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

While it’s questionable as to whether this week sees something new to please all and sundry, there’s still plenty to get your teeth into.

After a few false starts, Vampyr – from the creators of This is Strange – is now with us. This full-price RPG has gained reviews varying between 6/10 and 8/10, with limp combat and a few technical issues bogging it down. It’s good, certainly, but you may want to lower your expectations a tad.

Scrolling brawler Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is another that has spent a spell in development limbo. Heck, we even recall the Wii U version being previewed in the Official Nintendo Magazine. No reviews are live yet, but in-game footage suggests it’s serviceable enough. However, one Steam user reports of a fleeting 2-hour runtime, so maybe bear that in mind before coughing up £15.99.

We’re still waiting on The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset reviews too. Given the scope and scale of the colossal MMO, we may be waiting some time.

Arcade racer Onrush seems to be going down well, gaining a fair few 8/10s. Critics do have concerns about its longevity though. Hopefully, Codemasters has a post-launch content battle plan.

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker meanwhile is another intriguing FMV game from Wales Interactive, this time laden with Lovecraft references. We’ve rounded up scores below.

Then over on Switch there’s Happy Birthdays, a peculiar sandbox life simulator, and Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido…which could be one of 2018’s biggest surprise hits. We’ll take a closer look during this week’s eShop round-up.

With E3 about to get underway next week’s line-up is looking slim. Rest assured we’ll round-up the few bits and pieces hitting the digital stores. We’re hoping for a surprise release or two.

New release showcase:

Vampyr – PS4/XO/PC

Reviews:
8/10 – PSU: “The most important job Vampyr had to do was to present a compelling game about the tragic romanticism of being a vampire, and the fight for retaining humanity or embracing the unnatural power it brings. Vampyr does drop the ball on many small things, but it does that important job superbly”

7/10 – GameSpot: “Vampyr is certainly shaggy and rough in the technical department, but its narrative successes still make for an impactful and worthwhile experience”

6/10 – Destructoid: “The story may be a tad lackluster, and the combat may be clunky as hell, but Vampyr does offer a compelling adventure for those looking for some blood-sucking fun”

Onrush – PS4/XO/PC

Reviews:
8.0 – God is a Geek: “Onrush takes the team-based multiplayer of Overwatch and combines it with a blend of Motorstorm and Burnout, creating one of the most unique and fun arcade driving games of this generation”

8/10 – Destructoid: “Onrush could use some refinement when it comes to its modes but its core is strong, and the foundation is set for a great arcade racer. I’m anxious to see how it evolves and if people will really pick up on the class-based system enough to explore it past the first few weeks of launch, but for now I’m happy boosting off of a cliff and doing sweet flips on a motorcycle to earn points”

7/10 – Push Square: “This brash vehicular experience draws inspiration from several different areas of the industry, but it reassembles them into something unusual and entertaining. A great online infrastructure means you can be in and out of the action in seconds, but the package could do with a little more meat on its bones to fully justify its price tag”

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker – PS4/XO/PC/Switch

Reviews:
8.5 – Gaming Trend: “The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is a reinvention of full motion video for the current generation of games. Its quirky and troubled cast gives some spectacular performances, and the text-based elements make this adventure game an excellent way to get into the genre”

8.0 – God is a Geek: “The characters are interesting, and the psychological threads draw out the plot leaving you just as vulnerable as the patients your interviewing”

4/5 – Digitally Downloaded: “The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker’s hook, for me, remains the need to take over as a psychiatrist. It’s not as easy as sitting comfortably and saying things like, “and how does that make you feel?” As Doctor Dekker’s replacement you are toeing the line between your patients’ sanity and insanity, having to decipher clues in their personality or stories to gain insight into what to ask”

Happy Birthdays – Switch

Reviews:
7/10 – GameSpace: “Happy Birthday’s takes a simple idea, decorates itself with some adorable aesthetics, and somehow manages to weaves together a multitude of different genres. It is an enigmatic experience that can’t be categorized, and that is its appeal. If you want something different then this is definitely for you”

7/10 – God is a Geek: “If you enjoy sandbox games and want one that manages to add in quite a few mechanics and systems together, Happy Birthdays is a charming game”

6/10 – Nintendo Life: “Interesting, educational and pretty, but ultimately soulless and a little boring”

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Jun 05
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Retro compilations tend to fall into one of two camps. Some are genuine labours of love, filled to the brim with celebrated classics and a bounty of bonus features; a rare chance for long-running publishers to revel in self-indulgence and share their biggest past hits with gamers new and old.

