Dec 29
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Last year Capcom took advantage of the quiet month of January. With no other major releases to compete against it, Resident Evil VII gained the lion’s share of press coverage. Skip forward twelve months, and they’re ready to steal January’s limelight once again with Monster Hunter World.

A franchise usually associated with Nintendo, this marks its first appearance on current-gen consoles. It’s also the first in the series to see a worldwide simultaneous launch. Uniting players across the globe, Japanese and western monster hunters can play cooperatively, via a revised drop-in multiplayer system.

Impressions from the open beta were favourable. “With the announcement that more monsters will be coming post-launch, World is shaping up to be one of the best entries in this long-running series,” said Destructoid.

Dragon Ball FighterZ launches the same day as Monster Hunter World (26th January) and is generating a buzz likewise. Dragon Ball games are, mostly, well received but this one takes the franchise to another level by packing in some serious fan service. With Arc System Works – creators of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear – at the helm, it’s likely to become the greatest DBZ game of all-time.

Continuing the theme, we have the three-on-three beat’em up Dissidia Final Fantasy NT on PS4, a follow up to the popular PSP brawler. This instalment is developed by Team Ninja, and was first released in Japanese arcades. Team Ninja aims to add 50 characters over the game’s lifespan, with the deluxe edition including six characters not included in the base game. Hopefully, Square-Enix will see fit to provide some free content.

Square-Enix’s Lost Sphear is also due for release towards the end of the month. Due out on both Switch and PS4, it’s a traditional top-down role-player that’s receiving both a digital and physical release for around the £30 mark.

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory, out 19th January, is set to offer a very different role-playing experience, filling in the backstory of the previous entry. Then we have Sony’s first-person horror adventure The Inpatient (24th Jan), which acts as a prequel to Until Dawn. While it’s great to see continued first-party support for the PSVR, we do worry that Supermassive Games’ talent is being spread too thin – Hidden Agenda was released just a few weeks ago, and their PSVR shooter Bravo Team is currently pencilled in for release in March.

Mixing it up a bit, Retro-Bit Europe’s officially licensed Data East and Jaleco collections should be with us at the start of the month. These are multi-game cartridges, including a Joe & Mac compilation for the SNES, a Jaleco beat’em collection and a five-game Data East pack for the NES. Amazon’s £30-£35 asking price seems reasonable.

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Dec 28
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

The Nintendo Switch eShop is utterly restless. Hot on the heels of last week’s twenty-five (!) game assortment comes another sizeable selection of titles.

Of these, SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition (£14.99) is arguably the biggest. As the name suggests, it includes content previously released as DLC, including The Outsider campaign. For those not aware, SteamWorld Heist is a very different game to SteamWorld Dig, being a tactical turn-based shooter that allows for awesome trick shots.

Sticking with belated conversions, we also have Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure DELUXE (£17.99), which is less of a sports sim and more of a party game, and the popular match-three puzzler Sparkle Unleashed (£6.99). Hamster also has a double whammy of Arcade Archives titles – The King of Fighters ’96 (£6.29) and the coin-op iteration of Double Dragon (£6.29).

This leaves us with the anime-flavoured roguelike DragonFangZ – The Rose & Dungeon of Time (£17.99), the checkers/chess hybrid Tactical Mind (£2.69), the minimalistic puzzler Energy Cycle (£2,69), and the four-player run and gunner Mecho Tales (£5.99 until 4th Jan – £7.49 thereafter).

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Dec 27
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Ah, that glorious quiet spell between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Everything pretty much comes to standstill, gaming news included. Case point – this week’s UK chart remains largely unchanged.

Sales were up 29% during the run-up to Christmas, however. Call of Duty: WWII takes its 8th consecutive no.1, with sales up 43%. The last title to claim 8 weeks in a row was 505 Games’ Zumba Fitness, of all things, back in 2011.

EA takes places #2 and #3 with FIFA 18 (up 51%) and Star Wars Battlefront II (up 26%), while Assassin’s Creed Origins saw the biggest sales boost of all. A colossal 60% increase in sales over last week pushes it up to #4.

Then at #5 it’s the evergreen GTA V. That too saw a small sales surge, up 30%.

A pair of platformers take #6 and #7 – Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy and Super Mario Odyssey respectively, meaning Crash Bandicoot outsold Mario during the week before Christmas.

PUBG wasn’t as lucky as most of the top ten entries. Sales fell 55% during its second week on sale, lowering it to #8.

The Sims 4 rose a few places to take #9, likely due to price cuts, while WWE 2K18 fell two places to #10.

Mario Party: The Top 100 – the last major retail release of 2017 – failed to make the top 40 meanwhile, and only narrowly made the 3DS top ten, entering at #9.

Dec 23
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

No task over the festive period is more arduous than preparing Christmas dinner. Even for those who regularly cook a Sunday lunch with all the trimmings, it’s a meal many are glad they only have to cook once a year.

