Worms Battlegrounds Review

As a series, Worms is now 19 years old (so we expect an anniversary edition next year!) and has seen a huge number of new releases and spin-offs. But it seems that the each new one offers very little new to push the series further. 

That is pretty much the case with Worms Battlegrounds, retaining the tried and tested 2D turn based tactical battle mechanics of the 1995 release. It also seems to cherry pick some elements from many of the recent releases, such as clans from Clan Wars and the classes introduced in Revolution.

The point of the game is still to go into a level and destroy the opposing team, using an ever increasing selection of weapons. In Battlegrounds there are over 60 to choose from and we must admit, the sheer volume of weapons on offer is starting to feel a little bit like overkill. More often than not, you’ll find yourself using the same over and over, finding a few that best fit your own strategy.

As with most recent versions of the game, there is a dedicated single player mode, along with the various multiplayer options. In Battlegrounds the is a story of sorts designed to push you through the numerous levels. however, this feels a tad annoying, with the female narrator grating rather quickly.

It is a shame, as the progression of the story mode does a decent job of introducing new players to the game’s mechanics. Veterans of the series will maybe find the single player tedious and want to jump straight into the multiplayer.

Thanks to the introduction of online over the past few years, Worms can be played online and runs pretty well, again retaining the usual formula of games of old. Up to four players can take part in a battle, with modes split across just the two variations. Deathmatch, which has the usual setup, with your various team members spread randomly across the map.

Forts is pretty much the same set up, but each of your worms start in a home base and if we are being honest, we much prefer the original setup of Deathmatch, as it can take a long time for any real action to get going in forts mode.

You’ll likely want to use the clans feature to try and get regular games with people you know, because as per usual the AI isn’t the greatest and does feel like you are just going through the motions. That is because Worms is at its best when played with other people. Because people make real people mistakes, will do something out of the ordinary and well, it is always better to beat a real person than it is an arbitrary AI opponent.

Where the game still shines though is local multiplayer. This is where the game was born and where it is best. Thanks to remote play, you can play with a mix of Dual Shock and Vita and the game does translate really well to the small screen and let us not kid around here, giving some verbal abuse to someone in the same room when you destroy their Worms with a sheep will never get old.

As much as the basic game is as you will remember, the best addition to the recent entries in the series is classes, as these allow you to set up a team to your own strategies. The various classes offer what you’d expect, with some being better for attacking, others that can take more damage, that sort of thing. This is where the single player can come in handy, as you work out your strategies and test your team setups without having to test and lose online.

As usual with Worms, there are a ton of customisation options, from the usual changing of Worm names, team names and dressing up your characters. It does enough for you to give your team the personal touch. This extends to clans also, allowing you to customise a clan logo, create messages to send to other clans and try to create a rivalry online.

If you are new to the Worms series, or if you have done away with any of your previous generation consoles, then Battlegrounds is a great place to start, or update to. However, if you are still playing older iterations, it doesn’t really offer enough to warrant you moving on.

Worms has a visual style that has pretty much stood the test of time and again will be instantly recognisable. It has had some nice visual upgrades over the years, but it never really looks like it is testing the hardware it features on and it is the same here with the PS4 release, it is simply a nice looking game, nothing more, nothing less.

That said, it isn’t a bad game, it is Worms and it does what a Worms game does. However because the game has barely changed over the years, it is far from essential to get each new version. At £19.99 it does take the game from a impulse purchase to something you really need to think about. But fans who do buy it will not be disappointed, because if you love Worms, you’ll still love Worms.

MILESTONE ANNOUNCES THE OFFICIAL MOTO GP 14 RELEASE DATE

PQube, Bristol (May 30th developers and publishers for consoles and Windows PC®, announces that MotoGP™14 will be available on Xbox 360®, Windows PC, Steam, PlayStation®3, PlayStation®Vita and on PlayStation®4 from the 20th 2014) – Milestone, one of the most recognized racing videogame of June 2014.

For those who pre-order the game from GAME in the UK will receive an exclusive ‘Legends of MotoGP’ card game pack.

Plus, Milestone is pleased to unveil the packshot for MotoGP™14, the game that gives you the chance to re-live the 2014 MotoGP™ Official Season. MotoGP™14 features tracks and riders from the official MotoGP™ 2014 season, the riders from MotoGP™ 2013 class as well as Champions from the past. MotoGP™14 hosts more than 100 riders, all the official manufacturers and 18 tracks.

