Get a free Wii U game with Mario Kart 8

Nintendo aren’t exactly known for their quality deals, but today they revealed one that’s bound to get all Wii U owners a little excited.

If you buy Mario Kart 8 and register the game on Club Nintendo (between 30th May and 31st July) you’ll be able to get a free Wii U game download. They’re not just throwing away bottom of the barrel stuff either, these are actual, quality titles. They are:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  • Pikmin 3
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • The Wonderful 101
  • Game & Wario
  • Sonic Lost World
  • Nintendo Land
  • Wii Party U
  • Mario and Sonic at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games
  • New Super Mario Bros U

Mario Kart is out on the 30th May. We can’t wait.

How Games Saved My Life

I generally won’t speak out about the perceived view of videogames in the media and with the wider world. Part of that is a confidence issue, part of that is that it becomes tiring having to justify why you love something like this.

Often if I mention games, or that I am a game’s critic, I get people look at me in a certain way. That “shouldn’t you have grown up by now” kind of look. I have had it from family, friends and even strangers who see me with my Vita out and about. Not everyone of course, but enough that it is noticeable.

I went through a stage where I would try and justify myself to others, but than I thought, why? Why do I need to justify liking games, when you don’t need to justify watching soaps, daytime TV, chat shows, reading certain books, etc. I do what I do, because I find it fun. Well that wasn’t always the only reason and recent news about the tragic killing of the Leeds school teacher by her 15 year old student had lots of old memories flooding back.

When I was at school I was bullied and I was bullied badly. Not the physical type of bullying, though that did happen on occasion. It was the daily psychological bullying, from not just one or two kids, but much larger amounts. I was seen as an easy target, to the point that the new kids in school would use bullying me as a way to find acceptance with others.

For five long years I put up with this and the one time I spoke out, it got even worse. So I had no choice but to keep it bottled up, not let on to family that it was an issue. I tried many things to silently change the attitude towards me, but everything failed. My Mum was told that I bring it on myself and that I need to change to stop it…I was a child, yet it was my fault, I was the one in the wrong for BEING bullied. That was something my Mum was told by a teacher, someone in a position of trust…It was my fault!

Now my issues are still about today, I lack confidence in public and can very often come across as rude, because I am worried what someone will think of me, or do to me if I say the wrong thing, or say something in the wrong way. That scared child still has a hold of me and I doubt very much it will ever let go. What you see of me in public, in person is mostly always an act, me trying my hardest to not be that person I was 15+ years ago.

But what does this have to do with games? With the recent tragic incident?

Well, it is mainly down to the media here. I have empathy with the young man who killed his teacher. Now that isn’t to say I agree with what he did, by no means do I condone it and I feel for the teacher and her family. What he did was wrong, he should and will be punished, but he also needs a lot of help.

Anyway, the media! They have taken their stance, especially a certain paper often filled with hate. There are clearly many issues that surround this child (and please remember at 15 he is a child) but there has been a focus on blaming videogames. All because he liked to play some of the more violent ones, was part of online communities and was a fan of a gaming based Youtube channel. Really? That is the main focus?

Let’s look at a few things. How many people the world over play videogames? Millions right? How many of those millions play the more violent games? You know the Call Of Duty, Battlefield, Grand Theft Auto’s of this world? The ones the media use as their go to for stories. I’d imagine it is still in the millions. How many of those millions go on a murder spree? I am thinking it is not the millions that are playing them, but a very small percentage.

You see, it isn’t JUST the influence of the games that will cause the individuals to do what they do. I am not arguing that there may be some influence, but it isn’t just that. It is also the books they read, the TV they see, the films they watch, the NEWS they hear about on a daily basis. It is the world around them and it is something that isn’t quite right in their heads in the first place.

Maybe this is caused through abuse at home, bullying at school, hell it could be anything, they may just be mentally ill. That is the thing with mental illness, it isn’t always apparent, so who really knows what is going on inside any one person’s head at any given time. We don’t, so to put the focus of blame on one area is just wrong and dangerous from a media outlet.

But here we are yet again, I find myself having to defend something I love to do, because of careless reporting from news outlets. So let me tell you something.

GAMING SAVED MY LIFE…IT PROBABLY SAVED SOMEONE ELSES TOO!!!

When I was at school, I didn’t have various forums and communities online to reach out too, I was alone with my thoughts, with no one I felt I could turn to. I tried to take my own life and I dreamed of taking the lives of my bullies…and if any of you are reading this, you have no idea how close I actually came. But I didn’t and it is down to videogames.

They were my escape, they were the one place I could be in control, where I couldn’t be hurt and all of life’s problems faded away. I could come home from school and put on my Spectrum or eventually my MegaDrive and shut out the world around me. I remember loading up Head Over Heels, Seymour Goes to Hollywood, Operation Wolf, Treasure Island Dizzy, 180 Darts and more.

That noise of the tapes loading was like heaven, that noise meant I was in my own home and I was safe for at least another 17 hours, before the next school day started. I could be the hero, no one was there to judge me and I was some kind of happy.

Even when I went to college a few years later, or was able to afford the next console, it was still the same. The bullying may have been over in college, but the damage was done. I found solace in my Dreamcast, Playstation 1, Playstation 2, XBOX and beyond. I played Silent Hill with my Mum and I must admit, it is one of my warmest memories of my teenage years, my Mum was able to do something with me that I liked, was on my terms. It is the safest I have ever felt. It may sound odd to some, but there you go.

I do remember one occasion where I got home after a really bad day at school. I had it in my mind that the next day I was going to go in and do something about it. I won’t go into detail, but it wasn’t going to end well for anyone. Yet a few hours later, after spending the rest of the afternoon, the evening and even into the night playing Sonic The Hedgehog 2 from start to finish and then some Road Rash. I had lost the urge I had just a few short hours previous.

Had I not had games, who knows where my head would have been. I still have no idea what I would have done that next day. That night, gaming literally saved my life and I maintain saved the lives of others too.

I am in a much better place now and whilst the mental scars from those days are still with me. I have been able to move on to a degree. I have a family and I (hope I) have real friends, people who genuinely want to be around me. Yet part of my mental scarring means I cannot be 100% sure of that. My family I love with all my heart and I know they love me back equally. To see your son look at you like you are his hero, like you are perfect is the best feeling in the world.

But I still need that escape, I still play games but now more than ever I do it out of enjoyment. There are some days that a whole other set of life’s challenges can get me down and again being able to put my headphones on, get out my Vita, or switch on the PS4/Ps3 and escape just for an hour or so.

There are games that I play today that really do resonate with me, such as Persona 4, Virtues Last Reward, etc where the characterisation plays a huge part, but one of late that hit me harder than most was Thomas Was Alone, a game that touched me more than most, yet this is a game featuring nothing but blocks. Yet the human aspect was done better than most and is a great example of the emotional power of games, the sort of thing that often goes unnoticed in the media.

