Jul 11
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

I’m currently 30 hours into Puyo Puyo Tetris with my wife. She keeps beating me. I see Puyo Puyo’s fall across my vision as I sleep at night. Her nonchalant face, as she beats me for the fifth time in a row, causes sweat to form on my brow as I slumber. I awake in the middle of the night, panicking as I imagine our play stats enshrined on my gravestone. I look at her, fast asleep, as I turn on the Switch. I alight my face with it’s LCD as I desperately practise T-Spins. She snoozes. I will defeat her one day.

The latest Switch puzzle game trying to claim my time is Yuso, a puzzle game that’s also available on iOS and Android. The aim of the game is to rid the screen of coloured blobs called ‘Yuso’. You do this by tapping on them (or selecting them with the controller). Once tapped, a Yuso will destroy itself and all Yusos surrounding it. However, you can only tap a Yuso if it is directly vertically or horizontally next to another Yuso of the same colour. This rule means it’s easy to trap yourself or leave yourself with a single Yuso on the board. Luckily, you can rewind a tap with the B button, or reset the board instantly.

As you progress through the 80 levels, complications are added in. Different coloured Yuso create a big challenge, as do sleeping Yuso, who need to be woken up by popping Yuso around them.

At this point, we’ve got to mention that the presentation of Yuso is excellent. The different coloured Yuso are drawn nicely and all the different colours also have different facial expressions, which animate nicely. The popping of the Yuso is also really tactile, with a great use of rumble. In a simple game it makes a real difference, and you can tell that real love and care has been spent in making the game feel as nice as possible.

Unfortunately, there’s not much game here. The best puzzle games make you feel clever, and I never felt clever. A lot of the time I was using trial and error to pop Yuso, resetting when I went wrong. It’s often quicker to explode a Yuso and observe the result (and rewind if necessary) than it is to work out what the result will be from tapping a Yuso. This means the it’s never quite satisfying to play.

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Jul 10
By Matt Gander In Features 2 Comments

Terrible games are relatively few these days. Publishers have so much riding on big releases that to put out something sub-par would only result in poor sales, consumer backlash and angry shareholders.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, publishers were rather fond of releasing utter tripe in order to make a quick buck. In fact, throughout the ‘90s it wasn’t uncommon to see new releases gain scores as low as 1/10 in gaming magazines – a score rarely seen today.

Every platform holder from the era was guilty of allowing garbage to flow through quality control. SEGA, Nintendo, Sony, 3DO, and Atari – providing a game booted up and was in a “playable” state, it would be allowed onto store shelves. Contrary to popular belief, the coveted ‘Nintendo Seal of Quality’ covered little more than that.

For some reason, the worst games the N64 had to offer live in infamy. Terrible titles that are still to this day mocked, scrutinised and frowned upon. The SEGA Saturn had just as many poor games – if not more – but they’re rarely ever paraded about in such a fashion. As for the PSone, YouTube would have you believe Bubsy 3D and The Simpsons Wrestling were as bad as it got.

Search for Superman 64 on YouTube and you’re presented with over 600k results; over half a million. Over 117k videos are dedicated to Crusin’ USA, Mortal Kombat: Mythologies clocks in at 46k, Carmageddon has just over 23k, while ClayFighter 63 1/3 can claim 15.5k videos. Even Aero Gauge, which many would refer to as an obscure release, has over 33k videos in its honour. In comparison, most bad PSone games have half as many dedicated videos, if that. Bubsy 3D being the exception – every angry gaming YouTuber across the globe has seemingly covered it at one stage.

Question is, then, what’s so special about the N64’s worst games? It’s almost as if they’ve been granted special status within the halls of video gaming. If you care to indulge, we have a few theories about why the likes of Superman 64 have remained in our collective minds instead of fading into obscurity.

Nintendo set the bar high

Nintendo released several genre-defining gems within the N64’s first year of sale. By the end of 1997 it could boast of a catalogue featuring such first-party greats as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart, Star Fox, Wave Race, GoldenEye 007, Pilotwings, Diddy Kong Racing, and Blast Corps.

Each and every one was a system seller. It was expected that third-parties would follow suit, harnessing the system’s power to create all-new experiences. Nintendo wasn’t allowing any old riffraff onboard the N64 party bus either, spending the best part of three years assembling a ‘Dream Team’ of handpicked outside studios.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy was arguably the first game to suggest that third-parties were struggling with the new hardware, not to mention the constraints cartridges posed.

Nintendo, it seemed, wasn’t willing to lend a helping hand to ensure third-party quality. As such, it came as a mild surprise to see a few stinkers on the shelves during the N64’s early days.

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Jul 09
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Even though it hit the digital stores a few weeks ago, Jurassic World: Evolution still managed to debut at #2 in the UK chart.

