Sep 23
By Jake In Retro No Comments

The PlayStation Classic is already heading for unobtainable status, just days after being announced, and months before launch.

Because of course it is. Half of the pre-orders are from people who actually want one, half are from people who wrongly think they want one just because it’s popular, and half are from people who want to sell one assuming there are shortages at launch. Yes, three halves – it’s that popular.

So already a PlayStation 2 Classic seems a distinct possibility. But if – when? – Sony go there, I hope they revisit the PlayStation 2 pre-order system to deliver a fully authentic retro experience.

Back then I worked part time in a now-defunct electrical retailer, and was impressed by how very austere the pre-order system was. Sony supplied a book of pre-order forms – complete with carbon copies – which we kept in the safe. Only the manager could get at it. Once all the forms were filled in, that was it.

Now I can’t remember how many carbon copies were produced, because it was 18 years ago and a lot of adult business has pushed that sort of crucial knowledge out of my brain. But I’d like to think that one was sent to Sony to go into a huge master pre-order binder, which they used for some high-end admin.

That system strikes me as ideal for their next retro mini console launch. Everyone has to physically turn up at an Amazon warehouse, where the manager will get a huge pre-order book out of their safe, fill it in in black block capitals, in triplicate, give you a copy, keep one, and send one to Sony. In Japan.

There, they’ll have the biggest binder you’ve ever seen. If anything hasn’t been filled in correctly – or, heaven forfend, in blue ink – then the form will be returned to the warehouse, to which you must return to try again – and bloody well try harder.

If the form passes muster, then your pre-order will be accepted, and on the launch day you may return to the same Amazon warehouse to collect your console. And pay by cheque only, which will have to be authorised over the phone while you wait.

That’s properly retro, and that’s what people deserve.

Sep 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Influenced by such Nintendo classics as Zelda and Earthbound, indie hit Undertale has taken its sweet time making its way to Switch despite being an ideal fit for the system.

We awarded the PS4 version a stonking 9/10 roughly a year ago, and as such, we’re more than pleased to see it finally reach a whole new audience. It’s as heartfelt as gaming gets.

It’s an eventful week for the Switch, in fact. Nintendo’s hotly debated online service is now in full swing, bringing with it a selection of NES classics. Sadly, they aren’t without fault – there’s no control mapping or auto-save facilities.

Fans of all things retro are better catered for elsewhere, with the first of SEGA’s AGES titles also making an appearance – Sonic the Hedgehog, which features the rule set from the often-forgotten arcade version, and the almighty Thunder Force IV.

The amusingly titled Cyber-Lip is this week’s NeoGeo release, meanwhile. Hamster has also dusted off the arcade version of Excitebike. Bad timing, sadly – the original is one of the ‘free’ online NES titles. This version does at least have a few unique features.

Then there’s the seven-game strong Capcom Beat’em Bundle, featuring two titles to never see a home release. Review scores are mostly clocking in at 7/10, with online issues being the major cause for concern.

The incredibly well-received Velocity X2, Broken Sword 5 and the Reigns: Kings & Queens double pack also make the jump to Switch. As for new releases, there’s the childlike adventure The Gardens Between, the futuristic Trickstyle alike racer Hover (we all remember Trickstyle, right?), and Little Dragons Café – a new venture from the creator of Harvest Moon.

The full list of new releases can be found below, along with discount highlights and new pre-orders. There’s also a new release for New 3DS – the ever-popular Minecraft!

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

Scrolling beat’em up fans rejoice! Capcom Beat’Em Up Bundle has elbowed its way onto PSN, the Nintendo eShop and the Xbox One Store. The surprise compilation – revealed during last week’s Nintendo Direct – contains Final Fight, Captain Commando, The King of Dragons, Knights of the Round and Warriors of Fate, as well as two games previously unavailable on consoles: Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit.

While reviews are generally positive, a few critics note that online play is far from stable. The lack of Capcom’s licensed games, such as The Punisher and AvP, was also brought up. Reviewers should know not to expected licensed stuff by now – obtaining rights to expired licenses is a massive headache for publishers, hence why it happens so rarely.

This week also sees the release of Ubisoft’s cinematic thriller Transference, the pleasingly daft visual novel 428: Shibuya Scramble – which gained full marks in Famitsu – and the whimsical nostalgic adventure The Gardens Between. Dungeon crawler fans may want to check out Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk – available on both PS4 and Switch – meanwhile, which gained a glowing review from God is Geek.

There’s Downward Spiral: Horus Station – a PSVR adventure set aboard a space station – to consider too, although with scores varying from 8/10 to 4/10 you may want to investigate further before opening your virtual wallet.

