Apr 30
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Considering it’s still the talk of gaming town, it comes as no surprise to find God of War holding onto no.1 for the second week running.

And yes, it did face competition. The catchily named Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit entered at #3 – also topping the Switch chart – while the slightly more expensive Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit made #20 (#5 in the Switch chart).

Sticking with Switch, the handheld iteration of South Park: The Fractured But Whole propelled Ubisoft’s crude cartoon tie-in to #19 in the all-formats top 40.

GamesIndustry.biz reports the arrival of Labo helped shift additional Switch systems, as all the usual stalwarts (Zelda, Mario Kart 8, et al) enjoyed sales boosts last week.

Going back to the top ten, Far Cry 5, FIFA 18 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe remained at #2, #4 and #5 respectively. Fallout 4 rose one place to take #6 while Call of Duty: WWII re-entered the top ten at #7, up from #19.

Super Mario Odyssey and PUBG both dropped a couple of places meanwhile, now at #8 and #9. Good old GTA V sees us out at #10.

We expected to see Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-Ality in the top 20, at the very least, but that was an unexpected no-show. It didn’t even manage to break the PS4 top 20.

Apr 28
By Richard In Reviews 1 Comment

SEGA surprised everyone a couple of weeks ago by announcing that Football Manager was not only coming to the Switch but that it was available immediately.

It seems a slightly odd time to launch as the season is almost over. That said, if you support a team that’s performed poorly this season it does provide an opportunity to rewrite history. Maybe it’s the perfect time for Chris Coleman to sit on the sofa with a nice mug of hot cocoa and try and work out where it all went wrong.

Since this is the first console football manager since Football Manager 2014 on PlayStation Vita, some catching up is in order. This famous timesink of a game tasks you with managing a football club in one of either the top seven divisions in England or a club in one of a huge variety of foreign leagues. You can either do this by simply taking over a club of your choice, or by picking a ‘challenge’. Challenges range from saving a club from relegation to surviving a financial meltdown.

If you’ve only really ever played Championship Manager, the forerunner to this series, you might think these challenges sound easy. Anyone who played that game will have tales of taking division three clubs through three promotions and all the way to the final of the Champions League. Football Manager is significantly more difficult. We took over North Ferriby and were sacked before Christmas, but then we did grow up watching teams managed by Terry Dolan, so we’ve not had the best of role models.

While Football Manager has got tougher, it’s has grown more complex. The full PC experience can sometimes be opaque and terrifying, with a vast array of hidden variables responsible for your team’s performance. Luckily, this iteration of Football Manager is based significantly on the iPad version. That means a simplified experience, with training options cut down and media interactions completely expunged. Thank god, because the media interactions – with their canned answers – are deathly dull. Less positive news: this Switch version costs £10 more than on mobile.

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Apr 26
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

If this week’s arrival of the Nintendo Labo kit doesn’t pique your interest, then chances are a new eShop release or two will take your fancy. There are over 20 new titles to choose from. They aren’t all as fresh of a daisy, mind – a few Wii U throwbacks and some unsightly PC shovelware dare show their faces this week.

First, the good. South Park: The Fractured But Whole (£49.99) has made the jump to Switch intact, save for a few technical gripes such as lengthy loading screens. The Metacritic score currently stands at 81%, clocking in slightly above the PS4 version’s 79%. “While it’s a fair few months behind the releases that graced other platforms in 2017, the Nintendo Switch version South Park: The Fractured But Whole isn’t diminished by its later arrival,” said Nintendo Life.

Hot on the heels of The Bunker comes another FMV adventure from Wales Interactive. Late Shift proves we’ve come a long way since the days of Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties and Night Trap. “Late Shift is a technological beauty that shows what full-motion video games can truly achieve. Its slick plot and fast but meaningful pacing proves that the genre has some uncharted territory it can explore in the future,” was Gaming Trend’s verdict.

Then we have Jotun: Valhalla Edition (£10.99), a game drenched in Nordic mythology which hit Wii U and PS4 some time ago. It was praised for its beautiful hand-drawn artwork and gripping boss battles, gaining a mixture of 7s and 8s.

Story-driven 2D platformer Light Fall is off to a good start too, garnering a 7.5 from Nintendo World Report: “I like Light Fall a whole lot and I could have stood for some more of it, maybe with some less spaced-out checkpoints and a less disappointing finale.”

Hello Kitty Kruisers With Sanrio Friends (£24.99) is another from the days of Wii U, dating back to 2014. Scores were average at best, and we highly doubt time has been kind to it.