Even more impressive is the fact that it’s #1 in the PS4 chart, toppling God of War.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered – last week’s only other new release – wasn’t quite as fortunate, settling for #20. We imagine it performed better digitally.

Activision must have produced enough copies of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy to go around (the PS4 version sold out at launch, if you recall), as it’s no.1 for another week.

On its second week of release The Crew 2 fell one place to #3 – which is mildly surprising considering the lukewarm reception – while FIFA 18 dropped to #4.

Mario Tennis Aces also fell one place, now at #5.

God of War and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe take #6 and #7, while Far Cry 5 rises to #8.

The recently reduced Star Wars Battlefront II and the permanently discounted Fallout 4 take #9 and #10.

We should see a significant shake-up next Monday – Octopath Traveler, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, LEGO The Incredibles and Shining Resonance Refrain are all due out this week.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard may make an appearance, too. People still like easy achievements and trophies, right?

Jul 05
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Pocket Rumble, a 2D fighter influenced by SNK’s NeoGeo Pocket beat’em ups, has been a long time coming. If memory serves, it was originally due not long after the Switch itself.

After one hefty delay (“technical kinks” were to blame, apparently) it’s finally out this week for a mere £6.99. The first review to surface suggests it’s worth the wait. “This is great for newcomers and veterans of retro fighters as this one is easy to learn and hard to master”, said Nintendo World Report before dishing out an 8/10. They did however warn of online connection issues.

The colourful auto-runner/party game mash-up Runbow (£11.99) also makes a belated Switch appearance this week. As anybody who played the Wii U original will testify, it’s a hoot with chums.

Physics-orientated shooter Kill The Bad Guy (£6.29) is another belated conversion. The idea is to cause accidents to kill the bad guys, requiring advance planning. The Xbox One version was panned for feeling like a bite-sized mobile game, so we get the impression it’ll fare a little better on Switch.

As for new stuff, both retro throwback platformer Miles & Kilo (£7.19) – from the creators of Kid Tripp – and the colourful RTS Mushroom Wars 2 (£17.99) were highly rated by Nintendo Life.

“It manages to be an equal parts casual and hardcore platform experience while incrementing on the already abundant charming appeal of the previous game with excellent humour,” was their verdict on Miles & Kilo. Mushroom Wars 2 meanwhile was called “A sumptuous feast in multiplayer” and a “deep and enjoyable real-time strategy experience.”

Here’s a round-up of the remaining eShop releases, including a demo of Wario Ware Gold on 3DS and ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION on Switch – a mech shooter generating a mild buzz.

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Jul 04
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

THQ Nordic picked the perfect time to launch Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered – this week’s line-up of new releases is the slimmest we’ve seen since early January.

The general consensus is that Guerrilla is more than deserving of a remaster, being a franchise high note and all, but it’s hindered by technical issues. Both the PS4 and Xbox One versions are allegedly prone to crashing, and MP stats are being wiped for no apparent reason. Thankfully patch should these issues out. Until then, you might want to hold off until it arrives.

A retail release of Jurassic World Evolution and a belated conversion of BigBen’s Hunting Simulator on Switch are the only two other physical release due this week. For those curious, reviews for Jurassic World were mostly positive, being a mixture of 7s and 8s.

It’s also a quiet week on the download services. PS4 and Switch owners can paint their consoles with a Runbow – an auto-runner/party game hybrid which first hit the Wii U a long time ago. We’ve rounded up scores below.

Then we have The Walker and 18 Floors, two China-developed PSVR horror titles set in Asia. Outlook: cloudy. Incidentally, The Walker is due a budget-priced retail release at some point.

Over on Xbox One meanwhile there’s What the Box? – an innovate online shooter in which players control “living” cardboard boxes hiding amongst regular boxes – and Asdivine Hearts, a mobile JRPG from Kemco that’s knocking on a bit.

Generic top-down racer Wheelspin Frenzy doesn’t entirely fill us with confidence either, showcasing no personality or innovation whatsoever. Oh well.

Next week looks more appealing, with several big name titles due including Octopath Traveler, Captain Toad, and LEGO The Incredibles (which we reviewed last week).

