Mar 01
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This PlayStation 4 exclusive from Frost Monkey Games follows in the footsteps of This War of Mine, Bury me, My Love, and the recent Drowning, tackling a sensitive matter in order to raise awareness. In this case, the plight of Syrian refugees as they risk their lives to cross the border. While the subject is unpleasantly bleak, Massira is an experience not quite as po-faced as you may imagine.

The story involves Numi and Yara, a young girl and her grandmother. After a bomb explodes near Numi’s school, she’s forced to begin the perilous journey from Syria to Germany. Each level is set in a different country – Austria, Macedonia, Lesbos, the Kara Tepe refugee camp, and everywhere between – and usually entails exploration, puzzle solving, platforming, and short stealth sections.

Just to prove that Massira isn’t without a spot of silliness, the platforming segments vary from leaping on giant springy mushrooms to tilting the PS4 controller to remain upright while walking across logs floating downstream. There are moving platforms, too – a classic videogame trope we didn’t expect to see in a game of this ilk. The same can be said for the spinning, hidden, collectables. Each of these is a unique item, referencing Eastern European culture. A nice touch.

For the most part, Massira is relatively straightforward. A typical stage involves helping somebody by finding a missing item, partaking in a mini-game (one stage has an on-foot race; another a ‘Simon’ style memory game), pickpocketing guards by approaching them stealthily, or solving a puzzle. The amount of variety is easily the most standout feature – it’s always a mystery as to what challenges lie ahead. The levels also vary in size, with the refugee camp being wide and open – even containing a few optional quests – and a stealthy prison stage being linear and more action orientated.

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Mar 01
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

‘No console left behind’ is this week’s motto, with the Switch on the receiving end of (almost) all of the latest big-name releases – Trials Rising, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove, The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame, and DELTARUNE Chapter 1.

Reviews of Trials Rising were first out the gate. Sadly, it hasn’t scored quite as highly on Switch as on PS4 and Xbox One, no thanks to technical hiccups and control issues.

“The graphics are reduced (though not distractingly so, especially in handheld mode), but the Switch’s lack of analog triggers is the real pain point here. It means you have zero throttle control with the right trigger and instead have to use the right stick to subtly control your speed,” warned IGN.

As mentioned during our other new release round-up, it’s worth investing in a GameCube controller (if you don’t have one laying around for Smash sessions already).

It seems the physical release of The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame is still two weeks away, so if you’re hankering for some brick building/destruction you can either wait or go digital. Reviews of the Switch version are slow to surface. We recommend waiting until they appear – scores of the PS4/XO versions are wildly mixed, ranging from Xbox Achievement’s 70% to a tepid 4/10 from TheSixthAxis.

“This is the game that President Business would have designed, full of static environments and boring construction. Everything is far from awesome with The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame,” said TheSixthAxis.

Speaking of the word ‘awesome’, there’s Awesome Pea from Sometimes You. This is one of their better games, being a 2D platformer with 8-bit Game Boy-style visuals. The one hit death system is rather punishing during the longer stages, but it’s competent enough considering the £5 price tag.

Getting back on track, we have the long-awaited ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove – a follow-up seventeen years in the making. Reviews of the colourful roguelike went live earlier today, including a stonking 9.5 from Destructoid, an 8.0 from EGM, and a solid 7/10 from Nintendo Life. “This funky, distinctive game should please the nostalgic while being unique enough to attract, and satisfy, the curious,” said NL.

DELTARUNE Chapter 1 is available for sweet nadda, meanwhile. It’s a 3-4 hour follow up to the almighty Undertale, set in a new world and retaining the similar joyful art style. If you’re looking for something short but sweet to blitz through this weekend, look no further.

As for Switch exclusives, there’s Ape Out from Devolver Digital – a top-down, abstract, Hotline Miami alike with a jazz soundtrack. Reviews have been full of praise, resulting in a 9/10 from VideoGamer and an 8/10 from The Metro.

That’s joined by RemiLore – a full price “rogue-lite” anime style adventure which has gained mixed reviews – the long-time coming Constructor Plus (once planned as a Switch launch title!), a re-release of the obscure PS2/Wii platformer Crash Dummy, and Rad Rodgers Radical Edition, now including the current king of cameos, Duke Nukem.

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Feb 27
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Even though Awesome Pea has the unmistakable look of an 8-bit Game Boy platformer, presented in gushingly glorious shades of grey and pea green (hence the unlikely hero), it feels a lot more contemporary.

