vant
Jan 06
By Matt Gander In Reviews 3 Comments

This tower-defense role-playing hybrid may find an unexpected fan base – ‘80s toy enthusiasts. Like classic action figure playsets of yore, hidden traps are the focal point here, varying from monster filled cages to spring-loaded platforms. These slyly hidden booby traps were the highlight of any playset, be it He-Man’s medieval Castle Greyskull or MASK’s far more technologically advanced Boulder Hill. Heck, even The Get Along Gang’s Haunted Badger Mansion had a trapdoor that lead to a dungeon; a toy line based on cutesy greeting card characters, of all things.

World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap is far removed from The Get Along Gang, rest assured. Developer NeoCore is quite proud of how grizzly this series spin-off is, in fact, boasting of its ultra-violence in both the press release and product description. It certainly doesn’t disappoint here, with such traps as whirling blade saws grinding enemies into a crimson-hued pulp. Zoom the camera in close and often the screen is transformed into a sea of red, with various mythical creatures sliced, diced, frozen and shattered or burnt to a crisp by the traps you’ve precariously placed.

vangore

The idea is to place traps strategically so they cause as much damage as possible to the constant onslaught of enemies. The ungodly beings march along a glowing red path to a precious underworld portal, only deviating if you engage directly. If too many creatures make it through to the other side, then the mission is failed. After each wave new routes and enemy spawn points open. Between waves all the time in the world is at your disposal to plan for the next assault – there’s no nagging time limit whatsoever.

all the time in the world is at your disposal to plan for the next assault

Each trap requires Essence to build, gained from killing enemies, and at the end of each mission your entire arsenal can be upgraded to provide wider range and deal more damage.

The overhead map screen soon proves invaluable as during later waves some enemies will take a short route and breach the portal from behind, where it may be unguarded. Fortunately, it’s possible to warp around the battlefield via magical portals, so you can get to where you’re needed in a matter of mere seconds. It’s also possible to change the game speed to 2x – it’s very easy to become accustomed to running around with haste, making it hard to go back to default. Alas, when playing co-op you’re forced to play on regular speed. This can make online play feel a little slow paced. At least the frame rate never falters, even when things get extremely hectic.

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spherewiiu
Jan 03
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

This year commences with more of a whimper than a bang for Nintendo fans – just three new releases are due on the eShop this week, two of which we’ve already seen in different guises.

With the Switch just three months away, we have a feeling that the pickings are going to be slim on the eShop until Nintendo’s shiny new hybrid system arrives.

spheroids

On Wii U this week there’s RCMADIAX’s gravity based score chaser CUP CRITTERS (£1.39) which managed to elude the press when it hit 3DS last month. Not a single review on Metacritic.

That’s joined by the slightly more exciting sounding Spheroids (£6.99), which takes its cue from arcade classic Pang and adds additional platforming elements. Footage can be found here.

Then on 3DS there’s Quiet, Please! (£2.99), which graced Wii U some time ago. It’s a collection of three short pixel art adventures – Quiet, Please!, Quiet Christmas and Vacation Vexation. We’ve seen some mildly positive things said about all three, but their length is obviously an issue. Quiet Christmas allegedly takes all of ten minutes to finish, we kid you not.

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iw3
Jan 02
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has claimed the UK chart’s top spot for a fourth consecutive week. The past three years have seen Call of Duty claim the top spot between Christmas and New Year, so it comes as no surprise.

Would this still be the case if Infinite Warfare had held its price? We aren’t so sure.

FIFA 17 and Battlefield 1 hold onto #2 and #3. GTA V moves up to #4, making it 12 non-consecutive weeks in the top 4 during 2016. Then at #5 it’s Watch_Dogs 2.

Mafia III
remains at #6, Rocket League rockets from #12 to #7 while Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End likewise re-enters the top 10, at #8. Chart-Track reports this was partly down to PS4 bundle sales – the PS4 500GB Uncharted 4 pack accounted for 17% of all PS4s sold last week.

