Jul 17
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

PS4 exclusive Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is the UK’s new number one, ergo Square-Enix’s first chart topper since 2016’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

This ends Crash Bandicoot’s two-week run – the box breaking marsupial is now at #3, with Activision’s own Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare rising from #8 to #2.

This resurgence can be pinned on Amazon Prime Day, as half-a-dozen other games also temporarily reduced on Amazon have shot back up the chart.

Forza Horizon 3 is up from #14 to #6, Minecraft: Xbox One Edition rises from #22 to #7, and WipEout: Omega Collection is back in the top ten at #8, up all the way from #28.

To make room for all these re-entries, Micro Machines World Series, FIFA 17, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Battlefield 1 and Rocket League all depart the top ten. Now that’s a shake-up.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age was the only new entry in the top 40, meaning Cars 3: Driven to Win didn’t get a look in.

The best the movie tie-in could manage was #5 in the Switch chart.

Jul 16
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Micro Machines’ core concept is so simplistic that it isn’t in need of an explanation. We should be in safe and familiar territory here, yet after playing a few matches it soon transpires that World Series is anything but. It looks similar to Micro Machines games of yore, with its breakfast table courses and such, but under the hood it’s a very different beast.

Rather than building on the foundations of 2014’s Toybox Turbos, what we have here is a radical overhaul clearly intended to compete with Rocket League, and more bizarrely, Overwatch.

With loot boxes that bestow new skins, alternative lines of speech and different spray tags, the Overwatch influence is beyond obvious. Even the achievement list bares resemblance to Blizzard’s almighty online shooter. Still not convinced? In Battle Mode, each vehicle is loosely linked to a class type, and each has their own arsenal of attacks including an ‘Ultimate’ that charges over time.

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The ambulance vehicle acts as a healer, restoring health via a glowing green beam, while the shotgun-toting police cruiser can buff the damage of nearby players. A bright yellow ‘DOG’ digger can place gun turrets and erect walls; the fire engine can push opposition back with a hose. And as you’d expect, the two G.I Joe vehicles – World Series is chock-a-block with Hasbro product placement, incidentally – lend some heavy firepower.

Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into creating unique arsenals for each vehicle, and it also explains why the roster comprises of just twelve cars. Developer Just Add Water, best known for their Oddworld remakes, had to keep the Battle Mode balanced. This also explains why only ground vehicles are present and why the hovercraft, rather inexplicably, explodes upon touching water.

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Jul 13
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

We hear lots of stories of developers devouring takeaways, energy drinks and gallons of coffee while prepping a game for release. Here’s that age-old story with a twist: Switch indie De Mambo was created in a Costa Coffee, itself located in a Premier Inn.

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The Dangerous Kitchen – a three-man team – came to the same Hounslow-based Costa Coffee every day since 2014 to work on De Mambo, often slogging away well into the night. You can read up its conception and development in this feature Eurogamer published last month.

The fruits of the team’s labour are ripe for the taking this week. The £9.99 eShop release takes inspiration from a host of Nintendo classics, with Super Smash Bros. providing the bulk of it. Intended to be played with a single Joy-Con, players take control of a spherical character and attempt to ‘smash’ the opposition off screen, all while making good use of the scenery.

Nintendo Life felt it was worthy of an 8/10. “The core gameplay works a treat and its simplistic control method and ideology suit the game perfectly, resulting in a competitive title that is easy to learn, yet hard to master,” they said.

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The Switch sees a handful of other new eShop releases. These including Cars 3: Driven to Win (£49.99 – also due out at retail on both Switch and Wii U), ACA NeoGeo Fatal Fury (£6.29), grotesque point ‘n click adventure Bulb Boy (£7.19), and the co-op puzzler Death Squared (£11.99).

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Jul 13
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

This week’s biggest new release is easy to pinpoint. Off the back of the success of last year’s FF XV, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is turning the heads of even those who never experienced the original.

This remaster of the PS2 classic includes the International Zodiac Job System, which once formed part of an enhanced version of FF XII that never left Japan. Critics claim that FF XII holds up remarkably well, with scores including an 8.5 from GearNuke, an 8.8 from IGN, and a lofty 93/100 from Venture Beat.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age

It also gained Eurogamer’s ‘recommended’ badge. “Final Fantasy’s weirdest, most wonderful curio is a bright reminder of the power of crisp invention in high-risk blockbuster development” was their verdict.

Square-Enix are also responsible for Black the Fall. This dystopian puzzle-platformer has gained comparisons to last year’s Inside, and it’s easy to see why. ‘Good but not great’ is the consensus, with the likes of The Metro and GameSpew handing out 7/10s.

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Jul 10
By Matt Gander In Most Played No Comments

Maximum Games’ Troll & I is one of the worst games of this generation, but don’t take my word for it. Around 90% of those who’ve also made the mistake of buying this Iron Giant-esque adventure are also seemingly in agreement.

After making it through a labyrinth-like cave complex, some two hours in, the achievements began to flag as rare. According to the Xbox One achievement ratios, only 8% of players have managed to endure past this point. This isn’t a game that’s fundamentally flawed yet it’s still possible to squeeze some enjoyment out of it – it’s utterly shambolic, almost to the point of being unplayable.

