Mar 15
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Without any doubt, Kirby Star Allies (£49.99) is this week’s biggest Switch release. The last Kirby game – Planet Robobot on 3DS – exceeded many gamer’s expectations, and as such, anticipation for Kirby Star Allies is higher than your usual Kirby title.

But it’s fair to say Kirby Star Allies doesn’t quite hit the same high-note as Planet Robobot – review scores vary from lofty 9/10s from both Destructoid and EGM, to a miserable 4/10 from The Metro and an equally shameful 4.5/10 from God is a Geek.

“While it looks lovely and isn’t a bad game by any means, Star Allies is aimed at a very specific age group, and most others will find it far too easy and, sadly, rather dull,” was God is a Geek’s verdict. The Metro was also was put off by the lack of challenge, plus dull level design and irritating load times.

The Metro and God is a Geek are in the minority, we should note – the majority of reviews clock in at 7/10. “Kirby Star Allies hits all the perfect nostalgia notes you expect from a full-blown Kirby adventure, and adds just enough new twists to make something so familiar at this point feel fresh and fun again. The pink puffball has never played so well (particularly with others) before,” said EGM.

Clustertruck (£13.49) and Coffin Dodgers (£9.99) are two Switch releases that may ring a bell, first hitting the likes of PS4 and Xbox One some time ago. Chaotic ‘the floor is lava’ physics platformer Clustertruck gained decent reviews – “Clustertruck does for jumping what ‘SUPERHOT’ does for shooting” said High-Def Digest – while Coffin Dodgers was billed a (very) poor man’s Mario Kart, failing in just about every area.

Then we have a blast from the past in the form of Gem Smashers (£17.99), a colourful puzzler which can be traced back to the GBA. We imagine this iteration is based on the 2017 PS4 version…which managed to elude critics. That’s not a good sign.

Neonwall (£8.99) is also of note, but for more positive reasons. It’s a colourful puzzle/shooter hybrid that’s clearly designed with the JoyCons in mind. Nintendo Life dished out an 8/10 earlier today. “A beautiful package of endless neon glows and electronic music filled with some stiff concentration and reflex challenges makes it very easy for us to recommend this unusual yet deeply satisfying addition to Nintendo Switch’s digital library,” was their verdict.

Switch owners can also pre-order the very well-received Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and the infamous Japanese shooter sequel Gal*Gun 2 from today.

Demos of Plantera Deluxe, TorqueL -Physics Modified Edition- and Vostok Inc. are also live. If you’ve had your eye on any of these, now’s your chance to give’em a whirl. Vostok Inc. has just received a price drop, too.

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Mar 15
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

A trio of publishers are giving titles from their back catalogue a digital dust-off this week – EA, Capcom and THQ.

Burnout Paradise Remastered is easily the most eagerly of out of the three. A new Burnout is a long overdue, and Paradise is something of a franchise high-note thanks to its open-world and awesome soundtrack. Reviewers note that it’s showing its age in some areas though, such as rival racer AI.

As for Devil May Cry HD Collection, well, it seems that all three games are showing their age…a fact not helped by the lack of effort Capcom has put into these re-releases. Gaming Age was so unimpressed that they dealt the package a ‘D’ grade (the equivalent of 2.5/10 or 25%). “If you have fond memories, keep them there, rather than allowing them to become sullied by this hideous abomination,” they said.

THQ’s remake of The Raven – a cult last-gen crime thriller – is fairing far better, gaining a lofty 80% from GameSpew. “Gems like this are easily buried and forgotten about in a swathe of AAA releases, but now you’ve got another chance to delve into it, and this time with more bells and whistles.” was their final verdict.

Kirby Star Allies on Switch has divided critics, meanwhile, with scores as low as 4/10 and as high as 8/10. Why the indifference? It’s all down to the difficulty level, it seems – it’s polished, slick, and as cute as a button, but a complete cakewalk. A great game for younger players, or franchise newcomers, but don’t expect it to test your mettle. We’ve rounded-up scores below.

For those looking for something brand new, there’s the first episode in Focus’ political drama The Council. It makes a good first impression, entailing the mysterious disappearance of the likeable lead’s mother, and presented in a sophisticated manner. Fans of Telltale adventures would do well to take a look as it employs a similar structure.