Developed by Italian Milestone Studio, MotoGP™14 will be available from the 20th Xbox 360®, Windows PC®, PlayStation®3, PlayStation®Vita and on PlayStation®4.

Follow us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/motogpvideogame, check the Official Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/motogpvideogame, use the hashtag #motogpvideogame or visit the official product site www.motogpvideogame.com.

Watch Dogs Review

Every gamer must know about Watch Dogs by now. It has been the focus of all kinds of discussion, controversy and even the focal point of mockery in many corners. Why? Because it came with mammoth expectations and as the months passed by, following new reveals, delays and assumptions, it seemed many had made their minds up about what this would turn out to be.

We at Gamestyle decided to steer clear of as much of this as possible, so we could go into the game without any major pre-conceived feelings about the game. However, we would be lying if we said that many of the discussions around the internet, the various articles hadn’t sent us into the game with much lower expectations than we had at the original reveal.

Watch Dogs is at its core, your standard mission based open world game with a ton of side quests to complete. Taking cues from the likes of GTA, Infamous, Assassin’s Creed and Saints Row. You play as Aiden Pearce, who is a hacker hell bent on revenge after a hit is taken out on him and his family. The death to his niece is Aiden’s main motivation, which leads him down a very dark and shady path.

There is a bit of an issue here, as the story setup is something you see in many movies, which is fine, but it doesn’t feel strong enough to drive the actual gameplay. You get to a point where you almost forget your original reasons for Aiden to be doing what he is doing, as he takes on various jobs, extra events and so on, that never really seem to fit with the original premise.

However, as with most games of this type, the story generally is weak and is just a way to drive the player forward, to experience as much of what the game has to offer as possible. There is plenty to offer too, as it seems you cannot go more than 30 seconds before you come across a new activity of some description.

The game is set in near future Chicago and  is now pretty much run by a single OS that links together almost every element of the world we live in. This becomes a hackers paradise, being able to find out almost everything about any individual, gather information, steal money direct from their bank accounts, find out if they are planning something, anything. Hell, everything is so tightly linked together, that hackers can control the traffic.

It is an interesting premise and whilst a little far-fetched it doesn’t seem that much beyond the realms of possibility and if it allows us to have fun with a City, then why should we care if all this is a little bit silly. There is that word by the way…FUN, which is exactly what games should be. All too often there are detractors out there that seem to have forgotten that having a good time with a game is the most important thing and Watch Dogs on the whole allows you to have fun.

As mentioned, the amount of extra activities on offer around Chicago are impressive. You get the usual type of things, like take a car to deliver, escort missions, races, etc. Added to that are the types where you need to follow someone, then take them out, you find out about these types of missions by scanning NPC phones and getting hints that a crime may be about to take place. You then get to the area this might happen, scout it out, before usually chasing down the bad guy.

There is nice variety to these types of missions on the whole too, even though many are just variations of the same theme. How you approach these possible crimes is up to you, as you can physically sneak about to watch your suspects, trying not to get caught, or you can hack into security cameras to get a better view whilst staying out of sight. Once you get the cue, you are then free to engage. It works really well and more often than not you will find yourself diverting from your planned course in the story to take on potential crimes.

There are also a bunch of added mini games dotted around the city, such as underground poker games, AR mobile games and so on. These are completely optional and have been thrown into the game as nothing more than a mere distraction, a way to earn some extra cash. Whilst the ‘real world’ mini games can be entertaining (we found ourselves playing Texas Hold Em for over an hour at one point) the AR games feel completely out of place and are probably the thing we disliked most.

There is also a simplicity to the overall game, with hacking being done exclusively on the square button and is simple case of holding until the icon fills up, whether that be hacking a person’s phone, cameras, security terminals, cars, alarms, anything. Whilst initially thinking this was a bit of a cop out, we actually warmed to the idea of this being a catch all mechanic, had it been a complicated system, with multiple ways to initiate a hack, it could have made things frustrating.

It is the same with the combat, you have an attack button for close range attacks and the standard shooting mechanics, which again makes the feel like putting on a glove. It is designed to be comfortable and easily recognisable for anyone that has played a game with any kind of shooting mechanic before.

Driving is an odd thing though. Set the camera to outside the car it is feels off, cars seem to react poorly and have no smoothness to the handling at all. Yet, switch to cockpit cam and it is a whole new ball game. It feels as close to playing Driver San Francisco as anything since that game. The cockpit is blurred allowing you to focus on the road ahead and it just feel right, in fact we’d suggest it was a waste of time having any other view.

