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

We aren’t sure if Sony’s decision to launch Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4 the same week as The Avengers: Infinity War’s home release was intentional or not, but it’s a smooth move nevertheless.

Not that the gaming consuming public needed any more persuasion to buy Spider-Man – it has been one of the most anticipated releases around since its E3 reveal over two years ago. Hopes were high that it’ll become not just the greatest Spider-Man game of all-time, but also the best superhero game ever.

While it allegedly has a few minor shortcomings, such as the standard assortment of busywork between missions and too few boss battles, it unquestionably lives up to the hype. Critics are most englamoured by the fluid way Spidey moves and controls, making even the simplest of tasks a pleasure.

Scores so far are a mixture of 10s, 9s, and 8s. The Metro meanwhile opted for 7/10, stating that it fails to push the superhero genre forward.

Activision has also timed Destiny 2: Forsaken perfectly. Or rather, they picked the best possible time to give away Destiny 2 as a PS Plus freebie, expanding the user base by millions. Millions of new customers that may very well go on to purchase this new DLC.

There are no reviews of Forsaken live yet – which could be down to poorly timed server maintenance – but both Polygon and Destructoid have chalked up early impressions. “Forsaken feels like the transformative expansion for Destiny 2 that The Taken King was for Destiny,” said Polygon.

Team 17’s lavish looking 2D puzzle platformer Planet Alpha is going down reasonably well so far, gaining 7s and 8s, while Dragon Quest XI has taken some by surprise, gaining scores as high as 10//10. We’ve rounded-up reviews below.

Konami’s remake of ZONE OF THE ENDERS: The 2nd Runner on PS4 should also be worth a look. Friday sees the return of V-Rally as well, a racing series that’s been off the road since 2002. Can a new developer do the franchise justice? The studio’s revival of Flatout turned out surprisingly well, so we’re hopeful.

New release showcase:

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Reviews:
9.5 – GameInformer: “Excitement is delivered consistently from the outside of play right up to the last story frame, which is a real shocker that contains a reveal that will make the wait for the sequel almost unbearable”

9.5 – God is a Geek: “Everything I hoped it would be and more. Marvel’s Spider-Man provides us lots to do, a great story, and some of the best visuals available on the PS4”

9/10 – Destructoid: “Spider-Man isn’t just a great superhero game, it’s a proof of concept for Insomniac as a company. This project shows that they can basically handle pretty much any universe, because if you can accurately recreate Peter Parker’s nimbleness and gentle heart you can do anything: and with multiple teasers at the end, I think they’ll get that chance”

9/10 – GameSpot: “Insomniac has created a superior Spider-Man experience that leaves a lasting impression, one that has you longing for just one more swing around New York City, even after the credits roll”

4/5 – The Telegraph: “Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man has its caveats, with its raft of distractions following a little too closely to what has gone before. But its dedication to and understanding of its leading man make for a thrilling and satisfying slice of comic-book entertainment”

7/10 – The Metro: “The best Spider-Man game ever made… but only just, since it fails to move the superhero video game genre forward in any important way”

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Reviews:
10/10 – Forbes: “While it is a massive and overly traditional role-playing game, do not let these elements dissuade you from trying it out. Stick with it and your patience will be hugely rewarded”

8.8 – IGN: A massive, masterful, “traditional” RPG that focuses more on combat mechanics, loot, and exploration than story.

8.5 – EGM: “Its story, gameplay, characters, and visuals all work to blend timeless series elements with newer-era genre refinements, and most of the time, the results are great”

Planet Alpha

Reviews:
9.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “There’s no filler, no cheap puzzle solutions, no game-breaking glitches, no gratuitous lean towards overused narrative crutches. It’s just a platformer, but one that emanates a graceful radiance of character and color”

7/10 – Push Square: “Planet Alpha is an enjoyable sci-fi indie, one that is undeniably stunning and engaging thanks to a unique day-night dynamic and interesting puzzles. Its major downfall is the glaring predictability of the story, but most players will be over the moon with what this game has to offer”

7/10 – GameSpot: “There’s great pleasure in just existing on this planet, in navigating its harsh terrain and admiring its vistas, and the sheer beauty of it all makes the game’s shortcomings easy to bear”

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Sep 04
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This unabashed arcade-like experience invites you to indulge in the simplest of pleasures – level design that requires a sharp memory and almost-rhythmic movement, accompanied by action that demands lightning quick reflexes. We would use the phrase ‘twitch gameplay’ but today’s youth would no doubt think we’re referring to the popular streaming service.

The VideoKid is a game so simple, in fact, that it’s even simpler than its inspiration – Atari’s celebrated Paperboy. You’re no longer able to swerve all over the road like a teenage cyclist drunk on Hooch, as here movement is restricted to swapping between three lanes. The titular kid, who resembles Marty McFly in his default skin, can however leap over obstacles while performing stunts, due to favouring a skateboard over a bike.

