Jan 09
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

A month of remakes, remasters and re-releases is upon us. No less than three launch this week including Hitman HD Enhanced Collection, officially announced just days ago.

This digital-only collection brings together Hitman: Blood Money and Hitman: Absolution, running in 4k/60fps and boasting improved lighting, updated controls and upgraded textures. While this may sound rather enticing, there’s a slight sting in the tale – it’s an eyebrow-raising £44.99.

Bear in mind here that both games are Xbox One BC and available for just a few quid each pre-owned. Absolution was also far from being a franchise high note, feeling more like a generic cover-based shooter than a Hitman game. A package for hardcore fans only, perhaps.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is launching for around £35, a price that’s easier to justify due to the wealth of new content. In addition to two new characters, it also features new music tracks and an expanded story. Reviews are starting to surface, mostly clocking in at 8/10. Time has been kind to this 10 year old JRPG, it seems.

Then we have New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Switch, which combines the Wii U launch title with New Super Luigi U. These two a knocking on a bit, but there’s no denying there’s a lot of platforming fun for your bucks – 164 courses in total. We’ve rounded up scores below, and will take another look during our weekly eShop round-up.

Incidentally, we’ve also rounded up scores for Legendary Eleven on Xbox One, a retro football game that first launched on Switch. It was one of last week’s few new releases.

Absolver makes the jump from PS4 to Xbox One meanwhile, available via Game Pass. It has a similar structure to Dark Souls – with a looping open game world, aggressive AI, and NPC’s that provide lore – it but plays completely differently due to the melee combat-based fighting system.

The main quest only takes 5-6 hours to finish. And then? Then the ‘real’ game begins, with more features and modes open up, as well as high-level PvP. We chalked up a few impressions late last year.

Also of note is Void Vikings on Xbox One, a 2.5D space shooter that entails paying off your student loan, of all things. Let’s hope it’s more accessible than last month’s Final Star.

New release showcase:

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

9.0 – EGM: “If you’re a Switch owner who leapfrogged the Wii U like I did, then New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a no-brainer. It isn’t as revolutionary as its predecessors, but it’s about as polished and expertly executed as a 2D platformer can get, and the inclusion of New Super Luigi U makes this as valuable a package as pretty much any you’ll find on the Switch”

8.5 – GameInformer: “While I’m disappointed that this release doesn’t include more additions to the original package, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a great game at its core”

7/10 – GameSpot: “While it can feel a bit stale for those who have been round the Mushroom Kingdom one too many times before, Deluxe is well worth playing, especially if you didn’t get a chance to play NSMBU on Wii U”

Legendary Eleven

6/10 – Xbox Tavern: “If you’re looking for accessible arcade fun, Legendary Eleven isn’t really a bad choice. The game’s field of play and its fairly robust features remain well set for the most part, allowing even newcomers to sink right in and score some outlandish, memorable feats”

3/5 – The Xbox Hub: “It’s not realistic, it’s not a world beater in terms of gameplay or likenesses of your favourite players, and it’s not going to challenge FIFA on any level, but as a bit of short-term fun, Legendary Eleven has put a smile on my face”

3/5 – VideoChums: “Even though Legendary Eleven is essentially a very basic take on soccer, its gameplay is easy to pick up and play and the visuals on display will be appealing for those looking for an arcade-style soccer game”

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Jan 08
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

From engaging in cannon battles to finding lost treasure, this 2D pirate simulator allows you to partake in all kinds of nautical activities. No one can accuse creator Sebastian Nigro of not being ambitious enough.

You start by creating your pirate. The character creation screen is neat, with a diverse choice of options including gender, skin colour, hair-styles, and clothing such as various pointy hats. This is a good place as any to talk about the art style. I really liked how Don’t Sink looks. It’s full of big, blocky pixels reminiscent of the Amiga era. Sebastian Nigro has done a really good job of injecting loads of character into his sprite work, too, and each island has its own tone and style.

Particularly pleasing are the snowy islands to the eastern side of the world map. The soundtrack is also nicely “shantyfied” – a word I just made up.

Talking of that map, the world consists of 14 islands. During the course of the game, you’re going to be sailing to and fro, buying food to keep your crew fed, gaining new recruits from the tavern, sourcing wooden planks and cloth to keep you afloat, and talking to people (and rodents!) to take on missions.

Most of the missions come in the form of delivery jobs, shuttling goods from one island to the next. 21 additional story missions also feature, with lovely and witty bits of dialogue. Shame the missions themselves aren’t particularly complex.

While sailing to islands random encounters occur. You could find a desert island, be attacked by gulls, or be forced to confront an enemy vessel. The problem is, none of these elements are engaging. Let’s take the battles as an example. During a battle you have four options: fire your cannons, retreat, repair your ship or board the enemy vessel. Each is denoted by a direction on the left stick. Holding one of the directions charges that option, when it’s charged, you can use it.