Others, meanwhile, are little more than quick cash grabs – seemingly random assortments of vintage games lazily bundled together with little care or attention. Using a few big names and gooey nostalgia to sell, they’re hastily shoved out the door.

SEGA’s Mega Drive Ultimate Collection from 2009 lived up to its name, unquestionably put together with passion. A tough act to follow, but not impossible – due to a few omissions, it wasn’t quite a definitive package. Sadly, SEGA Mega Drive Classics doesn’t expand upon its predecessor to give long-time fans an all-encompassing collection, feeling like an attempt to make a quick buck off the current retro gaming resurgence.

This collection offers over 50 first-party titles, plus a few modern-day staples such as save states, the ability to rewind and fast-forward gameplay, online play, and a handful of bite-sized challenges. While this may sound reasonable, all these features are pretty much expected in any retro collection nowadays (save perhaps for the challenges), and most games present have been wheeled out numerous times before.

most games present have been wheeled out numerous times before

Online play is a bit of a shambles too, ruined by lag and an awkward matchmaking system. There are no lobbies or such – you’re simply paired with a random gamer and presented with a choice of two (!) games to play. If players are unable to settle on a decision, matchmaking starts over.

Considering the XBLA Vintage Collections from 2012 were able to provide a smooth online experience, this is something inexcusable in 2018.

Sadly, laziness (or ineptness, in some cases) is a reoccurring theme. The menu screen – resembling a ‘90s teenager’s bedroom – is ugly and unappealing, with games selected simply by plucking them off a shelf. Presented in a uniform fashion, they come from a world where blue spine Mega Drive games never existed. No box art, manuals, or anything of the sort – this collection is purely for those that want to play games, rather than delve into their history.

Moreover, this is a collection for those who aren’t too bothered about authenticity – emulation is a far cry from M2’s re-releases. Off-key sound-effects are the biggest offender, along with a few graphical glitches such as misplaced tiles. This is in addition to the already mentioned lag.

While the number of games on offer can be considered as generous, it’s a somewhat odd assortment. A lack of extras suggests this package is for the more ‘casual’ market, yet the most dominant genre here is, bizarrely, JRPGs with eleven in total. While some are quite easy to get into – such as Shining in the Darkness – the majority aren’t particularly conventional by today’s standards, coming across as acquired tastes. That said, the ability to save anywhere and fast-forward reams of text does make them a tad more palatable than when they were first released.

Speaking of acquired tastes, both Columns and Columns III are here. With the excellent Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (aka Puyo Puyo) present, one or the other would have sufficed. A minor quibble, but one that proves that this isn’t a carefully handpicked selection – SEGA has simply chucked in everything they currently have at hand.

Then we have the usual titles that were never really that great in the first place, such as unimpressive early releases Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, the punishing overhead shooter Crack Down, the irritatingly twee and overly simplistic Flicky, and the lacklustre launch title Super Thunder Blade. We’re tempted to throw Gain Ground in with this bad bunch too, but if memory serves, it did have its fans. The same goes for Altered Beast; a game so bad it’s good. It’s a classic, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Jun 04
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Proving that retro gaming is more popular than ever, both SEGA Mega Drive Classics and Street Fighter 30th Anniversary managed to elbow their way into the UK top ten.

SEGA’s collection made #5, while Capcom’s slightly better received compilation entered at #6.

It’s FIFA 18 that dominates the top 40 this week, however, thanks to price cuts and the free World Cup update.

The popular sports sim knocks Detroit: Become Human down to #2.

Far Cry 5 rose three places to take #3 while God of War moved up one position to #4.

