Sep 30
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Once the first part of an episodic adventure is out of the way talking about the ensuing episodes becomes a tricky task. You can pretty much guarantee at least one dramatic twist, an unforeseen discovery or a character death – or perhaps even all three – which in turn makes going into detail about an episode’s events almost impossible.

So much has happened since The Council began that we’re now in deep spoiler country. We can at least provide a recap for those unfamiliar with Big Bad Wolf’s political drama: Louis de Riche and several other important and influential individuals – including George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte – have been summoned to an elaborate gathering on a mysterious island for reasons even more mysterious. Upon arrival, not only had Louis’ mother – who made her own way to the island unfashionably early – gone missing, but the Lord of the manor was also suspiciously absent.

Episodes 2 and 3 shed more light on these matters while providing new parts of the manor to explore. To say new locations have been used sparingly is an understatement, however. Episode 4 follows suit with just one new location to investigate. We’re then left to casually stroll down the same corridors and attend gatherings in the dining halls, studies and lounges seen in the first episode. As such, the antique-filled manor has now lost its lustre. What was once a place to explore and marvel at, is now a place simply where on-going conversations take place.

Thankfully, this episode showcases and pushes the excellent conversation tools to their fullest, featuring half-a-dozen confrontations with storyline-altering consequences. Due to the presence of an RPG-style skill tree, the charismatic and mild-mannered protagonist has grown increasingly broad-shouldered over time – he now has enough skills at his disposal to completely change the tone and outcome of a conversation, lending a natural sense of progression and character development.

More than a few long-running traits are put to very good use here too, because – and as the episode’s title suggests – the time has come for Louis to make a decision he can’t go back on.

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Sep 28
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Thirty-three new releases make their way to the Switch eShop this week, which we’re pretty sure is a new record. We lost track of grand totals a few months ago, if we’re being honest – between 25-30 new games a week seems to be the norm currently. It’s both astonishing and ridiculous.

The big hitters are coming thick and fast. EA’s back with FIFA 19, which is apparently a huge improvement over last year’s edition. It has the potential to be a huge seller. There’s also a belated conversion of the remarkably well-received Dragon Ball FigherZ, SEGA’s JRPG Valkyria Chronicles 4, and a surprise release of South Park: The Stick of Truth.

Pilot Sports, which pays tribute to Pilotwings, may be worth investigating too. We’re also intrigued by Think of the Children – a co-op parenting simulator, of all things.

And proving that crime doesn’t pay, both This Is the Police 2 and The Escapists: Complete Edition should be available now, with the latter arriving at a pleasing £9.99. It must be said that some of the eShop prices are rather eyebrow-raising this week – twin-stick shooter Demon’s Crystals is available for £3.99 on Xbox One, yet the Switch conversion will set you back £13.49. We also had to do a double take at Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams’ price – a mammoth £26.99. Flippin’ eck.

With that off our chest, here’s the full rundown of new eShop releases, including pre-orders and discount highlights. There’s one new release for 3DS, too.

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Sep 27
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This futuristic racer from Shortround Games – a Brighton-based studio formed of ex-Burnout and Split/Second developers – is the latest to follow in the footsteps of OnRush, casting aside convention in order to offer something fresh and new.

1v1 races are the order of the day, entailing weaving in and out of heavy traffic at breakneck speed. The typical starting grid is replaced with a ‘rolling start’ in which it’s possible to earn extra boost via a well-timed button press, and as races take place on short stretches of road, there are no ‘laps’ to speak of either. Races last roughly a minute and they’re often incredibly close due to the way the AI behaves, with finishing times just mere split seconds apart.

The package is held together by a unique structure. It’s you versus the world in hourly online tournaments – you and your rival racers have an hour to compete and rise up the ranks, with new vehicles and in-game currency available as rewards for reaching certain milestones. The sooner a tournament is entered, the better chance there is to win more races than the opposition. Once the hour is up, a short celebration for the top three players takes place, giving chance to bask in the limelight. In this day and age of colossal 50+ hour open-world racers, it’s remarkably pleasing to play something that only ever wants an hour of your spare time. Precisely an hour, in fact.

