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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Dec 27
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Some of the bigger gaming sites have come to standstill over Christmas, even ignoring such news stories at the Christmas no.1. We’re still here though, which is fortunate as Nintendo’s eShop line-up is now live. Despite what you may expect, there are a fair few big hitters due before the week is out.

New titles for Switch include the dubstep rhythm shooter Aaero: Complete Edition – which we wholeheartedly recommend – the content-heavy Dynasty Warriors 8 Definitive Edition, sandbox survival game JCB Pioneer: Mars, and the sci-fi Overcooked alike Catastronauts.

Also, the monochromatic single-button auto runner Odium to the Core – which we reviewed yesterday – the pixel art survival platformer Rain World, and ANIMUS…which looks highly similar to Dark Souls. At £7.99 though, we aren’t expecting much.

Then for those hankering for an arcade fix, there’s King of Fighters 2002 and Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Heavy Barrel.

Here’s the full release list. You may notice a few other familiar faces, such as belated conversions from BigBen (Tetraminos and Brick Breaker), along with Digerati’s pixel art adventures Uncanny Valley and The Aquatic Adventure of The Last Human.

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Dec 24
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This single-button auto-runner isn’t one to play when mentally drained. The concept may sound simple enough, tasking you with keeping Odium – a demonic glowing red eye – airborne by tapping and holding the A button, but you’re constantly made to learn by mistakes and start anew. It’s definitely best suited for early morning game sessions, played after a large cup of coffee and a well-balanced nutritious breakfast.

The challenge lies not within keeping Odium afloat – although there is a slight learning curve to mastering the technique, which the tutorial allows for – but rather within the level design. Odium seeks to destroy the power cores found inside sprawling, clunking, mechanical machines full of spinning gears, pistons, spikes, crushers, and objects on which he can be easily snagged.

There are environmental hazards to contend with as well, such as waterfalls that push Odium downwards and thermal jets that send the spike-covered lead skyward.

Presumably to stop complacently, a few other sneaky tricks have been employed. The camera occasionally pans in and out, Odium’s speed can alter on a whim, and most stages feature layouts that twist and turn, or become extremely narrow.

Death comes quickly. Fortunately, this is a rather forgiving experience – each stage grants infinite lives, and there’s no punishment for failure. A few additional checkpoints per stage may have made for a slightly easier time, though. Some are so far apart that we found ourselves punching the air in jubilation after finally overcoming tougher areas. Often by this point our thumb would start to feel sore, brought on by bouts of button bashing. The ability to use the right trigger instead would’ve been most welcome.

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Dec 23
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 has claimed a second consecutive week at no.1, making it this year’s Christmas chart topper. Their last Christmas no.1 was GTA: Vice City, back in 2002.

The coveted Christmas no.1 position is usually taken either by FIFA or Call of Duty, both of which can boast of eight yuletide chart toppers each.

Perhaps to celebrate this break from the norm, chart holders Ukie have compiled an infographic detailing all Christmas no.1s from 1984 onwards, starting with Activision’s Ghostbusters movie tie-in.

FIFA 19 held onto #2 while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 remained at #3. Battlefield V rose to #4, presumably helped by a minor price cut, while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate moved down to #5.

The family friendly Spyro Reignited Trilogy took #6, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at #7 gives Nintendo their second Christmas top ten entry, Marvel’s Spider-Man crawled up to #8, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy gives Activision their third top ten entry at #9, while Microsoft takes #10 with Forza Horizon 4.

Elsewhere in the chart, Starlink Battle for Atlas is back at #27 thanks to a hefty price cut – the toys to life title could be found for as low as £17.99 last week. Detroit: Become Human re-entered at #34, while 2K’s Carnival Games made a belated top 40 appearance at #38.

Expect to see FIFA 19 take the top spot next week. The FIFA series tends to see a sales spike the week after Christmas, fuelled by gamers braving the Boxing Day sales to spend their Christmas money and GAME gift vouchers.

Dec 21
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

There was a time when we’d use Metacritic to compile our annual round-up of terrible games. As popular as these pieces were, in terms of page views at least, we’d always hit bumps along the way.

Scores varying between formats were the least of our problems. In most instances, we hadn’t experienced the games in question for ourselves. This, of course, made them tricky to talk about, forcing us to rely on second-hand opinions. We’re also pretty sure that Metacritic’s ‘worst list’ was almost entirely occupied by casual WiiWare and DSi games one year, reviewed by just a scant handful of critics. Hardly thrilling subject matter.