Overwatch: GOTY Edition remains at #7, State of Decay 2 fell from #2 to #8, and Dark Souls Remastered dropped from #3 to #9. Then at #10 it’s the evergreen Fallout 4.

SEGA Mega Drive Classics and Street Fighter 30th Anniversary aren’t the only new arrivals – Tennis World Tour debuted at #31 while the allegedly painful to play Agony made #32.

Other notable happenings include Sea of Thieves rising from #28 to #15, and Destiny 2 dropping from #8 to #29. Over in the single formats, meanwhile, Owlboy swoops in at #16 in the Switch chart.

Jun 01
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Please pay attention to the following public service announcement: Ikaruga is out now for the Nintendo Switch and you should definitely buy it. Ikaruga is, quite simply, brilliant.

In case you’re new to Treasure’s celebrated classic, it takes the form of a vertical ‘bullet hell’ shoot-em-up, where you fly a spaceship around trying to dodge bullets and enemies as they unleash waves of ammunition across the screen. So far, so standard. Ikaruga, however, has one small little trick up its sleeve.

Here, all enemies are either dark or white. You can also flip the colour of your ship to match the colour of the enemies. If you are the same colour as your enemies you can absorb their bullets (which charges up a bomb attack), if you’re a different colour to your enemies, you deal them significantly more damage. It’s a risk/reward system that adds a lovely element of puzzle solving to the proceedings. It also makes things fiendishly hard.

I’ve owned Ikaruga on the GameCube, the Xbox 360 and now the Switch, and never managed to get through the game on three credits (the standard setting). Thankfully, there are options to make it easier. These include increasing the number of credits and giving extra continues. You can also play with another player, sharing some of the burdens.

If you’ve never played Ikaruga, you need to give it a go

If I’m so rubbish at Ikaruga (and I am) why have I stuck with it, when I’ve given up on so many other games? What makes it so brilliant? The answer lies in level design. It only has five levels, but they are a masterclass reminiscent of the best Mario platformers. Ideas are introduced (for example, the second level introduces the idea of scenery blocking your progress), built upon and then thrown away at the end of the level. Each and every one is a masterclass in building tension and playing with ideas.

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May 31
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Most gamers who grew up in the early ‘90s will doubtlessly remember encountering Street Fighter II for the first time. A one-on-one beat’em up like no other, it was an instant classic thanks to its memorable characters, instantly compelling gameplay, satisfying to perform special moves, and catchy background music. Guile’s theme goes with everything, lest you forget.

Little did we know Capcom would update and wheel out SFII on a regular basis, refusing to let go. It’s back once again this week as part of the very well-received Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection (£44.99), alongside the original, all three iterations of Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III: New Generation.

The Switch version also includes an exclusive eight-player tournament mode for Super Street Fighter II. It’s just a shame the price tag isn’t in line with Xbox One and PS4 versions, clocking in at £10 more.

Ikaruga (£13.49) is another classic making a comeback. This vertical shooter is often referred to as one of the finest, thanks to the outstanding level design and the ability to shift polarity to absorb colour-coded projectiles. We’ll have a review (very!) soon.

Team 17’s Yoku’s Island Express (£15.99) has also arrived to rave reviews, being a quirky combination of Metroid and pinball. Sonic Spinball is another it has been likened to. Many critics claim that it’s one of 2018’s most pleasant surprises, gaining a fair few 9/10s.

Speaking of surprises, the free-to-start Pokémon Quest launched earlier this week. It sees the colourful critters turned into blocky pixel art renditions and is an action-oriented affair viewed from a top-down perspective. Here, Pokemon are lured by cooking up certain dishes. Initial impressions are positive, but many players suggest it’s worth waiting for the mobile release instead.

Then we have Die for Valhalla! (£10.99), which according to Nintendo World Report “can be appreciated either as a surprisingly complex action RPG or just a fantastic casual beat em’ up”. They dished out a 7.5 earlier this week. Nintendo Life opted for a 7/10 meanwhile. “There is still a lot to chew for the lonely solo player out there, so if you into the genre and Norse mythology, do consider giving this one a possession,” they said.