Steep slips to #9 while Skyrim: Special Edition sees us out at #10.

To make way for Rocket League and Uncharted 4 both Final Fantasy XV and Forza Horizon 3 took a tumble – FFXV fell from #8 to #16 while FH3 went from #10 to #12.

Gears of War 4, Overwatch, DOOM, Star Wars Battlefront and Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection meanwhile all rose several positions, with the majority back in the top 20.

sd
Jan 02
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

When creating something out of passion the result often holds a rare quality – that invaluable personal touch. Homemade cakes always look far more tempting than the mass-made produce found in Greggs, people’s paintings are more eye-catching than cheap canvas prints and handmade Halloween costumes end up being more creative than those found in supermarkets. Last minute toilet paper Egyptian mummy costumes notwithstanding.

It so transpires this elusive personal touch can be found in video games. Stardew Valley represents four years of work by just one man, fuelled by a passion to create a Harvest Moon-style farming role-player for PCs. All because Natsume has so far neglected the platform, choosing to churn out Harvest Moon games exclusively for consoles instead. To call it an outright clone would be folly, however – there are traces of Animal Crossing, Minecraft and Terraria present too, all combined with care and attention to form something created with undeniable passion.

stardew3

Developer ConcernedApe hasn’t just carefully amalgamated the best bits of each franchise, but also refined and tinkered with individual elements to make the experience as streamlined and accessible as possible. On top of this, the plot – or premise, rather – also appears to have stemmed from the heart, entailing an unappreciated office worker leaving his cramped cubical behind in favour of living the rustic lifestyle at his late Grandfather’s farm. Harvest Moon veterans will instantly recognise the set-up – your new life starts with just a small sum of cash, a single packet of seeds and basic tools.

Harvest Moon veterans will instantly recognise the set-up

The farm is also in great disrepair, and so the first port of call – aside from making yourself known to the neighbourhood – is to clear away the tree stumps and stones to make room for crops.

There’s a day and night cycle in place, and at the end of each day everything thrown in your shipping container is taken away and payment then added to your account. Crops turn a steady profit, taking several days to grow, while the wilderness provides a bountiful amount of produce that can be foraged for free. Flowers, berries, wild vegetables and more are ripe for the taking…or can be given to the town’s residents to try and improve your standing. Like Harvest Moon before it, there’s a focus on trying to woo a potential partner by handing out gifts.

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ss3
Dec 29
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Microsoft eases us into 2017 with a ‘Games with Gold’ freebie – The World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap is due to hit Xbox One this Sunday.

It’s a tower defence affair with RPG elements, complete with co-op play. Looks like it’ll fare better than other games that made their Xbox One debut for free – reviews are ‘very positive‘ on Steam. If you’re going to be at a loose end on New Year’s Day, and not too hungover, then definitely give it a whirl.

Incidentally, we’ll aim to give it the review treatment soon.

deathtrap

The rest of January’s releases are mostly due at the end of the month, perfectly timed for your first pay cheque of the year. There’s an absurdly high amount of RPGs due, confirming publishers still believe nobody goes out or does anything but play games during winter.

On PS4 alone there’s four to pick – Digimon World: Next Order, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Tales of Berseria and Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star.

The PS Vita gets Atelier Shallie Plus, while the PS2 classic Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King heads to 3DS. The latter appears to be the only major Nintendo release due in January unless Darksiders: Warmastered Edition finally shows its face on Wii U.

How’s about one more? Earthlock – Festival of Magic is getting a physical release on 27th January, marking the first time it’ll be available on PS4. It’s a very traditional role-player; those who believe the 32-bit era was the RPG golden age will find much to enjoy.

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watchdogs2review004-768x432
Dec 27
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

We didn’t expect this week’s chart to go live until tomorrow, today being a bank holiday and all in the UK, but somebody at Chart-Track must be putting in the overtime as here they are.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is the UK’s number one for a third week running. It’s believed it’ll hold that position until the year is out, as both Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III enjoyed a three-week run at the top of the chart during festive periods prior.