I apologise, I may have rambled a bit and this may not be the most coherent article you’ll ever read, but it comes from the heart and is something I felt needed to be said. Because no matter what some quarters of the media want you to believe…Gaming isn’t the big bad evil cause they want you to think. Sometimes it can be the cure, but those stories are boring and you never see them in the headlines.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Review

Season One of The Walking Dead was somewhat of a surprise hit when it released in 2012, using the episodic mechanic to further the experience of the world created by Robert Kirkman. It has been released on pretty much every format ever eventually finding its way to the PS Vita. It was a long wait but more than worth, so it is great that the wait for Season 2 hasn’t been as long, finding itself on Sony’s handheld by the time Episode 2 released.

WARNING – SEASON ONE SPOILERS CONTAINED

Much of what made Season One such a wonderful experience remains in Season Two. The story is well written, with drama at every turn and unlike the TV version of the show, it never feels drawn out just to fill air time. After the death of Lee Everett, the main protagonist from Season One, young Clementine becomes the game’s main focus and from the very start, it appears her life hasn’t got any easier or better.

What makes the story work is that it doesn’t focus on any of the characters from the TV version, so there is no need for the writers to make sure they keep characters alive for the sake of continuity. In Season One, the only links to the TV version was the brief cameos from Hershel and Glenn. But because they were just cameos, it allowed the creative team to go all out and produce all the shocks and twists they wanted.

This all returns in Season Two and within a few minutes of playing, the team are right back to getting a strong grip on your attention, making it nigh on impossible to just play for a few minutes. You simply have to play on and see what happens next. Part of this is also down to just how well acted the game is, if you come from Season One into Season Two, you already have an emotional attachment and it continues right through the first two episodes.

If you played the game on the Vita exclusively, then there is a chance you had the season pass and therefore all episodes available from the start, which meant you missed out on one of the major draws of episodic content…The wait. By finishing of a cliffhanger, or a decent plot change meant you were hankering for more, but having to wait weeks for the next episode built up that anticipation. Thankfully, getting in at Episode Two this time around, means you get to experience the game exactly how it was intended.

Whilst the bulk of what made the original such a great experience remains, there have been a few minor changes. The user interface has received a bit of a facelift, which is designed to make it easier to see what actions need to be performed, or what is interactive during each scene. Oddly though, it can take a while to get used to this, especially with some of the QTE moments.

Early on there is a scene where Clem needs to battle her way to safety, using a mix of bashing the X button and pressing a direction. However, the feedback on screen for some of this isn’t as clear as you’d hope and it is difficult to tell initially if you got the timing right or not. One such moment saw us pressing right but still getting caught, a second time, a third time…yet we did nothing different the forth time, but were successful. It just wasn’t clear at all from previous moments where the success window was clearly wider, how our timing was.

Yet in terms of the UI, that is the only complaint, as the mixture of button and touch screen options work really well and is better implemented here than in Season One, thanks in part to allowing the user to use either, or both at their own leisure. One of the big issues though does remain.

On the Vita version, Season One seemed to struggle to run, with long load times and scenes often stuttering at crucial points. Now this didn’t affect the enjoyment of the game as a whole, it was an annoyance. The same issues are here again, but they do seem to be a little less prevalent, but whether this will be the case all the way through remains to be seen, as it was more noticeable in later episodes of Season One, than the first few.

A game like The Walking Dead lives and dies on its story and characters and the fact that Season Two is more of the same is nothing but a good thing. If you enjoyed Season One, or you enjoy the graphic novels and TV series, then you will love the game. Tell Tale Games have struck gold yet again.

PlusCast May 2014

After some issues with the April podcast, Barry and Bradley are back for the May edition of the PlusCast.

We look at the April releases on PS+, have a few discussions on Free 2 Play, a potential future for sports games using PS+ and more. Before looking forward to May’s releases.

Leaving PS Plus:

Entering PS Plus:

So without any further delay:

PlusCast: May 2014

No Heroes Allowed: No Puzzles Either! Review

The Badman series of games may be one of the least known in the videogame world, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine series. Starting with ‘What Did I Do To Deserves This My Lord’ and its direct sequel, it was soon followed up by the excellent No Heroes Allowed. If you haven’t played these, then stop reading and go play them. All three can be found on the PSN store and are fully compatible with the Vita.

NHA: No Puzzles Either! has all the same humour associated with the original games, with you helping the bad guy rather than the heroes (hence the title and the series theme) but moves to a F2P and Match Three puzzle mechanic…Hold on, come back! Don’t let F2P scare you off just yet.

Before getting into the F2P mechanics of the game, let’s explore the game itself. What you have here is a game that uses a nice mix of Match Three and RPG elements to create a very well crafted and engaging experience. You essentially need to stop a series of heroes from reaching your dark lord, by matching the blocks to unleash monsters, who will in turn battle the heroes to the death. The more matches you make, the more monsters are unleashed, the quicker you kill those pesky heroes.

Every level you pass allows you to capture heroes and use them as you see fit. You can either put them to work in your mine so they can find loot and new monsters types, or use them to mix with existing monsters to level them up so they become more and more powerful, to the point of evolving them to new even more powerful types.

That is the basics of it, a really simple game to understand and to play. The Match Three works really well and by getting combos, you will see huge numbers of monsters attack the heroes as they try to make their way to your Dark Lord. Some of the earlier levels are easily beaten, but as you progress you see the need for the RPG style upgrades, as some heroes become extremely difficult to take down.

The core game is simply outstanding and very, very addictive, you could easily spend hours upon hours playing, upgrading, evolving and completely forget about everything going on in the real world around you.

Yet it has the Free to Play moniker attached to it, something that wasn’t part of the previous three titles. It is fair to say that F2P doesn’t exactly have the best of reputations, especially after the debacle that was the re-make(?) of Dungeon Keeper from EA, which was sickening in its approach.

Here though you have F2P done right. The game is free and can be played in its entirety for free and yes there are micro-transactions  that allow you to buy various boosts and such. You see, you can pretty much only have three plays every 24 hours, with new lives unlocked around every seven hours, which does restrict the amount of time you can play the main part of thegame at any one time. This can become rather frustrating as you get to later levels and find you need several attempts at passing them, or even if you do pass them, you will need to improve a C rating, to an A or S rating to unlock extra heroes.

The game even mocks you a bit during the tutorial levels, mentioning the various restrictions in place and how you can bypass these using COLD HARD CASH!!! Initially this may seem to be EA levels of extortion, but here is the thing. You ‘could’ buy the 69p-99p boosts, or for £7.99 you can just unlock the whole game. Doing this instantly removes the restrictions on how many times a day you can play, or how many heroes you can have working for you in the mine.

And do you know what? £7.99 for a game of this quality is a pure bargain and within 48 hours of first playing, you will be more than happy to hand over your money. The developers have essentially said “We are that confident that you will like our game, that we are happy to offer it for free, but know you’ll pay up”

This is what F2P should be. It should be a system where instead of a demo where you can only get so far, you can finish it for free, with the right amount and right type of restrictions in place. Such as here, where it limits the amount of time you can play per day for free. This is better than a pure demo, as you can still earn trophies and even finish the game, but should you like what you are playing you get the full experience when you pay up.