We’re also going to give Telltale’s RGX: Showdown a shout-out. This futuristic racer comes from the minds behind Split/Second and Burnout, priced at a low £7.99. The lack of reviews is rather concerning, however. Which such talent behind it, you’d think Telltale would tell the world it exists.

New release showcase:


3.5/5 – AOTF: “It’s a game worth checking out (though you might want to wait for a sale), but is far from the great narrative experiences other walking simulators have come to be known for”

3.5/5 – Game Rant: “As far as virtual reality games go, Transference isn’t the best, but it’s definitely one of the scariest. Anyone looking for a solid horror game will want to give it a go despite its shortcomings”

70% – New Game Network: “Transference is an enjoyable thriller that retains its effectiveness in a non-VR setting. Despite gameplay simplicity and underutilized live-action videos, the strong atmosphere and a few memorable scenes help this sci-fi adventure leave a lasting mark”

428: Shibuya Scramble

10/10 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “I have never played a game quite like 428: Shibuya Scramble. It’s hands-down the best visual novel I’ve ever experienced. Anything you could want in a VN it offers. Deep character development, a rich, meaningful story, humor, action, romance, you name it!”

8/10 – GameSpot: “From the first hour of the in-game day, you’ll be riveted by this story’s unexpected twists and turns. If you want a story- and character-driven game with a presentation you won’t see anywhere else, 428 is a game not to be missed”

7/10 – Push Square: “428: Shibuya Scramble is a fun addition to the PS4’s growing visual novel stable. Solve a kidnapping, thwart a viral conspiracy, and assist a hapless salesperson in taking off her giant cat costume: Spike Chunsoft’s zany story has charm to spare and is both funny and thrilling while it lasts”

Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle

7.5 – PSU: “A compelling and satisfying collection of prime side-scrolling brawlers from Capcom’s arcade heyday, though there are some missing titles and less bonus material then we’d like, Capcom Beat Em Up Bundle does justice to its selection, making it an essential prospect for fighting fans and co-op players alike”

7.5 – Xbox Tavern: “It’s a shame that when playing online with more than two players the game’s framerate dramatically spikes, but with that to the side, there’s little to scoff at. When all is said and done, the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is a must have for fans of the genre”

7.1 – Video Chums: “If you’re a retro arcade fan then picking up a copy of Capcom Beat ’em Up Bundle is a must. That being said, don’t expect it to be a comprehensive compilation because it’s far from it”

The Gardens Between

9/10 – TSA: “While it’s not the longest game, it’s perfectly put together, and though the puzzles aren’t too difficult, the way they’re crafted should be praised as should the whole package”

7/10 – Push Square: “The Gardens Between is almost a truly great puzzle game, but it gets hung up in a couple of small areas. Gorgeous surreal environments pair with a perfect score to create a killer atmosphere for some of the most clever puzzle mechanics – complete with impressively consistent internal logic – that we’ve seen in some time”

6/10 – VideoGamer: “A seductive art style, hazy synth sounds, and some well-designed puzzles give The Gardens Between a pleasant mood, but it doesn’t stay in the mind long after the credits”

Downward Spiral: Horus Station

4/5 – Dark Station: “Downward Spiral: Horus Station is an atmospheric game that feels like the video game equivalent of Aram Khachaturian’s exceptionally melancholic Adagio from the Gayane Ballet Suite used during the Discovery montage from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I never knew exploring and interacting with derelict space vessel in VR was my jam – and it totally is now”

7.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Downward Spiral: Horus Station isn’t without issues, but this is an experience worth having for PSVR owners. The Zero-G gameplay remains fun throughout, and a wide assortment of weapons and tools helps to allow players some freedom in the way they dispatch enemies”

4/10 – Push Square: “Downward Spiral: Horus Station neither succeeds nor fails in any spectacular fashion, and as such, it just sort of exists. This is a boring experience that doesn’t do anything truly unforgivable, but is also unsuccessful in offering anything worthy of talking about. Downward Spiral: Horus Station is a thing, but you really don’t need to experience it”

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk

9.0 – God is a Geek: “Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a refreshing addition to the DRPG genre that is a must play for fans of Etrian Odyssey and those who enjoy NIS’ visual style”

7.9 – Video Chums: “Even with its flaws, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is one of the most enjoyable dungeon crawlers that I’ve ever played. The somewhat open-ended progression system and rewarding party growth mechanics make for one satisfying adventure”

7.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Exploring every inch of the labyrinth is addictive, and its unique battle system and an in-depth character creation system will keep you busy for quite a while”

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Sep 18
By Matt Gander In Most Played No Comments

For the record, I don’t blame anyone. Describing Devolver Digital’s Absolver as ‘an online fighting game’ is perfectly acceptable. It has a combat system that entails both close-encounters fisticuffs and sword fighting, complete with a fully customisable move roster, and it features 1v1 online battles in small arenas. Absolver is definitely a fighting game.