A Sunday lunch on a grander scale, it isn’t uncommon to ask for an extra pair of hands (or two) to help in the kitchen. Dishing out the jobs sounds like a foolproof plan, but the reality is quite the opposite. Often, the whole ordeal devolves into an impromptu game of twenty questions, as you debate who’s doing what, while searching for the ‘good’ plates and arguing about who’s going out to the cobweb-filled shed to grab the spare garden chairs.

Then, more questions. Do the kids like sprouts? Heck, do even all the adults at the table like sprouts? What’s the ideal serving time – before or after the Queen’s speech? All the while you’re constantly treading on the toes of those coming in and out the kitchen. It’s a good job the wine is flowing freely.

Team 17’s Overcooked taps into the messy chaos of food preparation. For those unfamiliar with the indie hit, it’s test of teamwork and organisation skills. Up to four players chop veg, flip burgers, fry food, wash dishes and carry plates of steaming hot food out to the serving hatch. Orders come in fast, varying from quick dishes to platefuls of meat and veg, and every kitchen layout is different from the last. Conveyor belts, sliding platforms, and more are added over time, along with new ways to cook.

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Dec 22
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Out of the 25 (twenty-five!) new releases lined-up for the Switch this week, it’s the oldest out of the lot that piques our interest.

Arcade Archives VS. SUPER MARIO BROS. (£6.29) marks the first time this arcade-tailored rendition of Super Mario Bros. has reached a home console. Intended to be a coin guzzler, it features more enemies and fewer power-ups. It also had six new levels, which eventually made their way into The Lost Levels. In the absence of Virtual Console for Switch, it’s easy to imagine this being a big seller.

Unsurprisingly, the wealth of the 25 (twenty-five, twenty-five!) releases are conversions of older titles. Familiar faces include the popular roguelikes Enter the Gungeon (£10.99) and Heart&Slash (£12.59), physics-based platformer Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (£14.99), Korean horror The Coma: Recut (£17.99), and the mobster run-and-gunner Guns, Gore & Cannoli (£8.99).

We also have The Deer God (£7.19) and Bloody Zombies (£10.99), two games which we’ve reviewed on other systems. The Deer God is a pixel-art platform adventure about life and reincarnation, featuring looping level design – new locations don’t appear until beating existing quests, prompting you to run indefinitely until working out what to do next. We slapped the Xbox One version – a Games with Gold freebie – a 6/10 back in 2015.

Bloody Zombies is a darn sight newer, arriving on PS4 and Xbox One just a few months ago. It’s a brash and brutal scrolling brawler with online play that takes a while to master – if you don’t make good use of special moves or learn how to block/evade, then you’ll face the ‘Game Over’ screen often. We gave the PS4 version 7/10 in September.

Pulstar (£6.29) is this week’s NeoGeo title, meanwhile – a well-liked shooter from 1995, featuring rendered visuals.

Time to round up the remaining release:

TINY METAL – £19.99
An indie take on Nintendo’s Advance Wars that has its heart on its sleeve. Nintendo Life was left largely impressed, awarding it 9/10: “Upon this handsome foundation Area35 has crafted a tactical wargame which is every bit as compelling, addictive and challenging as its inspiration, while adding in a storyline of surprising drama and complexity.”

Brawlout – £17.99
Another that takes inspiration from a key Nintendo franchise. Namely, Super Smash Bros. The character line-up features more than a few indie stars, including pugilists from Hyper Light Drifter and Guacamelee.

Floor Kids – £15.99
Get down on the floor with this sketch-book style breakdance battler.

Tiny Troopers Joint Ops XL – £9.99
This cutesy overhead shooter graced the PS4 some time ago, gaining mixed reviews. User reviews on Metacritic are curiously negative, in fact.

Crawl – £12.99
A randomly generated arcade dungeon crawler for up to four players, complete with a twist – players can take control of every trap and monster within a dungeon, even the hulking final boss.

Frederic: Resurrection of Music – £4.85 until 4th Jan (£5.39 thereafter)
A “one-of-a-kind adventure” that places you in the boots of a recently resurrected Frederic Chopin, out to save the world of music from mass-produced popstars.

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Dec 19
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Developers must be banking on the PSVR being a popular Christmas gift, as there’s a wealth of VR titles arriving on PSN this week. The self-explanatory Shooty Fruity seems to be going down well with pundits, and Accounting+ VR – from Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Morty and William Pugh, the designer of The Stanley Parable – is turning heads too.

Wonder Boy Returns also made a surprise PS4 appearance earlier this week. Just one review of the retro remake is currently live – a lukewarm 6.2 from VideoChums.

“Although it’s not quite as immediately gratifying as the original due to its awkward controls, you’ll still be in for an enjoyable adventure that may just put a smile on your face,” they said.

Then we have Mario Party: The Top 100 on 3DS. American gamers received the ‘best of’ collection a few weeks ago, giving us an advance heads up. Sadly, the final retail release of 2017 doesn’t end the year on a high – review scores mostly clock in at a middling 5/10.