But it doesn’t try and make you pay a ridiculous price for the pleasure either. It isn’t trying to find the ‘whales’ who will spend hundreds of pounds over the true value of the game, just because they have no self control. They want you to spend your money, they want to earn a profit and they want the game to sell and the approach taken here is one of the best examples we have seen.

At first we had issues with the smaller boost packs, but again it makes sense. It is aimed at those who don’t feel the need to pay full price, those who are happy to play three times every 24 hours, but may need that extra little boost from time to time. It isn’t a game designed around paying to win and eventually if you feel you are going to pay 69p more than once or twice, it makes sense to spend the £7.99 for the full unlock. It is clever from a business point of view, but most importantly it isn’t insulting to the people who matter most…the consumer.

NHA: No Puzzles Either! is perfect handheld fodder, with levels lasting between 30 seconds to 5 minutes as a rule, making it a great title to turn to when you have a small window to play, but can also be enjoyed for much longer periods. It retains all the humour of the previous titles and is rammed full of charm.

A game that has really come out to little or no fanfare, is one of the best puzzle games to hit the Vita and in fact sits alongside Treasures Of Montezuma Blitz as the best of its type on the system (itself another F2P title). Pick this up now and see for yourself just how good it is and then spend your COLD HARD CASH to unlock the full game. Just make sure you get the previous titles too.

Starlight Inception Review

Starlight Inception comes to Vita off the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign, reaching its $150,000 target. Promoting itself as the ‘Rebellious step-child of Wing Commander’. Thus giving itself quite the standard to live up to. So where to start? 

There is plenty to complain about with Starlight Inception, but that won’t be the end of the story here. However, let’s start with the game’s issues.

Visually Starlight Inception is very rough around the edges and gone are the days where you can easily say “it’s an Indie game with a small team” because there have been some stunning looking games released by minuscule teams and even individuals. The problem with Starlight Inception in the visual department is that it appears the team have tried to be to adventurous and possibly stretched themselves too far.

It’s not just the main visuals that seem to be lacking either. The fonts used for menus, stats and subtitles are just very hard to read. Almost feeling like an after thought, which just should not be the case. Subtitles for example are very small and have a black background to them, but the padding around the background is almost non-existent with the text tight to the edges and even breaking out from the box, which just makes things look poor and amateurish. If this can be fixed with a patch, then it simply has to be.

In trying to create a world that is vast, they really needed to have models to match. Yet here you have ships, characters and locations that look low res and poorly designed. The cut-scenes look very poor and very budget indeed, to the point where you feel the game would have been better without them, or used a similar technique seen in games like Velocity Ultra, where they use an animated comic strip style, which allows them to get creative and bypass the issues that arise with creating 3D environments and filling those with 3D models.

Yet, Escape Hatch Entertainment has kind of made a rod for the their own back. In trying to create an immersive experience, they allow you to walk the halls of the ship you are on, which of course needs fully realised environments and then the experience needs to remain when you hit the cut scenes.

Being able to walk around a fully realised spaceship is a nice idea, but feels like a needless add-on to a game that doesn’t need it. It adds very little in actual fact and you soon want to be clear of these sections and getting into those space battles. Again by trying to push what they can do, the acted out cut-scenes are also lacking, the production values are just missing and not in a ‘so bad it is good’ way either. They just feel lackluster.

With that said though, the bread and butter of a game like this, will be in the combat and the action side of things and it does improve here to a degree. From the outset you will notice little nods to other space combat games of the past and you do get a feel of the sheer size of the environment, but again in trying to achieve something impressive things start to fall down a little again.

Because of the size of the combat environments, you never really feel part of the action. You often need to navigate to various checkpoints whilst engaging with enemy craft and what you find is that most of the combat isn’t reminiscent of dogfighting, as you’ll have taken down a target from quite a distance away.

In the earlier levels, we couldn’t even tell you what the enemy looked like, again because we were able to take them down from over a thousand feet away, just shooting at the markers on the screen. This meant that the action felt a bit cumbersome for the most part. Whereas we wanted fast and frantic, just like the scenes you’d see in Star Wars and the like. That is what you expect from a space combat sim, yet this felt more like a RTS without the actual RTS elements.

But here is the thing, despite all these issues, we found that we were still playing. In other games where the are a plethora of issues, you can’t wait to put it down, write it up and move on. Here though you can see a solid game trying to get out and despite most of the action taking place from distance, the mechanics are more than competent. On the odd occasion you do get up close and personal, you see just how fights are meant to take place. Having to lead the craft you are trying to take down, or making sure you lock on to fire a missile, which does work really well and does get exciting and frantic. It is just that this doesn’t happen often enough.

As you get further into the game, you do notice the action pick up a bit more and the missions are nice a varied, when you consider the setting and style of the game and there really are some nice touches. These are just outweighed at the moment by the negatives, making it harder to forgive the graphical issues or the problems with the bits inbetween the action.

Beyond the main campaign, there is a mode called Fly Patrol, which is a nice mix of pure space combat with tower defense elements, which is a little like an Orcs Must Die in space. This works well and again offers up some nice variation, but yet again is sandwiched between needless story elements.

There is also online multiplayer which puts you straight into pure combat in an online environment and is where the game shines the most, as you are given a nice mix of options, with a Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Protect The Flag and Capture The Flag variations. At the time of writing, it wasn’t easy to find games, but when we was able to jump in, it was great fun and felt more like how the main game should have been treated.

This should have been a game that showed what is possible on a Vita, bringing another genre to the system and hopefully opening the door for more games to follow. But it does fall short on doing that and it doesn’t feel like it is the fault of the system. What you have here is a game that was perhaps too ambitious for its own good and had it dialed back some of that ambition, it could have been a must have.

Controls too are fairly solid, with your craft easy to control and the attacking options making sense from the off. It would have been nice to have an option to invert the movement controls. but you soon get used to the defaults.

Yet, don’t be entirely dismissive of Starlight Inception, because as we mentioned, despite the issues, we were still more than happy to carry on playing and the relaxed nature of the combat here made this somewhat of a laid back game to unwind with. It just needed to be a lot tighter, doing away with a fair amount of the fluff that accompanies the main game.

If you are desperate for a space combat game, then Starlight Inception will just about scratch that itch, yet it is far from an essential purchase, which is a shame, because as we said, there is a very solid game held back by its own ambition.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

More and more we are seeing games that just wouldn’t have seen the light of day just a few short years ago. Games that would have had to been released at retail and sent out to die, or just not had publishers take the chance on them as they would be too much of a risk for them, thus possibly losing money.

Thank the Gods then, that over the past couple of years there has been a change in attitude, not just since the release of the PS4 and XBOX ONE, but since XBLA paved the way for smaller downloadable titles and showed there could be a market for them. Sony soon followed suit on PSN, but the Indie scene has just exploded in the past year of so and we are now getting games that were usually only available for PC users.

One such title is Octodad: Dadliest Catch, a game in which you control an Octopus who is trying to live a normal human life. Yes, that is the basic premise of this game, playing an Octopus disguised as a human, with a wife and kids, living in a nice suburban home. He has to make coffee, sort the garden, cook, clean and more.