The arrival of Firefighters: Airport Fire Department and Firefighters – The Simulation (£34.99 each) also sets our alarm bells ringing. Firefighters – The Simulation on PS4 was so bad that many critics called for Sony to enforce tighter quality control on PSN. We aren’t out the wood yet – UIG has a dozen other sims planned for Switch this year.

Arriving out of the blue, we have the NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja STORM Trilogy (£44.99) which may prove popular. The individual games can be purchased for £16.99 a piece, which seems reasonable enough.

‘80s set role-player Saturday Morning RPG (£7.19) is also worth a look, especially for those who lie their games littered with pop culture references. It isn’t as long as most RPGs, and so it may appeal to time-strapped fans of the genre too.

As it’s a busy week, here’s a round-up of the remaining Switch releases. Nothing for 3DS this week it seems, but a handful of Atlus RPGs are on offer including 7th Dragon III Code: VFD and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse.

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Apr 25
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Considering it’s an accessory pack requiring a vivid imagination to get the most out of, it’s no surprise that most critics chose not to give the first wave of Nintendo Labo kits a review score.

Post Arcade was a rare expectation, giving the Toy-Con 01 Variety Kit a lofty 9/10. “Nintendo’s cardboard-construction-cum-video-game experiment makes for a pricey but extremely entertaining crafting project for kids,” they said.

Nintendo World Report also went ahead and gave the Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit the review treatment, which makes more sense seeing it’s more of a standalone game.

“I had a lot of fun building the Robot Kit, but I question whether it felt like $79.99 worth of fun. With only one project the Robot Kit might be best saved for Labo enthusiasts,” they warned.

The Switch also receives a belated release of South Park: The Fractured but Whole. It’s a very good conversion, reportedly, save for a few technical hiccups and some long loading screens. You’ll find a sampling of review scores below. Incidentally, we reviewed the Xbox One version upon release. Our review can be found here.

Indie adventure The Swords of Ditto, and the interactive Agatha Christie-style story The Invisible Hours are getting decent reviews too, as you can see below.

Sadly, but understandably, Death Road to Canada won’t be joining them on the digital stores. The developer has chosen to delay its release following the recent attack in Tornoto.

In an official statement, managing director of Ukiyo Publishing Paul Hann said: “We feel it would be deeply inappropriate to launch the game at such a time. We would like to express our deepest condolences to everyone affected by the tragic events in Toronto.”

Lastly, Rick and Morty Virtual Rick-Ality on PS4 finally gets a physical release this week. Expect to see it in the UK chart on Monday – if the turgid Bravo Team can break the top ten, we’re sure this can.

New release showcase:

The Swords of Ditto – PS4/PC

Reviews:
8.5 – PSU: “Vibrant, ridiculous, endearing and just plain enjoyable to play, The Swords of Ditto is an absolute pleasure to tuck into. It doesn’t always marry its creative streak to its combat particularly well, but it doesn’t prevent this adorably gorgeous action RPG from winning hearts and minds”

8/10 – Push Square: “Although some slight technical issues are a bit of a pain, they’re not enough to detract from what is otherwise a delightfully charming experience. Tight and tidy, this is an addictive time sink that’s well worth a look — especially if you bring someone along for the ride”

7.5 – EGM: “Devolver Digital and Onebitbeyond’s action RPG, The Swords of Ditto, isn’t a complete reinvention of the roguelike subgenre, but it has enough modern twists and artistic charm to stand out. Players new to such games might have trouble jumping in, though, as a few important mechanics of the subgenre aren’t explained as well as they should have been”

The Invisible Hours – PS4/XO/PC

Reviews:
7/10 – Destructoid: “It’s the rare video game that requires no real player intervention to complete. But, the best possible payoff is a result of diligently following all the stories and getting a full picture of all the proceedings”

7/10 – GameSpot: “It strikes the same tone as an Agatha Christie novel and at times feels campy for it, but the characters are interesting and well-acted, making each trip through the same few minutes worth it just to see a different character’s side of things”

3.5/5 – Xbox Hub: “The gathering of evidence, clues and secrets is rewarding, but I fear its lack of interactivity will be a big downside for certain players”

South Park: The Fractured but Whole – Switch

8/10 – Pocket Gamer: “The Fractured But Whole is a brilliantly funny and entertaining RPG perfect for players who love strategy and love South Park. While the more hard-core folks out there may not find much challenge in its combat, its humour is enough to keep you playing on”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “While it’s a fair few months behind the releases that graced other platforms in 2017, the Nintendo Switch version South Park: The Fractured But Whole isn’t diminished by its later arrival”

7.5 – Nintendo World Report: “There are other areas that could use polishing, but putting up with the little annoyances was worth it to see the game through”

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Apr 25
By Matt Gander In Features, Retro No Comments

The creators of the vastly popular PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds made gaming news headlines last week, taking legal action against a handful of games mimicking PUBG a little too closely.