Smoke And Sacrifice (£19.99) is worth a look as well. This open-world, narrative-driven RPG has gained a mixture of 7s, 8s and 9s. GamesRadar called it “A sometimes grotesque, always engrossing take on the survival game, woven together with a twisted tale, weird weapons, and giant, charging porcupine pigs”.

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May 30
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Like a nationalised railway service, the gaming industry was seemingly distributed by the bank holiday. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, SEGA Mega Drive Classics, Agony, and Yoku’s Island Express all launched at midnight on Tuesday, or thereabouts, but due to the long weekend reviews didn’t go live until later that morning.

In the case of Agony, it was as if the publisher had something to hide. This hellish survival game, set in genuinely disturbing environments coated with rotting flesh and other human remains, has spent almost two years in the development. It generated a minor buzz in the run-up to release, but sadly for those waiting in anticipation, it’s nothing short of disappointing.

“My excitement for the game was quickly quashed behind bugs, crashes and unbalanced gameplay, failing to live up to the potential of the game’s core ideas and outstanding visual design,” said TheSixthAxis’ reviewer, before handing out a poor 4/10.

User reviews echo this, with Xbox One owners mentioning audio issues that make it almost unplayable.

Review scores for the other games mentioned above are mostly positive so far. Yoku’s Island Express, a Metroidvania with pinball elements (think along the lines of Sonic Spinball) has been billed as one of the year’s biggest surprises. Speaking of Sonic Spinball, SEGA Mega Drive Classics isn’t quite the collection it could’ve been, but most critics claim it contains enough outright classics to warrant the entry fee. We’ll have our own review up shortly.

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is better still – a genuine celebration of all things Street Fighter, with online play and bonus features galore. And unlike Mega Drive Classics, it’s available on Switch too. Hurrah for that.

As for the week’s indie offerings, STAY on Xbox One entails helping a mild-mannered fellow escape from a rancid abode. It’s intriguing, but doesn’t quite reach its potential.

Moonlighter meanwhile has arrived to a waft of 9/10 reviews. It’s the roguelike to end all roguelikes, apparently. We’re also going give Mining Rail a shout out because, well, just look at it.

New release showcase:

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection – PS4/XO/Switch

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Life: “While some of the games included in this compendium are rendered somewhat superfluous by the fact that far superior sequels and updates exist alongside them, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection remains an utterly essential purchase for any self-respecting fighting game fan”

9/10 – Destructoid: “Though SF30 doesn’t quite live up to its potential as a comprehensive historical document, ultimately, The Fight is all that matters. In that regard Capcom, some 30 years later, just scored another K.O. We await your return, warrior”

8/10 – Push Square: “Fans of the franchise will really appreciate having so many entries in a single place, and the wealth of customisation options, online modes, and extra content in the museum will go down a real storm”

SEGA Mega Drive Classics – PS4/XO

Reviews:
95% – Gaming Trend: “Sega Genesis Classics boasts an amazing collection of 50 games, all of which will keep you busy and entertained for hours. Some of the games can be challenging to a fault, but that’s just the way some old school games were made. The games hold true to their original forms and bring you a cartridge full of nostalgia that you can pop right into the console of your heart”

4/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “When comparing this to past Genesis collections, some of the omissions such as Ecco and the arcade versions are noticeable, but it makes up for their absence by adding more games that haven’t been included before”

6.0 – God is a Geek: “SEGA Mega Drive Classics is disappointing, but I’m still not sure if it’s because many of the games are boring, or if I was expecting more options and extras”

Yoku’s Island Express – PS4/XO/Switch

Reviews:
8.5 – GameInformer: “To think, Sonic Spinball was onto something all of those years ago. Yoku’s Island Express is delightful and fun from start to finish”

8.0 – God is a Geek: “From the charming opening movie to the wonderful title sequence, Yoku’s Island Express will use its adorable charms to pull you in and, unless you’re a heartless husk, you’ll fancy sticking around until the end credits too”

8.0 – IGN: “Yoku’s Island Express is a novel Metroidvania-pinball hybrid that stands as something wholly unique and incredibly fun”