Surviving Mars gains both a physical and retail release. Coming from the minds behind Tropico, it’s a sci-fi city sim allowing gamers to create their own colony on Mars. Expect a warped sense of humour to help carry it through.

Looking ahead to Friday, a battle of twin-stick shooters is imminent with Tesla vs Lovecraft and the comical Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse: VALA both hitting Xbox One.

Tesla vs Lovecraft (also on PS4) has gained a steady string of 7/10s. Despite launching on PC back in February, reviews of VALA are thin on the ground. It looks accomplished, however, and Steam user reviews are positive, so it’s certainly one to look out for.

New release showcase:

Burnout Paradise Remastered

Reviews:
8/10 – TheSixthAxis: “The racing is sublime, the stunts are spectacular, and there’s always something to do round the next corner”

4/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “Burnout Paradise Remastered still offers one of the best playgrounds to speed and smash through over a decade later, fueled by a smooth presentation, abundance of cars and an engaging soundtrack”

75/100 – Xbox Achievements: “Burnout Paradise Remastered represents a more than welcome comeback for a series that’s been away for far too long. Given a lustrous new coat of paint, Burnout Paradise still looks the business then, but now it’s got us yearning for a whole new Burnout”

Kirby Star Allies

Reviews:
8.3 – IGN: “Kirby Star Allies brings frantic four-player fun that’s continually a blast, thanks to countless ally combinations”

7/10 – Polygon: “It’s a kid-friendly romp through the franchise’s most memorable moments, and the asymmetric gameplay and lively spirit of Kirby’s latest journey make it a great way to introduce a new generation of fans to the series”

4/10 – The Metro: “Kirby’s games never seem fair on the enemies but this tiresome and poorly balanced co-op platformer offers little chance of fun for them or you”

Q.U.B.E. 2

Reviews:
9/10 – PSU: “With a serious tone, and a drama laden cast, Q.U.B.E. 2 is simply a cerebral experience. You’ll be able to sit down, calm your nerves, and look at things from a different perspective, if only for the time it takes to master a sliding Q.U.B.E. jump.”

8/10 – Destructoid: “Some easier puzzles aside, it’s still as satisfying as ever to conquer the larger puzzle rooms and Q.U.B.E. 2 is still a puzzle game I can easily recommend, as much of my nitpicking doesn’t detract too much from the overall package”

7/10 – GameSpot: “C.U.B.E. 2 makes remarkably clever changes to a formula well established by its predecessor, giving you more agency over puzzle solutions with redefined core mechanics”

Devil May Cry HD Collection

Reviews:
67/100 – Xbox Tavern: “Despite the dated visuals and camera issues, the gameplay remains as fun, as fast paced, and as addictive as it was over a decade ago. However, the lack of anything new in this collection may leave many of you wanting for more”

6/10 – The Metro: “A relatively competent remaster collection but the games are so old now that, without a full remake, newcomers will struggle to understand how they became so beloved”

5/10 – PSU: “The chance to properly spruce up Dante’s first three adventures has been missed here, and instead we get the already miserly remasters that appeared on PS3. At a time where it’d be great to remember why Devil May Cry can be so good, we get minimal effort and Devil May Cry 2”

The Council – Episode 1: The Mad Ones

Reviews:
8.5 – PSU: “The Council Episode One is a thunderously promising start for this fresh, sophisticated and intelligent take on the narrative adventure”

4/5 – Windows Central: “Though rough around the edges overall due to some performance issues, the first episode of The Council has laid a strong foundation for this intriguing story and fun gameplay to continue down the line”

6.0 – God is a Geek: “The opening episode isn’t exactly the most gripping of affairs, as this slow burning, political drama takes a while to get going and isn’t helped by poor presentation and dull puzzles. But there is potential here for an interesting story to be told in future episodes”

Tesla vs Lovecraft

Reviews:
8.0 – Critical Hit: “Tesla vs Lovecraft doesn’t reinvent the twin-stick shooter wheel, but it does refine and perfect the formula of what makes that genre tick thanks to its suitably meaty action, vibrant visuals and a perk system that is deeper than the sunken city of R’Lyeh”

7/10 – Cubed3: “Tesla plays differently in each stage, but they can sometimes be repetitive as they are quite simply slaughterhouses. For a twin-stick shooter, however, this plays exactly as expected and time quickly flies due to the simple nature of the mechanics; blast everything and watch the screen fill with a crescendo of colour”

7.0 – VideoChums: “When it comes to twin-stick shooting, Tesla vs Lovecraft definitely has a solid foundation that’s a ton of fun. However, the limited scope of what you can do limits the experience and ends up making it feel repetitive after only a short while”

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Mar 13
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

To say this week’s UK top five comes as a surprise is an understatement.

