Jan 23
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

The mid-‘90s were a rough time for Marvel. Losing money hand over fist, the comic giant filed for bankruptcy before laying off one-third of their staff. This is the reason why dozens of Marvel games launched during this time. Desperate to stay afloat, the cost of licensing one of their characters or properties was incredibly low. It was a free for all buffet, and every publisher was invited.

It’s no secret that Marvel was eventually able to turn their fortunes around. 2008 saw the release of Iron Man, the first instalment of the current MCU. It was such a huge success that a second Iron Man movie followed just two years later, and the buzz surrounding the upcoming Thor and Captain America adaptations was starting to build. Superheroes were ‘in’ and Marvel was leading the way.

When SEGA picked up the Marvel license, the deal turned heads. Alas, the only decent thing to come of it was the barely above average Captain America: Super Soldier and a mildly diverting Thor tie-in for Nintendo DS – the best of a very bad bunch. Arguably, THQ’s Marvel Super Hero Squad series from 2009 found more success, aimed at younger gamers.

These games, while of dubious quality, are all well-remembered. The cost of Marvel licensing was starting to rise, and so publishers were pushing their superhero tie-ins heavily. There was, however, another Marvel game released around this time, which came and went with barely a whisper.

Marvel Superheroes 3D: Grandmaster’s Challenge was released exclusively on Wii in December 2010, published by European outfit BigBen Interactive and developed by Parisian studio Neko. The Wii was very much in its prime – some of the year’s biggest releases included Super Mario Galaxy 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid: Other M, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn – yet Marvel Superheroes 3D was able to elude the press and slip into stores with next to no fanfare.

How and why this happened is open to good old speculation. The ideal place to start is with the game’s quality – the few gaming sites to give it the review treatment were left far from impressed. It was an on-rails shooter of sorts, viewed from first-person and heavily reliant on motion controls. A board game-style hub acted as the overworld, with the ultimate goal being to work your way to the middle and smash the giant blue dome protecting the titular villain.

Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Wolverine and Spider-Man were playable characters, while Dr Doom, Juggernaut, Lizardman, Green Goblin, Red Skull and the Grandmaster himself filled the enemy roster. Mister Fantastic and Nova showed up as supporting characters, meanwhile, appearing mid-battle to dish out bonuses and hints.

Reportedly, the incredibly simple action sequences lasted for mere minutes, and everything on offer could be seen within half an hour. It was, without doubt, a budget game that had been knocked up quickly and cheaply.

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Jan 22
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

There’s no doubting Capcom could’ve pulled out all the stops to launch Resident Evil 2 on the day of its 20th anniversary (21st January), but for whatever reason, they’ve settled on this Friday.

It’s probably for the best – a Monday launch would’ve caught many off-guard.

The Resident Evil 2 one-shot demo was downloaded over 2 million times, and feedback was mostly overwhelmingly positive. The disturbingly realistic damage animations were a highlight, and fans also approved of the subtle nods to the cancelled Resident Evil 2 prototype. In short: it doesn’t look like Capcom has put a foot wrong with this full-on remake. [Update: Reviews are now live]

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey on 3DS is another of this week’s highlights, also being a remake of sorts. We’ve rounded up scores below.

Then exclusively on the download services, we can expect the short but sweet PSVR puzzle adventure A Fisherman’s Tale, twee rhythm action affair Wandersong, Life is Strange 2‘s second episode, and The Hong Kong Massacre – a glorious combination of Stranglehold and Hotline Miami. Woo!

New release showcase:

Resident Evil 2 – PS4/XO

Reviews:
10/10 – God is a Geek: “It constantly throws new things at you during the 12-15 hours of that first full playthrough. It feels like a whole new game that anyone can enjoy, as long as they don’t mind changing their underwear after each gameplay session. This is not just Resident Evil for a new generation. This is Resident Evil at its absolute best”

9/10 – Destructoid: “My complaints about the Resident Evil 2 remaster are minimal. An argument could be made that Capcom could have done more, but the spirit of the original has been preserved and in many cases, enhanced. I hope every legacy game in the series gets this loving treatment, as I’ll probably be playing them for the rest of my life”

8.8 – IGN: “Now THIS is how you remake a classic. Resident Evil 2 expertly reanimates the horrifying atmosphere and moments of extreme tension that made the original so revered”