So what about visual downgrades? That has probably been the biggest talking point in the lead up to the game’s eventual release and in truth there has been a downgrade from the original E3 reveal. It is easy to see this is a game that has been developed as a cross generation effort. It does lack the WOW factor, but it is certainly more than passable. Some of the locations look very impressive and the detail too impresses. However there are points in the city where is feels a little lifeless, these are very few and far between though, which does make them standout more.

The developers boasted at one point that every person in Chicago has a story, is different, that no two people are the same and to give credit where it is due, on the whole you don’t notice any major repetition, the odd character skin here and there maybe, but nothing that makes you really notice.

It is having that important variation on the city’s inhabitants that is vital to a major part of the game and the one thing that makes it feel different to every other open world game of its type. The online hacking! This is a mechanic that allows you to enter another players game and hack them for information and escape without being found. Of course they can also do the same to you.

This is brilliant and addictive and we found ourselves in and out of this mode more often than not. The idea is, you enter another players game, then try to find them by profiling all the characters around the area, before hacking them and trying not to be discovered. You can do this by trying to mingle around other inhabitants, by hiding in buildings, car parks, etc, maybe by getting in a car and driving down an alley and hiding in said car, or even by creating chaos. Once you start the hack though, the other player will become aware that you are somewhere and will try and hunt you down, if they get to you before the hack in complete, they win.

We did think this would become annoying. Trying to get somewhere in the game only to have another player hack you and thus stopping your progress, but it was far from annoying, it was wonderful fun and offered a great feeling of smugness when winning out over another real world player. There are options to limit how open your online stuff is, so if you really do want to get on with the story, you are free to do so.

Is Watch Dogs the genre defining experience we were expecting back in 2012? No, it isn’t even close to that. Is it a bad game? Not by any stretch of the imagination.  It is a fun and entertaining experience that does have a couple of faults, but is more than worth your investment of money and time.

The Gamestyle Archive

Long time readers may already know the story, but Gamestyle has been the victim of two hacking incidents. Both times causing a lot of content to go up in smoke. The fact that we were originally a Dreamcast only site should tell you how long we’ve been going, and how much content would’ve been lost. The hacking took a lot out of us, and in some ways, Gamestyle was never the same again. But this week something miraculous happened.

Like the E.T cartridges in the desert, former editor Mr Jason Julier unearthed something. Discs containing around 200 old reviews, previews and features. All of which are being uploaded and be viewed by CLICKING HERE. It’s amazing the amount of content that was lost, but even more amazing that a good chunk of them have been found.

Over the coming months these may start to appear on the main site, maybe in retro themed weekends, but for now why not head over and check out some of our older work.

Monster Monpiece Review

Another in a long line of Japanese RPG style games comes to the West, this time with Idea Factories’ Monster Monpiece. A RPG with a card battle mechanic.

Before we get to the good stuff, there is an elephant in the room and it boils down to what is essentially a massive culture difference. Whilst most of these recent RPG games feature some choice artwork, usually in the form of very scantily clad females, designed in such a way to have sex appeal to a target audience. Monster Monpiece feels like it is trying to see how far over the line it can go.

There is an element of the game, where you can level up you cards, which are used in battle. To do this you take part in a mini game that involves you rubbing, poking, touching and pinching images of the female characters in provocative places. With the idea being that you essentially bring them to climax, thus resulting in an upgrade of skills.

We at Gamestyle must admit feeling very awkward having to do this, especially when it got to a point that meant you had to place your thumb on the touch screen and finger on the rear touch pad and start furiously rubbing, whilst the female character made very orgasmic noises.

We aren’t prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but for us, this was really taking things too far and in truth felt very out of place withing the game itself. Which despite being very risque, isn’t all that bad in terms of over sexualised content. The game is inhabited with nothing but women, whether it be the main characters themselves, or the monsters that they use to battle, however the story is fairly run of the mill, save the world type stuff.

So having this mini game that requires you to bring various women to orgasm, so you can level them up just feels wrong. That said, it isn’t a main part of the mechanic and is something you only have to do every now and again. We would have liked another option, but this was a choice of the developers and it is clearly something that made the original Japanese release a success.

Many of the cards used in the game have been pulled from the international release also and after a quick Google search it is easy to see why. Again it must be a cultural difference, because whilst these were happily part of the game in Japan, it is perhaps pushing too many boundaries in the West. It is close enough to look like pornography as it is, had the cards that have been removed been left in, then it may well have tipped it over the edge.