This is mostly due to its overall level of difficulty. The set-up of one-hit deaths, infinite retries, and no checkpoints recalls such recent ‘precision platformers’ as Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV. Our spherical star has no means of attack either, armed with just a double-jump to elude the jaws of death. A nimble double-jump, at that – the controls are remarkably responsive, allowing the nameless pea to effortlessly change direction while mid-air. That’s a big old tick in a box right there, instantly making it clear that it’s more competently put together than other low price point platformers.

The world map is split into four locations, although you’d be pushed hard to tell – the first three worlds share the same backdrops. Before this comes to light, it did initially seem that Awesome Pea was all about variety. The level designs vary wildly from one stage to the next, each having a central theme. A surprising number of stages scroll vertically instead of horizontally too.

However, a distinct pattern soon emerges. The same level types are reused over and over for its entire 3-hour duration, doled out in a manner that soon becomes predictable.

There’s also very little variation within obstacles, with the same assortment showing up in every stage. Sawblades of varying sizes and speeds are the most predominate hazard, second only to spike-covered walls and projectile spitting frogs. Floating skulls are the only other enemy type, bringing the grand total up to…two.

Each world begins with a traditional platforming stage set in a forest. Even with a ‘the floor is lava’ twist towards the end, these stages are a breeze. They’re then followed by a jaunt along a top of a train – the stages we struggled with the most due to the restricted field of movement, which makes avoiding sawblades tricky. A few of these stages go on for so long (there are no checkpoints, remember) that our breath was baited as we victoriously leapt over the final obstacles. That’s to say, there is some risk/reward payoff present during the tougher stages.

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Feb 26
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

With over twenty new releases on PlayStation 4 alone, it’s one of those weeks where there’s something to cater for all tastes. Even a few genres not usually associated with consoles are covered, with Stellaris: Console Edition bringing deep intergalactic strategy, and 8-Bit Invaders offering accessible RTS battles.

There are a few hard to define titles too; stuff tricky to pigeonhole.

Trials Rising is one such example, returning with its creative mixture of physics-based racing and party game shenanigans. Despite the introduction of loot boxes, critics claim it’s the best Trials has ever been, providing a wealth of content. Switch owners may want to invest in a GameCube controller though – this is apparently the best way to play, as the JoyCons aren’t best suited for the precision Trials calls for.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove sees the 16-bit heroes return to their Roguelike roots meanwhile, due out on PS4, Xbox One and Switch this Friday. Even though it’s officially the fourth entry in the series, early word has it that it feels like a remake of the original. That’s no bad thing.

Beat’em up fans have Dead or Alive 6 to mull over – which gained favourable impressions from those who played the recent demo – while Codemaster’s DiRT Rally 2.0 is off to a flying start, gaining a mixture of 8s and 9s. The best rally sim around? It’s certainly looking that way.

Then we have The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame, which according to Eurogamer is a cut above previous LEGO movie tie-ins. Hurrah for that. Many online retailers have dropped the price to below £30 so if you’re after a copy it’s a good idea to shop around.

On the digital services you’ll find Toby Fox’s Undertale follow-up DELTARUNE Chapter 1 – available for free on PS4 and Switch – the relaxed Animal Crossing/Harvest Moon hybrid Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Xbox One, the multi-format pixel art Game Boy-style platformer Awesome Pea, and the 2D run and gunner Creepy Road.

The Switch bounces back with six new retail releases too. We really enjoyed Rad Rogers on Xbox One, and it’s hard to imagine it losing its sheen on Switch. Crash Dummy is another blast for the past. In fact, it could even be considered retro – this 2.5D platformer first launched on PS2. Incredible!

New release showcase:

Trials Rising

9/10 – GameSpew: “Ultimately, Trials Rising offers phenomenal value for money. The tried and tested gameplay has been refined to perfection, there are more than 100 events on offer, and its multiplayer modes are a blast”

4/5 – US Gamer: “The tracks are all a joy to race through as you chase landing on the leaderboard or overcoming tough Contracts. With its international approach and attention to detail, each level’s design—from an art and gameplay perspective—feels like the best Trials has ever been”

4/5 – GamesRadar: “Even with a clumsy progression system, Trials Rising’s vibrant tracks, tight controls, and excellent tutorials are some of the best in the series”

8/10 – Destructoid: “Some of the out-of-level elements could use another pass, but progression pacing issues, loot-box bloat, and technical hiccups weren’t enough to put me off what is ultimately another great Trials game”

7/10 – Push Square: The physics are still phenomenal, and the series has retained its addictive quality, but it can occasionally feel like a game looking for answers to questions that didn’t necessarily exist to begin with.