New release showcase:

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered

Reviews:
8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Shedding the excessive complexities that accompany modern open-world games is a surprising breath of fresh, albeit dusty, air. Regardless of whether you are a red planet rookie or grizzled Martian veteran, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to revisit this explosive gem. It really brings the house down”

3/5 – US Gamer: “Unfortunately, the bad stuff still remains: shooting and driving feel floaty, enemy response is tuned too high, and there are a number of glitches present. As such, the remaster merely brings a great game into the modern age, without the improvements that would mark a better re-release”

5/10 – Destructoid: “In all good faith, I can’t recommend you rush out and grab this immediately with how shoddy the performance can be. It would be one thing to deal with a crummy framerate, but having the game crash as often as it did is no good. I want to destroy buildings, not sit through boring-ass dialogue, have my game crash and then sit through that chatter again”

Runbow

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Enthusiast: “If you’re a fan of party games or unique platforming, Runbow is a must-have title in your game library”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “The gameplay is great fun, the presentation is to die for, and unlocking Nindie heroes through a really nicely put together adventure mode is the icing on the cake”

7.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Runbow mixes the chaos of party games, with the urgency of racing games, with the patient precision of platformers to create one unique experience”

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Jul 03
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

It’s funny how one small feature can give a game an identity. What makes Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon feel like a Castlevania game of yore isn’t the long-reaching whip attack, or the items nonsensically hidden inside floating candles, but rather the fiddly to navigate staircases.

They were a nuisance in Castlevania – requiring diagonal input – and they’re just as bothersome here. But do you know what? Without them, this wouldn’t be a 100% authentic Castlevania experience.

Pleasingly, Curse of the Moon is less of a shameless clone and more of a homage, featuring enough fresh ideas to allow it to stand on its own two feet. There are plenty of similarities, of course, and as you can doubtlessly tell by the screenshots it nails the 8-bit aesthetic perfectly.

The sprites are well-drawn, and even though the animation is far from flamboyant, every character has been crafted with personality. The surprisingly creative bosses are an undeniable highlight, being an assortment of big, bold, and fast-moving creatures that would have caused the humble NES to grind to a halt.

Taking around 2-3 hours to complete, the adventure is spread across eight stages – four leading to the main villain’s harrowing abode, and four set within its bloodstained walls. The difficulty level is perfectly pitched, with the opening stages relatively easy going and the final two requiring acute timing, careful resource management, and precision platforming skills.

Those not weaned on the original Castlevania games shouldn’t worry as ‘casual mode’ lives up to its name, granting infinite lives and featuring sensible checkpoint placing. Even the bosses can be beaten after just two or three attempts on casual difficulty, providing you’ve hoarded a supply of secondary-weapons. They really pack a punch.

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Jul 02
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The belated Xbox One, Switch and PC versions of Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy have helped the box breaking looney re-claim no.1.

This not only prevented the allegedly mediocre The Crew 2 from claiming the top spot – forcing it to take #2 – but also dislodged Mario Tennis Aces from the top of the chart.

Nintendo’s madcap sports title is now at #4, while FIFA 18 falls once to place to #3.

God of War fell two places to #5. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe rose to #6.

It’s the return of Star Wars Battlefront II at #7. This appears to be down to a hefty price cut to £10 at Tesco.

GTA V, Fallout 4, and Far Cry 5 round-off the top ten, in that order.

Another Far Cry game showed up elsewhere – the retail release of Far Cry 3: Classic Edition made #37. Fellow new release Harvest Moon: Light of Hope took #26, meanwhile.

Other games in the Tesco’s price blitz have also shot back up the chart, including Shadow of War (#13), Destiny 2 (#16), South Park (#23), and Sonic Forces (#29).

Jun 29
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

TT Games’ latest family-friendly endeavour commences in an identical manner to The Incredibles II, kicking off with a battle against The Underminer – the villain who appeared during the original’s cliff-hanger ending.

Those wanting to play through the experience in order (LEGO The Incredibles covers both films) have no choice but to wait until part two is wrapped up and start anew. Given that 14 years have passed since the first movie and its sequel, fans should be used to waiting.

The LEGO games always have an emphasis on teamwork and co-operation, but here those ideas are more predominant than before. Mirroring the ethos of its silver-screened counterpart, the Parr family know they’re strongest when they work together.

Mr. Incredible can pick up and throw his siblings and lift heavy items, Elastigirl can swell into different shapes and wrap around objects to create ladders and walkways, Dash retains his super speed, while Violet can create damage absorbing forcefields. The kids work in tandem harmoniously, with Dash able to turn Violet’s shield into a giant hamster ball in order to charge power generators.

New button-bashing mini-games bring the whole family together, meanwhile, stacking bricks to create colossal (and imaginative) LEGO structures.

For the most part, LEGO The Incredibles harks back to the franchise’s roots by utilizing the classic ‘two-man team’ set-up seen in such early titles as LEGO Star Wars. In The Incredibles II, Mr. Incredible takes a back seat to deal with parenting duties – leading to a QTE heavy sequence starring a rampaging Jack-Jack – leaving Elastigirl to buddy up with new supporting cast members. These include an upstart superhero able to wield electricity, and an elderly gent known as Reflux who constantly complains about his sore joints and failing eyesight.

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