But anyway, enough about that, because if you can get past the visuals and the odd sexual fantasy leveling up mechanic, there is once again a fantastic game with some excellent mechanics behind it. So good infact, that it could have left out those boundary pushing elements and still been a fantastic game in its own right.

You move through the story in a fairly linear way, spending time in a lot of text driven cut-scenes that help the story unfold, before setting on a nigh on set path to help the story progress. There are the odd branches you can follow that allow you to earn extra money, cards and items, but these are optional. Though if you do decide to follow these, they take mere minutes to do.

The battle system itself is where the game shines, taking cues from traditional table top card games and mixing it with turn based combat as seen in most RPG games.

You build a deck of cards that have characters of various types and abilities, namely melee, ranged, healer and buffer. These work as you expect, with melee and ranged being your main focus or attack, healer and buffer types offering back up services. You need to build a deck of a maximum of 40 cards and try to get your balance right, based on how you approach battles. As you progress through the game you can buy new card packs, win new cards in battle, or find them on the map as your move through.

Whilst initially confusing, you soon find yourself able to build various types of decks, that you can take into battle, balanced as you need. Unlike table top card battle games, these four card types are all you really have to use, there are no special cards that can be used to boost, or have special affects on the game.

There is however, various items you can take into battle that add extra abilities, such as raising the attack stats for your in play cards and thus giving you an advantage in battle. Something that the opposition can also do, meaning you have to really work out how and when to use these.

The actually battles aren’t simply laying your cards down, as it also uses a type of chess-based system mixed with tower defense. You have a grid that is 3×7 with one end being your starting point and the other the opposition starting point, the middle line is neutral.

You lay down one card per turn and the idea is to advance your characters forward so they can attack the opposition base. Your opposition will be doing the same, so much of the game is spend with your characters, attacking opposition character and vice-versa. This is where tactics come into play.

How you lay down your cards has a massive effect on the battle. Keep laying down melee characters and you will soon find them destroyed by ranged attacks, so you need to mix things up a bit, making sure you also support them with healer and buffer types to keep them alive and increase their abilities.

What was really impressive was just how deep some of the battles became and how quickly they could turn. By laying two cards of the same type you can create a fusion, which increases the attributes of that inplay character, which when mixed with buffers would see them obliterate any opposing forces. Again you can mix fusions with buffer and even skills, as well as getting bonuses for laying down consecutive cards of the same colour.

In terms of fusing together core mechanics from different genres, this is one of the best examples around. It may take a simple approach to each, but by doing so it create something different that just works. As the game goes on, battles become more and more intense with each right in the balance until the end.

Early on, battles are in your favour so as to get you used to the system, having you need to attack the enemy base just the once to win, but the AI opposition needing to attack your three times. The deeper you get into the game though, this evens up and that is when the game comes into its own.

How good are the core mechanics? Well, as much as we wanted to cast the game aside due to the needless mini-games of rubbing and poking scantily clad girls, we just couldn’t, because we wanted to get back to those battles, we wanted to build up our decks, we wanted to get better. If the game was simply a case of collecting cards, playing battles and nothing else, it would have been special and we’d be raving about it as a must have title.

As it is, we advise you to purchase with caution. If you can get past the needless over sexualised nature of the game and are happy to gloss over the molesting of half naked women, there is a very good and rewarding game on offer, but getting past that is not the easiest thing and it certainly isn’t a game you can feel proud to promote to friends and family.

Monster Monpiece will be a divisive game, you may well get plenty of odd looks if you played it in public. Yet the core game mechanics just about win out over the shame factor.

Cel Damage HD Review

There have been plenty of calls for HD remakes of games from the PS1, PS2, XBOX, Gamecube era, with many having come to fruition. However the HD release of Cel Damage has come a little out of left field.

When originally released Cel Damage boasted some impressive visuals, with the cel shaded style giving the game an authentic cartoon look and feel. The gameplay however got a bit of a mixed reception and the game fell directly in the realms of middle tier. Something that was great to rent for a weekend when you had friends over.

It wasn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it had to battle other games of similar ideas. It was seen as more of a family friendly Twisted Metal or Carmageddon. However, looking back, it was played some fairly fond memories, so when the chance came to give it another spin, we couldn’t turn it down.

The thing with Cel Damage is that is was a game of its time. It was very barebones in terms of options, with just three real modes of which to speak. Flag Rally, Gate Relay and Smack Attack. Gate relay is a mode that is the closest to a Kart Racer in the game, with players completing laps by passing through checkpoints dotted around the track.