DiRT Rally 2.0

9/10 – Push Square: “Even if the sim label puts you off, we’d encourage you to take this for a test drive; it’s easily one of the most thrilling racing games in recent years”

87% – PC Gamer: “Simply the best rally sim around, building on its predecessor’s already fine foundations”

4/5 – Screen Rant: “Rewarding racers who stick with the difficulty, it’s a title that gives players back as much as they put in – and the end result is a stunning rallying sim at best and a more than solid racer at worst. Casual gamers might find it too extreme to be really enjoyable, but hardcore motorsport fans should definitely check it out”

Stellaris: Console Edition

9/10 – PSU: “The only offering of its ilk on PS4, Stellaris: Console Edition squeezes a galaxy of emergent strategy, discovery and story onto Sony’s home console with very little compromise. Stellaris is certainly the biggest, if not one of the best pure strategy titles you can get on PS4 right now”

8.5 – God is a Geek: “Stellaris is a beautiful, busy space adventure that rewards you as much for careful, considered strategy as it does for building a 40-ship fleet as early as possible and going ham on anything with more than one pair of eyes”

8/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Stellaris: Console Edition is a solid port of what is easily Paradox Interactive’s most accessible grand strategy game. While Stellaris has evolved and grown over the past three years on PC, the base game is still a good solid grand strategy title with some intriguing ideas for storytelling and managing an endgame, though without some of the depth of their other titles. More importantly, wrapped a controller and TV friendly interface around the game that puts control over even the grandest of empires well within your grasp”

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

8/10 – Destructoid: “Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is undoubtedly one of the cutest and most welcoming games that I’ve played in a long while. Sure, the experience may be slightly marred by a handful of minor faults, but Yonder more than compensates for these issues with its beautifully realised world and its enjoyably lighthearted tone”

7.5 – Xbox Tavern: “Yonder’s world is as endearing as it is captivating, but the Animal Crossing/Harvest Moon-esque content that fills it, although accessible and plentiful, isn’t quite as robust as it appears to be. Whilst most of the game’s fun quests and opportunities have meaning and depth, a large portion of them feel needless and tacked on, merely to bolster longevity. Still, overall, it’s hard not to be allured by the game’s diverse and truly relaxing foundation”

3.5/5 – True Achievements: “Yonder is the type of game I wish we had a lot more of on Xbox. Its quaint and relaxed nature is a breath of fresh air and an easy recommendation for families playing together. While its more structured story leaves less post-game life to live compared to its genre counterparts, it also manages to find a comfy middle ground between simplicity and depth. It’s approachable, adorable, and sows the seeds of happiness in its characters and players alike”

8-Bit Invaders

4/5 – VideoChums: “8-Bit Invaders is a solid finale to a fantastic trilogy of accessible RTS games. It doesn’t deviate much from the other 2 games but when the core gameplay is as fun and intuitive as it is, simply having more stages to master within a new theme is enough”

3.5/5 – TheXboxHub: “Petroglyph Games have managed to pack a ton of content into what could be considered by some to be nothing less than an expansion pack, however there have had to be some concessions made in making this console RTS experience, as well as attempting to make it accessible to beginners; not all make for a better experience”

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Feb 25
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Hot on the heels of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Bubsy the Bobcat comes another ‘90s platforming mascot revival – Radical Rex. Hands up who saw this one coming. Anybody? Hello?

Originally published by Activision and released on SNES, Mega Drive, and SEGA CD in 1994, Radical Rex wasn’t particularly well-received upon release. It hasn’t even managed to gain a cult following over the years, making tomorrow’s Steam re-release quite the surprise.

Review scores were mostly mediocre due to the dull, predominately brown, visuals and general lack of innovation. Not an awful game, but definitely average.

Even back then it was deemed trying too hard to be cool, too. Not convinced? Here’s an excerpt from the product description: “Check Rex thrashin’ on his board, sportin’ his flame-breath, bustin’ out with killer jump-kicks, swingin’ on vines and blastin’ out screen-shaking roars. Excellent!”

Piko Interactive are behind this re-release. They’re perhaps best known for bringing the N64 version of 40 Winks back from the dead, although Steam re-releases of retro classics are their usual source of income.

Some of their past re-releases have included Ocean’s Sleepwalker, Pushover, Tunnel B1, and the ZX Spectrum classic The Great Escape.