As intriguing and well-designed as RGX: Showdown is, there’s a little bit of trickery going on behind the scenes. Smoke and mirrors, if you will. Downtime between races – where matchmaking takes places – is brief as you’re sneakily pitted against AI controlled drivers when human players are unavailable. Presumably in hope of giving the illusion of playing online, there’s no way of telling if you’re up against a human opponent or the AI. Shortround obviously took this approach to make tournaments fair and frustration free, removing any chance of players ‘rage quitting’ in the process, but considering the online focus it’s still a little sneaky.

And while this does ensure that all players get an equal number of races before the hour is up, it comes with a caveat – the AI quickly becomes predictable. Get off to a slow start and they’ll crash almost straight away, thus giving you a chance to catch up. Then towards the end of the race they’ll start to perform faultlessly, beatable only by having enough boost in the tank to be able to overtake. Fail to generate enough boost during the early stages of a race, or crash more than 2-3 times, then chances are you’ll have to settle for second place. This routine never changes, hence why crossing the finishing line is always a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair.

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Sep 26
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Outdated sports games are a common sight in charity shops, but one is found more commonly than others – EA’s FIFA 13. This instalment not only featured some much-needed improvements, resulting in a 90% Metacritic – a franchise all-time high – but it also launched during the peak of that generation’s popularity.

We have a feeling FIFA 19 will be the next FIFA 13; it offers some long overdue improvements – as well the return of the Champions League – and it’s arriving during this generation’s peak. The Switch version, in particular, has the potential to sell exceptionally well. The system’s user-base has grown exponentially since last year’s edition, and word has it that EA has put a noteworthy degree of effort into this year’s outing. According to early reviews, weak visuals in docked mode are the only major downer.

Scores for the PS4/Xbox One versions are mostly positive so far. God is a Geek opted for a lofty 9.5 while calling it potentially the greatest football game of all time – a statement which prompted a small amount of backlash. GameInformer, EGM, US Gamer, VideoGamer, GameSpot and The Metro all dished out a slightly more modest 8/10, meanwhile.

Forza Horizon 4 – available this week via the £79.99 Ultimate Edition – has been referred to as the greatest racing game of all-time, too. The visually sumptuous racer – set in the great British countryside – currently has an impressive 92% Metacritic, making it one of the highest rated games of 2018.

Sticking with gushing reviews, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is another franchise high note. Scores for SEGA’s lavish JRPG are clocking in as high as 9.5/10, exceeding all expectations along the way. It isn’t the only JPRG out this week either – Metal Max Xeno offers scrappy tank battling in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s part of a long-running series dating back to 1991. Amazingly, this is only the second instalment to make it to the west. We’ve rounded up scores below.

Despite Telltale Games’ sudden closure, the second part of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is apparently still on track to launch this week. There’s a chance this season will never reach a conclusion, so bear this in mind before purchasing. The Council also gains its fourth episode, while Life is Strange 2 is about to get underway. Big and brilliant things are expected.

Also of note this week: story-driven cop shop management sim This is the Police 2, oddball co-op parenting sim Think of the Children, rampaging robot smash’em up Pizza Titan Ultra, the intergalactic Overcooked alike Catastronauts, and the long-awaited return of Fire Pro Wrestling.

New release showcase:

Forza Horizon 4

Reviews:
10/10 – GameSpew: “It is, without a doubt, the best racing game available right now. In fact, it might be the best racing game of all time. If you own an Xbox One, you need Forza Horizon 4. It’s as simple as that”

9.6 – IGN: “Forza Horizon 4 is a gorgeous, rewarding, and self-renewing racing experience that I can’t tear myself away from”

9/10 – VideoGamer: “A beautiful Britain, an exuberant driving engine, and generosity of spirit make Forza Horizon 4 a masterclass”

FIFA 19

Reviews:
9.5 – God is a Geek: “This is without a doubt the best football game of the year – potentially of all time. With great improvements to how you play, additional modes in FUT, the addition of the Champion’s League, and visual enhancements in every mode, you’ll find it hard to put the controller down”

4.5/5 – Games Radar: “The Champions League expands FIFA’s exhaustive selection of licences – but thanks to lessons learned last year there’s plenty to love out on the pitch, too”

