Dec 04
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

It’s the big one! Although a few bits and pieces are due out over the next fortnight, this week is definitely the last ‘major’ one of 2018 for new releases – publishers and indie developers are tripping over themselves in order to get their games out in time for Christmas.

Just Cause 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are the big hitters. Nintendo are presumably holding back reviews of Smash Bros. – the biggest Switch release of the year – until closer to launch in order to prevent spoilers. We’ll take a closer look during our weekly eShop round-up, but rest assured that it’s an exceedingly generous package. How Nintendo has managed to cram so much content onto a cartridge is a mystery. Absolute masters of their own craft.

It’s pretty much a case of business as usual for Just Cause 4 – sloppy but satisfying chaos and carnage that’s marred by dated mechanics. We’ve also heard a few complaints of performance issues, with the PC version in particular being buggy. Still, reviews are clocking in at 8/10, which is encouraging for those not excited by the other ‘triple AAA’ releases out this winter.

Other notable new releases include THQ Nordic’s Jagged Alliance: Rage!, card-based RPG Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, tactical shooter Mutant Year Zero, the PS4 release of PUBG, mech brawler Override: Mech City Brawl, and The Council’s fifth and final episode. Fans of Persona will also be in their element, as a duo of dancing spin-offs gain belated western releases via SEGA.

This week isn’t all about everything shiny and new. Far from it, in fact. Wonder Boy is back in Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom – a game five years in the making.

VideoChums called it a “phenomenal game and one of the best Metroidvanias ever made” before dishing out 9.1.

The PlayStation Classic launched on Monday, meanwhile. We get the impression a vast amount of pre-orders were cancelled before release – it initially sounded promising, but once more details were revealed, it became apparent Sony are skimping on the good stuff. It was met with a lukewarm reception due to shoddy emulation, a lack of features, and a hit ‘n miss line-up of titles. Somebody at Sony should be forced to play the PSone version of Rainbow Six from start to finish.

We aren’t done with retro stuff yet. The Bitmap Brothers’ action classic GODS receives an Xbox One remaster, SEGA Mega Drive Classics makes a belated Switch appearance, while Battle Princess Madelyn brings Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts back from the dead.

Monica e a Guarda dos Coelhos may also be of interest, based on a series hardcore SEGA fans may be familiar with – over in Brazil, the Wonder Boy games were reskinned with this cartoon license. This appears to be a tower defence shooter of sorts. And yes, that’s what it’s called on the UK digital stores. Why they didn’t use the translated title – Monica and the Rabbit Guard – is beyond us.

Don’t forget Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Tetris Effect both receive physical releases this week. avaliable for around £25. If you’re after a stocking filler for somebody, look no further. Better than a Brut gift set and socks combined.

New release showcase:

Just Cause 4

Recommended – Eurogamer: “Weather effects and party balloons see a knockabout charmer return in decent form”

8/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Just Cause 4 is the best entry in the series to date, offering spectacular free-wheeling destruction on a scale that’s not been attempted before. Rico remains one of gaming’s most enjoyable protagonists, but more than ever before, it’s really all about what he’s capable of doing rather than the events unfolding around him”

7.9 – IGN: “Just Cause 4 is a slightly better version of Just Cause 3’s destruction-fueled action, but lacks a big new idea to give it an identity of its own”

Sega Mega Drive Classics (Switch)

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “When you take into account how much quality there is on offer here, Sega Mega Drive Classics becomes an easy recommendation”

4/5 – Switch Player: “While not everything is a classic and there’s a few notable omissions, this is still a great mixture of genres couple with neat emulation gimmicks. For Nintendo fans, it’s also a great time travel machine back to see just how the other lived during the great console war”

5/10 – God is a Geek: “While it has loads of games for the asking price, I would rather spend more and buy quality releases piecemeal or buy another collection for the Switch where there is a lot more to the release than just old roms with a few extras”

PlayStation Classic

3/5 – The Guardian: “It looks nice, it’s easy to use and the games are fun to revisit, but the functionality is bare-bones – and all the swagger is gone”

3/5 – TechRadar: “Because it doesn’t enshrine the best-remembered games from the ’90s, the PlayStation Classic isn’t quite everything we hoped it’d be. But what it lacks in software is made up, in part, by its lovingly crafted hardware”

5.5 – IGN: “The PlayStation Classic is more like a halfhearted nod than a top-shelf tribute to Sony’s era-defining console”

Mutant Year Zero

4.5/5 – Windows Central: “Mutant Year Zero is a compelling and enjoyable blend of exploration and tactical combat that will keep you playing day after day”