And so we no longer use Metacritic as a reference, choosing to talk about our own hands-on experiences instead. Some of the games below we received to review while others we picked up cheaply, knowing full well that they’re bad.

Spare us no sorrow. Bad games often have their own dubious pleasures. Amusing glitches, terrible voice acting, typos, poorly directed cut-scenes. Between the five games below, we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing all these ‘quirks’ first-hand.

Past Cure

The third stage of this psychological stealth shooter involves a PlayStation 2-quality shootout in a multi-storey car park. To paint a better picture: the controls are clunky, the shooting mechanics feel ham-fisted and sloppy, and the cover system can’t be relied on. It’s like something from a pre-Gears of War age. We had already experienced a game-breaking glitch that caused us to fall through the floor, so you can imagine our confusion after falling through an air vent into a weird seemingly unfinished area set inside a sewer.

The textures appeared unfinished and the lighting effects weren’t behaving themselves, obscuring half the room. It appeared there was a puzzle to solve that entailed shutting off the power to cross a walkway, but after ten minutes of head scratching – and one checkpoint reload for good measure – we took to Google to find a solution. Turns out we weren’t alone in being confused. A user on Steam also found themselves trapped in this room, and likewise wondered if they’d accidentally fallen into a scrapped area.

Turns out this was a brand-new puzzle the developers added after the game launched, as they felt it needed more abstract/psychological moments. That’s to say, they patched their already frustrating game with an additional broken, seemingly unfinished, and downright confusing area. Now that’s counterintuitive.

After finally figuring the puzzle out, we found ourselves in a boss battle of sorts which entailed running away from a colossal statue with glowing red eyes. As we frantically ran, not even stopping to look behind, we made it unscathed to the doorway ahead. Inside was an open manhole cover with a ladder leading down, so we took the plunge…and landed outside the level, able to roam around freely in a white open void. Thankfully, the game behaved itself on the second (third?) checkpoint reload and the manhole took us back to the multi-storey car park as it was supposed to.

We gave up playing on the next stage – an extremely unforgiving stealth section with no radar or other stealth game fundamentals, other than a stealth kill option and the ability to crouch.

As bad games go, Past Cure has slightly more going for it than most. The visuals are appealing in places, the voice acting is more than passable, and there’s a degree of variety between missions. But with glitches galore and fundamentally flawed mechanics, only the most determined will ever see it through to the end. For us, even the lure of some easy achievements wasn’t enough.

Extinction

We have an inkling Extinction was once destined to be an all-singing, all-dancing, big budget title with way more variety than the final product. But when budget publisher Modus jumped onboard for publishing duties a spanner was thrown into the works, prompting the developers to dial down their vision somewhat. Just a theory, we should note, but one that stands to reason.

Whatever happened during development, this shouldn’t have launched at full price. Amazingly, there was even a £64.99 deluxe edition with bonus DLC. We pity anybody who coughed up full whack on day one, especially at sixty-five quid, as there’s so little content and variety on offer that even at £24.99 Extinction would’ve come under scrutiny.

It’s a hack ‘n slasher that involves protecting citizens from generic goblin foes while a rampaging giant smashes through a whitewashed city. Defeating goblins charges a meter, which once full sets the nondescript protagonist’s sword ablaze. It’s then time to take down the giant, which entails targeting body parts via a slow-mo feature. Take out their legs and they’ll fall to the floor, allowing their back to be scaled before chopping off their head – something not quite as grisly as it sounds here. If the giant destroys too much of the city, or too many citizens die, then the mission is failed.

This isn’t Extinction’s first mission, you understand. It’s the entire game. This cycle repeats from start to finish. Sometimes you must take down multiple giants, which occasionally have padlocks(!) on their armour which must be destroyed first, and a few new goblin types are also introduced along the way but that’s it for variety.

Extinction is so repetitive and slim on ideas that after around an hour of play missions become auto-generated. It’s as if the developers gave up entirely. It’s also around this point that the Xbox achievements start flagging as rare, making it obvious that most gamers simply gave up too.

Did we mention the deluxe edition cost sixty-five flaming quid?

Agony

When reviews of Agony went live – roughly a week after launch, we should note – critics stood up, leaned out the nearest window and yelled “The name Agony is apt, because it’s pure agony to play.”

Or at least, gaming sites were rife with words to that effect. Agony may look and sound enticing going on screenshots and concept alone – being a savage, gore-filled, stomp through hell – but it’s an utter chore to play. The biggest issue, by far, is that the developers seemingly made it purposely disorientating. Corridors and paths often look alike, the pace is frustratingly slow, and it isn’t long until the ability to scale walls is introduced which makes navigating the levels all the more confusing.

