Jul 24
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

We had an inkling Sonic Mania Plus would perform well in this week’s UK. Lo and behold – it’s in at #5, becoming the highest charting new release of the week.

Not that it was up against much competition, mind. The PlayStation Hits re-release of The Last of Us: Remastered made #26, while the Amazon Prime Day sale shook up the top end of the chart.

In fact, discounted Xbox One bundles were so popular during Prime Day that Sea of Thieves managed to become no.1 in the individual format chart. Minecraft: Xbox One Edition and Forza Horizon 3 are back in the top ten too, at #4 and #6.

Crash Bandicoot is the true, multi-format, no.1 for the third consecutive week. LEGO The Incredibles also held onto #2.

Skipping down the chart a bit, God of War is at #7, The Crew 2 rose to #8 thanks to a minor price cut, FIFA 18 fell to #9 while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe remains at #10.

After entering at #3 and #4 last week, Octopath Traveler and Captain Toad both take a tumble, now at #16 and #17 (respectively).

Jul 19
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a changin’” – this week’s eShop line-up is incredibly similar to the assortment of titles also hitting the PS4 and Xbox One. In fact, almost every new Xbox One release from this week is also on Switch.

Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion (£34.99) kicks off the multi-format love-in, being the most ambitious and fully-fledged Adventure Time game yet. It’s an open-world affair with sea-faring, combat, and upgradable abilities. First reviews are positive, but not amazingly so. “This is a genuine attempt to create the type of experience the Adventure Time license deserves,” said GameInformer before handing out an above average 6/10.

Then we have Guts and Glory (£13.49), a madcap and brutal racer. It has a slight air of ‘streamer fodder’ about it (think along the lines of cult hit Goat Simulator) so expect dumb but fun thrills and buckets of gore.

Frost (£11.69) deserves some attention too, being a deck-building, solo survival card adventure set on a frozen wasteland. GamingTrend felt it was deserving on an 8/10. “Frost takes the deck-building and survival genres and mashes them together to create a truly challenging and strategic game,” was their verdict.

Hand of Fate 2 (£22.60) offers similar card-based role-playing. It’s something of a hidden gem, this, and it sounds like it fits the Switch perfectly. Each mission takes you through a different story, with randomly chosen cards and tests of skill affecting your path and outcome. Combat meanwhile takes place in small arenas, featuring precise and refined hack ‘n slash style gameplay. We gave the Xbox One version 8/10 back last December.

From Ubisoft comes Hungry Shark World (£7.99). It’s a mobile conversion, albeit one that appears to have had quite a bit of extra work put into it. Take on various side-scrolling missions while fighting off all kinds of monstrous sea creatures. It’s the Ecco the Dolphin’s evil twin!

Like the above, reviews of Team 17’s Mugsters (£9.99) are also slow to surface. This one is a little hard to define, being a colourful, heavily stylised, physics puzzler with various vehicles. The sandbox structure allows for puzzles to be completed in different ways.

As for new stuff, there’s Tanzia (£16.99) a faux MMO-style 3D RPG with 32-bit era visuals. Destructoid awarded it 6.5 earlier today. “It definitely has limited appeal, but fans of that relative lack of modern polish we now attribute to sixth generation games will find a competent little action-RPG romp that stands tall with its niche PS2 counterparts,” they said.

That’s joined by Sausage Sports Club (£11.69) – a party game featuring floppy animals on a reality TV show. “Sausage Sports Club is delightful in its silliness and makes up for the slapdash nature with its charm,” was Nintendo World Report’s final word.

After hitting the PS4 some time ago, the full-price RPG Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded (£44.99) also makes it to the Switch. Reviews are highly positive so far, including 8/10 from God is a Geek who claimed the Switch version is the best.

Here’s the rest of this week’s Switch line-up, including three rather dubious looking Japanese dating sims, two arcade re-releases and the swish-looking VSR: Void Space Racing.

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Jul 18
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Last week the price tag for Square-Enix’s pixel art JRPG Octopath Traveler come under scrutiny. It’s the turn of Atari’s Tempest 4000 this week, and for reasons far more justified.

The psychedelic arcade shooter has launched at an eye-watering £24.99, double the price of Polybius, and almost five times the price of TxK – a game it’s reportedly very similar to. All signs point to Atari trying to rinse as much money from the pockets of Minter/Tempest fans as possible.

While reviews are mostly positive, critics did claim that it feels rather familiar to TxK, borrowing a few too many level layouts and power-ups. Still, the general consensus is that it’s great to have a shiny new Tempest on the current crop of consoles.

Incidentally, it appears budget publisher Funbox Media will be releasing a physical version a month from now. It’s currently £30 on Amazon; a price that’s likely to drop before launch.