8.1 – PC Gamer: “Its mix of tense tactics and realtime exploration gets much right, but Mutant Year Zero doesn’t feel quite finished”

7.9 – IGN: “In changing the interplay between stealth and combat, Mutant Year Zero spins an interesting and intense new perspective on turn-based tactics that pushes you to get the most out of every move you make”

Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight

8.5 – Destructoid: “It’s one of the more engaging rhythm games I’ve played to date, even if I wish it was open from the start and had more to do”

8/10 – GameSpot: “Although many of Persona 5’s tracks struck a chord because of their evocative attachments to the events of that game, these songs come back around to remind you just how special that journey was. And the fact that these amazing tracks are tied to a great rhythm gameplay system make this game a fantastic new way to enjoy Persona 5’s tremendous music and revisit the Phantom Thieves”

7.0 – God is a Geek: “Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is a rhythm game that is very good but one that should’ve been released later on so it could’ve had a more varied soundtrack with better remixes”

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Dec 03
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

THQ Nordic may have picked a quiet week to launch Darksiders III, but that hasn’t helped it to fly off shelves – the long-awaited follow up enters the UK top 40 at a miserable #32.

There is a chance that the digital version has picked up some slack, however, as the Fury Edition featured all three titles at an alluringly low price.

RIDE 3 also had a rough first week, failing to even make the PS4 and Xbox One top 20 charts, let alone the multiformat top 40.

Following on from last week’s Black Friday shake-up, the UK top five sees only a slight shuffle. FIFA 19 remains no.1 for a second week running, RDR2 climbs to #2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 moves down to #3, while Battlefield V and Forza Horizon 4 hold onto #4 and #5.

At #6 – up from #9 – it’s Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Nintendo’s Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu is also on the rise, now at #7.

The remaining positions are mostly occupied by top ten re-entries: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at #8 (was #11), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at #9, and the Fortnite Deep Freeze Bundle at #10 (was #12).

Fallout 76, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Marvel’s Spider-Man all departed the top ten, meanwhile, with the friendly neighbourhood superhero falling the furthest to #16.

Nov 29
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

While it’s true that most weekly eShop line-ups have a retro twist, this week’s line-up of new releases is so heavily loaded with nostalgia that we were almost tempted to add a florescent bumbag to our Christmas list.

Hoping to transport you back to the ‘80s and ‘90s are the incredibly slick retro racer Horizon Chase Turbo, shoot’em up revival R-Type Dimensions EX, a HD re-release of the PS2 platformer Asterix & Obelix XXL 2, vertical shooter Rival Megagun, pixel art scrolling brawlers Coffee Crisis and 99Vidas, 2D RPG Cattails, and the N64-style multiplayer FPS Screencheat: Unplugged.

As per usual, Hamster has a couple of arcade games lined-up too: ACA NeoGeo Cup ’98 and Arcade Archives ROUTE 16. The latter is a top-down maze game from 1985, if you’re wondering.

The 2006’s point ‘n clicker Secret Files: Tunguska also gains a Switch re-release. We reviewed the Wii version back in 2008(!): “If you’re hankering from some beard-scratching then you can’t go far wrong with this,” we said.

As for new stuff, SEGA’s back for another season with Football Manager 2019. This War of Mine: Complete Edition offers a depressing take on the survival genre, while underwater puzzle adventure ABZU is set to make a splash. Other full-price titles include Ark: Survival Evolved and Spintires: MudRunner – American Wilds, meanwhile.

The hand-drawn puzzle-driven story NAIRI: Tower of Shirin is worthy of your time too, gaining 8/10 from ourselves earlier today. To quote: “The cute and expressive graphics and the excellent writing harmoniously work together to give the game world a lived-in feel, and even characters only met for a brief while overflow with personality.”

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Nov 29
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

There’s nothing better than a good bedtime story. When I was a young bairn I used to sit under the blankets at night and read with a torch. As the nights get longer and colder, snuggling up with a good bedtime story is essential. NAIRI is a great bedtime story.

NAIRI tells the story of a small girl, whisked away at night after her parents are arrested by the Royal Guard. To say much more would spoil things, so let us just say that adventure, secrets and puzzles ensue. There’s also a great tone, plus anthropomorphic animals galore and cuteness to spare. Perhaps more importantly though, there’s also intrigue and some wonderful world building.

It’s definitely a game you could play with children, but also a game that I, a fully-grown man, found both intriguing and riveting.

I’ve been playing it like a bedtime story, a little bit at a time at night, with the Switch in portable mode. The game facilitates this perfectly. There are puzzles, but not of the predictable ““use tape to create a moustache to impersonate a man who doesn’t have a moustache” type. There’s an option to use the JoyCons as pointers on the TV too – handy for those not playing while under a duvet.