Flag rally had players racing to collect flags dotted throughout the level and essentially being the one at the end with the most and Smack Attack being the main course, where you pretty much drive around using power-ups to destroy the other players, the winner being the one to a certain score first.

Now whilst these are all decent modes in their own right, they also prove the fact that gaming has moved on a lot since its original release, there just isn’t enough content in there compared to most games that come out now, nor is there really enough variety. Had this been released as a full priced title it would have been a travesty, however for less that £10 it is still a game you can have plenty of fun with and feel as though you are getting value for your money.

Again, being a re-release from a 2001 game, it is best played in local multiplayer, where you can sit with others in the same room and mock each other as you beat them, or heckle them as they beat you. It does remind you of a time gaming was a lot more social and a time where games weren’t taking themselves as seriously. Yet you can’t help but feel that an online option would have been nice, because of the competitive nature of the game, it just won’t get the play time it could.

The HD upgrade is really well handled for the most part, with the cars, levels and graphics looking fantastic, which has a lot to do with the original game design, the cell shaded styling would have held up on its own, but the extra HD polish gives you a game that looks like you remember, rather than ruining your memories of said game.

The menus and everything away from the gameplay though really could have done with an overhaul. Menus are clunky and feel cheap, giving an initial poor impression of what is to come. As said though, the visuals where it counts are impressive though and must be praised.

There have been some minor changes under the hood, with the most noticeable being the removal of one hit kills, with characters now having an energy bar that must be worn down. It does add a little longevity to each individual event, but at the same time removes the risk vs reward nature of the original. You can now be a lot more aggressive all of the time and not have to worry as much about being hit. This for us meant some of the challenge is now missing, which is a shame.

Cel Damage HD feels a little like a missed opportunity, as it could have been a title that was ripe for a remake and not just a re-release. The visual style could have remained, but new modes, characters and a solid online presence would have been welcome and could have made the game relevant again, as it is, it becomes nothing more than a nice trip down memory lane for those who enjoyed the original.

There is value to be had though, as Cel Damage HD is Cross-Buy across PS4, PS4 and PS Vita and for once it doesn’t really matter which format you play on. Because of the game’s set up,  you don’t really feel like you lose anything by focusing on just one and to their credit, the developers have included Cross-Save, which is great to see and again, hopefully something that becomes standard.

Cel Damage HD is a decent game, but one for fans of the original only, it is unlikely to bring new fans, nor change the minds of those who may not have enjoyed it way back when. For a HD remake it is slap bang in the middle of a lazy upgrade and an excellent one and at the end of the day will always feel like a missed opportunity. But for fans there is fun to bed had.

Transistor Review

The team behind Indie smash Bastion haven’t rested on their laurels since the game’s release and have been busy at work with Transistor, a Sci-Fi RPG with one hell of a story to tell.

However, we at Gamestyle believe it i best to go into this game blind, without knowing one little aspect of how it even begins to unfold. What we will tell you though, is that a similar story-telling mechanic as used in Bastion is also used here, with more and more being unveiled as you progress, told by a narrator (of sorts) based on what you do and where you go.

It is a fantastic mechanic that drip feeds you clues as to what the story is and where it may go next, whilst also giving you hints as to what may be around the corner. From the very first steps you take in Transistor, you find yourself hanging off every word.

The narrator can be listened to via the normal methods by using the TV Speakers, headphones, etc or can be isolated to the Dual Shock 4’s own built in speaker, separating it from the main audio of the game. This works amazingly well and does a wonderful job of drawing you in and creating a stunning atmosphere.

And that is something Transistor has in spades, it is dripping in atmosphere, from the excellent soundtrack (more on that in a bit) to the outstanding art direction, this is a game that has been lovingly created from the ground up. The visual design is something that really does stand out and shows what the extra power of the latest consoles can allow.

The futuristic city designs are beautiful and it is clear that no compromise has been made, with the art team allowed to bring their vision to the final game, something that may not have been possible just a few short years ago. Whilst the city as a whole is quiet, it still feels alive with every building, every small bit of scenery, looking like it has come from the mind of a real creative, rather than something that has been toned down to accommodate any restrictions imposed by system power to allow certain gameplay mechanics.

However, it is the soundtrack that really brings everything to life, it feels like it is just as much a part of the game, as the gameplay itself, rather than something that has been added in to create a certain atmosphere, or just for the sake of good music. There are moments in the game, where you just want to stop and listen, the vocal work done by Ashley Barrett is easily some of the best you will hear in a game, that girl has an amazing voice…How good is it though? Well, we are all in for the Official Soundtrack, which isn’t something we often do.