We have a feeling this is going to be the last Mario Party title for 3DS, which in all fairness, is probably for the best.

Hot on the heels of last week’s Gang Beasts comes another party game that’s bound to prove popular this festive period. Ultimate Chicken Horse involves strategically placing traps and hazards, without making pitfalls for yourself. It’s a great debut for Clever Endeavour Games.

Raining Blobs on Xbox One is also deserving of a mention, looking far more comprehensive than most falling block puzzlers. In the absence of Puyo Puyo Tetris on Xbox One, it looks like a worthwhile alternative.

New release showcase:

Mario Party: The Top 100 – 3DS

Reviews:
6/10 – Nintendo Life: “Mario Party: The Top 100 may hold the record for the most minigames, but it certainly has the least amount of content and the lowest replayability”

5/10 – Destructoid: “Hopefully Nintendo can keep the series alive and perfect the spirit of Mario Party for the Switch, but for now I think Mario Party games are officially dead for the 3DS”

4.5/10 – Nintendo World Report: “I was able to finish the entire game, playing every single mini-game, finishing single player mode, and checking out the other modes, in around three hours”

Shooty Fruity – PSVR

Reviews:
9/10 – Gaming Nexus: “An excellent arcade shooter with a wide variety of missions and unlocks, Shooty Fruity elevates a simple concept with quality gunplay, a fun environment, and coat after coat of polish”

4/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “Providing terrific arcade action, Shooty Fruity expertly blends together classic shooting galleries with much-appreciated bits of strategy, all thanks to its unique premise that has you trying to manage two different games at once”

6/10 – Push Square: “We certainly had fun with Shooty Fruity, but with only enough levels to support four hours of fun, you may want to look a bit more upmarket with your next grocery shop”

Ultimate Chicken Horse – PS4/XO

Reviews:
8.5 – PSU: “Ultimate Chicken Horse really is a special game, and one of those rare indie multiplayer games that catches lightning in a bottle and will leave you wanting to come back again and again for a good laugh after a stressful day”

8/10 – Push Square: “With plenty of modes to play, maps to customise, and unlocks to go for, Clever Endeavour Games’ PS4 debut is as good for your wallet as it is for your sofa”

7/10 – God is a Geek: “Bringing out the wicked side of everyone who plays, Ultimate Chicken Horse is great for party gaming”

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Dec 18
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

If there’s one thing you can guarantee during these times of uncertainty, it’s that the next LEGO game is never more than a few months away. You can more or less rely on them being superhero flavoured nowadays too, which is fine by us. Superhero licenses suit the structure of Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO games perfectly, whereas movie licenses feel a tad shoehorned in. We’ll take LEGO Star-Lord over LEGO Owen Grady any day.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 sees Kang the Conqueror bring pieces of the Marvel universe together to create a giant patchwork city. Chronopolis, as it’s known, acts as one colossal hub world, and as you make your way from one mission to the next, Kang decrees his greatness over the ‘Tannoy’ system. The hub has a number of side-quests, and it’s also where you’ll find the Avenger’s HQ, which houses Gwenpool’s cheat room and the character customisation machine.

Missions are spread across the Marvel universe, with the opening mission involving the Guardians of the Galaxy. Twenty missions lasting roughly 30 minutes each feature in total, with Black Panther, Dr. Strange and Thor having strong showings. Thor’s mission ties-in in with the recent film, while Black Panther’s stage as a neat little appetiser for his silver screen debut. While Kang is the main villain, many missions still end with a boss battle against the ne’er-do-wells from their respective worlds, including the Kingpin and MODOK.

Boss battles are an undeniable highlight, due to being large-scale and set-piece heavy. Steps have also been taken to improve combat elsewhere; an indicator lets you know when enemies are about to attack, and the special move list for each character includes grapples and a few unique moves.

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Dec 18
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had an incredibly successful worldwide launch, selling over a million copies within its first 48 hours alone.

Unsurprisingly, it puts in a very strong showing in this week’s Christmas top 40, arriving at #4 while also topping the Xbox One chart.

As per this piece’s headline, and as what was expected, Call of Duty: WWII is 2017’s Christmas no.1.

Call of Duty has taken the prestigious slot for 4 years in the row and now equals the total number of festive no.1’s claimed by FIFA.

Coincidentally, Activision also claimed the first ever UK Christmas no.1, with Ghostbusters back in 1984.

EA has to settle for #2 (and #3) this year, taken by FIFA 18 and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Star Wars saw a “massive surge” in sales according to Chart-Track.

Assassin’s Creed Origins – at #5 – also saw a significant rise over last week.

Super Mario Odyssey at #6 was the Switch’s best-selling title this Christmas. GTA V remains in the top ten at #7, the heavily promoted WWE 2K18 made #8, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fell two places to #9, and then at #10 it’s the ever-popular Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.

Capcom’s Okami HD was the week’s only new arrival, entering at #37. The ravishing remake also made #15 in the PS4 chart, but was a no-show in the Xbox One top 20.

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