From expensive to purse pleasing. The PS4 has reached the age in its life where it’s able to offer a budget range of older titles. The PlayStation Hits line-up will set you back £15.99 a piece, with some retailers already offering ‘2 for £25’ deals.

Both first-party and third-party titles feature, with highlights including The Last of Us Remastered, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Yakuza 0, Bloodborne and Rayman Legends. Cult bug blasting shooter Earth Defense 4:1 is part of the range too, but the fact that it can be easily found for £10 new makes its inclusion slightly negligible.

Sonic Mania Plus also gets a budget price (£25) retail release, including an artbook and reversible cover. Those who own the original digitally can purchase the new DLC for a mere £3.99, which throws Ray and Mighty back into the fray. We gave the base game a well-deserved 9/10 upon release.

As for brand new games, Mothergunship is one you may want to take note of – it’s a bullet hell first-person shooter with warped humour and rogue-like elements. The recent firing range demo left us rather impressed, showing off the nifty gun crafting abilities. We’ve rounded-up scores below.

Then hot on the heels of last week’s LEGO The Incredibles and Hotel Transylvania comes another family title – Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion. Zelda: The Wind Waker appears to be its biggest influence, boasting sea-faring and an open-world structure. Indeed, it’s far more ambitious than past Adventure Time games.

Ubisoft’s Hungry Shark World makes the jump from mobile, meanwhile, and Team 17 is back once again with Mugsters – a heavily stylised top-down action puzzler with sandbox design and plenty of screen-filling explosions. It reminds us of Blast Corps on N64. A tiny bit, at least.

New release showcase:

Mothergunship

Reviews:
9/10 – PSU: “A furious and value stuffed effort, Mothergunship is one of the most exhilarating and satisfying shooters you can get on PS4 right now”

8/10 – GameSpot: “When Mothergunship is firing on all cylinders, it’s a satisfying and thrilling shooter where it really counts. With an incredibly fun and never uninteresting gun-crafting mechanic, it certainly goes a long way with its clever hook and an endless flow of enemies to gun down”

7/10 – Push Square: “In conclusion, Mothergunship is more than the sum of its disparate parts, and definitely deserves your time. It’s a big silly mix of destruction, synths, and sci-fi and a lot of fun to play through”

Tempest 4000

Reviews:
84/100 – GamesBeat: “If you can look past the roughest levels, you’ll find this to be a fun and highly memorable game. Here’s hoping Llamasoft gives it a little post-release polish so it can become a modern classic, just like Tempest 2000”

7/10 – TheSixthAxis: “This is worth a look if you are bored of cut scenes, collectables, and other frippery that clog up video games and want some serious old school arcade action”

6/10 – Push Square: “Minter’s schtick, for as much as we love it, feels like it’s outstayed its welcome for the first real time. Maybe Atari’s lawyers would have been better off keeping this particular project locked down?”

Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion

Reviews:
3/5 – Trusted Reviews: “The exploration is ideal for kids who just want to stomp about as their favourite characters, but they could find the fighting too hard. RPG fans will find a lack of depth throughout, and unless they love Adventure Time, will quickly abandon it for something else”

6/10 – Push Square: “The battle system and story are an enjoyable experience, but absurdly long load times, frame rate stuttering, a clunky menu system, and a poorly developed upgrade system hamper the experience”

6/10 – GameInformer: “This is a genuine attempt to create the type of experience the Adventure Time license deserves. It comes up short in many ways, but I still did get to have an adventure in Ooo, even if it was flooded with both water and technical issues”

Sonic Mania Plus

Reviews:
9.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Somehow, Christian Whitehead and team have made the definitive version of Sonic even more definitive. The genuinely challenging stages are chock-full of secrets, and will require multiple playthroughs to find everything they have to offer”

8/10 – The Metro: “The ‘Plus’ additions are minor but this is still a touching, and highly playable, labour of love by fans that understand Sonic The Hedgehog better than Sega themselves”

8/10 – Destructoid: “For five bucks as a digital upgrade all of these Sonic Mania Plus additions are a no-brainer. Sure, encore and maybe the multiplayer updates would have been added as free DLC in some circles, but the new characters and the package as a whole props up one of the best platformers of 2017 for a more than reasonable price”

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Jul 17
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This four-player co-op shooter is the gaming equivalent of store brand Coca-Cola. The creators have tried to replicate a highly successful formula – in this case, Valve’s classic Left 4 Dead series – but when it comes to sampling its delights, those accustomed to the real-deal will instantly notice something a little off.