Feb 25
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

EA’s Anthem had no trouble soaring to the UK chart top spot. reports it had a better first week than both Far Cry: New Dawn and Metro Exodus, but was unable to beat the launch week sales for Resident Evil II and Kingdom Hearts III.

As such, Capcom’s horror remake remains the fastest selling game of 2019 so far.

Speaking of Far Cry: New Dawn and Metro Exodus, the two didn’t suffer a huge drop in sales during their second week on sale. The same can’t be said for Jump Force – which fell from #4 to #17 – and Crackdown 3, which nosedived from #13 to #26.

Far Cry: New Dawn dropped just one place to #2, FIFA 19 moved up to #3 thanks to a minor price cut, RDR2 fell down to #4, and then at #5 it’s Metro Exodus.

There’s a re-entry at #6 – Forza Horizon 4, up from #15. NSMB.U and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe held onto #7 and #8, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 rose to #9.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate sees us out the top ten boxed chart at #10.

Resident Evil II and Kingdom Hearts III both left the top ten this week meanwhile, falling to #11 and #16 (respectively).

Feb 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Switch owners have more than a few new releases to pursue, although the term ‘new’ is pushing it somewhat – the hybrid handheld’s line-up for this week mostly consists of conversions.

Q.U.B.E. 2, the Portal-alike first-person puzzler, leads the way. “Despite the technical problems, Q.U.B.E. 2 is still an incredible game that I had trouble putting down,” said Nintendo World Report before dishing out an 8/10. Nintendo Life opted for the same score. “Q.U.B.E. 2 is an accomplished first-person physics puzzler that learns a number of wise lessons from Portal in terms of mechanics and world building,” was their verdict.

The Metro wasn’t quite as taken by it, though. “Despite improvements the debt to Portal cannot be fully repaid in this cleverly-constructed by staid first person puzzler,“ they said.

Then there’s the stealth adventure Aragami: Shadow Edition, which gained 7/10 review scores from both Nintendo Insider and Nintendo Life. “Aragami: Shadow Edition does the sneak ‘n’ stab genre well enough to tickle the taste buds of its fans,” said Nintendo Insider.

Nintendo Life was slightly more smitten. “It takes a while to get going and it has its fair share of annoying quirks, but as it progresses Aragami becomes a solid stealth game with a compelling store.”

X-Morph: Defense – a combination of top-down shooter and tower defence – also makes the jump from Xbox One, while the lavish puzzle adventure Trine 2 receives a complete edition. Arcade Archives ICE CLIMBER and ACA NEOGEO THE KING OF FIGHTERS 2003 are this week’s arcade re-releases, meanwhile.

As for new releases, there’s the slick isometric racer BlazeRush, the shockingly priced (£53.99!) visual novel STEINS;GATE ELITE, the intriguing pixel action platformer Rotating Brave – which requires the Switch to be twisted and turned – and the 32-bit style shooter Devil Engine which Nintendo World Report was left impressed by.

Demonic defence game Hell Warders may be worth a look, too – it seems accomplished visually, but the lack of reviews is a concern.

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Feb 20
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

An early marketing strategy for the Mega Drive centred around using renown celebrities, with such games as Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and Joe Montana Football helping SEGA claim a foothold in the market.

Once a certain hedgehog arrived on the scene, this strategy became less crucial – with a hip new mascot, SEGA no longer needed to associate their flagship console with celebrities of the era. Platform games starring colourful, attitude-filled, characters were now leading the way. If you’re under the impression this is a segway into how ToeJam & Earl came to be, then you’re mistaken – the bodacious alien duo made their debut a whole six months before Sonic the Hedgehog.

Come 1992, SEGA was getting ready to launch the Menacer light gun. This was their answer to Nintendo’s already released Super Scope and the successor to the Master System’s Light Phaser.

SEGA, of course, needed a range of games to support their new peripheral, along with a pack-in title to rival Nintendo’s Super Scope Six. SEGA producer Mac Senour suggested instead of a typical collection of side-scrolling shooters and shooting galleries, the development team should use their own catalogue of licenses and characters to create a star-studded compilation. Recalling their previous marketing ploy this, somewhat bizarrely, included sports mini-games based on Joe Montana and David Robinson.

Using already established brands and franchises to sell the Menacer, rather than create new IP, was a sound enough idea but for reasons numerous, it never came to full fruition. Perhaps crumbling under their own ambition (even in 1992, licenses had complications), SEGA went on to develop just one light-gun game based on existing characters – Ready, Aim, Tomatoes, starring ToeJam & Earl.

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