Jun 25
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Despite not featuring a traditional tennis mode – an omission that has allegedly resulted in refund requests – Mario Tennis Aces has shot straight to the top of the UK chart.

While this may sound impressive, chances are it only had to shift a few thousand copies to get there – physical sales tend to slump massively during this time of year.

There was very little to challenge it either, with just Minecraft and Another World on Switch making the top 40 (at #21 and #26 respectively).

FIFA 18 holds onto #2, God of War – last week’s chart-topper – drops to #3, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rises to #4, while Fallout 4 falls two places to #5.

Detroit: Become Human also falls two places, now at #6. The ever-popular GTA V is at #7, Call of Duty: WWII rises to #8, Super Mario Odyssey is back in the top ten at #9, and then at #10 it’s the recently reduced PlayStation VR Worlds.

Vampyr and AC Origins also both leave the top ten this week, falling to #9 and #27.

Jun 24
By Richard In Features No Comments

No trip to Japan would be complete without spending a fistful of Yen in the country’s many, many, arcades.

The arcades I visited even began to make me envy Japanese culture. It was social, fun, and most had scores of games – often spread over several floors – to cater to all tastes. Speaking of tastes, I also bought and made tiny food!

While walking around the sometimes-smoky gaming emporiums, it was hard to resist taking photos. The variety of arcade cabinets is fascinating. Some were interesting, some were strange, and some provided a unique insight into Japan’s gaming culture.

I have uploaded them here, in hope that you find them interesting, along with my comments on the various machines available. This isn’t an exhaustive collection – the photos were mainly taken in Tokyo’s Taito and SEGA arcades. Still, I hope it gives a glimpse into Japanese gaming and arcade culture.

One of the major things I noticed was the intersection of the gaming and physical worlds. There were lots of games that involved rearranging cards on a desk, and those cards being read and inserted to the game. Some appeared to Magic: The Gathering battling games, others were more tactical war-games. They were very popular, and many arcades had an entire floor dedicated to them. The language barrier, regrettably, was high.

The gamers in the arcade were often very friendly. One patient man sat down with me and showed me how to play the game below. It’s a football management/playing game like FIFA’s Ultimate Team, except with two major differences.

First, there are only two buttons; one to shoot, one to save. Secondly, the game dispenses real cards! Every time you play a game, the machine shoots out a new player card, wrapped in foil. Even in the short amount of time I played it, I found myself getting pulled in. Rearranging the cards into a new formation, collecting new players. I’m a sucker for stuff like that. Bring it to Skegness!

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Jun 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

The Switch eShop remains relentless, featuring another bumper bounty of new releases. Next week is looking busy too, with Wolfenstein II, Crash Bandicoot, Harvest Moon, Inside and Limbo all due.

Mario Tennis Aces (£49.99) is yet another Switch smash, almost guaranteed to break the UK top five next Monday. Scores so far are a mixture of 7s, 8s and 9s with only some shortcomings with the story mode letting it down. It’s a touch unfair and unforgiving, apparently.

Minecraft (£19.99) is back as well, now featuring the latest updates like Aquatic, cross-platform play and access to a multitude of content through the Minecraft Marketplace. If you’re wondering, players who already own Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition can download this new version free.

Then we have The Lost Child (£49.99) a JRPG that has gained mixed reviews due to cribbing a few too many ideas from similar games. Clocking in at full-price, it may be worth mulling it over before opening your wallet.

Nintendo Life are one of the few outlets to review the Flashback (£17.99) re-release. “If you were too young to play this the first time, this package will give you the best possible way to experience it with current hardware. For veteran gamers, Flashback has lost nothing of what made it special all those years ago,” they said before handing out an 8/10.

D/Generation : The Original (£14.99) gets another re-release too. As the name suggests, it’s the original iteration. Fans allegedly demanded it. Alternatively, there’s Moorhuhn Remake. Remember Moorhun? Huge in Germany.

2D “splatformer” INK (£8.09) hasn’t gone down as well as the majority of this week’s releases, with scores mostly being mediocre. “The game’s simplicity can get tiresome in long sessions,” warned TheSixthAxis.

Whimsical co-op puzzler Pode (£22.49) looks a better way to blow your cash. “With its subtle, relaxing and appropriate musical score, gloriously soft visuals and a simple yet emotional story, Pode succeeds in offering a generous and humble cooperative yet challenging 8-10 hours of content that will shine brightly,” was Nintendo Life’s verdict.

Grab the Bottle (£4.49) provides physics-based puzzle fun at a much cheaper price, but sadly it’s a simple case of trial and error. Try, try, and try again until you finally get the right path. We awarded it 6/10 earlier this week.

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Jun 20
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The Switch paves the way for new releases, all thanks to Mario Tennis Aces’ arrival – easily the biggest release of the week. In short: it’s the game that Mario Tennis on Wii U should have been. It could even be seen as an apology for that half-baked effort.

