Bioshock Infinite Review

Bioshock Infinite has been highly anticipated since it was first teased. It takes the setting of the original games and raises expectation massively. A wildly different setting as the game moves from Rapture, deep under the ocean, to Columbia way up in the clouds. Yet Ken Levine seems to be able to work his magic to produce another special game.

The original Bioshock and its subsequent follow up were without a shadow of a doubt standout games during the 360 and PS3 era of gaming. They brought about some amazing visuals, tense atmosphere and even a little controversy with the moral decisions that had to be  made. On the surface Bioshock Infinite looks at first glance a much more open and bright affair, however a lot of the themes from the earlier games remain.

The last thing we want to do at Gamestyle is ruin the story, we don’t do that. What we will tell you though is as per the original games, the story is told within the gameplay, via a natural narrative as you progress, as well as various recordings you will find along the way that will flesh out back-story for the main arc and the various citizens of Columbia. Nothing seems forced, yet the writing comes across really well and you do follow the plot with ease, despite it not being a cut-scene heavy game. The writers and the developers trust the user’s intelligence and that shines through.

Moving from Rapture, to Columbia allows the game to have a hugely different visual style. Rapture was dark, dank, yet beautiful. The Art Deco theme came across really well. Being set in a city built underwater allowed for some smoke and mirror tricks, yet in Columbia the game is set in the sky, there aren’t as many opportunities to close in the walls and use those tricks. Everything is vast and you can see for miles, as parts of the City move around to merge with other parts, it just feels alive. It can be very easy to forget what you were meant to be doing and just go off exploring. Not because you feel you have to, but just because you want to take in all the amazing sights around as once again the artists manage to take a style from an era and somehow infuse it with an alternate reality. It just has to be seen to be appreciated.

In fact, Bioshock Infinite is just full of ‘WOW’ moments, whether that be from the visuals as you uncover new areas of Columbia, or from the various new things you encounter in the gameplay. This starts right from the very beginning, the moment you arrive. There is a page taken out of the Half Life playbook here, as you are guided, while still in control the the very first firefight. Everything is nice and calm, you’re busy taking everything in, walking around in awe of your surroundings. Then it happens, all hell breaks loose and your world is flipped upside down. The game doesn’t let go, new powers are introduced, you are given the skyhook, new weapons and you enter a rollercoaster of action.

Bioshock Infinite is full of moments that leave you wide mouthed and gushing with excitement. It kind of drip feeds you new abilities and weapons as you progress through the opening levels. The first time you use your skyhook to escape danger, or use it to open up an enemies face in melee is something you will absolutely love. Attaching to a Sky-Line for the first time and being taken on a ride is completely exhilarating. Everything just feels so much faster and more exciting than the original games. Yet at the same time, it has that Bioshock feel, it is Bioshock, just with added flavour.

As previously mentioned the story is told on the fly and filled out with recordings and videos you can find on your travels. The two main characters, Dewitt and Elizabeth have an excellent on screen relationship and the conversations that happen between the two throughout the game will not only move the narrative along, but have you listening intently, simply because of the chemistry between them. It is a relationship that grows in a very natural way and one you feel invested in from the very first time they meet. You immediately feel a responsibility for Elizabeth, which shows the power of the writing here.

The combat in Bioshock Infinite doesn’t add anything new as such. You still have your powers from vigour, with each having a unique ability, whether that be the power of possession, the ability to destroy with fire and more. You still need to manage your powers too, by collecting ‘salts’, with some powers using more salt than others. The best thing though is that you start to feel like a god, seeing the bad guys go up in flames, or turning a turret against your foes doesn’t get old.

The gunplay again offers nothing really new. It isn’t trying to be a realistic shooter, despite being a FPS at heart. Aiming is simple and whilst you may find yourself spraying bullets from time to time, you will quickly get the hang of hitting your targets.

One of the things that really stood out from the Bioshock games was the ability to loot the bodies of your victims, cash registers, desks, trash cans, etc. This hasn’t been forgotten in Infinite and you will be loading up on cash, health and more as you mop up after a battle. There is something satisfying about games that let you loot, being rewarded for your successes and here is no exception, you will get a great feeling finding all the goodies on the body of  a slaughtered enemy.