Perhaps ‘store brand Coca-Cola with a twist of lemon’ would be a more fitting analogy, as developer Holospark has put their own sci-fi spin on things. Instead of hordes of festering undead, the four ‘everyday American’ survivors – which include a bearded chap in a plaid shirt, and a hooded teenage stoner – are up against an alien onslaught.

The bipedal beige-skinned scourge behaves in a similar way to Valve’s dearly deceased, often found wandering aimlessly and occasionally taking a few seconds to react to your presence. They’re also keen on surrounding the survivors when aggravated, especially on harder difficulty settings. A forceful shove gives breathing space, but only temporarily. Dillydally in one area for too long and the alien hordes will soon catch up, tearing down doors and haphazardly descending from high ledges and skylight windows, familiar incidental music and all.

Even Valve’s ‘special infected’ have been replicated with an off-world spin. The ‘Whiplash’ – which vaguely resembles a small giraffe – will carry off any stragglers, and there’s the usual assortment of toxic goo spewing spitters, exploding bloaters, and crowd rallying enragers. The tank-like alien has seemingly escaped from Turtle Rock’s uber-flop Evolve, meanwhile, able to breathe fire. Indeed, the alien army’s design is hardly inspired, resembling the rogue’s gallery in a straight to DVD sci-fi movie. The ‘Blackout’ – a ferocious cyclone of spindly tentacles – is about as creative as it gets.

The sci-fi twist does fortunately lead to a few unique ideas, albeit literally just a few. The ‘arc grenade’ is a nifty gizmo, electrocuting any aliens that step into the blast, while the colossal ‘Valkyrie’ rifle instantly turns the opposition into dust. There’s also a bigger emphasis on fortifying locations than L4D, with self-erecting barricades – which handily ‘snap’ to fit doorways – and both mounted and auto turrets commonly found in areas where holdouts take place.

Sadly, Earthfall’s most promising sounding feature is also its most disappointing – futuristic 3D printers, able to produce weapons on demand, are nothing more than sci-fi treasure chests. With spare weapons bountiful, we rarely felt the need (or desire) to stop and use them. In fact, they simply appear to be present just so Holospark could add weapon crafting to Earthfall’s feature list.

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Jul 16
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

None of last week’s new releases could topple Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, which remains the UK’s no.1 for a third consecutive week.

LEGO The Incredibles settles for #2, with the PS4 version proving the most popular (followed by Xbox One and then Switch).

At #3 it’s Square-Enix’s Octopath Traveler, which also had no trouble topping the Switch chart.

GamesIndustry.biz reports that if the UK top 40 was based on revenue alone Octopath would actually be no.1, due to the higher price point of both Crash and The Incredibles.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker took #4 meanwhile. This Wii U conversion also made #3 in the Switch chart and #4 in the 3DS chart, charting below Mario Kart 7, AC: New Leaf and Pokemon Sun.

Then at #5 it’s God of War, up one position. FIFA 18 fell two places to #6, the surprisingly popular Jurassic World Evolution dropped five places to #7, Mario Tennis Aces is at #8, Far Cry 5 takes #9, and then at #10 it’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

On the topic of Nintendo, precisely ¼ of the top 40 is formed of first-party Nintendo games this week. That’s pretty good going.

SEGA’s Shining Resonance Refrain was the only other new entry, making a lowly #27. Worry not – we have a feeling a certain hedgehog will climb the chart next Monday.

Jul 12
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

It’s a corker of a week for the Switch eShop – over 25 new releases, most of which appear to be worth a look. A rare case of quantity and quality, certainly. The majority look rather swish and stylish too, with Bomb Chicken’s impressive 2D artwork, razor-sharp monochrome boxing sim Pato Box, and the smartly drawn management game Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! all standing out.

Octopath Traveler (£49.99) falls into this category as well, boasting classic Square-Enix pixel art placed on rich and detailed 3D environments. It has been said that this JRPG shouldn’t launch at full price due to featuring simple 2D visuals. Critics beg to differ – it currently has an impressive 84% Metacritic, incorporating top marks (5/5) from Digitally Downloaded, a lofty 9.3 from IGN, and an 8/10 from The Metro.

“A fantastic balancing act between old and new, creating a Japanese role-player that’s full of charm, innovative ideas, and clever nods to the past,” was The Metro’s verdict.

Wii U conversion Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (£34.99) is another big-name release, hitting Switch and 3DS. Both versions are going down well. In fact, the 3DS version is yet to receive a score lower than 7/10.

