competitive. The track editor is a welcome inclusion that should extend the life of what is probably going to become a yearly product”

5.0 – God is a Geek: “While possibly catering to fans of the sport in terms of content, the overly aggressive AI and unnaturally twitchy handling mean that Monster Energy Supercross just isn’t that fun to play”

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Feb 14
By Jake In Most Played No Comments

After 75 hours, on and off over six months, I finally completed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But I still can’t decide what I think of it.

It must have done something right: I’m not sure I’ve ever played a game for 75 hours. Super Mario 64, maybe? I really loved that game. Breath of the Wild, though, I’m not sure whether it’s like, love or something less altogether stranger – compulsion.

It has probably been all three by turns. To begin with, I did as I was told – go there, do that – and made some progress with the main quest. It was probably ‘like’ at that stage.

After a while though, I tired slightly of hitting areas where I couldn’t progress, and not being sure whether it was because I’d missed something, or because I was trying it too early in the game. (It was usually the former.) If that was the disadvantage of the open world, the advantage was ignoring the main quest – and anything else I didn’t fancy tackling – and just following my nose.

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Feb 13
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Miner-cum-platformer SteamWorld Dig – originally released on 3DS in 2013, and on consoles a year later – is a game that gets to the point quickly. Within minutes of booting it up, you find your uncle’s corpse and his trusty pickaxe and descend into the nearby mine to scavenge for gems.

It really isn’t interested in dragging out its ideas. The pace is almost Nintendo-like, in fact, in how quickly it introduces and discards new elements. It’s this pace that makes it such a joy to play.

You play as Rusty, a robot, taking over your father’s mine. You dig into the dirt below a ramshackle town, uncover gems, and bring them back to the surface to trade in for cash and upgrades. It’s a simple gameplay loop, but one that hides many intricacies.

Digging, for instance, has a nice puzzle game slant to it. Finding the right path to get to a gem can be extremely rewarding, and you must be careful in the route that you dig, making sure that after you’ve carved out the soil you can make it back to the surface.

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Feb 12
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

In a battle between colossus killers and monster hunters, it was Sony’s Shadow of the Colossus that emerged victorious, dislodging Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World from the UK chart top spot.

All signs point to the ravishing remake being a runaway success. Sales were 73% higher than that of the PS2 original, which also took no.1 back in 2006. That impressive figure doesn’t include digital sales either. In another colossal win for Sony, it’s their 8th PS4 exclusive to take no.1.

EA Sports UFC 3 holds onto #2, while Monster Hunter: World – which we reviewed last Friday – falls to #3. Positions #4 and #5 remained unchanged likewise, occupied by FIFA 18 and GTA V.

At #6 it’s Call of Duty: WWII, marking the first time it has left the top five.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stays put at #7, as does Super Mario Odyssey at #8.

A minor price-cut has helped AC: Origins re-enter the top ten, rising from #15 to #9.

Retailer promotion has also helped The Evil Within 2 re-enter the chart, taking #10. The horror adventure was nowhere to be seen in last week’s top 40.

Dragon Quest: Builders on Switch was the only other top 40 new arrival, punching in at #31. The retail release of Portal Knights did manage to make #15 in the Switch chart, however.

Feb 09
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Considering Capcom’s long-running Monster Hunter series hasn’t had much of an impact in the west, save perhaps for mild success on 3DS, this latest iteration generated a surprising amount of excitement prior to release.

Curiously, it wasn’t just the fans who were thrilled to see a current-gen Monster Hunter game – something a long time coming – but also those who had always admired the series from afar.

This is the entry Capcom hopes will push the series into the big leagues, achieving mainstream success by breaking down barriers to allow for an accessible experience. The draw, of course, being the ability to team up with online chums to track and take down colossal primaeval beasts, using a huge variety of weapons, poisons, and traps.

2K Games tried to tap into this ethos in 2015 with the quickly forgotten Evolve. Although there are similarities, especially when it comes to tracking down and chasing after creatures, MH: W achieves more than Turtle Rock could have ever imagined. A living, breathing, vivid world full of rampaging monsters, with a deep crafting system, a lively online hub and a remarkably long list of quests and other busywork to ensure 50 hours of play at the very minimum.

The whole thing centres around a carefully woven gameplay loop. Prepping for adventure with a hearty stat-boosting meal, taking down colossal beasts or completing side-quests, crafting new weapons and armour from the fruits of your labour, and repeating the process ad infinitum. With every passing quest, the unfolding story – which entails charting a new, unfamiliar, world – throws a new beast or two into the mix, putting the focus on upgrading equipment to deal with the next threat, be it a poison-spewing bird-brained foe, or a screen-filling giant that would make a tyrannosaurus rex whimper.

You aren’t alone in this pursuit either, joined by a feline friend known as a Palico. As well as collecting scraps and dealing a small amount of damage to enemies, they can also be commanded to place health stations. There’s no finer hunter than an inquisitive cat.

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