Jan 17
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The gaming industry is back to its usual self this week, pumping out new releases with little thought for our wallets. Next week looks even busier still, with Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter World both due, along with Square-Enix’s RPG Lost Sphear and Sony’s The Inpatient.

This week gives us the first batch of 2018’s retail releases, in the form of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory and Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition. No reviews of the former are available yet, but we’ve rounded up a few for the latter below.

On the digital services, Kerbal Space Program: Enhanced Edition is of note. At £31.99 it’s costlier than most digital releases, but worth the outlay – it’s one of those rare games where it’s uncommon to find a bad word about it.

That’s joined by Mutant Football League and a belated release of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter for Xbox One, artistic space exploration game InnerSpace – a potential 2018 sleeper hit, according to PlayStation Lifestyle – and the apparently “half-baked” AO Tennis on both PS4 and Xbox One. The PS4 version features a career mode, but for whatever reason, it’s missing from the Xbox One iteration. It’s probably best to wait until this one receives its first significant patch.

Those still feeling the pinch from overspending at Christmas can get in on the new releases too, with open betas for Metal Gear Survive and Monster Hunter: World both currently underway.

New release showcase:

InnerSpace

Reviews:
9.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “If you can get past the occasional bout of unnecessary complex exposition, the evolution of each environment tells a compelling enough story to keep you enthralled from start to finish”

6/10 – Push Square: “InnerSpace feels like it rewards players more as a relaxation tool than as a game that grows and evolves through core progress. Indeed, its story is stimulating, the gameplay itself is serviceable, and the presentation is mesmerising, but it just feels a little too lacking as a full package”

5.8 – VideoChums: “There’s something irresistibly relaxing about non-violently gliding around the beautiful environments of InnerSpace. However, that calm feeling quickly turns into frustration whenever you realise that you haven’t made any progress in hours”

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition – PS4

Reviews:
4.5/5 – Attack of the Fanboy: “Certainly not a must buy for all Street Fighter fans, Arcade Edition is a good jumping off spot for newcomers to the game. Having been out for a couple of years now, almost all issues have been ironed out, making Street Fighter V one of the best looking, best playing fighters on the PlayStation 4”

9.0 – IGN: “With Arcade Edition, Street Fighter 5 finally feels like a complete game, and one that lives up to its legacy”

8/10 – CGM: “The Arcade Edition certainly makes up for all the criticisms tossed at the Street Fighter V for lacking content. This is a damn fine fighting game now, it’s just a shame everyone had to wait two years to get it”

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Jan 17
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

YouTube in 2007 was remarkably different to the YouTube of today. The ink was still yet to dry on the Google takeover contract, and the term ‘YouTube Celebrity’ was yet to be bandied about – the likes of PewDiePie, JonTron, Markiplier and others were still to make their debuts. Even Minecraft – a game synonymous with the site – remained a twinkle in Notch’s eye.

As for the current gaming scene, the Wii and Nintendo DS were flying off shelves, Activision had just hit the jackpot with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and both the PS2 and GameCube were still alive, albeit merely surviving on a diet of terrible movie/cartoon tie-ins.

It was around this time that publishers started investing more time and money in glitzy trailers for their big-budget current-gen releases, believing a lavishly produced trailer would have more of an impact on pre-orders than a playable demo. See also: the death of the humble magazine demo disc.

Soon, we noticed an increase in game trailers in our inbox, mixed in with the usual press releases and such. Sometimes these trailers would even be directly attached to the e-mail, despite weighing in at over 100MB. Usually, though, they’d be attached as a WinZip file – still common practice.

WordPress – Games Asylum’s backend – had a 99MB upload limit at the time, and so we set-up a YouTube channel to host trailers, development diaries, in-game footage, and other tidbits the PR companies were filling our inbox with. These were then embedded in previews and news pieces, with leftovers used for a weekly trailer round-up. The PR people we dealt with at the time didn’t seem to object to us uploading these assets to YouTube. In fact, they were thankful for the coverage.