One clone features a frying pan as a melee weapon, while another uses the term ‘Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner’ in their marketing. Both are under heavy scrutiny and may end up being yanked.

While PUBG Corporation/Bluehole have every right to protect their brand, some allegations push the boundaries somewhat. It’s almost as if they’re taking credit for creating the whole Battle Royale genre, despite a few examples – including DayZ and H1Z1 – existing before PUBG’s release.

Can you imagine if Nintendo claimed ownership of the side-scrolling 2D platform genre following the success of the original Super Mario Bros? The NES would have missed out on several key titles, most of which became long-running franchises.

Indeed, it’s impossible to stop rival developers from copying currently popular trends. Once a studio finds themselves with an unexpected hit, a dozen imitators will surely follow. This is how new genres are formed, inducing some friendly competition.

In fact, blatant plagiarism in the video game market can be traced back all the way to gaming’s inception, as we dare to delve into below.

Breakout – 1976

Clones of Atari’s Breakout were so rife that you may not even know it by its original name. Even the genre it belongs to has different monikers. In France, the genre is known as ‘casse-briques’ (brick breaker), while Japanese gamers refer to it as ‘block kuzushi’ (block destruction). Generally, though, Breakout clones are known as either ‘paddle’ or ‘bat and ball’ games.

Arkanoid was Taito’s rendition – released ten years after Atari’s original – and it became a huge arcade hit, gaining numerous sequels. The Game Boy also had its own brick breaker in the form of Alleyway. Although a popular release, being one of four GB launch games, it wasn’t rated highly by critics due to failing to add anything new to the genre.

The Watara Supervision (known as the QuickShot Supervision in the UK) even came packaged with a bat and ball game, known as Crystball. It wasn’t the best choice to bundle with the system, highlighting how blurry the screen became when handling fast moving objects.

Sticking with handhelds, SEGA had their own take too. Woody Pop for the Game Gear was a popular release during the system’s early days, so called due to the bat being a wooden log known as Woody. A tree spirit, no less. It was a darn sight more imaginative than dull old Alleyway.

Space Invaders – 1978

We don’t need to tell you that Space Invaders was a colossal hit. It was a pop culture phenomenon, leading Taito’s classic to become a household name. Even now, 40 years on, it’s still possible to purchase Space Invaders merchandise. T-shirts, keyrings, baseball caps, mugs and more are readily available in high street stores and supermarkets.

It has to be one of the most imitated games of all-time. Why didn’t Taito clamp down on clones? Quite simply, the copyright of the original game hadn’t been properly protected – only the name ‘Space Invaders’ had been trademarked. In short: it was a free market.

Pretty much every system ever released has a Space Invaders style game, with early examples including the Intellivision’s Space Armada – the first Intellivision game to animate more than eight sprites – and the Fairchild Channel F’s Alien Invasion.

We can’t forget Galaxian either, which was Namco’s attempt at creating a bonafide rival rather than a mere clone, boasting full-colour graphics, a scrolling starfield, and background music. In many ways, it set the standard for all arcade games that followed.

Pac-Man – 1980

The moment Atari felt somebody treading on their toes, they beckoned their lawyers. After the biggest name in gaming bagged the prestigious Pac-Man license from Namco, Atari’s rivals tread very carefully when it came to developing their own Pac-Man style maze games.

This pussyfooting resulted in K.C. Munchkin, published by Philips for the Magnavox Odyssey. The creators went great lengths to add several key differences to Pac-Man, so that should they end up in court they’d have a leg to stand on. Instead of four ghosts, there were just three. Mazes – which featured optional random generation – had just 12 pills (known as munchies) to collect, and K.C himself was blue rather than yellow. Sadly for Philips, these changes weren’t enough – Atari managed to convince the courts that Phillips had copied Pac-Man, and so K.C. Munchkin ended up being pulled from shelves. It had a good run, however, making it to store shelves a whole year before the notorious Atari 2600 rendition of Pac-Man.