It is easy to see why a game like this has needed a change in attitude from the decision makers at Sony to see the light of day on a console. It just isn’t an easy sell, not like the latest FPS, Sports game, Action or even JRPG. But here we have it and how thankful we should be that Octodad is gracing us with its presence, as it is a simply wonderful experience.

The game starts out with a very clever and funny tutorial level, with Octodad on his wedding day. It is this setup that allows you to get used to the basic controls, with combinations of buttons allowing for control of each individual limb. Look at it as something of a refined QWOP, as having to move Octodad around feel cumbersome and difficult initially, but soon you become very accustomed to the controls and…well still clumsily move around, knocking everything over as you go.

Levels are just a simple checklist of tasks for the most part. Asking you to go here, do this, give this item to this person, yet in its simplicity is also its challenge. What seem like at first fairly mundane and simple tasks become an exercise in concentration. You have to master the controls, otherwise you just won’t be able to push on. One such example is early in the game, where you need to retrieve a frozen pizza from a freezer in a supermarket. Yet the doors are frozen shut, with just the far one being open. Using the techniques learned early in the game, you make your way through the freezers to the pizza and viola! You have finished another task.

Some of the tasks are pure puzzle, take your time and work out what you need to do, before moving on. Yet being an octopus disguised as a human has its drawbacks. There are some people out to get you, for whatever reason. This creates the odd set-piece within each level, that require you to act a lot more quickly, thus ramping up the challenge, as you go from calm and methodical, to outright panic at times. This change of pace works really well and will keep you on your toes.

Everything about Octodad should make for a game you spend a few moments with, then move on. It is fairly repetitive in its approach, but for some reason you cannot put the controller down, you want to push on constantly and you will have a wonderful time with it.

A big part of this is due to the writing, whilst not big or clever, it is incredibly funny and just with the main content either. As you move around a level, you will hear many of the NPCs speaking and commenting and they are worth listening to, as you will find yourself giggling along as you hear the little quips throughout. But the main ‘story’ is really well put together and considering that this is a rather basic game, the conversations and setups are wonderfully done.

The visuals also play a part, as Octodad takes place in a fully realised 3D environment and has an art style that blurs the lines between what you think an Indie game should look like and what one can look like. It is big, bold and colourful and just has a ton of charm. The physics work really well and add to the lunacy of the game as a whole. As you trip over everyday items, knock every around you scatty and generally cause a mess. This could easily have been something that felt a bit half arsed, but again the quality shines through.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch isn’t a system seller, but if you already own a PS4, it is a game you must buy, because it is just so different it must be experienced. What could have felt like a tech demo, or an experiment, turns out to be so much more. A well rounded game, that will give you so much joy when playing.

CODEMASTERS® REVEALS GRID AUTOSPORT

Today Codemasters® announced that the next racing game in the award-winning GRID series will be GRID Autosport, set to ship on 24th June in the USA and release on June 27th in Europe for the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Windows® PC from Steam and for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system.

GRID Autosport will bring alive the experience of becoming a professional racing driver in a new world of contemporary and classic motorsport. Drawing in spirit from classic Codemasters titles such as the TOCA series, developed in conjunction with community feedback and retaining the core GRID focus of ‘being all about the race’, gamers will experience a world of breadth, of depth, of intensity and of course, of the excitement that only racing cars can deliver.

Gamers can see GRID Autosport in action in a new gameplay video now playing at www.youtube.com/gridgame.

Racing alongside a teammate, players must overcome key rivals and satisfy team sponsors in ferocious races where every pass and position counts. In GRID Autosports huge career, gamers will specialise in their favourite racing discipline or conquer them all; players will feel the aggression of the pack in Touring Cars, manage tyre wear and race into the night in Endurance events, race Open-Wheel cars with precision, show car control in Tuner events and react on the fly in Street races.

Each unique category features series dedicated to different classes, including Touring Cars, Hypercars, Endurance GT Cars, Prototypes, Single-Seaters, Super Modified vehicles, Drift cars and many, many more. Bursting with content, GRID Autosport features over 100 routes across 22 incredible locations and the world’s most exciting contemporary and classic high-performance racing cars to collect, tune and upgrade.

GRID Autosports features and tone have been shaped through consultation with the GRID community, professional racing drivers and the experts from AUTOSPORT magazine. This includes the return of an in-car view and the most authentic handling in a GRID game yet. Multiplayer racing is extended by RaceNet, Codemasters’ free million member strong online community portal, which will deliver new challenges every week from launch and sees the introduction of all-new RaceNet Racing Clubs for online, clan-style team competition. Party modes, Demolition Derby and competitive split-screen modes all complement the game’s extensive career mode and expansive core online game.

GRID Autosport delivers the most amount of content in the series yet and a truly authentic motorsport feel, but does not lose sight of what makes a GRID game a GRID game – it’s all about the race.

“The design philosophy behind GRID Autosport was to create a really focussed racing game,” said James Nicholls, Chief Games Designer, GRID Autosport. “We’ve jettisoned anything that doesn’t support the on-track competition and we’ve chosen a selection of cars and tracks that will give players a range of different racing experiences. That variety is crucial. There are five very distinct ways to race – this isn’t a game where basically every race is the same and the cars and tracks change. You need to adjust your tactics and learn different techniques to succeed in each racing discipline and each car has its own character too. Our AI will act and react in different ways depending not just on how you race, but the style of racing you are competing in and that’s vital in authentically capturing the feel of say, Touring Cars compared to Open-Wheel Racing.”

In developing GRID Autosport, Codemasters consulted extensively with the GRID Community, professional racing drivers and the racing experts from AUTOSPORT magazine.

TOCA Race Driver 3 was an office favourite back in the day, so when Codemasters said they wanted to take the series back to its core fan-base we got stuck in to help,” said Simon Strang, AUTOSPORT.  “Many of our guys that helped with the handling are either former racers and / or active amateurs, but their deep and ingrained knowledge of all levels of motorsport, from so many weekends spent in far-flung paddocks meant that Codemasters were able to extract aspects of knowledge and understanding that otherwise would slip by. The other thing is that while you want the cars to feel authentic, you don’t necessarily want to spend hours mastering it – that’s what real racing is for. You want that experience of racing. We hope that the balance is struck right for the players of GRID Autosport and that is certainly what we aimed to help with. The diversity of cars and tracks is another factor we were delighted by and the return of traditional touring car series and classic tracks is great news for racing fans.”

GRID Autosport will also be Codemasters most scalable game yet on PC. On high-performance set ups, GRID Autosport offers 4K textures, 4K output support and delivers a 1080P, 60 frames per second racing experience. However, the game has been optimised for performance excellence on the widest range of hardware for the widest range of PC players yet. The Codemasters PC development team has also benefited from a relationship with Intel that has delivered a range of further benefits for players on Intel® hardware, including for the first time, tablets.

“Through close co-operation with Codemasters, we are breaking new ground on optimising GRID Autosport running on Intel Architecture,” said Richard Huddy, Chief Gaming Evangelist, Intel. “Put simply, we have expanded the range of devices GRID Autosport will support – the game performs beautifully on PCs with processor graphics solutions and for the first time on Intel  Atom™ based tablets too. It’s a game changer in this respect, as AAA console quality gaming arrives on Intel powered Windows Tablets – bringing truly dramatic results. At the top end of the performance spectrum, GRID Autosport is setting the bar higher too. Order Independent Transparency, Volumetric shadows and advanced HDR rendering powered by Intel’s Pixel Shader Ordering Extensions are just some of the advanced technical features that serve to put gamers in the race like never before.”