Only, it isn’t. Not a typical one, anyway. It’s a bit like saying Shenmue is a fighting game because it features beat’em up style mechanics during combat, when in fact the majority of time is spent running up and down streets and alleyways while stopping strangers to ask inane questions.

While I was aware of Absolver’s existence long before it was a PS Plus freebie, the fact that critics described it as an online brawler stopped me from giving it more than a cursory glance. Western developed beat’em ups tend to fall short when compared to those developed in Japan, often lacking in subtle nuances and favouring boldness and brashness. The online focus was also a cause for concern. No offline play? No sale.

You can imagine my surprise, then, to find that Absolver has more in common with Dark Souls than a typical beat’em up. It shares the same looping open-world structure, the AI behaves in a similarly aggressive manner, and all lore is provided by NPCs who speak in cryptic tongues. But unlike Dark Souls, Absolver doesn’t demand an overwhelming chunk of your spare time – taking around 5-6 hours to complete – and it offers a fair and forgiving experience, going great lengths to ensure all and sundry can make steady progress. Which essentially means it isn’t anything like Dark Souls.

If you’re scratching your head here, allow me to explain: Absolver is Dark Souls in a super-condensed form. It shares the structure and many sensibilities, right down to the fact that some of the core mechanics are left to self-discovery, but it’s much (much) shorter, easier and accessible.

You’re cast into a long-forgotten realm; a destroyed civilization that nature has begun to reclaim. The task at hand is relatively simple: to become an Absolver by finding and defeating six marked targets. They can be tackled in any order, and the only assistance given is a map showing their vague whereabouts. Some are easily discovered – one can be summoned by entering a ruined coliseum, for instance – while others lay off the beaten path.

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Sep 17
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The Amazing Spider-Man is more than living up to his name currently. The PS4-exclusive is the UK’s no.1 for a second week running, fending off the multi-format Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Eurogamer additionally notes that Marvel’s Spider-Man is also already close to beating God of War’s lifetime sales.

Lara Croft’s latest was forced to settle for #2. While this placing may sound impressive, it isn’t entirely good news.

Physical sales were down an alarming 70% over 2013’s franchise reboot, and were only slightly above Rise of the Tomb Raider – a timed Xbox exclusive.

Incidentally, and somewhat unsurprisingly, the PS4 version of Shadow of the Tomb Raider was the biggest selling last week.

The UK top 40 saw two other new arrivals – NBA 2K19 at #3, and NHL 19 at #28. The Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit failed to make the top 40, but it did make #17 in the Switch chart – two places higher than NBA 2K19.

Going back to the top ten, a spot of shuffling has occurred. Crash Bandicoot rises to #4, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is up two places to #5, GTA V moves down to #6, F1 2018 drops to #7, and then – for some reason unknown to us – The Elder Scrolls Online is back at #8, up from #27.

LEGO The Incredibles clings in at #9, while finally at #10 it’s Super Mario Odyssey.

PES 2019, Destiny 2: Forsaken, and Dragon Quest XI all dropped significantly, meanwhile. PES 2019 has fallen from #6 to #19, Destiny 2 went from #8 to #16, while Dragon Quest has plummeted from #2 all the way to #29. Erk! There is a chance that stock shortages are to blame for Dragon Quest’s swift descent, however.

Sep 13
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

This week’s UK Switch eShop line-up features more than a few familiar faces. While the titles in question aren’t exactly the freshest, they certainly aren’t lacking in quality.

That’s to say, if you’ve never played the likes of Bastion, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Fallout spiritual successor Wasteland 2, and Double Fine’s Broken Age before then you’re in for a treat. Multiple treats, we suppose. Bastion was one of the highest rated indies of the year upon release, while Dust has a pleasing 32-bit action platformer feel to it. It’s the greatest SEGA Saturn game that never was.

Light-gun style shooter Time Carnage, pixel art puzzler STAY, ambitious first-person adventure The Spectrum Retreat, and Surgeon Simulator CPR also made belated appearances this week, while some of the newer releases include the worryingly low budget racer Danger Mouse: The Danger Games, retro-tastic rhythm action affair Old School Musical.

Retro fans are in for a treat too, with the legendary Rygar making a surprise experience.

Here’s the full rundown of releases, along with discounts and new pre-orders. Also: a single new release for the humble 3DS.