8/10 – Push Square: “Resident Evil 2 might be one of the most accomplished remakes of the generation. A number of mechanics have been updated and introduced in order to bring the game into the modern era, but this is still very much the classic experience you remember – inventory management, limited ammunition, and all. Capcom has lovingly recreated every historic location and moment you remember from 1998, and you owe it to yourself to witness that spectacle first-hand”

Recommended – Eurogamer: “Capcom finds the perfect middle ground between old and new in this sterling remake”

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey – 3DS

Reviews:
9/10 – Nintendo Life: “If you’ve ever been a fan of the Mario & Luigi series (or are looking for a reason to dust off the old 3DS), do yourself a favour and pick this game up. Although Bowser Jr.’s Journey is just an ‘okay’ addition, the inventive battles, great writing and creative gameplay of the main game make this one an easy recommendation”

8.5 – GameInformer: “As a remake, it doesn’t drastically change the experience or improve on it in a big way, but that’s a testament to the original’s quality more than it is a knock against this version”

3.5/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “Bowser Jr’s Journey is easy to overlook and it’s a shame it wasn’t a more thought-out experience that could have been enjoyable given a good shake up instead of just being a glorified mobile title. There’s a lot of things done right here, but also some missed opportunities that could have been better executed overall”

A Fisherman’s Tale – PSVR

Reviews:
7/10 – The Metro: “A fascinating premise that is used not only to create a set of mind-bending puzzles but to ruminate on the nature of reality. It’s just a shame about the controls and the short running time”

7/10 – Push Square: “A Fisherman’s Tale is a typical puzzle-solving first-person VR experience that stands a cut above with a good-quality gimmick that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It barely stays long enough to finish saying hello, but it has the wit, charm, and novelty to make it worth the single sitting it’s asking for”

3/5 – VR Focus: “A Fisherman’s Tale is in many respects the VR title VRFocus hoped it would be, inventive use of the technology that oozes heart and soul, making you care about the character and his astonishing little world. The puzzles help to carry the story along yet don’t offer anywhere near the complexity of titles like Transpose. The main downside, it leaves you wanting more when there’s no more to be had”

The Hong Kong Massacre – PS4

Reviews:
8.5 – PSU: “The Hong Kong Massacre is a game that will leave you with vivid memories. The awesome stunts you pulled off, the impossible feats you were able to achieve, and the crazy killing sprees will all stick in your mind. It is a game that perfectly executes on a vision and offers some of the most gratifying few hours you can find in gaming today”

8.5 – SquareXO: “First and foremost Hong Kong Massacre is brilliant, it makes you feel like a bad-ass and it’s great fun. As long as you don’t mind dying and restarting often you will love it. It takes quite a bit of skill to complete each level with all the extra challenges and I like that, it takes a bit to get used to the dive mechanics but when you do it’s so addictive”

7.6 – Gert Lush Gaming: “The Hong Kong Massacre places you at the center of a hard-boiled revenge story, filled with brutal, cinematic shootouts and vivid underworld locations”

Wandersong – PS4

Reviews:
9.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Wandersong is one of the most pleasant and refreshing games out there. Even when the going gets tough, the goodwill garnered here will help you push through and enjoy another day”

6/10 – Push Square: “Although the gameplay feels a little on the shallow side, Wandersong is a disarmingly joyful game. Singing your way through this cutesy adventure may not offer much of a challenge, but mixed in with a varied cast of characters and a sweet story, it’s definitely a hard game to hate”

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Jan 21
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

There may be very little new in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, but that hasn’t stopped Nintendo’s latest Switch re-release from claiming a second week at no.1.

Due to a certain horror game launching on Friday, a third week at the top of the chart looks incredibly unlikely. There’s no doubting it’ll remain in the top ten for a while, though.

At #2 we have a new entry – Bandai-Namco’s Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. Reviews went a live late last week and were incredibly positive, resulting in an 82% Metacritic.

The usual faces show up in the rest of the top ten, merely swapping positions. RDR2 held onto #3, Black Ops 4 remained at #4, while FIFA 19 dropped three places to #5.