GRID Autosport will be available for Xbox 360, PLAYSTATION 3 and Windows PC. Fans can keep up with all the latest updates straight from the studio by speeding over to www.gridgame.com and www.facebook.com/gridgame or follow the team at www.twitter.com/gridgame.

MovieStyle: Wing Commander

For £5.99 Netflix is an utter delight filled with countless hours of great movies and TV shows, but lurking underneath, there’s a dark hole. For every wonderful piece of entertainment, there’s a Hellraiser VII just around the corner. And I’ve found myself watching an awful lot of rubbish, purely because it’s there, one click away. If you look at my Recently Watched list it’s a cause of shame and embarrassment with gems like Breaking Bad buried in the middle of The Crow: Salvation and Saw: The Final Chapter. Which brings me to the Wing Commander movie! It was quite recently added to Netflix UK, it’s based on a video game, so why not give it a review and see if it’s as terrible now as it was fifteen years ago. Spoiler: It is.

The most curious thing about Wing Commander is it’s directed by Chris Roberts, the creator of the video game. So you’d at least think it’d be incredibly faithful to the source material, but it isn’t. The main antagonists of the film (The Kilrathi) have had a design overhaul and characters have changed in nationality, bearing zero resemblance to the actors who portrayed them in the game. For instance, replacing Biff Tannen himself (Tom Wilson) with Mathew Lillard is a terrible piece of miscasting. In fact, all the characters are utterly terrible. The acting being on par with the Wing Commander games, but without the wink wink nudge nudge “yeah, we know this is hammy over the top nonsense” that was so endearing.

I wish I had a better grasp on the story so I could explain. Basically, it’s humanity vs aliens with Freddie Prinze Jr taking over the role of Christopher Blair from Mark Hamill. A blank slate of a character who we find out is half-pilgrim. Pilgrims being these sort of terrorist-like people who fought against…something. I only watched this film a couple of days ago and it’s already, mostly escaped from my memory. The main plot point I can remember is the Kilrathi have captured a navigation computer from a ship they blew up, and in doing so have the location to Earth. With the clock ticking it’s up to Blair and his buddies to save the day.

Say what you will about the likes of Doom, Street Fighter etc, at least those movies had memorable scenes, Wing Commander has nothing. It’s just so, unbelievably boring. During one point in the movie the audience is supposed to care about the fate of a certain character, but we don’t. Because the relationships all feel so fake, not to mention the outcome being guessed as soon as the character is introduced.

You’d think with a space-based action movie the space battles would at least fare better, right? Yeah, not so much. These follow the same lifeless pattern as the rest of the movie. The special effects aren’t terrible (for a movie made in 1999 at least), but the direction lacks the excitement you’d want from these scenes. You’re also really never given a lead antagonist. The Kilrathi exist as one giant being, there’s not really one standout character who you can call the leader. It’s also strange how for a large part of the movie all you see are spaceships, without a single Kilrathi actually on screen. Maybe they were embarrassed by how they look? I mean, they don’t look great, and differ a little from their game incarnation, but the scenes are lit in such a way that it does hide the costumes a little. At least until they get shot by a boarding party later on in the movie, it’s at this point they fall back like mannequins pulled over with a piece of string.

There’s not much else to say really. A lot of the video game adaptations fall into the so bad they’re good region, Wing Commander doesn’t even come close to that. It’s so bad it’s just plain boring. Maybe if it had an actual director at the helm they’d have been able to inject some life into proceedings, but as it stands Wing Commander isn’t worth any of your time.

Dead Nation Review

Housemarque’s twin stick zombie shooter has already graced the PS3 and PS4, now it’s the Vita’s turn to get a slice of the undead pie. And while there are plenty of games out there that have made the console to handheld transition with relative ease, Dead Nation goes to show that it doesn’t always go according to plan.

Let’s start by saying, while not setting our world alight, the PS3 Dead Nation was a pretty decent game. Taking control of one of the two lead characters, the game played out like an isometric Left 4 Dead, but our main issue was just how dark and small everything seemed. Now if everything appeared small on a big television screen, imagine what it’s like on the Vita.

Certain zombie types are incredibly hard to spot until they’re feasting on your flesh and while you’re given a torch on the end of your gun, it doesn’t really do a great job of lighting your surrounding area. This would probably be great with a traditional survival horror game, not one where action seems to be its main focus. On top of this there seems to be a slight issue with the audio that we cannot remember being present in the original version. At times, usually when there’s a lot of action on screen the gunshot sound wouldn’t play, which led to an awful lot of confusion as to whether the gun was actually firing or not.

You could say Dead Nation is not a twin sticks shooter in the traditional sense. While the left stick is indeed used for movement and the right for aim, you’re still using the R trigger to fire, which when you’re down to the default, unlimited ammo rifle, it’s enough to make your hands seize up in pain. Best played in short bursts then, it’s good that the game has a generous checkpoint system.

It may sound like we’re being really down on Dead Nation, but there are some neat ideas in there. Collecting money to buy upgrades and finding hidden armour pieces add some depth to what is usually a shallow genre, and it is mechanically very solid, but these aren’t enough to stave off the repetition that will soon set in. New zombie types are introduced, some of which also bring comparisons to Left 4 Dead, but they don’t exactly require any strategy that isn’t used for the standard undead horde. Just grab whatever weapon you have handy whether it’s a flamethrower or SMG and just blast away until they fall down. The environment can be used to your advantage though, with exploding canisters and even car alarms (something else that reminds us of Left 4 Dead) that can be utilised to attack zombies and then explode

One thing you can’t criticise is how well presented it all is. With some nice music and one of the best opening intro movies we’ve seen. And the ability to see where your country ranks on the zombie killing scale is a nice little feature. Of course, online co-op is also present and accounted for, but really playing it with another person still doesn’t do enough to stop the boredom that sets in after about half an hour.

If you have the choice between picking up Dead Nation on PS3, PS4 or Vita, then the Vita version should be the last one to consider. What was a decent if unspectacular game on consoles becomes a frustrating experience when shrunk onto the handheld. At least if you already own it on PS3 then it’s free on Vita, which is something.

Demon Gaze Review

The Vita is about to become the home of the JRPG, it started with the popularity of Persona 4 Golden in the West and the flood gates are about to open. Demon Gaze is a title that many have looked forward to, however it probably shouldn’t be your first foray into the genre.

Demon Gaze is a non-direct sequel of sorts to 2010’s Students of the Round. This game though is set thousands of years after its predecessor and has a completely new story with very little in common, bar the gameplay. You take on the role of a Demon Gazer named Oz, who, for various reasons has taken over the role from Lorna and needs to venture through the various dungeons to hunt and capture the demons, find loot and pay his rent to stay in his room given by Fran the bartender.