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Jan 07
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Last week’s chart was pretty stagnant, or so we thought. This week’s chart – the first of 2019 – is almost on total lockdown, with just a few titles swapping positions here and there.

We do have a new no.1, however – FIFA 19 returns to the top of the chart to see 2019 in.

This pushes RDR2 down to #2. Positions #3, #4, #5 and #6 then remain unchanged, held by Black Ops 4, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Battlefield V, and Forza Horizon 4 (respectively).

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Crash Bandicoot swapped positions to take #7 and #8. Spyro fell two positions to #9, while AC Odyssey re-entered the top ten at #10.

Elsewhere, Starlink: Battle for Atlas continues to rise – Ubisoft’s toys to life title is up three places to #21. This is, of course, fuelled by hefty price cuts.

As for re-entries, LEGO Worlds, Project CARS 2, Football Manager 2019, and Tekken 7 all re-appeared at the lower end of the chart.

Project CARS 2 and Tekken 7 are the current, and frequently discounted, Xbox One pack-ins used by Currys PC World, explaining why they always show up in the chart together.

This week sees the first major releases of 2019 – Tales Of Vesperia Definitive Edition and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Check back next Monday to see how they performed.

Jan 04
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Word on the street (read: Twitter) is that there aren’t many NeoGeo games left for retro specialists Hamster to publish. KOF2002 marked their 100th re-release which leaves around 50 titles, many of which were either Japan-only quiz games or carry licenses no longer owned by SNK.

Looking through the list of what’s left, it’s believed as few as 11 (of the remaining 50) may make it out. This week we can tick another off that list – ACA NeoGeo Ragnagard, a brawler from 1996 with characters based on mythical beasts.

We imagine FTE Games still has quite a few Data East titles to re-release, as good old Johnny Turbo continues to present Switch owners with new arcade titles. Two have turned up this week, no less: wild west shooter Express Raider, and the six button beat’em up Fighter’s History, a game that Capcom once tried to yank from arcades due to glaring similarities with SFII.

As for new games, there’s the 2D pirate RPG Don’t Sink – influenced by FTL: Faster Than Light and Sid Meier’s Pirates – the rogue-like platformer Xenon Valkyrie+, and the visually attractive platformer Samsara: Deluxe Edition.

Nintendo World Report didn’t think much of Xenon Valkyrie, awarding it a middling 4.5/10. “Xenon Valkyrie is at odds with its own design. Exploring the stages is fun, but all that fun starts to melt away when you realize just how little freedom you have to experiment with different character builds,” they said.

The vanilla iteration of Samsara was better received upon release, gaining a 7/10 from God is Geek. “Samsara is a pleasant puzzle game that doesn’t quite challenge enough to give you the unique satisfaction of the “ah-ha” moment when you solve something particularly difficult,” was their verdict.

Here’s the full line-up of new releases, including one for 3DS. Next week looks a tad more exciting, with both New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition due. Battle Princess Madelyn is finally out too, which we reviewed in December.

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Jan 03
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This horizontal shooter features more than a few gimmicks. The exact figure is up for debate – some are more predominant than others, while shoot’em up veterans may feel like some of its ideas are on the verge of becoming commonplace within the genre.

We can probably all agree that the ability to concentrate fire at a sacrifice of speed is a gimmick; the kind you may expect to find in a typical Japanese shooter. It’s an ability that gives you that extra burst of firepower, used only during those fleeting moments when you aren’t being pelted with bullets. Although it vastly reduces manoeuvrability it can get you out of many sticky situations, requiring skill to use effectively.

Alternatively, there’s a laser beam weapon that eats into limited energy reserves, best used for dealing damage to large targets.

Missions roll out in a modern, non-linear fashion, using a not particularly gimmicky 3D cockpit view as a mission select screen. Dialogue between crewmates takes place here, filling in the story. The titular star is the last sun in the galaxy, now under threat from an alien scourge out to control its power. You’re the last line of defence – a trio of ships with slightly varying stats, out to stop an entire galactic army.

Ship stats improve after every mission, dolled at random by ‘re-rolling’ available options before a mission starts. This gives Final Star a very slight RPG slant. Gold and scrap metal can also be used to bolster armour and gain new weapons – improvements that moderately increase chances of success.

Missions can be played in any order, with three or four of varying difficulty usually available. There are also repeater missions which bestow great rewards but become more difficult after every successful run.

Without a doubt, the 3D cockpit is home to the biggest gimmick of all – a puzzle mini-game, entailing matching up identical gems while keeping skull icons apart. It’s a place to grind for new gear, essentially, awarding one new upgrade per stage. It proves to be a slow-burning affair that couldn’t ever hope to stand on its own, but it still acts as a decent distraction.

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Jan 02
By Matt Gander In UK Charts 1 Comment

Our figurative money was on FIFA 19 being the last no.1 of 2018. In the past, EA’s annual soccer sim has always proven popular with those fortunate enough to receive a new console for Christmas.

