Aug 17
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Even before taking it out the packaging, our expectations for Maximum Games’ Troll & I were low. We expected a low budget The Last Guardian, but it couldn’t even meet that shameful standard.

Instead, we were pretended with a broken and blatantly unfinished mess. It’s so bad that the Xbox One achievement ratios suggest that less than 10% of players stuck with it for more than an hour.

We were hoping that the Switch version would be a marked improvement, given the extra development time and Nintendo’s quality control procedures. Alas, it’s not to be. If anything, it’s even worse. We’ve seen footage where the main character, Otto, falls through the floor just moments after an auto-save – rendering progress impossible – and another video showcasing terrible lag and a game-breaking 10fps frame rate.

At £19.99 (the current Amazon price; eShop price – £24.99) it may be one of the cheapest Switch retail games, but don’t be tempted. Put your money towards Breath of the Wild’s DLC instead.

ACA NeoGeo Magician Lord (£6.29) has something of a reputation, too. It was a NeoGeo launch title and, well, it shows. While not a travesty of Altered Beast proportions, it wasn’t long after launch that the NeoGeo started giving us the good stuff, plenty of which is already available on Switch.

From bad to good. Sonic Mania (£15.99) is off to a rip-roaring start, with the Switch version’s Metacritic score currently standing at a lofty 91%. “The occasional bug and a couple of brief and cheap areas deprive it of Sonic-style perfection, but it’s pretty darn close,” said Nintendo Life, who awarded it a 9/10.

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Aug 16
By Matt Gander In Mobile Games 1 Comment

There’s good news and there’s really good news. This is the case of the latter, as last week’s mobile re-release of SEGA’s seminal platformer Ristar showcases vastly improved emulation.

The first batch of SEGA Forever titles left a lot to be desired. In fact, they were approaching unplayable even on high-end mobile devices. Ristar however runs smoothly, has less finicky touchscreen controls and overall improved presentation. This is all thanks to a new core emulator, and word has it that the launch titles are also due an overhaul.

SEGA are listening to fan feedback, it would seem, which is encouraging for the future.

Ristar was a late (1995) release for the Mega Drive, tipped by the gaming magazines of the era to be Sonic the Hedgehog’s successor. That never happened due to less-than-great sales, and perhaps being nothing more than a marketing ploy – what good would have come from ditching Sonic? It’s not as if the hedgehog’s popularity was in decline at the time.

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Aug 16
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The ‘AAA’ drought comes to an end with the arrival of Deep Silver’s Agents of Mayhem. This vivid and colourful shooter has more in common with Crackdown than the studio’s own Saints Row series, thanks to a focus on destruction and over-the-top weaponry.

Review scores are wildly mixed, ranging from GameSpot’s 4/10 and an equally critical mauling from GameCritics, to 8/10s from Push Square and God is a Geek. While we don’t doubt that it’ll manage to break the UK top ten next week, it may have a hard time remaining there.

Arguably the biggest release of the week is Sonic Mania. We spent a few hours with it last night and so far it’s nothing short of excellent – a triumphant return to the hedgehog’s glory days. As noted during our round-up, reviews are full of praise. It may even be the greatest Sonic game of all-time.

We’re slightly concerned that Sonic’s arrival will impact sales of Undertale. Toby Fox’s hit RPG comes to PS4 and PS Vita this week, at the bargain price of £11.99. Toby made a name for himself by creating hacks for Nintendo’s Earthbound, and so – somewhat unsurprisingly – Nintendo’s cult RPG is the biggest influence here. Don’t let the lack of visual prowess put you off – it’s lovingly crafted, full of likeable characters and quirky humour.

Then we have Cities Skylines on PS4. While we can’t vouch for this belated PS4 conversion, the Xbox One version is very good indeed – a contender to Sim City’s throne, streamlined in all the right places to make it far easier and more enjoyable to play. It’s a demanding game, too, with your city’s citizens always requesting a new school, police station or similar.

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Aug 14
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

What goes around comes around. It’s an apt phrase to use when talking about Sonic Mania, given the blue blur’s passion for loop-the-loops. Some twenty-five years later, we’re back at the beginning once more with 2D pixel art Sonic game.