But, a game can have all the amazing sound and visuals it wants, but it still needs to be a solid game to make any of that worthwhile and thankfully Transistor hits the sweet spot here too. Much like Bastion you will walk around a wonderfully crafted game wold, often running into various events as you go, which mainly leads into having some kind of battle with the game’s enemies.

Transistor is a mix of real time action, mixed with a strategy element. At any time you can press the R2 button which pauses the action and activates Turn(), allowing you to use you sword’s various abilities to plan attacks on the enemies. There is a limit of what you can do in any planning phase, based on various upgrades and settings of you unlocked attacks. This though makes you have to think properly about which enemy to expend your energy on, where you will end up after carrying out the plan and which enemies may be left.

Once Turn() is activated you can choose to maybe move, then use CRASH() as an attack on one enemy, which may be activated to turn them friendly, before moving again to use BREACH() on another, before finally moving to a safe area. The beauty of this is, that certain functions do use varying amounts of available Turn(). With BREACH() using more than CRASH().

So deciding what to do and how to best approach each situation isn’t a case of just spamming set functions all the time. This isn’t all set in stone though, as you upgrade, so does the amount of turn() each function takes up. Meaning all encounter evolve over time, both in how much stronger you become  and how enemies are engaged. What this means for you, is that every encounter continues to be a challenge and at no point do you ever feel over powered and that you are simply going through the motions.

If anything, early on, you feel you are under powered  and that what you think is a good attack plan, can often leave you exposed to enemy attacks. It is the variation of the enemies that keep things interesting, from smaller easy to take out enemies that attack in numbers, to singular larger enemies that see you needing to enter a planning mode a fair few times before they are taken out.

The balancing here is very clever, once you have finished a planned out attack, your weapons are dead until such a time they have been recharged, meaning you have to act defensively until they are ready again. Now this is only a few seconds, but you can find yourself in danger during those few seconds, as you panic and try to avoid any incoming attacks.

This gives you some interesting options, as once recharged, you can use attacks in real-time without them draining, allowing you to go on the offensive yourself, but by attacking without using the planning phase, you are a lot more exposed to enemy attacks than if you were using the planned attack strategy. The fact that neither option is right or wrong in themselves makes for very interesting and challenging encounters every single time.

As you progress through the game and level up, you can new abilities, which can then be chained with other abilities allowing you to create more powerful attacks, or allow you to regenerate you own health, turn enemies against enemies and more. But the way this is implemented works really well too.

You have four main functions, using the four face buttons on the controller. When you start to chain abilities you have to decide which upgrades best fit which function, then during the planning phase it depends on which combos you choose to use in which situation.

For example, you have an attack set with the X button with a chain that turns enemies into allies when a second X attack is used, but you might also have an option on another button that when combined with something else allows a secondary attack. It is finding the best combinations for the right situations that works well. Most functions can also be used as primary, upgrades, or passive options. Again how you choose to use each will have a different effect on other functions and attacks that can be pulled off. The options can feel almost endless.

When we first put Transistor on, just to have a quick look, it was meant to be just that, a quick look before bed to see how the graphics looked, what the basic controls were, that sort of thing. Next thing we knew, five hours has passed and we had been in a hypnotic state as the game drew us in further and further.

It just has that special something, that perfect storm of wonderful visuals, music to die for and gameplay that keeps you engaged. It also has nigh on perfect pacing, with a few lessons learned from Bastion, a game that had good pacing, but at times had areas you felt dragged on, here though that isn’t the case. As you progress through each area, you arrive in another and instead of wanting to stop and rest, you want to go further, hear more of the story that is unfolding and just play more and more. With upgrades and unlocks coming at just the right time, each and every time.

But how you use the new abilities and upgrades will change over the course of the game also. Unlike some games that have a skill tree, that you pretty much decide on following, Transistor will see you making changes as you go, finding the best combinations that will give you the most effective battle strategy. Again something that worked early in the game may not work later.

This is a game that knows how to tease, that flirts with you using its looks and charm, but then makes you fall in love with just how clever it is. You want to stay in its company for longer and longer, getting to know it uncovering more of its mysteries. For a game to get that balance just right is a rare feat, but SuperGiant Games have it.