There’s a new bandit in town this year though, with RDR2 topping the final chart of 2018.

The Christmas sales haven’t had much of an impact at all, as the top ten only sees a slight shuffle. FIFA 19 and Black Ops 4 hold onto #2 and #3, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate moved up to #4, while the recently discounted Battlefield V dropped to #5.

At #6 it’s Forza Horizon 4, up from #10. Spyro Reignited Trilogy took #7, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fell to #8, and Crash Bandicoot remained at #9.

Then at #10 it’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, a title that has gained a new lease of life this winter thanks to a price cut.

Positions #10-#20 are also almost entirely unchanged this week, with only four titles moving marginally and the remaining six staying put.

Outside of the top #20, Starlink: Battle for Atlas – available for as low as £17.99 recently – rises three positions to #24. Good old Rocket League also saw a minor sales boost, up six places to take #25.

Splatoon 2 bounced is back at #28, while Switch launch title 1-2 Switch makes a surprise re-appearance at #38. We dare say milking virtual cows was a more pleasurable way to spend the holidays than watching the rubbish on TV over the festive period. That two-hour Inbetweeners reunion thing was bloody awful.

Dec 31
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Releasing titles during the quiet month of January has proven lucrative for Capcom, with both Resident Evil 7 (2016) and Monster Hunter World (2017) enjoying more-than-successful launches.

This year they’re doubling down, launching both their anticipated Resident Evil 2 remake and a HD remaster of the early PS2/Xbox samurai slasher Onimusha. Onimusha: Warlords – to use its full name – now features a modernised control scheme. It’s looking a little light on other enhancements, however, giving some explanation to why it’s launching at £15.99.

January sees a few other remakes. JRPG Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition launches in time for its 10th anniversary, featuring sharper visuals, new music tracks, two additional characters – Patty Fleur and Flynn Scifo – along with a collection of unreleased costumes. It’s due out 11th January on Switch, PS4 and Xbox One for around £35.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Switch launches at a similar price point. It brings the Wii U launch title and New Super Luigi U together for a grand total of 164 courses. Many critics claimed NSMBU was the greatest 2D Mario title since Super Mario World. That was back in 2012, though – we’ve seen a fair few Mario adventures since.

Sticking with the Switch, there’s also Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. It’s a case of all change for Travis – this is a mini-game collection of sorts, involving Travis and his arch-nemesis trapped inside a video game console. Two players can battle side-by-side with a single Joy-Con, and it looks like we’re in for parodies galore. To say this is this the No More Heroes sequel we wanted would be off the mark somewhat, but it may still serve up some laughs.

One title eluding the Switch is Kingdom Hearts III – a game first teased in 2014. Yes, this has been a long time coming. It finally arrives 29th January, perfectly timed for the first payday of 2019. We can expect worlds set in various Pixar universes, including Toy Story, along with other new(ish) Disney worlds such as Big Hero 6. Viva San Fransokyo!

Most of January’s other noteworthy releases also come from Japanese studios, including Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newa, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Dissonance of the Nexus, and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. It looks like Sword Art Online is getting a complete edition, too.

On the digital services we can expect the cumbersomely titled The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – The Final Season Episode 3: Broken Toys. Back from the dead following Telltale’s demise, the series is now being finished off by Skybound.

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Dec 28
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Everyone loves a digger. Big, fun, burly machines with lumbering dirt-scoops. What’s not to like? If you’re so inclined, you can even visit one of four digger-based UK theme parks. Developers Atomicom are hoping the only thing that people will like more than diggers, are diggers on a hostile alien planet.

Structured as an open-ended sandbox, JCB Pioneer: Mars sees you playing as an astronaut stranded on the titular dust-coated planet. Your goal is to survive and then flourish in the harsh Martian environment.

Initially, you can stave off hunger and thirst (and top up the respective meters) by using dropped rations. These, however, will soon run out and you’ll have to build a more sustainable lifestyle. This is achieved by digging up various minerals and materials and using them the build a base full of hi-tech space stuff such as oxygen generators, hydroponics labs, and not particularly hi-tech warehouses.

Visually it’s rather accomplished, both docked and in portable mode. The Martian landscape impressively rendered, as are the vehicles and building models. We were particularly impressed with the texture work and the scale of the map. Unfortunately, the humble Switch sometimes struggles to keep up. We had a few framerate issues and encountered more than one bug that required us to quit the game and reload a save file. It was almost enough to make us see red.

It also gets off to a bumpy start, as many mechanics simply aren’t explained. It has a tutorial, but it merely covers driving, not excavating, building or connecting buildings. We had to root around in menus and even turn to YouTube to work out how certain aspects of the base building system worked (hint: if you want to find resources, they’re displayed on your map). As such, we can imagine a few younger players getting frustrated. We even had to restart a couple of times after making a mess of things early on.

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