Lock ‘n’ Chase – published by Data East in Japan and Taito in the US – managed to elude Atari’s grasp by taking the cops ‘n robbers route, adding the ability to erect walls. Other clones tasked players with filling a maze with indefinable pills and pellets, rather than emptying it.

Atari’s reach extended to the European microcomputer market, forcing Commodore to yank the Vic 20’s Jelly Monsters – one of the system’s most impressive looking games. Luckily for Sinclair, Hungry Horace for the ZX Spectrum got off scot-free.

For those unable to afford a microcomputer or console, Grandstand’s Munchman tabletop electronic game was the only way to bring the Pac-Man experience home. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a knockoff as it was, in fact, a rebranded officially licensed Pac-Man game from Tomy.

Later Pac-Man clones were far more creative and unique than those that preceded them, including Shigeru Miyamoto’s Devil World, an innovative maze game that was denied Nintendo of America’s approval due to religious imagery.

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Apr 23
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

We’ve always said UK chart purveyors Chart-Track go beyond the call of duty, compiling charts for formats barely alive. This is even though most gaming sites rarely share information on the individual format charts, focusing solely on the all-formats top 40.

While penning today’s chart run-down we were surprised to find Chart-Track continues to record the minute amount of physical Nintendo DS and PSP game sales. These two systems haven’t had a new release for over four years – the last game released for the Nintendo DS was Big Hero 6 Battle in the Bay in 2014, while PES 2014 was the final PSP release.

So, what games are riding the DS and PSP charts high this week? In the DS top ten, Guinness World Records: The Videogame takes the top spot – a vastly overstocked title from 2010 which retailers are obviously still trying to get rid of. This is its third consecutive week at no.1.

The PSP chart meanwhile currently features just five titles, with NBA 2K10 on top. Four of the games in the chart are “new” entries. Tomb Raider: Legend was on top of the pile last week. The 2011 budget re-release, presumably.

How many copies does it take to top one of these charts? We’d be surprised if the amount was in double figures.

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Apr 23
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

God of War wasn’t able to strip Far Cry 5 of its title as the fastest-selling new release of 2018, but it did have the strongest launch in the franchise so far, taking no.1 in the process.

The previous fastest-selling entry in the series was God of War III, incidentally; one of just two past God of War titles that went straight to number one. The other was God of War II.

SEGA’s Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is also now a record holder in terms of week one sales, beating Yakuza: Kiwami, albeit by only 300 units (according to GamesIndustry.biz).

Yakuza 6 had to settle for #3, with Far Cry 5 – last week’s chart-topper – dropping to #2.

FIFA 18 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe moved down two places, taking #4 and #5 respectively.

Super Mario Odyssey rose to #6. The ever-popular Fallout 4 held onto #7, PUBG – which was free to play over the weekend – fell to #8, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild re-entered the top ten at #9. Then at #10 it’s the evergreen GTA V.

Both Sea of Thieves and GT Sport departed the top ten, meanwhile.

The physical release of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was the only other new arrival, making #11 in the Switch chart. The PS4 version didn’t get a look-in, sadly.

Apr 19
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

American gamers have a choice between digital or physical for Wild Guns Reloaded (£26.99). Sadly, Switch owners in Europe are forced to go digital…or import a copy. We imagine most will bite the bullet and opt for digital. PS4 owners in Europe were also forced to cough up almost £30 or import. Mercifully, it has retained its value.

It also helps that this retro revamp is genuinely good. Two reviews of the Switch version are currently live – an 8/10 from Cubed (“It’s a lean and compact shoot ’em up that’s consistently challenging and rewarding”) and a 7.5 from Nintendo World Report.

“Wild Guns Reloaded is a great revival of a lowkey Super Nintendo game in a genre that you don’t see much anymore,” said NWR.

Manticore – Galaxy on Fire (£17.99) is another prolific Switch release. This vehicular sci-fi shooter promises a storyline lasting around 8 hours. It’s a mobile conversion, but one that’s had extra work put into it, featuring a new HUD and HD Rumble. The first review comes courtesy of IGN Spain, who dished out 7.2.

Then we have Neo ATLAS 1469, an almost full price (£37.99!) map charting simulator of sorts. We dare say that’s a hard sell. The same goes for the officially licensed Skee-Ball (£17.99!) which offers numerous gameplay modes and the chance to win virtual prizes. We can’t see this one riding the eShop chart high either.

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