Despite its numerous faults, I can still see why Maximum Games picked up the publishing rights, ergo why somebody might pick up Troll & I on a whim. Set in the Nordic countryside during the 1950s, this adventure has an intriguing and whimsical premise.

There’s an undeniable focus on teamwork, with Troll (that’s his name – Troll) able to lift heavy objects and trample enemies under his feet, while his newfound human chum Otto can use spears, creep around quietly, and cut down objects with his trusty knife. The two form an unlikely alliance, using their brains and brawn to outwit a group of hunters that have occupied the countryside. It’s The Iron Giant game we never received. Or Stig of the Dump, if you prefer.

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For Xbox One owners hankering for something similar to the PS4’s The Last Guardian, this is one of the few alternatives out there. At least until Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom gains backwards compatibility, anyway.

I consider myself the patience sort, yet only managed to stick with Troll & I until for around 4 hours. In that time, I had to contend with its poor camera, unintuitive controls, badly designed UI, one-dimension combat and abundance of bugs. I had to revert to the main menu twice within those 4 hours, too – Troll is prone to becoming stuck while traversing narrow corridors, and the climbing/jumping mechanics are so inept that I managed to snag Otto on thin air.

The breaking point came upon entering a heavily guarded enemy camp which introduces spear-lobbing enemies that can kill with one hit. They’re scattered around the camp, usually out of view, and as such can attack without warning. As far as difficulty spikes go, it’s off the charts – just take a look at the video below. To make matters worse, not only is the camp both open and complex, but the checkpoint system is so lame that during this section it’s possible to lose around 30 mins of progress.

The save system is so poor, in fact, that it doesn’t keep track of any collectables or weapons found between checkpoints – if you die, you must collect them again. Same goes for any weapons crafted.

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Jul 10
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Despite apparent stock shortages, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the UK’s number one for the second week running. This is something Activision can be proud of – the only other PS4 exclusive to retain the top spot for two consecutive weeks is Uncharted 4.

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GTA V moves up one position to claim #2, Overwatch rises from #6 to #3, FIFA 17 is at #4 and then at #5 it’s Micro Machines: World Series. Codemasters’ racing revival debuted at #2 last week.

Up from #20 to #6, it’s Battlefield 1. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rose to #7, Infinite Warfare re-enters the top ten at #8 while Rocket League shoots up to #9.

Horizon Zero Dawn rounds off the chart at #10.

Forza Horizon 3 and Elite Dangerous both leave the top ten meanwhile, falling to #14 and #23 respectively.

There were no new entries this week. Price cuts have propelled a handful of older games back into the top 40 however, with Hitman: The Complete Collection re-surfacing at #16, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – currently a mere £5 at Tesco – re-entering at #27.

Jul 06
By Matt Gander In Blog, New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

You may have noticed that it’s a slow week for new releases on both PS4 and Xbox One. It’s a different story for the Nintendo Switch, however, with six new games now available on the eShop.

Flip Wars (£8.99) from Nintendo themselves leads the way. This four player competitive party game involves claiming coloured tiles on grid-based battle arenas. Imagine a cross between Bomberman and Lights Out, and you’ll get the gist. Different modes, power-ups, environmental hazards and online play all feature. Could become a sleeper hit, this.

Then we have I and Me (£8.99), a 2D puzzle platformer which puts two cats under your control. It arrived on Steam back in May 2016, gaining “very positive” user reviews.

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Mech hack ‘n slasher IMPLOSION (£10.79) is another conversion, this time of a mobile game. Don’t let that put you off – it boasts ‘AAA console game’ production values, and as such, it looks surprisingly slick. User reviews on the Google Play store are (mostly) full of praise, suggesting it’s worth a look.

Shephy (£4.99) on the other hand is a Japanese card game which involves collecting sheep, while Vaccine (£8.99) takes inspiration from the early Resident Evil games, low poly count characters and all. Despite the intriguing set-up, it received mostly mediocre reviews over on the likes of Xbox One.

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Jul 05
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

It’s one of the quietest spells in recent times for new releases. As of the time of typing (Wednesday night), not a single new game has graced the Xbox One store all week. We may see something on or before Friday (a NeoGeo re-release perhaps) but Xbox One owners shouldn’t expect much in the way of new stuff to play.

[Update: ACA NeoGeo Pulsar released on Xbox One today.]

Things are a tad busier on PSN, where one of the new PS Plus titles – Sony’s That’s You – makes its debut. This social quiz game, which is also receiving a £14.99 retail release, lets competing players link their phones to a friend’s PS4 in order to take selfies, and partake in doodle and photo challenges. All in the name of making a mockery of your mates, no less.

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The PS4 also gains ACA NeoGeo Pulstar, plus belated releases of the Limbo alike Toby: The Secret Mine and the pleasingly chaotic 2D racer SpeedRunners. Both games garnered an 8/10 from ourselves – we called Toby “short but sweet” due to its fleeting 2 hour play time, while SpeedRunners left us impressed with its impeccable design. It’s clear the developers spent a ridiculous amount of time balancing and playtesting it to perfection.

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