Moonlighter – PS4/XO/Switch

Reviews:
9.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Moonlighter is going to be a game you’ll pick up, play, and instantly want to tell your friends all about. It encourages discussion – how much a certain item costs, how to navigate the metagame of the increasingly tricky Resident Evil 4-style inventory system with its cursed items requiring a shuffle of your bag – and feels like, honestly, the endgame of all roguelikes”

4.5/5 – GamesRadar: “Moonlighter manages to perfectly balance the best bits of Stardew Valley, Dark Souls and Binding of Isaac for a game that just keeps you coming back for more”

7.9 – Video Chums: “It feels like a minimalist game but it also has enough to do to sink your teeth into for over ten hours”

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May 29
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Often edging on the side of experimental, STAY is a tricky game to explain. After being forcibly abducted from his home during the early hours of the morning, the mild-mannered Quinn finds himself trapped inside a dark and filthy room. An old computer is the only thing nearby that still works, and so Quinn – still dressed in his PJs – logs into a seemingly random chat room in hope of finding somebody online willing to help make sense of the situation.

It so happens you’re the first person to respond to his plea. Effectively, then, you’re playing the role of yourself in STAY – Quinn may be the protagonist, but he isn’t under your direct control, merely seeking your guidance, encouragement, and reassurance to escape from the torturous hellhole. Every minute or two you’re prompted for a multiple-choice response or forced to decide what to do next. Responses often impact Quinn’s mood, diffusing stressful situations or inadvertently making things far worse than they are.

Roughly 80% of the game’s duration is spent in the faux chat room – complete with a pixel art webcam – reading Quinn’s text-heavy descriptions of both his surroundings and his current mental state. While Quinn is intelligent and well-informed, he’s no superhero. It’s clear from the outset that he carries some emotional baggage with stress, anxiety and depression being reoccurring themes.

Fearing for his life and sanity, he attempts to pick apart his kidnapper’s mindset in a vague hope of finding answers, all while searching for an exit in whichever room he’s currently exploring. You can also choose to learn more about his life or spur him onwards to find access to another room.

a record of time spent away from Quinn is kept

Ingeniously, a record of time spent away from Quinn is kept. At around 4-5 hours, it’s possible to complete STAY in one run, never leaving his side. Dipping in and out sees things pan out slightly differently, with Quinn passing judgement on your absence.

It may sound fascinating – and at first, it genuinely is – but STAY soon emerges to be little more than a glorified ‘80s microcomputer text adventure, albeit with a handful of arbitrary puzzles thrown in.

Despite being trapped in a filthy abode – filled with antiques and oddities – Quinn can be surprisingly chipper at times, making jokes as well as throwing pop culture references into the mix. He makes a few typos – which he’s quick to correct – too. It isn’t enough to completely convince us that Quinn is a genuine person, however, as some dialogue is nothing short of cringe-worthy. One example: he’s in constant danger, yet happy to describe the current room temperature as being “colder than a witch’s tit”.

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May 29
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

In a three-way battle between Detroit: Become Human, State of Decay 2, and Dark Souls Remastered, it was Quantic Dream’s PS4-exclusive that came out on top.

GamesIndusty.biz reports physical sales were almost on par with 2013’s Beyond Two Souls, but it fell well short of beating Heavy Rain’s launch week figures.

The anticipated State of Decay 2 entered at #2. Considering it’s an Xbox Game Pass poster boy, that’s reasonably impressive.

Then at #3 it’s Dark Souls Remastered. Had the Switch version made it out as originally planned, it would’ve almost certainly taken #2.

FIFA 18 fell from #2 to #4. Sales were up over last week though due to ongoing price cuts and the upcoming free World Cup update.

God of War – last week’s chart-topper – dropped to #5. Far Cry 5 takes #6, and then at #7 it’s Overwatch. The online sensation is up all the way from #40 due to a hefty price drop.

Destiny 2 rose a few places to take #8, Fallout 4 rises to #9 – up from #12 – while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rounds-off the top ten.

Space Hulk Deathwing at #19 was the only other new arrival. EA Sports UFC 3, Need for Speed Payback and Monster Hunter World did manage to re-enter the lower end of the top 40, however.

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