Now seems a good time to point out that we never made a single penny from our YouTube venture. We did see a slight increase in traffic via links in descriptions, and publishers seemed to be more forthcoming with review code, but these were the only notable benefits. We should also note that we weren’t generating our own content, aside a couple of videos taken during a vacation to Tokyo.

Over the space of a year or so the channel amassed around 3k subscribers. The video count stood at around 300 trailers and gameplay clips, most of which had around ten thousand views. There were a few unexpected ‘big hitters’ too. The trailer for EA’s Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix tie-in had surpassed a million views, and a few others were fast approaching 500k.

EA often claimed ownership of trailers we uploaded. To elaborate, we’d simply receive an automated e-mail stating EA had claimed copyright and that we had permission to use their trailer on our channel. ‘Status: allowed’ was the term used. Any video claimed by EA would now feature adverts from EA games, however. YouTube was primarily viewed on desktops at the time, as opposed to mobile devices – the iPhone 3G was still a year away – and so these adverts took the form of banners for the likes of the then-upcoming Mass Effect 2, MySims, et al.

We were fine with this, of course. These videos belonged to their respective publishers. Then one day something happened that made us question as to whether we were indeed infringing copyright.

Warner Bros. had successfully managed to have the trailer for the 2005 movie tie-in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe pulled from our channel. This was due to copyright violation, and the automated e-mail from YouTube stated that if we continue to upload copyrighted material, then our channel will be evaluated and possibly taken down.

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Jan 15
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Given the time of year, we expected this week’s UK chart to be a non-event. This isn’t the case, amazingly – GTA V has managed to take the top spot for a 14th time, following last week’s rise to #3.

This puts the evergreen crime caper third in the list of titles that have spent the longest time at number one. It’s a very peculiar list indeed. 505 Games’ Zumba Fitness previously held third place with 13 weeks at no.1, followed by Wii Fit with 16 weeks and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – yes, really – with a resounding 18 weeks.

Eidos’ quiz show tie-in launched at the peak of the show’s popularity. The PSone version arrived at an impulse-buy price point of £19.99, and was shortly followed by PS2, Dreamcast and Game Boy Advance iterations. If you’ve ever wondered why WWTBAM on PSone is a common sight in charity shops and car boot sales, now you know why.

Chart-Track notes that sales of Call of Duty: WWII and FIFA 18 – at #2 and #3, respectively – were remarkably close, making next week’s no.1 title hard to predict.

Assassin’s Creed Origins held onto #4 for a 4th week while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rose seven places to #5. In doing so, it becomes the UK’s best-selling Switch title, spending 38 weeks in the top 40.

We imagine Zelda: BotW is currently the 2nd best-selling. It’s likely both will be superseded by Super Mario Odyssey over time, however.

PUBG rose to #6, Star Wars Battlefront II fell two places to #7, Zelda: BotW climbed to #8, Forza Motorsport 7 took #9 while Super Mario Odyssey dropped to #10.

Curiously, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition managed to re-enter at #15. The fact that it’s currently £7.99 at Amazon probably played a part in that.

Jan 11
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

The Switch eShop is back in full swing this week, with no less than nine titles due before the week is out. Bayonetta and its sequel, Dragon Quest Builders and Kirby Star Allies are all now available to pre-order, too.

Super Meat Boy, Furi and The Escapists 2 are this week’s releases destined to climb the eShop chart high, having already proven popular on other formats.

Furi (£17.99) debuted as a PS Plus freebie, and is often referred to as an El Shaddai spiritual successor. It’s a boss-rush hack and slasher, with colourful abstract visuals and a tough – but not unfair – difficulty level. If you’re up for a challenge, it’s a worthwhile purchase.

Super Meat Boy (£11.99) needs no introduction, having graced just about every format going. This’ll be its 8th pitstop, according to a quick Google search. New to this version is a two-player split-screen race mode, in which either individual chapters or randomised levels can be rallied through.

Team 17’s The Escapists 2 (£19.99) also has a two-player mode. Two convicts can team up to break out of jail, either working together or against one another. Reviews went live earlier today, mostly being a mixture of 7s and 8s.