The evergreen GTA V re-claims no.1, making it fifteen weeks in total. Then at #2 it’s a new arrival; one that was flying under the radar somewhat – BigBen’s TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge.

At #3 another new release charts higher than anticipated – Sony’s PSVR shooter Bravo Team, which currently has a sloppy Metacritic of 48%.

FIFA 18, last week’s chart topper, falls to #4. Call of Duty: WWII drops two places to take #5.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey claim positions #6 and #7. PUBG holds onto #8, while Monster Hunter World falls four places to #9. Then at #10 it’s Zelda: BotW.

The retail release of Life is Strange: Before the Storm debuts at #18. Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition puts in a top 40 showing, too, making #31.

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Mar 13
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The opening to this 18th-century adventure introduces us to a mother and son with an unlikely alliance. Louis and Sarah de Richet are members of the Golden Order, an influential secret society that dabbles in historical, political, and religious matters. Think along the lines of The Simpsons’ Stonecutters cult, but with less Oscar night rigging.

During the intro sequence, which entails escaping a scuffle unscathed, it quickly becomes apparent that both Louis and Sarah are affluent, educated, and quick-witted. Louis isn’t a genius of Sherlock Holmes proportions, however, often caught off-guard and able to admit to his own mistakes. Forever humble, he’s still learning the ways of the order; something that makes him instantly likeable. Sarah meanwhile has an air of Agatha Christie about her, due to being smart, sharp-tongued, and unwilling to back down. She’s one of the order’s longest-serving members.

Not a great deal of time is given to full acquaint with Sarah de Richet – whilst attending a swanky meeting for Golden Order members, she mysteriously vanishes.

And so, this first episode involves Louis travelling to the private island where the shindig is being held to track down his mother’s whereabouts. After mingling with other esteemed guests, including the recently elected President Washington and a young, rather pompous, Napoleon Bonaparte it soon emerges that not everybody at the lustrous bash holds Sarah in high regard.

Split over four chapters, the entirety of the episode is spent within Lord Mortimer’s antique-filled abode. Rather than be on hand to greet his guests, Lord Mortimer is also inexplicably absent, leaving the courteous but unnervingly stern Sir Gregory Holm to temporarily take the helm. Adding further mystery and intrigue, the reason everybody has been summoned to the island isn’t entirely clear either, leaving guests to come to their own conclusions.

Essentially, The Council is the lovechild of 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity and a typical Telltale adventure – a heavily narrative driven story, fuelled by choices and decisions that can alter outcomes. Dialogue choices are deeper and more complex than simply figuring out the most morally correct path, though. This mostly stems from the fact that developer Big Bad Wolf has thrown a few RPG elements into the mix, including three-skill sets (Detective, Occultist and Diplomat), unlockable abilities that effect Louis’ social influence, and a levelling-up system.

Louis also gains both good and bad traits and can additionally discover weaknesses of other characters, which in turn opens more dialogue choices and opportunities. Some traits can make winning somebody’s friendship or trust a simpler process, while a certain ability makes the episode’s one and only puzzle a tad easier.

Together with alternative optional routes, including the chance to sneak into guest’s rooms while they’re asleep, The Council presents plenty of scope for additional playthroughs. Any missed opportunities are made apparent at the end of each chapter, some of which may not be immediately obvious; a feature that’s more helpful than it may initially seem.

Adding further incentive to return, a number of confrontations feature – they’re something of a highlight due to requiring quick decisions. Bad choices can void any chance of gaining somebody’s loyalty, altering the storyline. The first confrontation involves convincing a softly spoken Pastor to hand over an important letter. Over the course of just three dialogue choices, it’s up to you to gain his trust. Failed confrontations can, potentially, be swung in your favour via a last-ditch effort. Later confrontations are harder to sway due to featuring as many as six dialogue options, although some of these may be locked if certain character traits are absent.