At #6 it’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fell one position to #7, GTA V stayed put at #8, and both Crash and Spyro re-entered the top ten at #9 and #10 (respectively).

Sadly, it looks like Tales of Vesperia won’t be sticking around for long. After debuting at a respectable #9 last week, the JRPG is now at #32. Chances of it making another week in the top 40 are slim.

Jan 17
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Developers and publishers have well and truly woken from their Christmas slumber, collectively bringing over 30 new releases to the eShop. We even have a new Wii U release – El Silla – Arcade Edition – which appears to be based on The Simpsons’ chair meme, of all things. So much for letting the system fade away gracefully.

The biggest release on Switch is between the self-aware party game collection Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and Capcom’s remaster of Onimusha: Warlords.

Both have received mixed reviews and for different reasons. Travis Strikes Again reportedly suffers from being repetitive and requiring a co-op buddy to make the most of it, although the boss battles help to elevate some of the boredom. The quirky humour is apparently hit and miss, too. As for Onimusha, it’s a relatively straightforward re-release with its PS2 roots still clearly visible. Some critics were fine with this, while others wished it was given a slightly bigger budget and more attention.

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG has also gained mixed reviews. It’s intended to be Earthbound for the hipster generation, but reviewers claim that it falls flat in several areas, as well as having irritating design choices. Scores are as high as 8/10 and as low as 3/10.

Gunman Clive HD – a shining beacon of quality on the 3DS and Wii U eShop – makes the jump to Switch this week too, as does the notorious Dragon’s Lair Trilogy. The £17.99 price tag has killed all interest we had in the latter, which was minimal to begin with.

Fight of Gods – a fighting game where religious leaders duke it out – is one to stay away from likewise, gaining a reputation on Steam for being shovelware of the highest order.

Space exploration game Holy Potatoes! We’re In Space?! Is a better way to blow your cash, gaining an impressive 81% from VideoChums. “If you enjoy strategic battles and management games with a side of fries, this is a game for you,” they said.

Sticking with the theme of space there’s also Planet RIX-13, which we reviewed on Tuesday. It’s a very simple and short 2D adventure game, launching at a mere £4.49. Although over in less than an hour, we still found it to be reasonably engaging.

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

Considering the time of year, it’s a surprisingly busy week for new releases. Also surprising is how mixed reviews are for this week’s assortment, as you’ll doubtlessly notice in the round-ups below.

Capcom’s remaster of Onimusha: Warlords leads the way, out now on PS4, Xbox One and Switch. Critics claim it has a low budget feel, which explains the £15.99 price tag, but it still seems to be going down reasonably well. We hope Onimusha 2 isn’t far behind – it was an outright gem on PS2.

We’re still waiting on reviews for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, due out Friday. Expect them to surface either tomorrow or on launch day. This series has a strong following, giving a good chance of breaking the UK top ten next week.

Don’t expect to see many reviews for Amazon’s The Grand Tour Game, however. Being episodic, new content is rolling out alongside the show. The price dropped from £24.99 to £11.99 just a week before launch, which really wasn’t a positive sign.

Reviews for Switch mini-game collection Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes went live today and have been rather mixed so far – we’ve seen scores as low as 4/10 and as high at 9/10, plus everything in between. The Metacritic currently stands at 71%, formed from 51 reviews.

As for digital-only offerings, abstract adventure Vane on PS4 arrived to a lukewarm reception, top-down 2D survival game Smoke and Sacrifice has been described as compelling and addictive – even gaining a few 8/10s – while the pixel art adventure Planet RIX-13 has received a bit of a mauling due to its shortness and simplistic nature. We quite enjoyed it, though.

Then we have YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG, which, and as you may have guessed, is off to a bumpy start – COG Connected dished out a miserable 35% while Nintendo World Report awarded it a resounding 8.5. The former did note of rough edges and a few faults, however.

And after a hefty wait, The Walking Dead’s penultimate episode is also finally with us. Game Revolution felt it worthy of a 4/5, while claiming that it sets up last episode well. Hopefully fans won’t have to wait quite as long for the final episode.