All-Star Fruit Racing (£34.99) meanwhile has seemingly come out of nowhere, being a reasonably slick and polished kart racer. While reviews are far from glowing, they’re certainly positive enough to make it worth a look. It’s also hitting store shelves as a physical release, incidentally. The same goes for Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard (£34.99), which we’re going to assume isn’t an all-time classic. Stick with the fun and colourful LEGO The Incredibles (£49.99) for movie tie-in thrills.

Then we have SEGA’s Shining Resonance Refrain (£44.99), a JRPG that’s turned out to be an unexpected throwback to 32-bit role-playing games due to a low budget. “Shining Resonance Refrain isn’t a terrible game, it’s just riddled with incredibly poor decisions which almost overshadow a great combat system” warned God is a Geek.

As for this week’s indies, strategic bombing sim Bomber Crew (£11.99) is worth investigating, as is the retro rogue-like platformer 20XX (£12.99). Heck, even this week’s NeoGeo release – ACA NEOGEO THE SUPER SPY – has caught our eye, boasting some of the largest sprites of the era.

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Jul 12
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

It’s perhaps a cliché to say it, but Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is another Wii U conversion more than deserving of a second chance on Switch. Or in this case, not just on Switch but 3DS too.

Both conversions are well worth your time, mostly gaining 8/10 review scores. The Switch also sees the release of Square-Enix’s traditional JRPG Octopath Traveler, a game that has been anticipated since the first demo went live back in September 2017.

A few naysayers claim a game with relatively simple 2D visuals shouldn’t retail for full price. This may impact review scores slightly, but we believe it’s still on track to become another Switch smash. We’ll take a closer look later in the week.

SEGA’s Shining Resonance Refrain is another new JRPG out now, gracing all three major formats. Despite the franchise’s heritage, the reception has been mixed. It’s a very low budget affair, apparently.

After reaching the US a few weeks ago, the rest of the world finally gets LEGO The Incredibles. It’s a little short and easy, even by LEGO game standards, but the open world is fun and inviting to explore. If you’re looking for a way to keep the kids quiet this summer holiday, look no further.

We’ve also got a few surprise hit indies on the agenda – stylish puzzler The Spectrum Retreat, 2D retro throwback 20XX, and stylish strategy shooter Bomber Crew are all going down well. We’ve rounded-up scores below. You’ll also find a smattering of reviews for the multi-format All-Star Fruit Racing, a slick looking kart racer.

Co-op shooter Earthfall – arriving for around the £25 mark – may prove to be a surprise hit too, putting the focus on defending holdouts with portable defences instead of merely blasting everything in sight. User reviews on Steam are ‘mostly positive’ so far.

Defiance 2050 pushes the boundaries of the word “new” meanwhile – it’s a mere HD re-release of the original Defiance from 2013, rather than a new game. The biggest change is the title screen. It isn’t a bad way to blow a few hours, but even in 2013 the shooting mechanics felt dated. Set expectations low and you may have a reasonably enjoyable time. Damning praise, there.

New release showcase:

The Spectrum Retreat

Reviews:
4.5/5 – The Xbox Hub: “Some may find it a little tricky, but if you love a puzzler and an intriguing story then The Spectrum Retreat should ensure you see the Penrose Hotel as somewhere to consider a short stay”

7.0 – God is a Geek: “The puzzles themselves are enjoyable and challenging, culminating in a monster puzzle at the end that brings everything you’ve learned together. However, the design of them feels ordinary most of the time, with each setting feeling like a collection of hoops to jump through, and only occasionally feeling like grand, clever, interlinked design”

6/10 – Destructoid: “There’s a narrative worth hearing here, but the cadence at which it’s told is just a little bit off. That, mixed with the good-but-not-outstanding puzzle design, keeps The Spectrum Retreat from being a truly great stay”

All-Star Fruit Racing

Reviews:
4/5 – TrueAchievements: “With an irresistibly cheerful aesthetic, plenty of game modes, great track variation, and good customization options all built on top of a fun kart racing foundation, there’s no reason to expect genre fans won’t adore this game”

6/10 – Xbox Tavern: “All-Star Fruit Racing is a decently structured kart racing game that offers up quite a chunk of content in return for its fairly generous asking price. The main issue here is that despite being fun, much of the content lacks originality, refinement and depth”

6/10 – Nintendo Life: “All-Star Fruit Racing takes a unique karting weapon system, throws it into a blender with some cute presentation ideas and an unfortunate series of technical annoyances, and ends up with a pretty mixed bag as a result”

Shining Resonance Refrain

Reviews:
7/10 – Nintendo World Report: “Fans of previous titles in the series and seasoned RPG players may find the enjoyment that alluded me. I wouldn’t tell you to avoid this game, but there’s a whole lot I would recommend before it”