Then, to top it all off, the focus changes from exploration to stealth early on, throwing you straight into the deep end while still adjusting to the wayward mechanics.

Just like Extinction, the Xbox One achievement ratios are telling signs of woefulness. Even such early accomplishments as finishing the second level flag as ‘rare’ (currently unlocked by less than 31% of players), and as of yet not a single gamer on True Achievements can boast of a 100% completion.

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Dec 20
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

The Nintendo eShop truly is the gaming equivalent of a 24-hour supermarket. PSN and the Xbox One Store are about to come to a standstill, effectively closing for Christmas, but the Nintendo eShop remains open for business. Over 30 titles are lined up for this week and we can expect another 25 over the course of next week, with a few new releases even due out on Christmas Day.

You can chalk this up to developers clambering for that sweet eShop visibility – the Switch has been a big seller this Christmas.

This means we’ll more than likely compile an eShop round-up next week. Hot titles to look out for include party game Catastronauts, on-rails rhythm shooter Aaero: Complete Edition, construction sim JCB Pioneer: Mars, and the survival platformer Rain World.

Before this week is over you can expect to find the acclaimed first-person adventure Firewatch, humorous physics puzzler Donut County, Team17’s apocalyptic survival sim Sheltered, and Nippon Marathon – an eccentric Japanese party game resembling Takeshi’s Castle. Sadly, reviews for that last one are extremely mixed.

Other bits and pieces of note include the faux-retro shooter Horizon Shift ’81, ACA NeoGeo Puzzle Bobble, co-op platformer Sundered: Eldritch Edition, and Funghi Puzzle Funghi Explosion…which appears to be a Mystery Detective spin-off.

Nintendo’s Festive Sale also continues with new discounts. There are some significant price cuts, with our recommendations being Volgarr the Viking, Overcooked! 2, Raging Justice, Yoku’s Island Express, The Escapists: Complete Edition, This Is the Police, Hello Neighbor, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Thumper, and AQUA KITTY UDX and OKAMI HD. The ever-helpful Nintendo Life has compiled a full list.

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Dec 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The subtitle for this fast-paced RTS is a reference to the hex-based terrain coating the game’s trio of hostile alien worlds. Under the surface dwell stripy insect-like creatures that rise from underground when a structure is destroyed. Their ferociousness makes us doubt they’d produce something as delightful as honey, but they do pack an almighty sting, attacking any soldiers in the vicinity.

Sudden onslaughts from these nameless insects – simply referred to as ‘bugs’ – are one of Hellfront’s more random features, helping to keep players on their toes. In fact, it’s the only randomised feature. In the name of keeping battles balanced everything else runs like clockwork, so to speak.

What we have here is a hex-based RTS condensed to its absolute purest. That’s no exaggeration: battles last around 2-3 minutes and take place on a single-screen, and there are only two buildable objects – a barracks that generates soldiers, and an automated gun turret – which can only be placed on marked locations. Keeping with the theme of simplicity, the controls are remarkably simple too – one trigger is used to shoot, allowing hostiles to be engaged directly by twin-stick shooting, while the other orders troops to move directly in front of your position.

As long as a player has a barracks somewhere on the map, they can respawn. Once all enemy bases are destroyed, the battle is over. The deathmatch mode uses a best-of-three structure, and you can either play on randomised maps or pick a favourite. Some feature bug eggs that erupt when shot, as well as breakable walls that separate rival factions. Other maps have locations to place a handful of structures in close proximity, while others force you to space your turrets and barracks far apart.

dropping a building on an enemy is a legit play tactic

It only takes a few matches to become familiar with Hellfront’s balancing. Place a turret near an enemy barracks and it’ll be reduced to rubble in seconds. Soldiers can make short work of a turret, but if you engage it directly you’re likely to come worse off. The unpredictable alien swarms, meanwhile, will tear their way through your soldiers unless distance is kept. And if you place a shiny new turret next to another newly erectly turret, they usually explode simultaneously. Time to try something new.

The alien swarms prevent players from re-erecting buildings the moment they explode. There’s another, slightly more amusing, mechanic in place – orbital frags. Air dropping a building on an enemy is a legit play tactic, which we imagine was naturally introduced during development. Be warned though, as it’s also possible to kill your own captain this way. It’s akin to blowing yourself up during a heating bout of Super Bomberman.

That comparison is apt because in terms of content and due to the game’s single-screen nature, Hellfront is highly reminiscent of the Super Bomberman series.

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