8.0 – GameInformer: “FIFA 19 sits relatively still this transfer window. We may want a shiny, new multi-million acquisition to come in and transform everything, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, developer EA Vancouver has added just enough to keep things ticking along. The gameplay cuts down on predictability, providing a layer of freshness to the familiar and producing a squad that can compete – but is also in danger of missing a Champions League spot”

Metal Max Xeno

Reviews:
8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “There’s lots of menu-fiddling, number-crunching, and ingredient-gathering, but at the end of that grind is comeuppance for evil, jerk murder-bots as your painstakingly-curated ordnance tears them to shreds, and it’s hard to get more satisfying than that”

7.5 – Dual Shockers: “In a year filled to the brim with triple-A game releases, there’s no doubt some of the smaller games will be lost in the fray. I hope that Metal Max Xeno isn’t one of those games. While it may seem like I had a lot more to complain about than praise, I actually did really enjoy my time with the title, and it was a nice surprise considering how unfamiliar I am with the series”

6/10 – RPG Site: “While some of the tank building and character class systems in Metal Max Xeno are moderately interesting, nothing else in this RPG is remarkable enough to stand out, which makes this a difficult game to recommend”

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Reviews:
9.5 – ZTGD: As a title that carries the heavy burden of expectations following the original’s pedigree of excellence as well as having to make up for a string of lackluster sequels that followed, Squad E carries on with its head held high, exceeding lofty expectations as it improves on nearly every aspect of the original, proving with utmost certainty that this is one of the finest series the genre has to offer.

8/10 – The Metro: “As a game in its own right Valkyria Chronicles 4 is highly engaging and just as good as the original, but as a sequel there’s no pretending this isn’t a disappointment”

8/10 – Destructoid: “Ultimately, despite being the fourth game in its series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 really is the sequel Valkyria Chronicles needed, and I have to say that I’m pleased that war has never looked more pleasant”

This Is The Police 2

Reviews:
7/10 – Push Square: “Fans of the original will find what they’re looking for – an engaging story and crime dealing management – but they’ll also have to put up with alarming difficulty spikes that can seriously hinder the experience if managed incorrectly”

6/10 – Nintendo Life: “There’s a lot to do, and a fair amount of that is fun, but it feels like the game’s many systems and demands are competing both for scarce virtual resources and your strained attention. In that sense, you’ll come to relate to Sharpwood’s put-upon new Sheriff all too well”

6/10 – PlayStation Country: “This Is the Police 2 takes the first game and develops certain aspects whilst adding tactical battles to break up the daily routine. The story and presentation are strong but it falls into a similar gameplay loop to the first game, for better or worse”

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Sep 25
By Jake In Blog No Comments

Normally when I don’t understand a modern game – Fortnite, Minecraft, Destiny, the list goes on – I feel like a dinosaur. And I’m perfectly comfortable with that. But with Dreams, I think I’m with the majority for once. So I was keen to seek it out at EGX – and that I did.

Having now waded through the disparate information knocking about online, I know that there’s a story mode made up of three intertwining tales – noir-themed mystery, childhood-horror-themed puzzle platforming, and sci-fi-themed action. It’s the last of those that made up the meatiest part of the demo I played. And it was lovely.

It was pretty straightforward platforming fare, but oh so charmingly executed, with beautifully tight controls, and new ideas around every corner. And instant restarts, which frankly should be mandatory in this sort of thing.

That it’s so promising isn’t surprising, because Media Molecule have a habit of producing exquisite platform games. Yes, LittleBigPlanet had extensive level creation tools, but it was also just an excellent platformer. It’s easy to forget that Media Molecule are horrifyingly talented at making games, not just making games that let you make games.

And it seems like that might be overlooked again with Dreams, which is first and foremost described as “an extraordinary open-ended experience where you can make anything, from interactive adventures and platformers, to shoot ‘em ups, puzzlers and more.” Which is why no-one understands what it is.

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Sep 24
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

It’s good news for Sony – Marvel’s Spider-Man is the UK’s no.1 for a third consecutive week.

With FIFA 19 out this Friday, it’s doubtful Spidey will make it for a fourth week. There’s a chance it’ll make a triumphant return later in the year, however, especially with Black Friday approaching.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider continues to sell well too, claiming #2 for a second week running.