The VidKid’s goal? To deliver the latest batch of bootleg VHS tapes to his customers, while racing against the clock to reach a date on time.

The draw here is the use of ‘80s icons. To say they haven’t been used sparingly is an understatement – random appearances from ‘80s characters and iconic vehicles are never more than a few seconds apart. Certain vehicles can be leapt over, while every film star and cartoon character found casually wandering down the street must be avoided to prevent a collision. They each have slightly different patterns of movement, which is where good old memory skills come in.

movement is restricted to swapping between three lanes

Sound also plays a part, as a cameo’s arrival is announced via a purposely distorted soundbite; usually a snippet of a theme tune or a speech sample. While alarmingly cheeky – the developers clearly didn’t seek permission before filling their game with countless renown characters – it does help to add an extra dollop of nostalgia. They’ve presumably “managed to get away with it” – to quote Scooby Doo – as all objects and characters are constructed from blocky super-sized pixels, a la Pac-Man 256 and Crossy Road. Incidentally, if you enjoyed those two you’ll probably find this an utter delight.

Visually, The VideoKid is curiously appealing. The colours used are bold and bright, everything moves smoothly, and the characters are well drawn and instantly recognisable.

There’s a good mixture of cartoon and movie characters present, including a few that we completely unexpected such as Danger Mouse and The Fraggles. And as you would expect, all the renown ‘80s cartoon characters turn up at some point – Thundercats, Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, Transformers, He-Man, et al.

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Sep 03
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Codemasters’ F1 2018 has managed to fend off all competition, remaining at no.1 for a second week running. More than a few big hitters were up against it, including PES 2019 which made #2.

However, Chart-Track reports physical sales of Konami’s soccer sim were down 42% over last year. This may not entirely be down to waning popularity – digital distribution is forever on the rise, and there are no last-gen iterations this year. Maybe it’s time for Konami to bring PES to Switch, eh?

Yakuza Kiwami 2 was the next highest new entry, making #5. Its arrival seems to have impacted sales of Shenmue I & II, which falls all the way from #2 to #33 this week. Either that, or stock shortages are perhaps to blame. We recall Amazon being sold out, albeit briefly.

Capcom’s Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate took #9, while Sony’s Firewall Zero Hour narrowly missed out on a top ten placing, making #11.

Strange Brigade – new IP from Rebellion – made its debut at #16. Digital sales may paint a slightly brighter picture. Finally for new releases, Divinity Original Sin II entered at #23. This means it’s a no-show for Naruto to Boruto, which we expect to make the top 20 at the very least.

Rewinding back to the top ten, LEGO The Incredibles, The Crew 2, and Call of Duty: WWII all depart this week to make way for the new arrivals. GTA V, Crash Bandicoot, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, God of War and FIFA 18 all remain in the top ten, meanwhile.

Sep 02
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The opening to this puzzle/platformer involves more than simply becoming acquainted with the lead character and learning the controls – there’s also a warped sense of puzzle solving logic to get your head around. Or to be more exact, the first hour or so is best spent trying to get inside the headspace of developer Zoink Games.

Here’s a game that’ll have you inflating a whale with a trombone, scaring a nervous fireman to death by recreating a horror movie scene, and resurrecting a zombie alpaca so that it can spit at a human one last time. There are numerous equally daft quests and missions leading up to these unlikely situations too. You’ll find no dull ‘block shoving’ puzzles here. Hurrah!

You play as Penny, a spritely teenager who accidentally becomes a temporary stand-in for the Grim Reaper. He’s about to take an overdue vacation to the moon – the closest place to Earth where nobody has ever died. Perks of the job include a handful of God-like powers, such as being able to switch between the afterlife and the living world, and the ability to possess the bodies of the living while telepathically reading their minds. Those who played ‘Stick it to the Man’ – one of Zoink’s previous games – will notice some welcome similarities.

Before the dead can leave the afterlife for pastures new, unfinished business in the living world must be wrapped up first. This is where Penny comes in. The afterlife is a mirrored version of the living world – the hills now have eyes (literally), vehicles are brains and other foul things on wheels, and the shops and houses are transformed into gormless looking beasts. It’s here that Penny can possess the living by finding their silhouettes, and once possessed it’s then possible to use whatever item they’re carrying at the time – an integral part of puzzle solving.

There’s also an area in the afterlife where mischievous creatures can be transported from one realm to another, usually requiring some good old platforming skills.

Most missions are set in the same town, only with new areas and additional characters added as things progress. There’s a list of objectives to work through, usually in an order of your choosing, plus a handful of optional quests with cryptic clues. Possessing the right people and using their skills accordingly sets things in motion for a finale that’ll finally set an individual free from the afterlife.