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Mar 08
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Last week’s UK eShop line-up was a case of quantity over quality, with 23 games released before the week was out. This week’s 16 strong assortment of digital releases looks far steadier in terms of quality, despite big name titles being thin on the ground.

The first Scribblenauts Showdown (£34.99) reviews are starting to emerge as we type. Sadly, scores so far are mixed, which isn’t particularly helpful for those on the fence. Video Chums enjoyed the sandbox mode but found some mini-games too simplistic, finally opting for a respectable 7.6. Game Crate meanwhile deemed it mediocre, handing out a lukewarm 5.5. “It has fewer puzzles, worse controls and less replay value than any other Scribblenauts title,” they said.

Fear Effect Sedna (£15.99) hasn’t had the sturdiest of launches either, with scores as low as 3/10. Read more on that here.

NORTH (£2.69) and One Eyed Kutkh (£4.49) are two other brand new releases. NORTH has been likened to an interactive art piece; an abstract walking simulator, if you will. Scores are predictably mixed, but it’s certainly cheap enough for anybody curious to take a punt. One Eyed Kutkh meanwhile is an interactive child’s storybook, of sorts, aimed at a slightly younger demographic. “The gameplay remains simplistic throughout, making this a very accessible and easy to understand experience.” said the Xbox Tavern (no reviews of the Switch version are available currently).

Then we have Flinthook (£10.99), the very well-received grappling-hook based platformer, praised for its art direction and music. It’s a little bit brutal and old-school – or brutally old-school – but that’s ok. Scores for the PS4 version were a mixture of 7s and 8s.

Bleed 2 also hit the PS4 a few months ago, being a short but sweet twin-stick arcade shooter. It’s certainly worth a look. The same goes for EARTHLOCK (£22.49), a traditional RPG inspired by classics from the PS2 era.

The Switch also gets a belated conversion of Kona (£17.99), a first-person survival mystery set in snowy 1970’s Canada. If you missed it on PS4, here’s a second chance.

I, Zombie (£4.49) is something of a blast from the past, first hitting Steam in 2015 where it gained a reputation for being an inexpensive little time-waster.

The Metro’s review of 2D shooter roguelike Steredenn: Binary Stars (£11.99) went live today, gaining their recommendation (8/10). The Switch version includes an offline co-op mode, which – to quote – “means that no-one need miss out on one of the most original and fun 2D shooters we’ve played in years.”

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Mar 06
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Oof. This week hasn’t exactly commenced in the best possible fashion, with three notable releases – Bravo Team, Frantics, and Fear Effect Sedna – receiving a bit of a kicking from critics.

PSVR shooter Bravo Team and the indie reboot of Fear Effect have both garnered scores as low as 3/10, with the majority of review scores clocking in at 5/10, while PS4 Playlink party game Frantics has also gained mostly middling reviews due to a lack of thrills. We’ve rounded-up reviews below.

Early reviews of NORTH – out now on just about everything – suggest that it’s something of an acquired taste, too. It’s an experimental means of storytelling set in a dream-like world, lasting around an hour with no save system whatsoever. “It’s important to have games created like this; games that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but are happy to push experimentation and storytelling to the limits,” said The Xbox Hub.

New releases due later in the week hold more promise, such as Scribblenauts Showdown – the first entry in the series to take the party game route. Over 25 mini-games feature, along with different modes, a dictionary of over 35,000 items, and four-player support. We’re hopeful of something truly great, but the price may be an issue – it’s almost full-price (£34.99).

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge also has potential, coming from the studio behind the WRC series and the very good Flatout 4: Total Insanity. An alternative to Manx TT SuperBike on SEGA Saturn, at last.

New release showcase:

Frantics – PS4

Reviews:
7/10 – Push Square: “It might not be too innovative, but Frantics provides an enjoyable party experience that Sony’s PlayLink service has been lacking. It certainly isn’t a killer app, but the fun variety of minigames and its (mostly) responsive controls show how much of a good time PlayLink can provide when it’s properly used”

2.5/5 – Attack of the Fanboy: “There’s better party games out there, but there is something fresh here thanks to the PlayLink functionality. If you lack the four controllers you’d require for other party games, this could be the one for you”

4.5/10 – Critical Hit: “Frantics should be a fun collection of casual-friendly mini-games made in the Mario Party mould. Unfortunately, it’s just criminally boring”