The presentation helps the bedtime story feel. The graphics are lovingly hand-painted, and the music is mellow and relaxing, like a mug of hot tea. What most impressed me, however, is how skilfully HomeBearStudio’s introduces and develops characters.

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Nov 28
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The popularity of Maxis’ 1989 classic SimCity allowed the American developer to take their flagship brand in new directions. Clearly trying to replicate the success of SimCity, between 1989 and 2000 fifteen different titles under the ‘Sim’ banner were released. One of the more successful endeavours was SimTower, praised for being “homelier and more personal” than past games.

If you were a fan, then you’re in luck. If Cities Skylines is the spiritual successor to SimCity, then Project Highrise is the modern-day equivalent of SimTower.

The concept is as simple as can be: construct and manage a towering skyscraper, allocating spaces for offices, apartments, shops and more, all while making sure existing tenants are kept happy and hooked up to the power and phone grids. Only basic facilities are available to begin with, but as the reputation of your tower grows, more lucrative offers come your way.

Thankfully, Project Highrise doesn’t force you to manage dull office blocks (and if that is your thing, we aren’t ones to judge). This is a content-heavy GOTY edition of sorts, packed full of add-ons that allow you to turn your tower into a casino, hotel, party venue, or a bustling business centre. All of these can be supported with additional services, some of which certain businesses will expect to be operational by the time they arrive. The variety here is vast – laundromats, mall security, room service, and even wine tasting booths all serve a purpose once your block becomes jumbo-sized.

Music recording companies, in particular, are an appropriately demanding client. Finding them a quiet corner for their studio is the least of your worries.

Fail to keep clients satisfied and you’ll be left with a vacant lot. This is a bigger problem than it may initially seem. While there’s often a list of clients willing to set up shop, a small outlay is required first. That’s to say, you must spend money to make money. All it takes to end up in debt is a few bad decisions. Once in the red, no new construction can take place. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope a rent increase for existing businesses doesn’t cause a ruckus.

There’s definitely a learning curve. Our first few attempts at construction and planning were disastrous, with funds running out by the time we reached the third floor. Mistakes were made – overestimating demand, overcharging rent, etc – but all experience is good experience, allowing us to put newfound planning skills to use on the next block. It wasn’t long until we had a tall tower boasting a multi-floored shopping mall, a food court, and a hotel with a spa.

Building a skyscraper 100 stories high could be seen as the ultimate goal, giving something to focus on. Becoming the next Brian Potter and setting up an entertainment empire is undoubtedly the most exciting route, even giving the choice of which acts to book. But don’t expect to host gigs in a swanky new concert hall from the outset as a certain amount of prestige is required, gained only by growing a good reputation.

You’re always forced to start from the bottom rung of the highrise hierarchy; there’s no skipping ahead to get to the more exciting stuff. You can, however, dabble in different challenge-based scenarios with already established towers.

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Nov 27
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The Black Friday sales have given the UK chart a shake-up. In short: lots of new consoles were purchased last week, helping popular PS4 pack-in FIFA 19 reclaim no.1.

A minor price drop for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 sees it rise from #7 to #2, while Red Dead Redemption 2 – which wasn’t on sale during Black Friday but did feature in hardware bundles – also saw a sales boost but fell to #3.

At #4 it’s the first of three new arrivals – EA’s Battlefield V. Perhaps launching it during Black Friday wasn’t the best of ideas, as sales were reportedly down 61% over Battlefield 1.

Forza Horizon 4 and Marvel’s Spider-Man both re-enter the top 10, meanwhile, back at #5 and #6. We had a feeling Spider-Man would climb back up the chart.

Fallout 76 – which we reviewed last week – dropped to #7 during its second week on sale.

Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu also dropped significantly, down from #4 to #8. Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee is now at #18, incidentally.

Last week’s chart-topper Spyro Reignited Trilogy plummeted to #9 but will likely rise in the run-up to Christmas as demand for family-friendly titles grows.

Lastly, good old Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sees us out at #10.

Farming Simulator 19 and the cartoon horror adventure Bendy and the Ink Machine were the two other new releases, taking #16 and #30 (respectively).

Towards the lower end of the top 40 we find a bunch of re-entries, including Minecraft: Master Collection, Forza 7, Detroit: Become Human, F1 2018, plus both Tekken 7 and Project Cars 2 – two titles Currys/PC World are currently bundling with Xbox consoles.

We’re surprised by the absence of Ubisoft’s Starlink, as it too was heavily discounted last week. Perhaps gamers are waiting patiently for it to hit that magical £20 mark.