The rest of this week’s new releases strike us as a peculiar bunch. JRPG The Lost Child hits the PS4, Switch and PS Vita, gaining mixed reviews due to borrowing too many ideas from similar games. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle meanwhile finally finds its way to the UK. It didn’t gain the most positive reception from fans when it was first announced, due to being DLC orientated, but critical reviews are positively glowing.

We’ve also rounded up reviews of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on Switch, despite launch day still being a week off. Consider it an early heads up.

On the download services Grab the Bottle is now within reach. It’s a physics-based puzzler priced at an alluring £3.99. We awarded it 6/10 yesterday. While challenging, it’s merely a case of failing puzzles repeatedly until finally stumbling on the solution.

The Xbox Hub was seemingly in agreement, giving it 3/5. “Trial and error becomes tiresome,” they said.

Slime-san Superslime Edition on Xbox One and the PS4’s New Gundam Breaker may be of note too. Twitch platformer Slime-san went down well on Switch, resulting in an impressive 82% Metacritic. And who can resist giant battling robots?

Finally, The Lords of the Fallen receives a belated ‘Complete Edition’. The fact that the retail release will only set you back £15 caught our attention. A sensible price point, given the game’s age. You may even be able to find it for slightly less online.

New release showcase:

Mario Tennis Aces – Switch

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “The presentation is spot on, and the core tennis action is absorbing whether you’re trading simple strokes or firing off special shots”

7/10 – Videogamer: “Mario Tennis Aces is a good tennis game let down by an Adventure Mode that often feels as though it’s cheating you”

7.0 – God is a Geek: “Mario Tennis Aces will provide you and your friends with a really good time, provided you don’t spend too long in the story mode”

The Lost Child – PS4, PS Vita, Switch

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo World Report: “The vast majority of the game can be traced back to another JRPG that probably did it better, and if you can’t get passed that, than you probably aren’t going to enjoy it”

4/10 – Digitally Downloaded: “The fact that it’s the perfect introduction to the dungeon crawler genre also makes it the perfect first example on the new hardware”

5/10 – Push Square: “It’s a game that pays more than a passing nod to numerous other RPGs – Pokemon, Persona, and other Shin Megami Tensei titles – but sadly, never approaches the quality of any of them”

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle – PS4/Switch

Reviews:
9/10 – GameSpot: “Whether playing through the story mode alone or against hardened opponents online, Cross Tag Battle is an absolute joy with a surplus of possibilities within its wide roster and versatile fighting system”

8.3 – IGN: “BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle’s mixture of fighting games leads to a surprisingly approachable entry point into the genre”

3/5 – US Gamer: “BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is a solid fighter. I like the idea of streamlining some of the cruft that the BlazBlue series has acquired over the years and making a game that appeals to new players”

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana – Switch

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Life: “With fun, fast-paced combat, likable characters, and an enjoyable story that takes full advantage of its beautiful shipwrecked setting, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a top-shelf action RPG”

8.5 – Nintendo World Report: “Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was my first foray into the Ys universe and despite the goal of making it off the island, I find myself wishing I hadn’t left at all”

4/5 – Twinfinite: “With its streamlined combat system and compelling narrative, the latest entry in the Ys series is another solid addition to the Switch’s growing library and should definitely be on every JRPG lover’s list”

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Jun 20
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

It’s not often game journos unanimously agree on something. The original State of Decay – which highlighted MS’ 2013 Summer of Arcade promotion – was a rare exception, becoming the very definition of a diamond in the rough. By putting the focus on establishing a friendly community it was unlike most zombie games, and for a mere XBLA release, it was beyond ambitious. It was, however, let down by a few shortcomings such as irksome glitches and a general lack of polish.

A longer development cycle, a bigger budget, and an upgraded game engine (the original used CryEngine3, whereas this sequel opts for the ever-popular Unreal Engine) should have resulted in State of Decay 2 fully achieving Undead Lab’s vision. But rather than feeling fresh but familiar, it’s…astonishingly familiar. From the sights and sounds to the rural county setting, it felt like I was simply playing through the remastered State of Decay: Year One Edition again.

Cast aside all expectations of bigger locations, larger waves of zombies, and a livelier open-world. We’re back to pootling around the American countryside, stopping in quaint villages to ransack pharmacies, diners, gas stations and summer houses for goods. The festering undead rarely attack in great numbers (oddly, a group of just three or four zombies is classed as a horde) and the amount of ‘special undead’ can be counted on one hand.

It’s so uncannily similar to the original that despite the new engine it still suffers from similar bugs and glitches, such as vanishing AI teammates and wonky vehicle physics. Combat is a bit crunchier this time around though, with a larger array of melee weapons, and new grisly ‘final blow’ moves. If only you weren’t reminded how to perform certain actions every few minutes. It’s as if the Microsoft paperclip has come back from the dead.

