Nov 24
By Jake In Blog No Comments

Turns out those Gold Points you get for registering Switch games expire after a year. At least Nintendo had the good grace to tell me. So: what can I get with £1.16?

Well, it changes pretty frequently, because it’s mostly games with massive discounts on a usual price of a few quid. When I spent my pence the only real bargain was King Oddball, down to £0.99 with 75% off. It’s a physics puzzler where you lob boulders with the titular king’s tongue. It looks a bit Angry Birds, and reviews are pretty positive. But no, that didn’t get my pence.

At its regular price of £1.09 it was within budget, but even an additional 17% off to £0.90 couldn’t tempt me to go for Swap This!, which is a pretty unimaginative title for a tile swapping game. Again, reviews are fine, but Zoo Keeper has a special place in my heart and I’m not unfaithful to it lightly.

Neither did Bouncy Bob convince me, a one-button sort-of-platformer with a regular price of £0.89 and a smattering of unenthusiastic reviews.

No, the recipient of my precious unearned pence was SKYPEACE, just £0.89 at full price. Why? Well, it’s not a conversion of a mobile or PC game for one thing. No, it’s a conversion of a 2014 3DS game! Which for some reason is a plus.

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Nov 23
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Raptor proof your doors – we’re going to be streaming Telltale’s Jurassic Park: The Game on Mixer tomorrow (Saturday 24th November), starting around 11am. It can, allegedly, be finished in around 5-6 hours so we’re aiming for a complete playthrough.

We’ll be using a mic, so feel free to pop along for a chinwag.

Never released outside of the US (at least not on consoles), 2011’s Jurassic Park: The Game is entirely new to us. Xbox One BC removes region protection, meaning we’re finally able to give the Xbox 360 version a whirl.

Telltale didn’t hit their stride until The Walking Dead, which this predates, so we’re expecting hammy voice acting, wooden animation, and maybe the odd graphical glitch or two. How’s that for a tempting proposition?

Nov 22
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Indie releases rule the roost on the Switch eShop this week, as for a second week running the full-price retail releases are of questionable quality. Panda Hero resembles a mobile 2D platformer yet it launches with a £26.99 price tag, while Moto Racer 4 was hardly hot stuff back in 2017.

We’re still waiting on reviews for the cartoon horror adventure Bendy and the Ink Machine too, which isn’t a good sign. The PC version gained glowing reviews, but early impressions suggest the console port is sloppy. Worryingly, one user review on Metacritic claims there’s no save game feature.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams – Owltimate Edition might be worth a look, but this too arrives with an eye-brow raising price tag – £26.99.

As for new indies, there’s the free to play Warframe – the latest endeavour from Switch conversion specialists Panic Button – former Xbox-exclusive Ms. Explosion Man, the acclaimed Nidhogg 2, and the pixel art murder spree Party Hard. We reviewed the PS4 version back in 2016, awarding it a reasonable 6/10. “Although the difficulty level rises smoothly, Party Hard still ends up growing repetitive once the novelty wears off,” we said.

Nintendo’s Cyber Deal 2018 sale is also underway, alongside and the standard weekly price drops. There are too many discounts to list this week – over 6 pages in total. Be still thy beating wallet.

Here’s the full eShop line-up, including a trio of titles for 3DS and Wii U.

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Nov 22
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Some hangover sufferers struggle with a trip to the local shop, so we can only imagine how Fallout 76’s intrepid vault dweller feels. After waking in an empty vault following one heck of a party, they’re tasked with rebuilding and restoring West Virginia to its former glory, working alongside a group of other carefully selected individuals.

Namely, yourself and your online buddies – this is Bethesda’s take on the shared-world online experience. An MMORPG this isn’t, however. In fact, Fallout 76 doesn’t know what it wants to be, even borrowing a few ideas from the survival genre such as hunger and thirst meters. Allow us to pigeonhole it in a different way: if Fallout 76 was a party, it would be the ‘bring your own bottle’ kind. The host has provided the essentials, but it’s up to you to bring the fun and frolics.

But wait! After an hour or so it starts to become apparent that Fallout 76 isn’t the most considerate or hospitable of party hosts. They keep kicking out guests, the snacks look out of date, the same music is played on repeat, and whether you’re having a good time or not is never even considered.

You paid the entry fee, now it’s up to you to make the most of it by generating your own fun. If this isn’t the least appealing set-up for a shared-world online game, then we don’t know what is.