Black the Fall (£10.79 until 23rd Jan, £11.99 thereafter) is belated conversion likewise. The PS4/XO versions were published by Square-Enix, but it looks like developer SandSailorStudio has opted to go it alone for the Switch. It’s a grim puzzle/platformer set in a dystopian world, in which a machinist attempts to break free of a twisted regime with the help of a recently befriended robot. Scores were mixed upon launch, with some critics claiming that it’s simply a poor clone of Inside.

Then we have Moorhuhn Knights & Castles (£26.99!), the latest in the Moorhuhn (aka Crazy Chicken) franchise. Big in Germany, apparently. The hapless hen has crossed various genres in his lifetime; this instalment resembles Angry Birds, with a multiplayer mode due in the Spring.

Never Stop Sneakin’ (£11.69) is a game that EDGE quite liked, awarding it an 8/10. This humorous stealth adventure features randomly generated levels, and boss battles against such foes as Dr. Acula (do you see?) and Vice President Helicopter. Visually, it’s intended look similar to a certain PSone stealth classic.

2D brawler Art of Fighting 2 (£6.29) is this week’s NeoGeo re-release. Energy Invasion (£2.69) meanwhile is a Breakout-alike with a twist – the paddles also fire missiles. That’s joined by match-three puzzler Azkend 2: The World Beneath (£6.99), and Of Mice and Sand Revised (£8.99) – and offbeat rodent management sim. And where are the mice nestled, you ask? Why, they’re inside giant Star Wars-style sand crawler.

The Wii U also gains a new Breakout clone, in the form of Breakout Defense 2 (£5.99). Wii U owners can also mull over Jolt Family Robot Racer (£4.99), racing party game viewed from a side-on perspective.

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Jan 10
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The industry is starting to wake from its Christmas slumber. A trio of new titles are lined-up for the Xbox One, while the PS4 is due to receive double that figure.

Curiously, the PS Blog reports Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3 is amongst this week’s new releases, despite it being announced just days ago. GameFAQs, along with others, claim that the release date is still yet to be announced, so we have a feeling Sony’s official blog has jumped the gun somewhat.

For those curious, Vol. 3 is due to include Adventure II, Super Breakout, Yars’ Return, Millipede, and a fair few antique sports titles.

On a related note, it looks like Space Hulk: Ascension is only due to arrive on the US Xbox One Store this week. Xbox One owners across the world can at least expect the 1930’s set monochrome puzzle/platformer Albert and Otto, and the air combat shooter Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, which received ‘mixed’ user reviews on Steam.

Rewinding back to last week, a couple of new PS4 releases slipped under our radar – the colourful Advance Wars alike Tiny Metal – published by Sony Music Japan – and BRIKS 2, a worryingly low budget Breakout clone with an eyebrow-raising £15 price tag.

Tiny Metal hit the Switch last month. Despite showing promise, review scores were wildly mixed – everything from 9/10 (Nintendo Life) to 5/10 (Destructoid).

There’s another Breakout clone lined up for release this week, too. Energy Invasion is a far more modest £3.29, and is due on both PS4 and PS Vita. PS4 owners can also expect the colourful pixel puzzler Plox Neon, the political narrative-driven interactive story Little Red Lie, and ACA NeoGeo: King of Fighters ’98.

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Jan 09
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Laying eyes on Van Helsing III’s in-game menus for the first time is a daunting experience. It’s an information overload, presenting numerous pages and tabs showing character sheets with current stats, available weapon and spell upgrades, mission details, optional perks, a very Diablo III-esque inventory screen, plus behavioural settings for Lady Katarina – Van Helsing’s ghostly travelling companion.

Those familiar with the previous entries shouldn’t have any major difficulty wrapping their head around this role-player’s backend, but so much for breaking in new players gently.