In terms of structure, State of Decay 2 is a game of two halves. The first 5-6 hours are spent improving your homestead with additional facilities, finding new recruits, and painstakingly gathering resources including food, medicine, fuel, materials, and ammo. These vitals are logically located. Low on ammo? Head to the nearest gun shop. Need food? Time to take a trip to the local diner. And if you really get stuck, a shout out on the radio will highlight potential stashes on the map.

One thing baffled us though: surely Undead Labs could have implemented a more interesting way to gather goods than simply holding down the ‘Y’ button for a few seconds? A mini-game, a spot of button bashing or stick rotating, a QTE – anything would have been an improvement. While you can speed up the process, at the risk of making more noise, looting abandoned abodes quickly becomes an arduous task.

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Jun 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Essentially Mr. Tickle: The Game – or Plastic Man, if you prefer – this physics-based puzzler involves guiding a constantly extending arm around hazard-filled environments in order to grab precariously placed bottles. There’s a paper-thin plot in place, covering the nameless lead character’s life story as they reach out to grab bottles as a baby, teen, adult, and OAP. It’s thirsty work being alive.

On paper alone, Grab the Bottle sounds like something that would be more at home on Google Play or the App Store rather than on a console. We even feared the simplistic premise may fail to keep us engaged. Thankfully, it isn’t long until a few curveballs start being thrown your way, revealing a puzzler with a deceptive streak. Each puzzle is suitably different from the last, with new ideas and playthings frequently introduced.

From the very start, precise controls are called for. Only three mistakes are allowed, each hit prompting the elastic appendage to recoil in pain. There’s plenty of room to twist and turn in the opening stages, but it isn’t long until narrow pathways are introduced, requiring gentle manipulation of the analogue stick. Comparisons with the cult classic Kuru Kuru Kururin aren’t entirely invalid.

Colliding with your own arm constitutes as a hit, so it’s essential to plan routes in advance. There is a way to rewind, however. When grabbing an object, the screen-filling arm recoils; a mechanic used countless times in puzzle solving, reaching out to grab a knife, hammer, or similar and then recoiling to the location where it’s required.

There are see-saws to tilt, ropes to cut, and sandcastles to smash. Doors should always be opened with caution, as they may block a route. A push of a button is all it takes to start a puzzle anew, and as such, there’s no real punishment for failure.

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Jun 18
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

There’s a notable theme to this week’s UK top 40 – dozens of first-party PS4 titles have either risen by several places or re-entered the chart. This is all down to Sony’s current ‘Days of Play’ promotion, which sees numerous key titles discounted.

It seems a price cut to around £35 was enough to secure God of War the top spot, preventing Focus Interactive’s Vampyr from claiming a second week at no.1.

Popular PSVR pack-in PlayStation VR Worlds is back at #5, GT Sport shifts to #11, and Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition has risen to #17. Shadow of the Colossus, Wipeout: Omega Collection, Knowledge is Power, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy all re-enter the lower end of the top 40, meanwhile.

Going back to the top 10, FIFA 18 remains at #2 thanks to World Cup fever. Possibly due to a strong E3 showing, Fallout 4 rises to #3. Detroit: Become Human stays put at #4.

GTA V moved up three places to take #6, and is followed by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Vampyr, AC: Origins, and finally Call of Duty: WWII at #10.

All of the Switch’s big name-titles also moved up a few places this week, which makes us wonder if Fortnite’s arrival helped Nintendo shift a few more systems. Just an observation.

Also of note: Konami’s Super Bomberman R failed not only to make the top 40, but the top 20 individual format charts as well. The same goes for the retail release of Team 17’s Yoku’s Island Express, but that’s a slightly different story due to the delay between its digital and physical release.

Jun 18
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Some games are about war. Some games are about exceptionalism and individual struggle. A few games are about fascism. Most games, however, are about numbers going up.

It sounds simple, numbers going up, but Dungeon Rushers proves that it’s a subtle mechanic, and one that’s easy to get wrong.

Let’s start with the basics. Dungeon Rushers is a dungeon exploration game. Each dungeon starts with one tile. You then guide yourself around uncovering new tiles. Under each tile could be a trap (which you have to deactivate or take damage), some treasure and an exit, a random buff or some enemies to fight. Fights are turn-based and surprisingly tactical.

It actually feels quite a lot like a board game. Instead of a character that moves around the dungeon, you move a token and the hidden parts of the dungeon flip as if they were cardboard. I could imagine playing it with chunky miniatures and dice rolling.

As you go through the dungeons you’ll unlock new characters and decide where each should stand and which enemies to hit and when is key to winning battles. Killing more enemies gains you experience, and all characters have comprehensive skill trees to invest their experience points in.

More dungeons unlock as you go and there’s absolutely loads of them to explore. There are multi-level dungeons and dungeons have special objectives that give you access to harder versions of each dungeon. You can also craft with loot you gain and create weapons and equipment for your adventurers.

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