Transistor was somewhat of a showpiece game for Sony in 2013 and upon its release it isn’t hard to see why. Everything about the game shows it has been made with love and affection, it has the visuals to impress anyone that lays eyes on it, but also some really well balanced gameplay to dig its claws in and keep you hooked. If you ever needed a reason to own a PS4, then this could well be it.

Conception II Review

Thanks to the likes of Atlus and NIS, the west is being exposed to some of the staples of Japanese gaming, with gems such as Persona 4, Demon Gaze, Hyper Dimension Neptunia and so on. Yet it feels like you are never quite prepared for each new one you play and that is also true in the case of Conception II.

Upon first playing Conception II feels like it may be the more run of the mill stories, with characters who actually have more clothing than bare skin, yet it only takes a few minutes to work out that Conception II is just as…Well, different as all those other titles. The sort of game that tests your own embarrassment levels.

At its base level Conception II is another dungeon crawler JRPG, where you are tasked with saving the world, using a mixture of dungeon crawling, turn based battles and relationship building. It also has the idea of summoning star children, which are essentially this game’s version of Pokemon, or Personas. Additional party members with special abilities that help you in battle.

It is the way that you summon and create these Star Children that can make you feel a little awkward. You control the hero of the game, who is given the title of God’s Gift, which supposedly does wonders for the player’s ego, because what is better than being God’s Gift right? You are given this title as it turns out your character has an abnormally high ‘Ether Count’ which means he is 100% guaranteed to produce Star Children if he Classmates with an S-Rank female.

Sorry let’s back-track a second. When adolescents reach a certain age, they may find themselves given a mark, for which means they have to leave home and go to an island, where they become disciples and battle monsters. When they arrive they are graded and given ranks, with the best ranked among them having to take part in a ritual called Classmating, where they attempt to create Star Childen. Hence the title Conception.

You as the God’s Gift are the first of your kind and can enter areas known as Dark Circles to battle monsters on their own territory, whereas before monsters could only be battle once they had escaped one of these circles. Of course if you try to go alone, you’d be destroyed pretty quickly, so being able to conceive Star Children to aid you in battle is a must.

Anyway, the better the rank, the higher success rate of producing a Star Child and the better the Star Child will be, therefore you cannot possibly allow a C-Rank to Classmate with a S-Rank. Luckily though, you are God’s Gift, so you can Classmate with pretty much whomever you like.

That should be simple enough right? Wrong! You still need to build relationships with the female characters, because if you classmate with them and they are not in the right mood, then the quality of the Star Child produced may not be as good as if you were classmating with someone who was more willing.

So a few issues really. The innuendo alone is off the charts in Conception II and really feels like it is aimed at the young teenage boy rather than anyone else. It’s depiction of women is really walking a line also, as it treats many of them as pure objects, that are used as a tool and for you to have your way with, yet there are others that are very strong willed and almost dominant, really playing to a young boys fantasies.

The idea of forcing what are essentially still children to an island to battle monsters and produce children doesn’t really sit comfortably at times and really is awkward to play when other people are around. Yet play you will, because behind a pretty bland story with imagery and dialog that feel better placed in a adolescent males wet dream, is a well balanced game with some pretty solid mechanics behind it.

It doesn’t do anything new as such and the gameplay as you go through dungeons and enter battles shares many similarities with Persona, but that isn’t a bad thing. Dungeons are randomly generated which means you are forever feeling your way around, which in turn means you feel like you are always discovering something new.

Battles are turn based, but there are some nice little touches that do keep things fresh. You have the usual HP and MP and you level up as you go to unlock new abilities. You can edit your party, assign tactics move abilities around, assign new skills, that sort of thing. Then there are potential special moves that can be used, by combining you and your female partner to unleash a much stronger attack.

How you attack enemies has an effect too, you basically get to attack from one of four sides, some of which will trigger a weak point on the enemy, again dealing more damage. This is where a risk vs reward mechanic comes in, as there will be ‘Caution’ areas which are areas the monster is about to attack itself, but if you attack from these areas you can build up your chain faster, but also leave yourself exposed to an attack.

The further you go into the game, the more tactical battle will become and whilst early on these will last a few seconds to a couple of minutes, they soon become much more drawn out affairs, where you really need to consider what you are doing. However, the game does a fantastic job of building you up to these making sure you are ready.

Overall Conception II is a hard one to score. It really should be dismissed a game that should be avoided, due to the nature of the story, the way it is told and how characters are depicted. It is a game you feel you should only play when there is no other soul around to catch you, Yet when you do get going, it is very hard to put down and you will want to see it through to its conclusion, purely because of the games core mechanics.