Casually roaming the golden-brown countryside is mildly diverting

Going into slightly more detail, Fallout 76 provides a colossal open world to explore, a list of quests and timed events to partake, a cubic tonne of junk to repurpose, and well…very little else. There’s no main quest – meaning there’s no drama, twist-filled, storyline to become engrossed in – and there are no NPCs aside the series’ trademark retro sci-fi robots. Following the nuclear fallout, they’ve been ordered to trundle West Virginia while awaiting your arrival.

Like the omission of a storyline, the lack of NPCs also has a knock-on effect. The world feels empty, and the game as a whole feels incredibly soulless. Every building is deserted; every town is a ghost town.

To use the party analogy for one last time, playing Fallout 76 is akin to turning up to a shindig beyond fashionably late. Everyone has left – all that’s left to do is clean up while the host shares a few embellished stories of what you missed. That’s to say, most of Fallout 76 is spent cleaning up other people’s mess – quite literally, given one mission involves collecting discarded beer bottles – while tracking down holotapes to listen to tales of living in a post-nuclear world.

Missions are mostly of the ‘fetch quest’ variety – one includes collecting blood samples from foes, while another entails collecting dirty water from various sources – and a cookie crumb trail leading to Vault 76’s overseer to follow. For most part, though, you’re left to aimlessly wander. The best-case scenario is discovering one of the better, more interactive, missions (in the absence of quest-giving NPCs, simply strolling into a town triggers an event), or finding a building to explore and ransack for loot. This is very much a game that requests you find your own sense of purpose. The chance to replay a live event for an umpteenth time isn’t what we signed up for.

Casually roaming the golden-brown countryside is mildly diverting, at the very least. In fact, it’s one of the few things Fallout 76 has going for it – with no major focal point, it has been reduced to its default status of being a sedate walking simulator.

“Where shall we casually stroll to next?” we often asked ourselves. Pulling out the camera (Fallout 76 has a new photo mode), we’d often stop and take a few snaps while walking from one location to the next. There’s a picturesque ice cream parlour on top of a mountain, and a quaint tea-pot shaped café. It’s a shame the game isn’t more photogenic – the creaking engine is way past its best, even struggling to load textures in good time.

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Nov 20
By Matt Gander In The Week In Pictures No Comments

Judging by this week’s assortment of new games, Black Friday has such a big impact on the gaming world that publishers try to avoid launching new releases.

EA’s Battlefield V – which arrived last week via the fancy pants £79.99 edition – is the biggest release and by some margin, available now to all and sundry. We rounded up the latest batch of reviews.

Then we have Farming Simulator 19 and Achtung! Cthulhu Tactic, two titles which have received mixed reviews. Both sound like acquired tastes, although you probably knew that about Farming Simulator already.

Horror adventure Bendy and the Ink Machine – which features dead-eyed 1930’s style cartoon characters – might be one to keep an eye on. The PC version from 2017 became a sleeper hit and has even gone on to spawn merchandise. It’s out both at retail and on the download services for around £20.

There’s also Storm Boy: The Game – a short but sweet adventure based on an Australian book – to consider, along with the acclaimed VR rhythm game Beat Saber, the second lot of Spider-Man DLC, and a belated Xbox One release of the wonderful SteamWorld Dig 2. We awarded the PS4 version 9/10.

You’ll find some choice reviews quotes for both Storm Boy and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Turf Wars below.

The only other release to gain our attention – and all for the wrong reasons – is the embarrassingly titled YouTubers Life OMG! It’s a YouTuber simulator, of all things, that’s ironically destined to be covered only by YouTubers.

New release showcase:

Battlefield V

Reviews:
8/10 – PSU: Boasting breathtaking spectacle and some of the most refined series multiplayer to date, Battlefield V’s missing features prevent EA’s latest from soaring to the heights that it deserves to. Nonetheless, DICE’s latest shooter effort both maintains and enhances the series essence to stake its claim as one of the better FPS titles available on PS4.

8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: Those that make the plunge and purchase Battlefield V will still have plenty to be excited about. There will be a little something for everyone, which will only get better with time and countless updates. Plus, if you’re looking for an excuse to make your PS4 GPU scream, look no further. Who knew that the horrors of war could ultimately end up being so goddamn beautiful?