Nov 27
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

THQ Nordic has picked the perfect week to release the long-awaited Darksiders III – the only other major new release out is RIDE 3, a motorbike racer that’s arguably an acquired taste.

Unfortunately, it appears development of Darksiders III was rushed in order to get it out the door before 2018 comes to an end. GameRant paints a very bleak picture, noting game breaking bugs. The Metro (amongst others) simply found dull, while GameInformer – who opted for an 8/10 – claimed it feels rather last-gen, albeit it in a humble way.

Critics aren’t unanimously disappointed, though. In addition to GameInformer, both IGN and Destructoid felt it worthy of praise. We’ve rounded up scores below.

A few other blasts from the past make a comeback this week. Asterix & Obelix XXL 2, which originally released on PlayStation 2 in 2005, gets an unexpected HD re-release. Presumably to make up for a few shortcomings, it comes with a trio of figurines.

Arcade revival Toki on Switch receives the same treatment, with the retail release packaged with a bunch of extras including a cardboard arcade cabinet. This isn’t a new game either, per see – development began almost 10 years ago. It has been put on hold, cancelled, and revived in the meantime. Our biggest worry is the game’s pricing – it’s a full price release.

Retro racer Horizon Chase Turbo also makes the jump from PS4 to Xbox One and Switch, while cult survival game This War of Mine gains a content-packed Switch re-release. Reviews are positive so far.

Next week sees a huge slew of new titles before the gaming industry winds down for Christmas, with big hitters including Super Smash Bros, Just Cause 4, PUBG on PS4, SEGA Mega Drive Classics on Switch, and the PlayStation Classic.

There’s a wealth of intriguing indie titles due too, with fans of retro gaming well catered for – GODS Remastered, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, and Battle Princess Madelyn should all scratch that 16-bit itch. Check back next week to see how they fare.

New release showcase:

Darksiders III

8/10 – Destructoid: Most of my complaints are related to the RPG bits which are not the main focus of Darksiders III. It remains an action-fueled project and that’s an angle it does well, reigning in some of the out-of-hand ideas from its predecessor.

7.0 – IGN: Darksiders III is a straightforward action game that isn’t afraid to throw some serious old-school challenges at you.

4/10 – GameSpot: Darksiders 3 retrogrades on its predecessors with an unfocused approach that constantly clashes with itself. There are remnants of a good game here, buried within the vivacious combos of a combat style this game doesn’t want to embrace. Unfortunately, it’s buried far too deep to ever salvage.
Top of Form

4/10 – The Metro: It commits no cardinal sins but this belated return to the world of Darksiders comes across as shallow, frustrating, and disappointingly dull.

1/5 – GameRant: The game is a nightmare to play through, with an unlikable protagonist, a chugging frame rate, and a mountain of bugs. It’s completely and utterly broken, but even when it works (which is almost never), it amounts to nothing more than a below average hack-and-slash with some decent puzzles.

Horizon Chase Turbo

A- – Gaming Age: Horizon Chase Turbo may occasionally be infuriating, but it’s a whole lot of fun much more frequently. If you’ve ever yearned for an arcade racer that genuinely feels like it comes from the early days of home consoles, you should most definitely check this one out.

8/10 – Destructoid: I had a hell of a time with Horizon Chase Turbo. Of all of the retro revival games that have come out over the past few years, it is near the top of my personal list of favourites. I can’t get enough of it.

7/10 – The Metro: The spirit of old school arcade racing is reborn in a homage to everything from OutRun to Lotus Turbo Challenge, and despite a few bumps in the road it’s all just as much fun as you remember.

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Nov 26
By Jake In Reviews No Comments

There’s something to be said for the gentler pursuits in life. Like having a nice sit – what could be better? But gentle can also be pointless, like Radio 4 sitcoms. Which is Mimpi Dreams? LET’S FIND OUT.

(An attempt at building tension, there. Not desperately easy in a review of a Switch conversion of a three year old game. Which is itself the sequel to a five-year-old game. But hey, we gave it a bash.)

So: Mimpi is a lazy dog, who becomes a super-dog in his dreams, where he helps various gently odd characters with their problems, which are solved through a mix of gentle platforming and gentle puzzle solving. That’s not damning with faint praise – this is the good sort of gentle.

The vector graphics are comfortingly smooth, and the conversations Mimpi has with the characters he encounters are endearingly represented by little drawings in speech bubbles. The atmosphere this builds is reflected in the gameplay which is, with only rare exceptions, unthreatening and unrushed. That’s not to say boring though. The humour – which, yes, is gentle – has the capacity to surprise, as do the puzzles.

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