New release showcase:

Onimusha: Warlords

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “Almost two decades on, Onimusha: Warlords lives again thanks to a handful of truly impactful changes. Those tank controls are lighter to the touch and the improvements to the visuals help take the edge off those clunky PS2-era looks”

6/10 – The Metro: “A low budget but competent remaster of a game that’s showing its age – and yet still makes a good argument for a future franchise revival”

3/5 – The Telegraph: “There are archaic quibbles that can’t be ignored but, for nostalgia’s sake or an intriguing history lesson, Onimusha is a thoroughly enjoyable blast from the past”

Vane

Reviews:
8.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “It’s hard to speak of Vane with authority, because so much of it is unraveling what happens in front of you, and interpreting it for yourself. This is not a straightforward story, nor is it your typical indie puzzle-platformer”

5/10 – GameSpot: “There are moments where you can see what the game could have been–like when you soar through a valley in bird form, or morph the world around you–but Vane lacks a voice and a strong sense of purpose”

4/10 – PSU: “Though it boasts a resoundingly striking aesthetic, a haphazard save system coupled with a raft of glitches and a misjudged waypoint system all manage to tarnish what should have been one of the first major indie darlings of the year. Vane is simply too frustrating to recommend in its current form”

Smoke and Sacrifice

Reviews:
8.0 – God is a Geek: “Smoke and Sacrifice is a dark and compelling adventure that deserves to be played”

4/5 – The Xbox Hub: “The story and narrative is strong, dark and very well told, while the world is fascinating. Making your way through it can be a bit unwieldy at times, but for those who are looking for a well crafted RPG that tries something different then look no further than Smoke and Sacrifice”

7/10 – The Metro: “An enjoyably distinctive survival game, in terms of gameplay, visuals, and an unusually affecting story”

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Reviews:
90% – Gaming Trend: “Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is outrageous. The game is uncompromisingly zany: full of smart design, fluid combat, and laugh out loud personality front to back. While some may be turned off by its low budget feel and disjointed design, those who can look past these rough edges will find a hack-and-slash so quirky that it’ll be tough not to fall in love. This title stands as a shining beacon of bold creativity and anyone who values risk-taking in games owes it to themself to give Travis Strikes Again a shot”

7/10 – Destructoid: “Travis Strikes Again has some undeniable lows but the No More Heroes charm and the prospect of co-op lifts it up. Whether it’s learning the intricacies of individual types of ramen or watching Travis curse at a talking cat, this is something that could only be born out of the mind of Suda 51 and his team at Grasshopper. Go in with an open mind and possibly a co-op partner”

4.5/10 – Critical Hit: “Fans might get a kick out of this self-aware spinoff, but its referential meta-jokes ultimately fall flat. Worse though is that it’s just not very much fun to play. It’s repetitive to the point of being tiresome, and not even its occasionally enjoyable boss battles save Travis Strikes Again from being dull and dreary”

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo Life: “While some gamers may not see anything special going on here, YIIK will likely really resonate with some players. If a Weird Stuff RPG appeals to you, strap in and prepare for a wild ride. Surreal themes aside, if you’re simply looking for an RPG experience on the Switch with far-out visuals, YIIK should satisfy your turn-based desires”

5.5 – Destructoid: “There’s a fantastic game buried somewhere here, but its merits are clouded by a plethora of bad design choices, uneven writing, and a protagonist who nobody in their right mind would ever want to spend any time with”

4.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “It’s obtuse and poorly balanced, making each encounter a frustrating exercise in attrition. YIIK has big ideas but they rest on top of a shoddy foundation, one that crumbles the more you try to stay on top of it. I’d rather just play EarthBound again”

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Jan 16
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

Capcom’s hack ‘n slash role-player Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen arrives on Nintendo Switch this April.

As one of our favourite games of the last generation, which we sunk well over 60 hours into, last week’s announcement was a cause of celebration around these parts.

Don’t let the fact that it’s 6 years old put you off – we recently revisited the Xbox One remaster and found it no less exciting than it was in 2013. It still feels remarkably fresh.

Here are five reasons why Switch owners should be excited:

It isn’t a traditional role-player

Dragon’s Dogma was intended to appeal to a broad audience, hence why it features many staples and tropes from traditional JRPGs but resembles a western developed RPG, complete with a heavy Dungeons & Dragons/Tolkienesque influence to the artwork direction. Imagine Skyrim, but with the craftsmanship of a typical JRPG.