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Sep 12
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Reviews of Square-Enix’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider went live on Monday, two days ahead of launch. While it has received dozens of glowing reviews, a handful of critics weren’t entirely smitten by Lara’s latest, resulting in some less-than-positive reviews.

The mild negativity comes from the fact that Shadow of the Tomb Raider is pretty much par for the course, failing to improve on its predecessor in any meaningful way. To quote Eurogamer, “Lara’s latest sees the reboot trilogy end just as it began.”

NBA 2K19 aside, which technically launched last week via the snazzy anniversary edition, reviews for the rest of this week’s assortment of titles are slow to surface. It seems EA are yet to let the critics hit the ice in NHL 19, while Boundless – a cross-platform Minecraft-style sandbox, also published by Square-Enix – is also review shy. Steam user reviews may have the answer you’re looking for.

There are a few belated conversions of note, however. After hitting the Xbox One in May, the text-heavy puzzler STAY makes it to PS4 and Switch. We found it to be rather experimental – the idea is to help a nervous chap escape from a mysterious house, via a faux chat room. The checkpoint placing goes to pot towards the end, and some puzzles are highly irritating, but if you’re after something with a a hint of originality it’s still worth a look.

Light gun-style shooter Time Carnage – from Wales Interactive – ditches VR to jump to Xbox One and Switch, meanwhile. Expect silliness and short-lived arcade thrills. Then there’s Neonwall, a colourful puzzler built around the Switch Joy-Con, now redesigned for standard analogue control. It’s due on PS4 and Xbox One this Friday.

Unless we’ve missed something, next week is shaping up to be a quiet one with no major new releases due. If our Twitter feed is to go by, everyone is still heavily engrossed with Spider-Man anyway.

New release showcase:

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

9.0 – IGN: “I would have liked a little more incentive to explore the beautiful world Eidos Montreal has created, but I’d much prefer too much content than too little. There’s so much to enjoy elsewhere in a game that’s stuffed to the brim with ideas and devilishly challenging puzzles. I can’t wait to see where Lara goes next”

8/10 – The Metro: “It’s only a small step forward from the last game but this is the most successful attempt so far to modernise Tomb Raider, even if the storytelling still has problems”

6/10 – GameSpot: “Making the journey to Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s peaks is certainly an attractive goal, but like the challenging terrain Lara needs to traverse, the path there is getting rougher and more unpredictable”

NBA 2K19

9.5 – Forbes: “Whether you’re a person who plays single-player, multiplayer, offline or online, this is the most complete sports game I’ve ever played. There is no such thing as a perfect sports game, but this is as close as it gets”

4.5/5 – Digital Trends: “Once again, NBA2K’s latest installment proves to be an excellent basketball sim, bringing more refined, realistic gameplay, and balances to offense and defense. The MyCareer story is much improved, and the progression system feels more forgiving than previous iterations. While the rest of the package mostly mirrors what we’ve seen before, overall, these marked improvements to the series make it hard to hold it against 2K19”

8.5 – IGN: “NBA 2K19’s rock-solid gameplay and strong sense of style make it the best of the series, but its style is slightly cramped by microtransactions”

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Sep 11
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Imagine if Super Mario World came to an end after conquering the Donut Plains – the legendary platformer’s first full-sized world. You’ve become acquainted with the controls, beaten more than a dozen levels, began to experiment with the power-ups and had your skills tested with a couple of boss battles. Then, after defeating Morton Koopa Jr. – SMW’s first real challenge – the game abruptly ends. “Thanks for playing!

In a nutshell, this is the kind of experience Sigi – A Fart for Melusina has to offer. After breezing through 20 short but enjoyable platforming stages, we reached the final boss within 45 mins of play. Some fifteen minutes of failed attempts later – which included backtracking to stock up on extra lives – we finally emerged victoriously and Sigi’s quest was over. 58 minutes on the clock, to be exact.

Until this point, this indie platformer from budget publisher ‘Sometimes You’ ticked a lot of boxes. A surprising amount, in fact. The 2D pixel art is appealing and the accompanying chip-tune soundtrack is fittingly jolly. The controls are also responsive, and Sigi himself – a fluctuant knight in shining armour – is curiously likeable, cracking a few jokes while on his quest to win the heart of a mermaid.

That’s to say, in terms of presentation alone it’s no slapdash effort – the developers have clearly spent time in this department, as the artwork is mostly well-drawn. We also approve of the way enemies – which include zombies, witches, and giant spiders – satisfyingly explode into a shower of body parts when defeated, although the constant screen shaking can be somewhat disorientating.

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