It takes a fair old while for the story to start to make sense, even after being introduced to the many odd characters within the game. Even with a fair amount of confusion early on, the characters themselves and the writing are rather endearing and likable, with plenty of humour thrown into the mix. Yet some caution is needed as to where and when you play Demon Gaze, as there is no shying away from the sexualising of the characters.

Women’s clothing is more than revealing and there are many scenes where you may feel more comfortable watching actual porn, than playing Demon Gaze, as there is plenty of flesh on display and characters, especially the female ones, seem quite keen to remove their clothes. That said, apart from some early inhibitions, it soon becomes part of the norm.

This really isn’t a game for showing off what the Vita can do. It isn’t going to sway casual crowd and become the killer app to make them want to own a Vita. But why should it? This is a game that knows exactly what it is and what crowd it is playing to. And the early shocks with the visual design, shouldn’t distract from what is actually a very competent and challenging title.

The game play is split between dungeon crawling and relationship building, but for those who enjoyed P4G, they will find this side of it is a bit lighter and less important. Away from dungeons it is usually a case of reporting back, speaking to various characters and getting new quests, all fairly standard stuff designed to drive the story forward. Which it does rather well, even if the opening hours can seem a little drawn out.

In the dungeons, the game is played in a first person view. You move around finding your way to your next quest. It is all pretty simple and has an auto-mapping feature, which comes in pretty handy as there are many alternate paths and secrets to be found, Many of which can only be accessed one you have leveled up, found certain equipment, or have the right demons captured.

Initially dungeons will feel quite small and thus make the game feel fairly small, but as you progress further, the sheer size of dungeons and the amount there is to map becomes evident. There will be a large amount of retracing steps, as you go from the inn to you next quest and back again. But this is fine, as there are always plenty of battles to be had en-route.

Battles are a mix of random and pre-placed with many becoming rather simple to get past after you have leveled up a few times, but the Demons you have to take on are fantastically hard, you really need to understand strengths and weaknesses to succeed, which you won’t first time out, nor second time and probably a bit beyond that.

It is a game that requires a fair amount of grinding, but again that is fine, because the battle system works. It is fairly simple, with an option to attack, defend, use skills or items, all as part of your strategy. You can equip weapons, armour and various other items to help your character be the best they can.

You aren’t going it alone though, as there is a party system that should help you along the way, but you do need to earn the extra party members. This is done by buying and renting rooms at the inn for your party to stay at. It is a nice little system and one that works well, allowing you to decide how best to raise the cash to afford the rooms and the rent.

Throughout the dungeons there are also various ‘Circles’, where you can use gems you have collected to summon monsters. Win the battle here and you are rewarded with new items, that can either be useful for battle, or sold back at the inn to raise more money. Again how you use the money is up to you, but you do need to be wise about it. The Circles you win battles at, also become controlled by you, controlling all the circles in an area allows you to then take on the main Demon. Luckily controlled circles also act as a save point, as you will find your self praising the developers for this minor touch, as you will return to them time and time again.

The main issue with Demon Gaze, is that despite each aspect of the game being fairly simple in nature, it can be a little daunting for newcomers to the genre. As from even an early stage, the game doesn’t shy away from the challenge, with battles designed not to be a walkover, this is true even if you put the game on the easiest setting.

That said, it is the challenging nature of the game that really makes it satisfying to play in the long run. There were a couple of early Demons in the game, that were retried more times than we can remember, however when they were finally overcome, there was a feeling of real achievement and in actual fact, despite the numerous retries, the game never once felt frustrating.

If you are a fan of the JRPG genre and enjoy dungeon crawling, then this is very much a great game, you’ll get stuck in and find yourself lost to the game’s quirky charms. However, if you are dabbling in the genre for the first time, it really isn’t the game for you, there are others out there better suited. That doesn’t stop this being a wonderful experience for those who do get it.

LEGO The Hobbit Review

Fact (not really a fact). There have been a thousand LEGO games released since 2012! Whilst that isn’t really true, it certainly feels like there have been a constant stream of new LEGO games, with The Hobbit being the third since the release of Next-Gen consoles in November 2013, following on from LEGO Marvel Superheroes and The LEGO Movie Videogame.

In general LEGO The Hobbit follows the same recipe as previous LEGO games. Move through a central hub, find missions, smash stuff, complete mission, do more things in a central hub, rinse and repeat. But let us face it, it is a formula that works and try as we might, it is hard not to enjoy a LEGO game, regardless of the skin it has applied.

Credit where credit is due though, with LEGO The Hobbit, just like in The LEGO Movie Videogame, there are attempts to introduce a new mechanic to the series. Here it is looting, where rather than just smashing up items to build new ones, you have to collect the loot that is dropped from the various bits you have smashed up in the usual way.

Collecting these bits of loot will allow you to then build the required item at designated areas of a level, a key here, a bridge there and so on. In truth this just adds an additional level of activity without offering anything really that new, it isn’t like a Minecraft where you can use various different found materials to create something specific based on what you have and there is no real discovery, as what you need to build will nine times out of ten be covered by what you have already found.

It needs to be like that though, as if there was a chance you may not have the correct materials, the structured levels wouldn’t be possible to complete, which simply wouldn’t work for a LEGO game, as its simplicity is part of the charm. Being able to play with all members of the family, young and old, no matter their experience.

There will be times where you may not have what you need right away, but you can be sure that you will get the right parts by smashing up a bit more of the area you are in. Whilst it sounds like we are down on this as a mechanic, it is something that younger players will enjoy and something we found out first hand when playing with a young child. They liked that they had collected what they needed, or needed to explore that little bit more around the area.

But that is just it with a LEGO game, seasoned gamers may well be getting a bit of fatigue with them, but there is no doubting the enjoyment a child will get and in turn, that makes the whole experience a much more rewarding one.

LEGO The Hobbit follows the story of the books and films well and again, as with previous titles has just the right mix of faithful adaptation and creative license, the writing is done well and the humour hits all the right notes. It has the full cast of the film doing the voices for the characters, which helps bring the world to life and for those that have seen the films, it does feel like a nice extension, rather than a cheap tie-in.

As has become the norm in LEGO games, there are various quests opened up as you progress that can be played at any time from the open world hub, with these being completely optional, they do become a fun distraction from the formulaic structure of the main story progression and much like most of the recent LEGO games, it becomes a much more enjoyable experience when played in Co-op.

As with all PS4 games, this has to be Remote Play compatible and thanks to the simple nature of the controls in a LEGO game, playing on a Vita is just like playing the game natively. This again make co-op play all that much easier, as you can even play with someone whilst you are away from the home.

LEGO The Hobbit is a cross-gen game and despite the addition of remote-play there isn’t anything that really stands out between this and the PS3 version when looked at separately. That said, the visuals are lovely and it can often be under-appreciated just how well done they are, just go back and look at some of the earlier LEGO games on the PS3 or 360 and see how far they have come over the years.

Is LEGO The Hobbit a must have title? Not at all and if you haven’t worked through the other two LEGO releases on PS4, then it is hard to tell you to put those to the side and pick this up immediately. However if you have a family and you have worked through the other games, then you won’t go wrong by picking this up, because it is a LEGO game and the fun factor is still there.