The first couple of stages are a little perplexing due to the warped sense of logic, and we occasionally found ourselves possessing everybody in sight while running from one side of town to the other, hoping to accidentally stumble on a solution to the task at hand.

Eventually, things ‘clicked’ into place – the use of reoccurring characters means some skills are called upon throughout the adventure. A troublesome tyke with newly fitted braces can bite and chew things, the trombone player can blow objects over with strong gusts of wind, and the aptly named “super” hero Poke-Man can prod everything in reach. These are just some of the more ‘normal’ citizens, would you believe.

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Aug 30
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Despite launching in 2014, Freedom Planet (£12.99) – which began life as a Sonic fan game – stacks up against the universally praised Sonic Mania incredibly well. We awarded it an 8/10 today. But don’t just take our word for it – the Metacritic currently stands at 85%, including a 95% from GamingTrend.

Monster Hunter: Generations Ultimate (£49.99) has received mixed reviews, meanwhile – everything from Nintendo Life’s 9/10 to a 2.5/5 from The Daily Dot. Why the indifference? Well, it’s mostly because it has more in common with the 3DS MH games, rather than the recent MH World.

“Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate takes players back to the origins of the famed series, and it looks and plays great on the Nintendo Switch, even if it’s still a major step backwards from Monster Hunter World,” said We Got This Covered.

Rewinding back to earlier this week, the arrival of the critically acclaimed indie Into the Breach (£11.39) – from the creators of FTL – sparked much jubilation. Both The Metro and Pocket Gamer gave the strategy game 9/10 review scores, with the former called it “almost perfectly formed.”

Devolver Digital’s humorous Metroidvania The Messenger is off to the best possible start too, gaining top marks from Destructoid, Nintendo World Report, and US Gamer. “It’s the most polished, thoughtful, and accurate tribute to retro gaming that I’ve seen in a very long time,” said US Gamer.

Blade Strangers could also be considered a retro throwback, being a 2D beat’em up similar to Samurai Showdown. Scores for this one include a 7/10 from Nintendo Life, and an 8.5 from DualShockers.

Staying with the retro theme, there’s The VideoKid (£3.99) a colourful Paperboy-alike which seems to be going down well despite the mobile phone game-style looks.

We’ve rounded-up the remaining Switch releases below, with highlights including The Walking Dead, tactical JRPG God Wars, belated role-playing conversion Victor Vran, and the cartoon-like cowboy shooter Western 1849 Reloaded. Yee-haw!

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Aug 30
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Creativity is an odd thing. Sometimes, restrictions impair creativity. You can almost sense how the weight of expectation and a desire to stick to a certain formula spoils some games. Sometimes, however, creativity feeds off restriction. Freedom Planet started life as a Sonic fan game. Designer Stephen DiDuro clearly loves Sonic. But, by scribbling in the margins, he has managed to create a game that’s packed with creativity, albeit one that takes a while to find its feet.

Freedom Planet starts with a choice of two characters. Lilac can double jump and has a mid-air dash, while Carol rides a motorbike. We favoured Carol. The motorbike is ridiculous. Not only can it ride along walls – it’s also possible to hang glide and use a zip wire while zooming along. It’s the ‘Sharknado’ of video games. Stupid, but fun and silly.

From here, the typical run ‘n’ jump gameplay starts, although it quickly becomes clear that the game is filled to the brim with stuff to see. The second level took us over half an hour to complete, and that’s without re-tries. There’s also a decent amount of choice when it comes to taking different routes, with most alternate paths clearly visible. Completionists will be at home here.

Not everything apes Sonic’s 16-bit hits, though, and some of the changes are more than welcome. Freedom Planet has a bigger focus on combat, with each of the two main characters having a standard attack and a special attack. This means it’s much easier to maintain momentum than it is in Sonic games of yore. It also means boss fights can be more varied and interesting. Indeed, the boss battles in Freedom Planet are an example of when the game shines brightest.

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

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? If you happen to be trapped in the 1930’s, the correct answer is the Strange Brigade. The co-op shooter sees Rebellion taking a break from Sniper Elite to give the world a new IP with a stiff upper lip. Tally ho, and all that.

The consensus is that while Strange Brigade doesn’t require much brainpower to play, you’re still in for a jolly good time providing you can convince a few other friends to tag along. Reviews scores so far are a mixture of 7s and 8s, with more than a few critics noting that it took them by surprise.

SEGA’s Yakuza Kiwami 2 is on track to become this week’s highest-rated new release, however, gaining a steady string of 9/10s. It’s a serious contender for being one of the greatest remakes of all-time – it has received a complete overhaul, including greatly revised mechanics.

Pro Evolution Soccer is back this week as well, with some critics warning of a slight lack of features, while the Switch finally gets a piece of Monster Hunter pie. While Generations Ultimate isn’t an entirely new game, it does contain the ‘best bits’ of the Monster Hunter games before it. Think of it as a greatest hits collection.