6.5 – God is a Geek: “Poor dialogue, poor AI, inconsistent rule-sets, terribly cliche, but an excellent combat system and being able to turn into a dragon really saves the game from being considered as bad, it’s enjoyable, like a film that’s so bad that it’s actually good, plus, you get one and a half games for the price of one and that’s really why it deserves a chance and not to be written off”

6.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Shining Resonance Refrain feels very much like a budget RPG. While it does some things really well such as well-written characters with excellent voice acting and awesome music, there are plenty of things that just don’t really work”

Bomber Crew

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “Favouring roguelite progression, strategy and resource management over frantic arcade-style combat, if you can get past the simple, cute visuals and steep learning curve you’ll find a rich, intense and satisfying experience here”

8/10 – PSU: “There’s a pleasing amount of depth to the game’s equally impressive array of systems and mechanics, hidden behind a charming, low-res visual style and sense of humour”

4/5 – TrueAchievements: “Gameplay is fun and addictive, with added suspense from the constant threat of permadeath for the current plane and crew. Small problems can rapidly escalate into disasters, and disasters can lead to the frustration of dealing with a new under-levelled and under-equipped crew and plane while well into the campaign”

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker


Reviews:
8.7 – IGN: “A brilliantly smart meld of classic platforming with perception puzzling, no matter where you play it”

8/10 – Pocket Gamer: “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a beautifully charming perspective puzzler that deserved a second chance at success. It’s also a decent – though not quite perfect – fit on Switch”

8/10 – The Metro: “Utterly charming on (literally) every level, it may not offer much in terms of fast action but this is just as imaginative and engrossing as any Super Mario game”

LEGO The Incredibles

Reviews:
8/10 – PlayStation Country: “A great fit for the Lego game template released ahead of the new film. One of the better Lego games in recent memory that shows what can be done when the source material is right”

7.6 – Video Chums: “Lego The Incredibles is a smooth entry in the long-running Lego video game series. It doesn’t do much to break out of the mold but there’s no denying how ultimately solid and satisfying it is”

6.5 – Destructoid: “I enjoyed playing through the game, but felt some of the questionable decisions and creaking technology kept it from achieving its potential”

20XX

Reviews:
4.5/5 – The Xbox Hub: “I’ve really enjoyed my time with 20XX, and my trip down gaming’s Memory Lane – back to a time when games were hard and gamers were determined. And it is for that reason you may as well give 20XX a try”

7.5 – Xbox Tavern: “Despite its difficulty fluctuations and some minor design issues with its procedurally generated content, 20XX offers a solid Mega Man-like action platformer that plays well and is distinct enough to stand out”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “The procedural engine does a good job of mixing things up, but after a while you can start to see a little repetition, but that’s easily overshadowed by the sheer variety and amount of upgrades and customisation”

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Jul 11
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

I’m currently 30 hours into Puyo Puyo Tetris with my wife. She keeps beating me. I see Puyo Puyo’s fall across my vision as I sleep at night. Her nonchalant face, as she beats me for the fifth time in a row, causes sweat to form on my brow as I slumber. I awake in the middle of the night, panicking as I imagine our play stats enshrined on my gravestone. I look at her, fast asleep, as I turn on the Switch. I alight my face with it’s LCD as I desperately practise T-Spins. She snoozes. I will defeat her one day.

The latest Switch puzzle game trying to claim my time is Yuso, a puzzle game that’s also available on iOS and Android. The aim of the game is to rid the screen of coloured blobs called ‘Yuso’. You do this by tapping on them (or selecting them with the controller). Once tapped, a Yuso will destroy itself and all Yusos surrounding it. However, you can only tap a Yuso if it is directly vertically or horizontally next to another Yuso of the same colour. This rule means it’s easy to trap yourself or leave yourself with a single Yuso on the board. Luckily, you can rewind a tap with the B button, or reset the board instantly.

As you progress through the 80 levels, complications are added in. Different coloured Yuso create a big challenge, as do sleeping Yuso, who need to be woken up by popping Yuso around them.

At this point, we’ve got to mention that the presentation of Yuso is excellent. The different coloured Yuso are drawn nicely and all the different colours also have different facial expressions, which animate nicely. The popping of the Yuso is also really tactile, with a great use of rumble. In a simple game it makes a real difference, and you can tell that real love and care has been spent in making the game feel as nice as possible.

Unfortunately, there’s not much game here. The best puzzle games make you feel clever, and I never felt clever. A lot of the time I was using trial and error to pop Yuso, resetting when I went wrong. It’s often quicker to explode a Yuso and observe the result (and rewind if necessary) than it is to work out what the result will be from tapping a Yuso. This means the it’s never quite satisfying to play.

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