Why has it taken this long for SEGA to go back to basics and give oh-so loyal Sonic fans something they’ve long hankered for? We imagine the positive reception of Christian Whitehead’s 16-bit Sonic conversions were the catalyst, as the Australian programmer spearheads Sonic Mania’s development team, working alongside Headcannon and PagodaWest Games.

As many critics rightly state, this is a Sonic game for the fans by the fans – a love letter to the games so many grew up with. Not only this, but it may also be the greatest Sonic game of all time.

Not convinced? Take a look at some of the scores Sonic Mania has garnered:

‘Essential’ – Eurogamer: “1992 is alive and well. Christian Whitehead and team turn in a beautiful rewrite of the 16-bit Sonic games with all-new stages”

10/10 – The Sixth Axis: “Sonic Mania surpasses the Mega Drive/Genesis originals. It not only incorporates what made Sonic great, but has the inventiveness to shatter what was possible in a 2D platformer”

9.5 – The Jimquisition (video review): “Sonic Mania is a brilliantly staged celebration of the past that acts as a true sequel to the Genesis line of games”

93/100 – VentureBeat: “Sonic Mania isn’t just a great game for old Sonic fans. It’s a great game. This inspiration from the past should be Sonic’s future”

9/10 – The Metro: “A touching, and highly playable, a labour of love by fans that understand Sonic The Hedgehog better than Sega ever has in the last 20+ years”

9/10 – GameSpot: “An excellent 2D platformer, Sonic Mania goes beyond expectations, managing to be not only a proper evolution of the series’ iconic formula, but the best Sonic game ever made”

8.7 – IGN: “It truly is the classic throwback longtime series fans have been clamoring for, but there’s plenty to love here even if you didn’t grow up with a Genesis. Sonic Mania is a stellar example of a retro revival done right”

8.5 – GameInformer: “Sonic Mania succeeds in paying homage to the classic ’90s entries that so many fans remember fondly, and in the process delivers the best Sonic game in decades”

4/5 – US Gamer: “Sonic’s first true 2D, pixelated outing since 2004’s Sonic Advance 3 was well worth the wait”

8/10 – God is a Geek: “Sonic Mania is both fluid and fun, and reminds us all of what a Sonic game should be. This is a game by Sonic fans, for Sonic fans”

8/10 – Destructoid: “Sonic Mania is short but sweet. It even functions as a proper Sonic 4 if you don’t count the episodic Sonic 4 (remember that one?)”

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Aug 14
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy has claimed a fourth week at no.1.

The last title to hold onto top spot for this long was Activision’s own Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which had a five-week run at the end of 2016.

The rest of the UK’s top ten remains mostly unchanged. Price drops on Bethesda’s back catalogue help them take control of the top five, with Fallout 4, Dishonoured 2 and DOOM at #2, #4 and #5 respectively. GTA V is at #2.

Splatoon 2 remains at #6, while at #7 it’s the return of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Rainbow Six: Siege re-enters the top ten at #8. Forza Horizon 3 also moves up a few positions, claiming #9.

Then at #10 it’s EA’s Battlefield 1.

FIFA 17 and Miitopia both depart the top ten this week, meanwhile.

The lower echelons of the top 40 see a fair few re-retries, including Guitar Hero Live at #31, Nier Automata at #35 and 1-2 Switch at #39.

THQ Nordic’s re-release of Sine Mora didn’t get a look-in, somewhat unsurprisingly.

Will Agents of Mayhem be able to topple Crash Bandicoot? We’ll find out next Monday.

Aug 11
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

This week’s eShop update is pretty much identical to last week’s – another glut of Switch releases and two Turbografx titles for Wii U.

The 3DS receives a new title too, in the form of 3D art program VoxelMaker (£4.59). That’s joined by a demo of Capcom’s Monster Hunter Stories, ahead of its 8th September release date.

Over on Switch there’s ACA NeoGeo The King of Fighters 2000 (£6.29), steampunk match-three puzzler Ironcast (£12.99), roguelike RPG hack ‘n slasher Phantom Trigger (£13.49), top-down robot battler Rocket Fist (£8.99), and Severed (£13.49) – a first-person dungeon crawler from the developers behind Guacamelee!

Ironcast and Severed are both conversions, having hit other formats some time ago. Ironcast seems to be faring better on Switch than on the likes of PS4 and Xbox One, with a notably higher Metacritic score. Pocket Gamer awarded it an 8/10 earlier today. “Ironcast is a decent game with a surprisingly deep tactical foundation,” they said.