Elizabeth, despite needing to be saved, isn’t a hindrance on your journey, if anything she is quite the opposite. She has the ability to pick locks, as long as you can find the lockpicks for her to do it and during battles she will offer you additional health and ammo. This comes in vital when being pinned down by enemies and seeing your supplies dwindle away.

Bioshock Infinite had some great expectations and all too often we have seen other games fail to live up to the hype. Ken Levine has talked a great game in the months building up to the release and the truth is, he has delivered and delivered big time. Bioshock Infinite does nothing new, it isn’t the second coming, but what it does do is play a wonderful game that you will easily lose yourself in and at the end of the day, that is why we play games, to escape reality and to be wowed. That is exactly what this game does!

Castlevania: Mirror of Fate Review

We are massive Castlevania fans at Gamestyle so any release of a new game is treated with the excitement you would normally associate with some kind of red carpet premier. That said, we have been looking for something new in the franchise of late. We knew Mercury Steam’s take would be a little different but it was with hesitation that we ventured forth into Dracula’s castle once more.

Let’s get this out of the way from the off. This is not a Metroidvania style Castlevania game. You do explore a castle but it’s in a much more linear fashion than the previous games on the DS and GBA. If you want that style of Castlevania there are currently seven games you can choose from to scratch that itch and looking back, if we’re honest about it, few of them are as perfect as Symphony of the Night.

Instead, Mirror of Fate takes us back to the style of the original games and is much closer to something like Dracula X or Super Castlevania IV. This is a bold move, but from our point of view we are delighted someone has taken a chance and tried to mix things up a bit. Bouncing around rooms is all well and good but sometimes you want to smack something in the face and swing around a bit, and this is something that Mirror of Fate offers up in abundance.

The first thing that hits you about the game is how astoundingly incredible it looks. This has to be the best looking game on the 3DS to date. The 3D effect simply blew us away. If there was any doubt about the difference the 3D component of the console could make then this is the game to show it off. The layers of depth and character it adds is simple unbelievable. When used in conjunction with the gothic comic style during the cut scenes it brings the world to life in a way never seen before.

The visuals are boosted by some stunning use of music and sound. Almost all the cut scenes are voice acted and the gruth Scottish accents mix with the forbidding visuals to create an imposingly bleak fairy tale. The grandeur and impact of the music is also of the highest standard. We never believed sound like this could come out of the 3DS. They are much more dramatic orchestral scores than found in classic Castelvania games and add a more serious and dramatic tone to the world. The only slight issues we found with the sound is that you need to make sure your 3DS is turned up as sometimes the softer tones can completely disappear.

The graphics and sound create a much more serious and hard edged tone – much like Castlevania: Lord of Shadow. This game looks and sounds brutal and every second of it feels like an epic and bleak life or death struggle. This is something we really like as it adds gravity and an almost Dark Souls like edge to the atmosphere.

Of course all the window dressing in the world can’t make up for a bad game. Mirror of Fate is much more combat orientated than other games in the series and the developers have taken care to instigate a robust and flexible system to fight off Dracula’s hordes. The developers said they were looking to take influence from Street Fighter for their system and it shows. There are numerous combos, dodges, blocks and launchers which can be unlocked as you progress.  This allows players some flexibility in how they fight. Admittedly limited, special powers and sub weapons are also on hand to help you through.

Once you get to grips with the system you’ll soon be despatching monsters with relative ease, and the system is more fluid than seen in previous Castelvania games that follow the hack and slash route. Combat is the emphasis of the game and you will often find yourself locked into arenas or needing to kill monster to progress around the castle. Players used to being able to duck and dodge their way through the metroidvania style games may well get a rude awakening here.

Boss fights are one aspect that lets the game down a little. They simply feel somewhat less inspired than before and often begin to become repetitive. They can also be fairly merciless which is offset by the fact the game saves what seems like every two minutes. Indeed, the game even saves at checkpoints within boss fights – which may seem stupid until you actually come up against one of the tougher ones. At that point you’ll be glad of them as it stops players hitting bricks walls in their progression. Also, using quick time events really isn’t a good idea.