7/10 – The Metro: What could have been the best Battlefield of the modern era fears like a mere shell of a game, with missing features, too little content, and far too many bugs.
https://metro.co.uk/2018/11/16/battlefield-v-review-come-back-later-8145843/

Storm Boy: The Game

Reviews:
80% – COGconnected: Storm Boy: The Game was clearly created by people who grew up loving the book, and it shows care taken in the beautiful world and touching story conveyed throughout it. I only wish they’d given us more.

77% – BitCultures: The gameplay isn’t for everyone, certainly, but I can see myself playing through the game with my daughter – if she were old enough – and having a lovely time. On my own, it was an average but neat experience.

7/10 – Punk & Lizard: Skip the Latte for a day and spend some time at the beach with Mr Percival, because Storm Boy is the definition of short and sweet.

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics

Reviews:
6.5 – SquareXO: Overall, Achtung Cthulhu is a pretty fun game, it’s kind of like Xcom light. I’m sure fans of the genre will like it and it could be a good toe dipper for people interested in trying this type of game.

6/10 – TheSixthAxis: Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is akin to playing a tabletop game with an unimaginative DM who was going through the motions and throwing combat rather than story at my team. This may be an unfair criticism – after all the game sells itself on being a tactics game – but I found myself bogged down in combat situations that felt repetitive with little narrative drive to progress

48% – COGconnected: I like to look at the positive things about games. But man, is there not a lot to say about this game.

Farming Simulator 19

Reviews:
7.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: If you’re new to the agricultural world, Farming Simulator 19 would be a solid place to cut your teeth. Just be prepared to throw out your first farm, while you attempt to figure out all of the intermingling systems at play.

6/10 – PSU: Farming Simulator 19 is a very visually appealing simulation/strategy game that absolutely nails the look and feel of the rural United States. Unfortunately, some very rough AI and a non-existent tutorial are barriers to entry. Series newcomers had best stand back and let the veterans clean this one up through mods before giving it a go.

4/10 – The Metro: Its incremental improvements will appease fans but it does little to entice new players, in what is still a very dry and demanding sim that’s devoid of character.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Turf Wars

Reviews:
7.5 – Destructoid: Despite the one-note villain atmosphere the team at Insomniac managed to craft a compelling world around the conceit. With two thirds of the season pass in the bag I can honestly say that I’m invested.

6.5 – God is a Geek: Turf Wars isn’t bad; it is Spider-Man after all. However, too much of a good thing begins to grate on your enjoyment, and you’ll find seldom new content outside the actual story. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to wait for all three pieces of DLC and play them together, that way it’ll feel more satisfying playing it through in one sitting.

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Nov 19
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

In a battle between Activision’s purple dragon and Nintendo’s cute critters, it was Activision that emerged triumphant – Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which we reviewed yesterday, is the UK’s new no.1.

Or it is? Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu debuted at #4 while Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee claimed #6. If sales of the two were combined, it would be this week’s ‘true’ no.1.

Either way, it’s a win-win for both Activision and Nintendo. Spyro hasn’t taken the UK top spot since the PSone original back in 1998. GI.biz reports sales were split 75% on PS4 and 25% on Xbox One, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the character’s roots.

Spyro’s sales were strong enough to topple Red Dead Redemption 2 from the top spot, in fact, causing it to fall to #2.

At #3 it’s another new arrival – Fallout 76. While this position may sound impressive, sales were down a colossal 82% over Fallout 4. Incidentally, the Metacritic for the PS4 version currently stands at a miserable 43%. Ouch!

FIFA 19 is at #5, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 dropped five places to #7.

At #8 it’s a new release you may not be expecting – the Fortnite: Deep Freeze Bundle. It’s a download code in a box, bestowing new equipment and a stash of V Bucks.

The evergreen Mario Kart 8 Deluxe hangs around at #9. Then at #10 it’s the final new arrival of the week – Hitman 2. Yes, this sadly means Agent 47’s latest outing was outsold by a Fortnite add-on.

Warner Bros. publishes both, so we doubt they’re too concerned. We imagine Io Interactive expected their first standalone debut to chart slightly higher, though.

Elsewhere, early Black Friday discounts have helped a few recent releases climb the chart. Just Dance 2019 is up from #39 to #14, Astro Bot bounces back at #22, and both The Crew 2 and Starlink: Battle for Atlas reappear at the lower end of the top 40.