Bravo Team – PSVR

Reviews:
3/5 – Trusted Reviews: “Bravo Team just about passes muster as a dumb VR Operation Wolf or Virtual Cop, but it’s not the best showcase for either PSVR or Aim”

3.5/10 – PSU: “A poor PSVR shooter, given the pedigree behind its development Bravo Team, should have been much better. As it is, there are much better alternatives worthy of your cash and attention”

3/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Ultimately, Bravo Team adds nothing to the VR shooter scene and it’s somewhat baffling to see Sony pushing the game so hard considering how it has turned out. If you were considering paying top dollar for that tempting Aim Controller bundle then don’t”

Fear Effect Sedna – PS4/XO/PC/Switch

Reviews:
6/10 – Nintendo Life: “Fear Effect: Sedna is a flawed amalgam of disparate parts. It fails to wholly convince as an action, strategy or stealth game, and the delivery of its story is a little stilted. However, the sheer variety of its mix and its fresh visual style may prove enough to keep you playing through”

5/10 – Cubed3: “There’s very little imagery to provoke thoughts or spark the imagination, just a high body count and a lot of swear words. Even if that were enough for a Cyberpunk game, it’s handled in a manner that isn’t stylish or memorable”

3/10 – The Metro: “Occasionally you get a hint at the better game Sedna could’ve been, with some potentially interesting set pieces that range from a James Bond style dinner party infiltration to a trip into the Inuit afterworld. But they never have any real chance to shine given the problems with the script, combat, and puzzles”

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Mar 05
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

As the Nintendo Switch celebrates its first birthday, the system’s big-name titles show no signs of waning in popularity.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – the UK’s best-selling Switch game – is up four places in the UK chart, taking #4. Super Mario Odyssey rises from #9 to #6, while Zelda: BotW climbs from #16 to #9.

Zelda’s surge may have something to do with a minor price drop of the Wii U iteration – the Wii U version attributed to 12% of BotW’s sales last week.

If you’ve ever wondered if new Wii U games are still being purchased 2018, now you know the answer.

FIFA 18 on Switch is still doing well, too, outselling the Xbox One version last week.

The UK’s top three remains unchanged, meaning FIFA 18 tops the chart for a seventh week running, and is followed by GTA V and Call of Duty: WWII.

Metal Gear Survive – which we reviewed yesterday – departs the top ten after just one week meanwhile, falling from #6 to #17.

Muddy racer Gravel didn’t have spectacular launch either, arriving at a lowly #42. It may manage to make a belated appearance in next week’s top 40 – we imagine last week’s snow shenanigans prevented some gamers from venturing outdoors.

Mar 04
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Either we missed something between Metal Gear Survive’s reveal and launch, or Konami has pulled off some classic misdirection. After its somewhat disastrous debut, many gamers billed Survive as a generic co-op zombie shooter with tacked-on crafting elements, simply because that’s what the trailer portrayed. It was deemed the safest and laziest route for Konami to take, and fans were livid.

While the end result certainly lacks Hideo Kojima’s trademark eccentric imagination, to call it a generic zombie shooter would be way off the mark – it’s a slow-paced survival game that’s single-player oriented, in which confrontations with the zombie-like Wanderers aren’t all that common. That’s to say, more time is spent scavenging than shooting.

Playing as a customisable soldier dropped into an eerie alternate dimension, the focus is on enduring the harsh and desolate desert while trying to find a way home.

This entails hunting animals (and stuffing gerbils into your pockets), marking water sources on the map, and cooking hearty soups when back at the ramshackle base. Weapons meanwhile are created from resources, with a humble spear – which can pierce erectable wire fences – being the starting weapon. Firearms aren’t introduced until later, and even then, ammo is severely limited.

To begin with, the hunger and thirst gauges are massive burdens. Clean water, in particular, is scarce, making fully exploring the open-world off-putting. Lessons are learned the hard way – we headed out on a few missions ill-prepared and suffered because of it. When a mission fails all gathered resources are lost as well as any progress made. We once ran out of O2 – another gauge to keep tabs on – just a few yards away from a teleporter. Thirty minutes of playtime down the pan.

A comparison with Monster Hunter World isn’t entirely invalid – the gameplay loop is reasonably similar. Prepare, craft, undertake a mission, and bring home the spoils. A game of self-improvement.

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