Severed has gained similar scores, including an 8/10 from Nintendo World Report, who note that it can’t be played while docked due to requiring touch-screen input. Could be a dealbreaker for some.

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Aug 10
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

This week Ninja Theory gives us Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a ‘AAA indie’ releasing with a mid-point (£25) price tag. Those questioning why there isn’t a retail release are kind of missing the point. This is Ninja Theory standing on their own two feet to create something without restrictions, constraints and interference from bossy publishers and their marketing teams.

The result is a tough, brutal, and unnerving hack and slasher, with a story to tell and a strong female lead. If that wasn’t enough, the titular Senua also suffers from psychosis. Ninja Theory took the time to research the mental illness fully, and this is something evident throughout.

Hellblade has generally been applauded by critics, with most review scores being a mixture of 8s and 9s. Tuesday’s launch wasn’t without a hitch, however, as news soon broke that it features permadeath – if you die too often, your save game gets wiped. The problem here being that many gamers pre-ordered Hellblade without knowing it includes this somewhat controversial feature.

Critics were quick to step in and state that you shouldn’t worry too much about this, but wouldn’t go into full detail to avoid ruining the experience. If you’re keen to know what the deal is, and aren’t bothered about spoilers, then Eurogamer’s investigation has you covered. In short: it really is nothing to worry about. Hopefully it won’t put too many players off – Ninja Theory deserves good fortune, having been dealt some bad cards in the past.

Boss Key Productions’ zero-gravity shooter LawBreakers is another big hitter arriving on PSN. The first review off the bat is an encouraging 4/5 from Hardcore Gamer. “With eight different classes that feel completely unique from each other, and the zero gravity mechanics that can yield firefights the likes of which have not truly been seen before, LawBreakers makes a mark of its own in an increasingly crowded genre,” they said.

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Aug 09
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Monomi Park’s slime nurturing sim possess one of the most important hallmarks of video game excellence: the ability to make hours fly by like mere minutes.

This is mostly achieved via the shrewd inventory management system. That’s shrewd from a design perspective; from the player’s perspective, the small amount of backpack storage makes for a lot of busywork, diversions, back tracking, and advance planning.

Some 10 hours in, we were still unlocking new stuff

Like Harvest Moon and Minecraft before it, this is very much a game for those who like to keep themselves busy. The more you play, the more your ‘to do’ list grows. Some 10 hours in, we were still unlocking new stuff to mess about with and hadn’t even touched the challenge mode.

The opening hour or so is mostly centred around exploration, as you work through the tutorial and get to grips with the slime vacuum – the only means of interacting with the colourful creatures that inhabit the dusty plateaus, underground caverns, and overgrown wildernesses. The vacuum is far being from a precision instrument. Quite the opposite, in fact – it often sucks up unwanted items, pulls vegetables out the ground, and sends slimes spinning through the air. While this may sound irritating, the sloppy and unsophisticated nature is what makes to such a fun and inviting tool to use.

The game world is one that’s fully alive, complete with a day and night cycle, wild plants that regenerate over time and hapless feral slimes of varying types. An evil slime-scoffing entity can also appear without warning. Their existence appears not to be down to keeping players on their toes, but rather to keep the slime population under control. If left to their own devices, slimes will rapidly reproduce, eat everything in sight, consume other slimes – evolving into new variations as they do so – and generally cause a right old ruckus.

coming across a new slime variation is genuinely exciting

This is where you come in, playing as Beatrix LeBeau – the proud owner of a new slime ranch. Why collect slimes and keep the population in check? Because they produce valuable crystals if fed the correct foodstuff. These crystals, known as Plorts, can be exchanged for Newbucks – the currency used to build and upgrade the ranch, construct temporary gadgets and gizmos, and improve Beatrix’s vacuum, shields and such. In short, there’s a lot of stuff to blow your hard-earned bucks on.

To begin with, you’ll probably be perfectly content to head out into the wild and collect Plorts from feral slimes. Exploration is actively encouraged – hidden paths are numerous, some only accessible via jetpack – and coming across a new slime variation is genuinely exciting due to the prospect of being able to capture, evolve and ultimately harvest their valuable Plorts. There’s a rather ingenious changing economy to keep an eye on too. Over time the commonly found Plorts become less valuable, so you need to start looking further afield to find more elusive slimes.

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