With retailers cutting prices ahead of Black Friday, expect to see a good old shake-up in the top 20 next week. Spider-Man, God of War, and Detroit: Become Human are all likely to make a return, already heavily discounted at Argos and Amazon.

Nov 18
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

All it took for Activision to finally cave-in and revive both Crash and Spyro was for one of their multi-million-dollar franchises to crash and burn. That franchise was, of course, the toys-to-life phenomenon Skylanders. So, before we go any further, let’s thank all the parents who refused to buy into Skylanders for a fifth year in a row. Without even knowing it, you’ve given many gamers their childhoods back.

While Crash Bandicoot is often cited as being the PlayStation’s mascot, Spyro achieved something even Naughty Dog couldn’t – to bring free-roaming platforming to the 32-bit format. When it launched in 1998, Spyro was billed as a technical marvel that pushed the system to provide an open-world ripe for exploration. All kinds of trickery happened behind the scenes to ensure a (mostly) seamless experience, including using low-poly backdrops that became more detailed as Spyro made his approach.

Spyro’s two methods of attack – breathing fire and charging like a rampaging bull – weren’t the most innovative of game mechanics, and no steps were ever taken to test player’s proficiency with these abilities or even evolve attacks over time, but the way Spyro bounds around the colourful environments remains playful and fun, collecting gems always proves compelling, and soaring through the air takes a degree of skill.

Some 20 years on, it’s fascinating to see the evolution of the trilogy. The first Spyro focuses on exploration, using Spyro’s gliding ability to reach new areas. Spyro 2 opts for increasingly tricky challenges, introducing the bipedal cheetah Hunter and featuring automatic difficulty scaling, while Spyro 3 is bulked to the brim with mini-games and introduces new playable characters.

There are telling signs in the first Spyro that the developers were still getting to grips with the flight mechanics and camera controls. Even in this remake, the camera has to be manually adjusted far too frequently. Levels during the first half of the adventure feel rather boxed-in too. In fact, that it’s possible to whizz through some early stages, obtaining a 100% completion rate along the way, in a matter of mere minutes.

It’s a shame Toys for Bob didn’t enlarge some of the tighter, more camera confusing, areas. Indeed, Spyro Reignited Trilogy is faithful to a fault. That said, it’s easy to comprehend why the level design hasn’t been tinkered with – scaling obstacles and gliding to hard to reach locations plays a huge part, right to the point of prompting you to stop and look around to find vantage points. We would have liked to have seen the outdated concept of ‘extra lives’ ditched, however – infinite retries not only would have reduced frustration during the tougher sections but also reduce the amount of peculiarly long loading times players are forced to endure.

In the original Spyro, the plucky dragon is out to rescue his elders, trapped inside large – and subsequently easy to spot – dragon-shaped crystals. When it comes to presentation, no expense has been spared. Each of Spyro’s cohorts is as well animated and charismatic as the last, full of detail and personality. From squiffy low-poly characters, Toys for Bob has created magic.

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Nov 16
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

When compiling our multi-format new release round-ups we observed publishers and indie developers keeping their releases away from such big hitters as Red Dead 2, Black Ops 4, and AC Odyssey. Over in camp Nintendo, it appears nobody wants to get in the way of the almighty Pokemon – there’s roughly half the amount of eShop releases as usual.

While the Switch does gain a reasonable amount of full prices releases, there’s a small catch – most are of questionable quality. We’d imagine Bass Pro Shops: The Strike, Cabela’s: The Hunt, Bibi & Tina – Adventures with Horses, and fellow equitation adventure Windstorm struggle to justify their hefty price tags, with the first two mentioned arriving at £44.99.

The rest of the full-price releases are worth a look, thankfully. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI gained a stonking 9.4 from IGN, SNK 40th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is a genuine labour of love – US developer Digital Eclipse even travelled to Japan to tracked down rare arcade cabinets – while Trailblazers is an arcade racer borrowing ideas from Splatoon.

Then, of course, there’s Pokemon Let’s Go. Critics are seemingly in agreement that it’s accessible enough for newcomers, but also has enough depth for franchise veterans. “Pokemon Let’s Go is a superb surprise, a fully-fledged Pokemon RPG with interactivity that brings the series to life in a way that’s never been done before,” said GamesRadar.

As for new indie games, we have the canine caper Mimpi Dreams, retro space shooter Super Hydorah, and Arcade Archives Atomic Robo-Kid.

Take a look at the full list below:

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