FIFA 17 holds onto #2, Battlefield 1 remains at #3, Watch_Dogs 2 sits – and stays – at #4 while GTA V holds fast at #5. Or to simplify, the UK’s top five remains unchanged.

Mafia III meanwhile moves up from #10 to #6. The crime caper has caught a second wind over Christmas, thanks to a minor price cut and heavy promotion at GAME.

Ubisoft’s Steep moves up to #7 – its highest chart position so far – while Final Fantasy XV falls to #8.

Skyrim: Special Edition drops two places to #9, and then at #10 it’s Forza Horizon 3 which is up all the way from #16.

Dishonored 2 on the other hand departs the top 10, dropping from #8 to #11.

Titanfall 2 and Gears of War 4 both enjoyed a pre-Christmas sales boost, up 8 and 11 places respectively. Pokemon Sun wasn’t anywhere near as lucky though, falling all the way from #13 to #36.

vermintide_review_kit_screenshot_014
Dec 23
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

This year has been an odd one for the gaming industry. Although the annual sequels and franchise updates have been leaps and bounds over their predecessors – Titanfall 2 and Watch_Dogs 2, in particular – their sales have been slower than anticipated.

We imagine this has left many publishers baffled. If vastly improved sequels to renown franchises aren’t selling, then what do gamers want? Something fresh and new is arguably one valid response to that question.

Luck would have it that 2016 saw a fair few games released that have since fallen into ‘hidden gem’ status. Some are franchises, others provide something unique. We’ve rounded up six you may have overlooked:

Thumper – PS4/PC

thumper

We have to hand it to Sony – they managed to launch the PSVR with an impressive amount of titles. So many, in fact, that some were shunned in favour of the more publicised likes of Batman VR, RIGS and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.

Thumper is one such title, and that’s even though it isn’t a PSVR-exclusive. Those not wanting to invest in fancy headwear can indulge in this trippy ‘rhythm violence’ affair too.

This kaleidoscope of colour borrows elements from Audiosurf and Amplitude but still has its own identity; it’s an assault on the senses that’ll push you to the limits. There’s an eerie and sinister atmosphere present, making it an experience that’s impossible to forget. This is mostly since you’re playing for sheer survival, rather than mere melody making. The hellish backdrops only heighten the sense of dread further.

Alongside Rez Infinite, Thumper is one of the finest PSVR showcases. It’s sad to think that both have probably been outsold by the mediocre PlayStation VR Worlds.

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newfrontier
Dec 22
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

There’s a retro vibe present in this week’s new release round-up. Industry Giant 2 finally graces consoles fourteen years on from its original PC release, the Kickstarter-backed Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – a series that debuted on Game Boy Color – hits PS4, Xbox One and PS Vita, while Natsume dishes up Wild Guns Reloaded on PS4, a new-fangled take on a 16-bit classic.

We reviewed Industry Giant 2 on launch day (Tuesday) and found it to be a rather effortless conversion, complete with fuzzy graphics and frustrating controls. It’s still engaging, but there’s no shaking the lack of thought and time and that’s gone into it. The price tag is an issue too – £31.99 on Xbox One and £34.99 on PS4. Stick with the remake that’s £6.99 on Steam.

Price may be an issue with Wild Guns Reloaded too – it’s £24.99. Destructoid reports of a 45 min runtime, but due to its arcade-like nature it was of course designed with replay value in mind. They went on to give it an 8/10. It’s getting a physical release in other parts of the world, if you’d rather have something to show for your money. Expect to pay around £25 for that, too. Natsume is clearly banking on nostalgia here – the original Wild Guns is one of the most coveted SNES releases.

shantae

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero reviews are starting are tad more forthcoming, including 7.5 from Destructoid, 8.0 from IGN and 4/5 from Hardcore Gamer. “While the repetitiveness of revisiting levels can drag down the experience at times, Shantae fans and platforming fans alike shouldn’t miss out on the half-genie’s newest adventure,” said HG.

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