MLB 14: The Show Review

Baseball. It is America’s favourite game apparently and The Show has long been the best of the best for showcasing the sport on games consoles. Whilst the NBA 2K series has been the darling of gamers for how a sports game should be presented, it is the this series that has probably been the bench mark for a simulation of its chosen sport.

The thing with The Show, is that it just isn’t for casuals at all. In fact, if you have little to no knowledge of Baseball, then getting to grips with this game is extremely difficult. It throws statistics, sayings and more at you like you should already know what they mean and despite having various options of difficulty, unless you know how Baseball is played, you will become lost very easily indeed.

From the outside looking in, Baseball appears to be a very simple sport. A pitcher will throw a ball and the batter will try to hit it. They will either hit it well enough to get to a base, or hit it so well they get a home-run. Failing that they will get struck out, caught, thrown out, etc. Yet Baseball is a much deeper game than that, with a lot relying on understanding how you opponent will react to certain situations.

Will the pitcher you are facing deliberately throw a pitch out of the strike zone when ahead in the count? What pitch will they throw if they have thrown two balls and two strikes. Will the current batter try to drive runs home if there are guys on base? Will they bunt to advance a runner into a scoring position for the next batter to do the damage? Much of the game is played in the mind, or against the statistics, rather than hit and hope.

Whilst there have been other games that allow for this more simplistic idea, such as The Bigs or the now very retro RBI Baseball. The Show unashamedly recreates the game of Baseball to almost perfection. It doesn’t hide the fact it wants its players to have an understanding of the real game and if anything it basks its difficulty.

There have been attempts made to speed the game up, such as the quick count mode, which starts each at bat deep into the count. 3-1, 2-2, 2-1, etc, which then see you as the batter pretty much having to decide on a hit or taking a ball. It does away with a lot of the early pitch mind games usually involved with each at bat. This is a nice way to maybe get through some regular season games in quick time, but it does take away from some of the more in depth areas of the game. For newcomers too, it doesn’t really help them understand how to get to that point. But for playing on the Vita, maybe during a lunch break at work or on a small journey, it does allow for some on the go Baseball and does make it a nice addition to the series.

The Vita version is cut down from the PS3 and upcoming PS4 releases though, but does contain the more important modes. Road to the Show (RTTS) is included and feels a lot more rounded than in previous years. You start as a rookie and the idea is to become the best player in the majors, just like in NBA’s My Player, or NHL’s Be A Pro modes.

What is different and what we actually liked, was that the scenarios you would get from each at bat, or fielding moment have gone. Rather than getting specific tasks, you are simply rewarded on how your at-bat has gone. Get struck out in three pitches and you will have a bad at bat. Get struck out, but force the pitcher to throw plenty of pitches and you’ll get a better rating. Drive in a home-run with the bases loaded and you be rewarded even more.

Now whilst it may be argued that having individual tasks at set moments may be more realistic, having this freedom works. One of the biggest issues we found with previous versions was that you would be to work a full count, but the pitcher would then throw the sort of pitches that made this either very difficult, or nigh on impossible, resulting in a negative rating. So here, if you are walked in 4 pitches, you aren’t then punished for not being able to drive a run home at the request of a coach.

Other modes are all intact, such as the franchise and season modes, along with a Homer Run Derby mode. The HR Derby can be played either offline or online and is a nice distraction from the main modes, yet this is the only online mode on the Vita release which is a tad disappointing.

What is nice is that RTTS and both the season and franchise modes are cross-save, which is perfect for a game like this. Being able to play the bulk of your games on the home console versions, but then carry on a couple of games out of the house, or in bed works really well. Especially as there is so much content on offer in sports games like these and should really be the benchmark for all future releases of any sports game.

We felt great playing our pre-season games on the Vita whilst away for a weekend, before playing the opening day on the PS3, before playing the next couple of games back on the Vita whilst the main TV was taken up for other activities. The cross-save works really well too, with you saving the games as normal, then choosing to upload to the cloud to pick up on the console of choice.

Another thing that impresses here is the dynamic difficulty, which adjusts the game’s tendencies based on how you play. In previous released it was difficult to find a balance, especially for someone who kind of gets the sport, but isn’t exactly an expert. With dynamic difficulty the game works out across a number of games how you play and how well you perform and adjusts the sliders as needed. This meant that at no point was the game too difficult or even too easy. It felt like it was balanced right all the time, a slump was a slump and hot streak was a hot streak, with none of this being because we had adjusted the sliders ourselves to help.

MLB 14: The Show will not be for everyone, it isn’t a game for the casual gamer. It is a game for fans of the sport and for those it is the perfect game to have, especially with the cross-save features that mean you are never away from the action for any longer than you need to be. As good a sports simulation as you can get.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING GETS BIGGER AND BOLDER WITH MAGIC 2015: DUELS OF THE PLANESWALKERS

APRIL 2014 – RENTON, WA – The time has come for gamers to Hunt Bigger Game. Wizards of the Coast today announced Magic 2015—Duels of the Planeswalkers, the latest installment for the popular Duels of the Planeswalkers franchise and the first version to release on the new next-generation gaming console, Xbox One. Starting this summer, Magic 2015 will put players at the centre of the action as the deadliest hunter in the Magic Multiverse, Garruk Wildspeaker, shifts his hunter’s instinct away from beasts of the wild to the ultimate quarry—you!

5. EN-Deck management

Magic 2015—Duels of the Planeswalkers will take the game to a whole new level, deeply engaging fans like never before. With new features including the ability to build customised decks, new booster packs with premium downloadable content, and an even more robust deck builder, players will take on their fiercest opponents culminating in the ultimate battle against Garruk. Magic 2015 will offer gamers the perfect way to start playing the world’s best strategy trading card game priming them for even more action with the upcoming Magic 2015 Core Set. In addition to the Xbox One, Magic 2015 will be also be available on Xbox Live Arcade, iPad via the App Store, PC via Steam, Android via GooglePlay, and Kindle via Amazon Marketplace.*

Please visit MagicTheGathering.com for the latest news and updates and follow Magic on Facebook and Twitter.

New Child of Light Trailer Released

We at Gamestyle are very excited for Ubisoft’s upcoming Child of Light and you should be too. Everything about the game screams quality and shows off just how the UbiArt framework allows developers to unleash their creativity. Which can be seen perfectly in the World of Lemuria.

Take a look at the latest trailer:

 

The Evil Within: Putting the horror back in Survival Horror

Today some new footage has been released of the eagerly anticipated The Evil Within. And boy, does it look good.

From the creator of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami, the new trailer definitely has a classic Resident Evil feel. The graphics, over the shoulder perspective and even shooting mechanics look very RE4. Yet while that series shifted towards a more action orientated route, The Evil Within looks to be returning to a more horror focus.

Here’s the new trailer:

The Evil Within is out on 29th August for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

UFC gets Bruce Lee as a playable character….because why not?

You’d think it was still April Fool’s, but today EA have announced that Bruce Lee will be joining the new UFC game.