During your adventure you will play as three different characters but aside from small changes (such as Alucard being able to breath under water without a timer), there is little to distinguish them. In one way this is good as it means any unlocked moves remain throughout, but it would have been nice to see some variation in combat techniques and a more varied way of tackling the castle. Collectibles are also fairly standard with scrolls that expand on the games lore and chests which raise magic and health just about all you are going to find.

Negatives aside this is a bold and risky direction to take the franchise in and in the most part it’s successful. Ok, so the castle isn’t really there to be explored and there isn’t much point in searching out every last corner, but the more combat heavy approach is implemented well and the graphics and sound are incredible. It’s easy to forget that Dawn of Sorrow was merely solid and Order of Ecclesia took half the game to come to life. The Castlevania franchise needed to be shaken up and we are more than happy with the direction.

Overall, this is a game that will likely divide Castlevania fans. Taken on its own merit we can only recommend this to 3DS owners. It’s a dark and forbidding fairy tale told with skill and it conjures an atmospheric adventure which leads into the darker, more brutal side of the Castlevania universe.

Germinator Review

The Playstation Vita has a lot of genres well covered, however puzzle isn’t one of them. Germinator hopes to fill that void.

The system isn’t completely lacking in the puzzle department, it does have the wonderful Bejeweled beater, Treasures of Montezuma Blitz, which is just simply outstanding. That is about it though, so Gamestyle were rather happy when Germinator was announced.

What we have here is a game that is a cross between Peggle and Bust-A-Move, where the object is to eradicate each of the themed levels from the germs that have infested. It’s a basic concept which has a very basic slight story behind it, which is used mainly to explain the various power ups available. It truth though, it would have been no better or worse to use bubbles, balls or any other type of graphic.

What’s is always important in a puzzler is how easy it is to pick up and play and how the mechanics work so you can eventually master the game. Germinator neither exceeds, nor does it fail in the this department, it simply does a decent job. It is clear from the start what the target is and how you do that and the first world on offer has tutorials along the way that explain how the various power-ups work. It ticks all the boxes.

The idea is simple. You aim your coloured germs in an attempt to match them to the colours on the board, chain together three or more and they grow and eventually exploding before destroying any connecting germs. The idea is to clear all the black germs on the board to progress. That is it, simple and to the point.

You have a number of levels to get through too, with 75 spread across five different themes. You also get a puzzle mode to unlock, which happens pretty early, so no grinding  just to get another feature needed. This is essentially the same game, but you now get a limited number of germs to use. Once these are depleted it is game over. This mode actually really tests you skills later down the line and does get very addictive.

The concept is there and generally plays rather well. However there are a couple of issues that seem to hamper the experience a little. The aiming of where to fire your next germ can be a little difficult to work out, especially if you are trying to bank off the sides. In Peggle you get away with this, as you usually have some clear reference points and objects to bounce off, in Bust-A-Move you are playing on a narrow board, so judging where to bank off the side is clear. Here though, with the width of the gaming area being the full width of the screen, it is very difficult to judge, which will more often than not result in a misplaced shot.

Now this wouldn’t be that bad if there was an option to fine tune you aim, yet as it stands that isn’t there. Aiming is done with the left analogue stick and even the slightest touch seems to have a large affect on your aim. If this had a precision option, then it wouldn’t be so bad. It does however allow you to use the touch screen for aiming too, which is a much better option, allowing you to really pinpoint where you want the shot to go. The only slight down side to this is learning not to take your finger of the screen to try and aim again. As doing so means you take your shot, which can lead to moments of frustration.

None of these are game breaking issues, just minor quibbles that not everyone will have. Overall Germinator pays a decent game and whilst not being your main go to game, it is one that is nice to have on the system for that quick blast, whether it is a short journey, a break at work and the likes. The 3-Star rating system on each level will see you going back and they set a decent challenge. You also have the puzzle mode beyond the main story levels. So there is plenty of content for your money.

Germinator is pretty much a one trick pony, but that particular trick is fun and challenging, it is a low price and you will get some decent value. It is a game that is worth picking up as a nice accompaniment to your existing catalogue for when you fancy something a little less meaty.