Despite the stat-heavy nature of the menus, Van Helsing III is still surprisingly accessible, as well as being instantly gratifying. Helsing’s demonic adversaries attack in large groups but are often reduced to a shower of blood and body parts within seconds, especially when using a character class with heavy firepower. Missions are easy to keep track of, maps are small but high in number – varying from a crystal filled cave to a twisted carnival with ‘killer clowns’ – and both loot and gold flows freely.

It isn’t particularly punishing either, giving the choice to respawn instantly upon dying, albeit by forfeiting a fistful of gold.

Like before, Lady Katarina remains an invaluable ally. She can be instructed to use either range or melee attacks, and will also gather any overlooked loot if requested. She has her own inventory and upgrade screens (incidentally, it’s uncommon to go more than ten minutes without levelling up), and can carry surplus items. A good thing too, seeing Helsing’s inventory space is severely limited. It’s easily bulked with relics and essences, both of which can only be put to use when back at the underground resistance base.

The base is largely unchanged from previous games. In fact, an awful lot of assets have been recycled, making this trilogy finale feel more like an expansion – or new episode, if you will – than a full-blown sequel. There are a few new ideas though, including a war table from which Helsing can command an army behind the scenes, and a beast tamer with a Chimera who can be sent on missions. The Chimera levels up through use, and brings back spoils of war usually of considerable worth.

A mystical pig-like merchant can also be summoned by consuming essences, carrying items only for max level players. This has more to do with the end-game though, which mostly entails completing tough challenge-based scenarios.

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Jan 08
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The first top 40 of 2018 reveals FIFA 18 has ended Call of Duty: WWII’s nine-week run at no.1

Call of Duty: WWII only needed two more weeks at the top of the chart to beat current record holder Black Ops III’s eleven-week run. As it stands now, it has to settle for matching Modern Warfare 2’s nine-week reign at no.1.

Call of Duty is now at #2 while GTA V climbs to #3. Rockstar’s crime caper has never left the top 40 since release, spending 225 weeks in the chart in total, 85% of which has been spent in the top ten.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is at #4. Chart-Track notes that it has yet to fall lower than #6.

EA takes places #5 and #6 with Star Wars Battlefront II and The Sims 4.

PUBG rises to #7, up from #11. Super Mario Odyssey falls from #6 to #8, and is followed shortly by Zelda: BotW at #9. Then at #10 it’s Forza Motorsport 7.

Rocket League has managed to propel itself back up the chart too, up from #16 to #11.

Jan 07
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Dating back to 2013, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood on Switch is a conversion more belated than most. It’s a welcome enough eShop addition though, and for a reason that may not be immediately obvious – the series’ roots can be traced to 2010’s moderately successful WiiWare game Max & the Magic Marker.

This puzzle-platformer sees you play as the titular Max, searching for his bother, whom he accidentally vanquished into a fantasy realm. Whilst platform games are rarely known for their stories, and Max’s is wafer-thin, it is nice to see the protagonist looking for a sibling rather than trying to rescue a damsel. The few cutscenes are also beautifully presented, with crisp animation and good voice acting.

The elaborate presentation extends to the game itself, which despite being four years old, still looks fantastic. There’s a nice fluidity to the graphics and the lighting effects, making this one of the most attractive games on the eShop. Performance on Switch seems good, too. The frame rate is smooth and the game has been updated to use the Switch’s touchscreen for drawing.

Unfortunately, the care and attention to detail in the graphics doesn’t seem to have been applied to the puzzle design. In his original adventure, Max has a marker that could be used to draw anything to solve puzzles, like the Crayon Physics games. In Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, however, Max can only use his marker to do one of five things.

To wit: raise a platform, draw a branch, draw a vine, draw a jet-stream of water or draw a fireball’s trajectory. These abilities are doled out one at a time as the game progresses. Not only are the actions now limited, but each action has a specific ‘anchor point’. In the screenshot below Max can raise a platform where his pen is and draw a branch where the green highlight is.

This limits the scope of puzzle solving and makes the game less about using your creativity to find a solution and more about executing a solution, something less rewarding and more frustrating. Adding to the frustration is the fact that the controls for the marker aren’t quite good enough.

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