People who pre-order UFC for Xbox One and Playstation 4 will get the legendary Bruce Lee as a playable character. “I feel like this is the most ridiculous question,” creative director Brian Hayes said. “Why put Bruce Lee in a UFC game? It’s. Bruce. Lee…”

“You have the premier organization in the fastest growing sport in the world, the UFC; and the most iconic martial artist in the history of the world, Bruce Lee – a martial artist renowned for his philosophies that laid the groundwork for modern mixed martial arts. I can’t conceive of a universe where bringing these two things together doesn’t make sense. I know there are going to be countless fans that feel the exact same way and they will be eager play with such a legend in the UFC Octagon. I am one of them.”

As you can see from the below trailer, it all looks like something special indeed.

UFC arrives 17th June for Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Looking Back: Mega Man X

It’s weird that a console featuring the likes of Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country amongst others, the one platformer that took over my life the most was Mega Man X. Since it came out way back in 93, I’ve bought the SNES original twice, followed by the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console versions and finally the PSP remake (Maverick Hunter X), so yeah; I’m a bit of a fan. What had once become stale had new life injected into it and to this day is one of my favourite games of all time.

The core concept of Mega Man X remains the same, following a short intro stage you’re then given a stage select with eight robots (now known as Mavericks) to face. Defeating each will give new series protagonist X a specific weapon; with some Mavericks being weaker to certain weapons it once again brings this tactical edge of choosing the easiest route through the levels. Built around this familiar framework, Mega Man X brings a number of new elements that revitalise the once stagnant series.

The most obvious introduction right from the opening level is the introduction of new character Zero. Here’s a fun fact, originally the idea was for Zero to be the start of the X series, but I guess Capcom got cold feet and wanted a more traditional looking Mega Man design to front the series, reducing Zero to sidekick status. But a great character nonetheless, who would eventually get his own series further down the road.

Aside from newly introduced characters the way levels themselves would interact with each other made choosing your path through the game even more interesting. For instance, beating Chill Penguin would result in Flame Mammoth’s stage being completely frozen allowing you to simply walk across what would otherwise be deadly lava. This is something that really never got utilised the same way again. It gave another reason to plan the best path through the bosses. Also, with altering these levels it more often than not aids you in finding certain upgrades, energy tanks to use if you find yourself low on energy, heart containers to increase maximum health and most importantly, new suit pieces.

If you happen to own the original SNES box then you would notice the character of X looking a little different than his Mega Man predecessor. Although starting off in traditional blue, there capsules scattered across the levels that contain armour upgrades. As well as new abilities, from taking less damage to more powerful weapons, these also come with a nice, new shade of white. Collect them all and the “blue bomber” would be blue no more.

Mega Man X is such a tight experience, that while can be completed in one afternoon session if you know what you’re doing, everything from the level design to just the music will keep bringing you back to finish it all over again. And I did, time after time, it almost became a yearly tradition. To this day the music has become so engrained in me that I can recall certain themes instantly. It’s such a well-designed experience that you can tell so much love and care was gone into each factor. A far cry from today where Capcom seem to treat Mega Man as an embarrassment that remains locked away in a vault along with Power Stone and Onimusha.

Not to end this walk down memory lane on a downer, but it’s sad the X series eventually went the same way as the original, with the series suffering a similar fate as staleness set in. Not surprising when there are eight games in the main series, not to mention a few other spin-offs, like the surprisingly not that bad JRPG game Command Mission. With its availability in a variety of forms, from the Wii U/Wii Virtual Console to the solid PSP remake there are plenty of ways to track down a version rather than spend the ridiculous prices the original seems to fetch on eBay (£70 is a bit steep even for a game as good as this). And even just over a decade since its release, it’s still one of the best platformers around.

Fez Review

Alomst every gamer must know about Fez. A game that was originally released on XBLA around two years ago and was a bit of a focal point of the documentary Indie Game: The Movie. It has been through a bit of a development hell and release dates were pushed further and further back. It got to a point where there was even a little bit of a backlash from fans. It’s creator Phil Fish divided opinion and became somewhat of a controversial figure over the past few years.

That said, when Fez finally released it proved the wait was worth it and here at Gamestyle, we were massive fans. It is hard to think now, that this game was a big deal, an Indie game that had AAA following. Going back just a couple of years and the Indie movement on consoles was still new, they weren’t the industry darling, but here we had a game that was built from the ground up by a very small team and it was as well known as the latest Call Of Duty in many circles.

It really is a fantastic game too, with players taking on the role of Gomez, a 2D character who lives in a 2D world, before his life it turned upside down and he is shown that there is something beyond his realm. The world around him is actually 3D, thus setting him on a journey of discovery.

Whilst the mechanics in Fez aren’t completely unique, having seen similar in games such as Crush, it is how well the 2D and 3D work together that makes this stand out. Rather than just switching you between 2D and 3D, you actually only play in 2D, which keeps the game mechanics on the players end simple and understandable. The 3D element comes in by allowing the user to rotate the world and start to show areas of the world that would have been previously unseen. Thus allowing new elements to open up. Ladders to get to higher area, doors to hidden rooms, or even changing where a platform is reachable from.

Fez walks the line between puzzler and platformer remarkably well, and whilst there is a fair amount of traversal around levels, it is the puzzle elements that really stand out. Working out how to reach a certain area, or what what you may have missed whilst trying find those remaining cubes. To even finding hidden areas and secrets that open up the world of Fez even further.

Yet the gameplay mechanics and the story that drive it are only part of the charm. The world of Fez is simply beautiful, it is a lesson that shows what can be done with old ideals with added power. Years ago 2D games were made out of necessity, 16bit consoles wouldn’t cope with full on 3D worlds. Then, they were forgotten, as more power meant this became possible. However not without its problems, games had more bugs, graphics looked a lot poorer and that beauty was lost.

In games like Fez though, there is an outstanding amount of attention to detail. Every little block seems to have been lovingly created, the colours burst from the screen and especially on the Vita’s OLED display, it just pops. In fact, it is the design of the levels and the attention to detail in that design that keeps you there, you never actually want to leave, you can happily lose yourself for hours on end.

Now as we said, this is a 2 year old game that is now seeing a release on PSN, but having it open to a wider audience who may have missed out first time around in no bad thing. It is cross-buy and cross-save here too. We recommend playing on the Vita for the most part, is we really cannot state enough, just how wonderful it looks on ‘Dat Screen’.

The Cross-Save deserves a mention too, as it is the best implementation so far. You have a choice of four save slots in the game. 1-3 which are local and a Cross-Save slot. We choose that, as we wanted to test the game across the three platforms. Starting on the Vita, we got to a point in the game and saved. Then booting up the PS4 version, that save was in the Cross-Save slot instantly and we could carry on. Played some more, then back to the Vita. There it was, updated and ready to carry on. Where other games have had Cross-Save which has been a bit cumbersome, this is just works. So kudos to the development team for that.

So what of Fez? Who is it for? The answer to that is everyone. If you haven’t played before, then you must pick it up instantly, hell even if you played and completed, it is the sort of game that you will be happy to play through again. If you get it on PSN, you don’t even need to settle on a single platform, what we can say is that the PSN release if the definitive version of Fez. Stop what you are doing and buy it now.