NBA 2K19 fell to #4 during its second week on sale, meanwhile, giving way to Crash Bandicoot which rises to #3.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and GTA V then hold onto #5 and #6 (respectively).

Super Mario Odyssey is up three places to #7, F1 2018 sticks around at #8, PUBG rises to #9, and Sonic Mania Plus re-enters the top ten at #10. The blue blur was at #12 last week.

Discounts have helped a few older titles re-enter the top 20 – Dishonored: Death of the Outsider climbs to #12, while Resident Evil VII is up from #31 to #13.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is back in the chart too, re-surfacing at #37. The recent Switch reveal probably had something to do with that.

Lastly, two of last year’s sports titles are about depart the top 40 – FIFA 18 clings in at #39, while WWE 2K18 is at #40. This is the life a sports game leads – popular for a year, then pushed to the wayside the moment its successor arrives. It’s the circle of life.

Sep 23
By Jake In Retro No Comments

The PlayStation Classic is already heading for unobtainable status, just days after being announced, and months before launch.

Because of course it is. Half of the pre-orders are from people who actually want one, half are from people who wrongly think they want one just because it’s popular, and half are from people who want to sell one assuming there are shortages at launch. Yes, three halves – it’s that popular.

So already a PlayStation 2 Classic seems a distinct possibility. But if – when? – Sony go there, I hope they revisit the PlayStation 2 pre-order system to deliver a fully authentic retro experience.

Back then I worked part time in a now-defunct electrical retailer, and was impressed by how very austere the pre-order system was. Sony supplied a book of pre-order forms – complete with carbon copies – which we kept in the safe. Only the manager could get at it. Once all the forms were filled in, that was it.

Now I can’t remember how many carbon copies were produced, because it was 18 years ago and a lot of adult business has pushed that sort of crucial knowledge out of my brain. But I’d like to think that one was sent to Sony to go into a huge master pre-order binder, which they used for some high-end admin.

That system strikes me as ideal for their next retro mini console launch. Everyone has to physically turn up at an Amazon warehouse, where the manager will get a huge pre-order book out of their safe, fill it in in black block capitals, in triplicate, give you a copy, keep one, and send one to Sony. In Japan.

There, they’ll have the biggest binder you’ve ever seen. If anything hasn’t been filled in correctly – or, heaven forfend, in blue ink – then the form will be returned to the warehouse, to which you must return to try again – and bloody well try harder.

If the form passes muster, then your pre-order will be accepted, and on the launch day you may return to the same Amazon warehouse to collect your console. And pay by cheque only, which will have to be authorised over the phone while you wait.

That’s properly retro, and that’s what people deserve.

Sep 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Influenced by such Nintendo classics as Zelda and Earthbound, indie hit Undertale has taken its sweet time making its way to Switch despite being an ideal fit for the system.

We awarded the PS4 version a stonking 9/10 roughly a year ago, and as such, we’re more than pleased to see it finally reach a whole new audience. It’s as heartfelt as gaming gets.

It’s an eventful week for the Switch, in fact. Nintendo’s hotly debated online service is now in full swing, bringing with it a selection of NES classics. Sadly, they aren’t without fault – there’s no control mapping or auto-save facilities.

Fans of all things retro are better catered for elsewhere, with the first of SEGA’s AGES titles also making an appearance – Sonic the Hedgehog, which features the rule set from the often-forgotten arcade version, and the almighty Thunder Force IV.

The amusingly titled Cyber-Lip is this week’s NeoGeo release, meanwhile. Hamster has also dusted off the arcade version of Excitebike. Bad timing, sadly – the original is one of the ‘free’ online NES titles. This version does at least have a few unique features.

Then there’s the seven-game strong Capcom Beat’em Bundle, featuring two titles to never see a home release. Review scores are mostly clocking in at 7/10, with online issues being the major cause for concern.

The incredibly well-received Velocity X2, Broken Sword 5 and the Reigns: Kings & Queens double pack also make the jump to Switch. As for new releases, there’s the childlike adventure The Gardens Between, the futuristic Trickstyle alike racer Hover (we all remember Trickstyle, right?), and Little Dragons Café – a new venture from the creator of Harvest Moon.

The full list of new releases can be found below, along with discount highlights and new pre-orders. There’s also a new release for New 3DS – the ever-popular Minecraft!

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