It’s a case of east meets west, with rugged knights in shining armour and gruesome mythological beasts, married to traditional JRPG-styles quests and a familiar feeling of progression to character development, levelling up at a respectable rate.

Moreover, this is an RPG of the hack ‘n slash variety, heavy on both scripted and completely unscripted events due to a focus on unbridled action. A typical character move list features numerous heavy hitting attacks and a wide range of defensive manoeuvres. There’s also scope for experimentation thanks to the ability to attack while jumping, adding impromptu downwards strikes to your repertoire, in addition to one game-changing ability worthy of its own bullet point.

Also pleasing is how over the top some attacks are. Rangers can fire arrows so powerful that they send weaker enemies flying across the screen; genuine blink and you’ll miss it moments that make battles wildly unpredictable.

It has a fresh approach to online play

Prior to release, RPG fans were disheartened to learn of DD’s lack of online play. After the game launched, however, Capcom’s vision became clear. Instead of allowing gamers to team up online, the online functions involve creating and sharing AI controlled Pawns, cultivating a different kind of community.

Although humanlike in appearance and in nature, Pawns come from another realm; who and what they are forms part of the game’s lore. They level up and can be kitted out with weapons and attire of your choosing, sticking by your side from start to finish. Over time they grow more experienced, learning how to dispatch certain enemies swiftly. They even gain quest knowledge, so if your Pawn is used by another player they may be able to give pointers for quests they haven’t completed yet.

Not only this, but their fighting styles and classes can be chosen to complement yours. They can be instructed to charge into battle and hit danger head-on or hang back and help with magick and support items.

Adding to a sense of community, Pawns can be rated on their usefulness and appearance before being returned to their maker. You can also send them away clutching a gift for their master, picked from your inventory. Often they’d return to us with a bunch of junk, but every now and then they’d come back to us bearing something of worth. Remember: caring is sharing.

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Jan 15
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Achievement/Trophy unlock ratios can be mildly fascinating. When researching our annual round-up of terrible games, for instance, we discovered most gamers gave up on the hellish adventure Agony before even reaching the second level. As for fellow 2018 flop Extinction, it seems that the majority could only stomach its inane repetition for a couple of hours, tops.

Now here’s a game that’ll leave nobody behind. Planet RIX-13 is not only an incredibly straightforward affair, to the point that it’s hard to imagine anybody becoming stuck for more than a couple of minutes, but it also takes just an hour to complete.

Don’t jump the gun here. While short and a little lacking on challenge, this pixel art adventure – a modern take on the point ‘n click genre – is also hard to fault without resorting to nit-picking. That’s to say, it’s a short experience that’s executed in a manner most confident. We should also note that it’s launching at a low price point of around £4, depending on format, which excuses its brevity.

You play as a space traveller who has crash landed just outside of an off-world science facility. After escaping the wreckage of their craft and patching themselves up, it soon becomes apparent something has gone awry. Not only is the facility in need of repair, but the scientists have suffered a cruel fate, seemingly at the hands of something unworldly.

It’s up to you to finish their work, discover what happened, and escape the facility.

The first port of call is getting the facility up and running by collecting server parts, repairing the power generator, and recalibrating the radars. Or to be more exact: item scavenging and some light puzzle solving. There are also a few instances where vital information, is cryptically hidden within e-mails and similar documents, accessed via computer terminals.

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Jan 14
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Proving that you can’t keep a good plumber down, New Super Mario Bros. U on Switch is the UK’s new no.1.

The ever-informative GI.biz reports launch week physical sales were almost 25% higher than the Wii U version’s launch week. That’s pretty impressive – NSMBU launched alongside the Wii U itself.

This means the four Switch titles have now managed to take the UK chart top spot – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition didn’t perform too badly either, entering at #11.

Going back to the top ten, FIFA 19, RDR2, Black Ops 4, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate dropped one position each to occupy positions #2 through to #5.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe moved up to #6, Battlefield V fell to #7, good old GTA V re-entered the top ten at #8 – up from #16 – while Crash Bandicoot dropped one place, now at #9.

Xbox One pack-in Forza Horizon 4 then sees us out at #10.

The popular Spyro: Reignited Trilogy left the top ten, meanwhile, falling from #9 to #13.

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