Then we have Donut County, a new indie that should please fans of Namco’s Katamari series. It’s Katamari in reverse, essentially, involving a giant sinkhole that swallows everything in its path. Who’s behind it all? A pair of sneaky racoons, of course.

All this and a new Naruto game too. Never underestimate the popularity of Naruto – don’t be surprised to see it break the top 20 next week.

New release showcase:

Strange Brigade

Reviews:
8.2 – VideoChums: “Strange Brigade definitely took me by surprise as it’s one of the most fun-filled cooperative online games out there. The amount of variety makes the gameplay constantly enjoyable and working together with friends is super-satisfying”

8/10 – WCCFTech: “Should you buy Strange Brigade? If you have some friends looking to invest some time in this game playing with you (and some money too, since they’ll have to buy their own copies) then yes, absolutely. With pals, this is a great ride. Looking to go solo? Um, it’s a bit more of a hard sell. You can jump in with people online of course, but it’s not the same as your friends being along for the ride”

7.5 – IGN: “While Strange Brigade can be frustrating at times, the charm of its 1930s world, the wonderfully exaggerated English alliteration of its narrator, and solid level design, combat encounters, and four-player co-op make it a strong, stylish third-person shooter”

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Reviews:
9.0 – GameInformer: “Kiwami 2 is more than a great remake: it’s the best this strange, wonderful series has to offer and it shouldn’t be missed by fans of action or RPG titles”

9.0 – God is a Geek: “In yet another fantastic entry, you’re treated to more fluidity in combat, a gorgeous world to explore, and so much to do outside the main story it’s ridiculous”

8/10 – GameSpot: “Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an excellent example of the series at its best, coupling its most memorable stories and characters with its most sophisticated mechanics yet”

PES 2019

Reviews:
8.2 – IGN: “PES 2019’s focus on individual brilliance brings players to life and gives the game an extra dimension of authenticity”

4/5 – GamesRadar: “Light on features it may be, but PES 2019 shows the proof in the pudding is, and always will be, out on the (virtual) pitch”

3.5/5 – Twinfinite: “Whether PES 2019 is a good proposition will depend entirely on the gamer. For me, I can forgive its jankiness. The football, especially going forward, is just so good. Despite this, my admiration of the series will always be stained with a bit of disappointment, wondering what it could be with just a little more evolution”

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Life: “Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate may lack the smoothness and accessibility that made Monster Hunter: World such a smash hit, but it more than makes up for it by being a sort of ‘greatest hits’ collection of the high points of the series, giving you hundreds of hours of content to play through”

8/10 – Nintendo World Report: “If picking up World isn’t an option, or if you prefer to take your Monster Hunter with you on the go, then Generations Ultimate is your best bet for the premiere portable experience”

6.5 – God is a Geek: “It’s nice to have Monster Hunter on the Switch, but those coming in fresh off the back of Monster Hunter World may be in for a rude awakening”

Donut County

Reviews:
83/100 – GamesBeat: “I wished the story was longer and the game had more things to do besides capturing things in a hole. But the story was lighthearted and the gameplay was fun”

4/5 – US Gamer: “Donut County is an excellent concept executed with pizzazz, personality, and an unexpectedly salient message at its core. While the end came abruptly and left me wanting more, like an endless mode or bigger levels to swallow things in, I can’t deny the great time I had with what’s there”

7/10 – Push Square: “Serving as a bite-sized snack between bigger titles, this definitely hits the spot, but those looking for a more filling experience may be left a little hungry”

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Aug 28
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

While sales of Codemasters’ F1 2018 were down over last years instalment, it has still sold well enough to take the UK chart top spot.

This means Crash Bandicoot’s reign is now at an end – last week the box breaking marsupial celebrated an 8th week at no.1.

Another new face enters at #2 – SEGA’s Shenmue I and II collection, which we reviewed yesterday. It also takes #2 in the PS4 chart and #4 in the Xbox One chart.

Crash Bandicoot is now at #3. GTA V and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe drop to #4 and #5.

God of War remains at #6 for another week. LEGO The Incredibles and Call of Duty: WWII both continue to slide, falling to #7 and #8.

At #9 it’s Ubisoft’s The Crew 2, up from #25. FIFA 18 has seen a sales surge too, going from #29 to #10. We spotted it for a mere £4.99 in Sainsbury’s over the weekend.

The recently discounted State of Decay 2 and Forza Motorsport 7 are back in the top 40 this week too, re-entering at #29 and #32.

Expect to see lots of new titles in the chart next Monday. An all-new top five, quite possibly – PES 2019, Monster Hunter Generations, Yakuza Kiwami 2, Strange Brigade and Naruto to Boruto are all due out this week.

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