Sparkle 2 Review

With it’s release of Sparkle on PS Vita, developer 10tons covered a genre that hasn’t had much exposure on Sony’s handheld. The match-3 puzzle game. The first title was very much in the same mould as Luxor and Zuma and the follow up is yet again a pretty much by the numbers game.

In terms of the core mechanics of the game, it is as you would expect. Various coloured orbs follow a specific track around a level and you shoot out matching orbs to try and destroy them. It has been done before and will be copied again down the line. There are a few nice touches here though that do make Sparkle 2 a game worth your attention.

Firstly the game as a bit of a story to follow, which isn’t overly deep or really worth taking note of, but it does allow for a structure to progress and receive various unlocks and bonuses which make sense along the story’s path. The different power-ups you get take on two forms.

First up are the regular power-ups you will get as you play a level, for every 3rd consecutive match you make, a power-up will appear which you can collect and then use to your advantage. These are the usual types, slowing down the orbs on the path, sending them backwards, wild orbs that can match any selection of orbs, whether their colours match or not and so on.

The other type are the permanent power-ups, which can be attached to your orb slinger to enchant it. These range from a power-up that gives you a special type of shot for every ten shots made, to others that will make getting the regular power-ups easier to get.

At the start of the game you have no slots and no permanent power-up available. But for every few levels you complete a new power-up is made available and sometimes a new slot so you can have multiple permanent power-ups at the same time. These prove to be very useful as the game progresses, because Sparkle 2 is a very challenging game, with later levels testing your skills and patience.

There is a fairly decent amount of content available too, with over 90 levels in the main story mode alone, which can then be completed in three different difficulty settings. Aside from that there are also a series of survival modes and challenge levels, which again will really test your abilities and add real value to the game.

As seems to be the trend at the moment, Sparkle 2 is a Cross-Buy title for both PS4 and PS Vita and although the Vita version felt the most natural way to play, the PS4 version is still competent and tries to add some new ideas. The Touchpad on the Dual Shock 4 can be used like a mousepad on a laptop and is meant to offer better control and whilst it feels a bit alien to start with it did become more natural the more it was used.

Another neat addition is the use of the light bar on the Dual Shock 4, with it changing colour based on the coloured orb currently loaded into the orb slinger. It doesn’t have any real practical use, but it was fun to see for a brief moment and again good to see a developer trying to add that something different.

That said, the Vita version really did feel the ideal home for Sparkle 2 and it is where most of the time was spent playing. It would have been nice to chop and change between both versions, but again the lack of Cross-Save on a Cross-Buy title means you really need to choose a format and stick with it. Hopefully Cross-Save is something that will become standard down the line, but as it stands it is another title that feels like you get an option to choose at the start and then stick with.

When that is the only real complaint though, you know a game is doing something right and despite Sparkle 2 being very similar to the likes of Luxor, it does stand up in its own right and is a great little title to play. It ticks all the right boxes and leaves you feeling satisfied, which is what you want from a decent puzzle game.

The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way Review

Chances are if you’re reading this then you’re already up to speed with the story so far. So it should go without saying that previous episodes will be spoiled. Right then now that’s out of the way, in the last episode we left Clementine and the group in a rather sticky situation. As is always the case things go from bad to worse, and by the end there’s a chance the girl you once knew in Season 1 is long gone.

Of course this might not be the case for your experience, but there are choices that feel like they’re going to shape the character Clem becomes. Episode 3 should really be subtitled Wrath of Michal Madsen, because as bad as people like Lilly were, nothing will prepare you for the sheer onslaught of madness that Michael Madsen’s character of Carver brings to the table. The menacing nature that he brought in episode 2 was just the tip of the iceberg.

In Harm’s Way puts story to the forefront, more so than in other episodes. And in that regard those expecting more solid, point and click style gameplay that the series is known for, could come away disappointed. There are very few moments where you’re left to your own devices with the majority of them requiring you to just examine stuff as opposed to actually solving any kind of puzzles. And it’s quite a way into the episode until any zombies actually become a threat. So it feels more like a narrow experience than you’d expect, or perhaps want. There are some QTE that keep you on your toes, but these are few and far between.

As en episode where story rules then, it’s good then that it’s quite fantastic. As already mentioned, Michael Madsen steals the show with Carver who is the most straight up villain the series has ever had, he’s almost Governor like in his brutality. A truly vicious character, with the viciousness prominent throughout. It is one of the most violent episodes of the series thus far, with the blood flowing at a regular pace. Don’t let the comic book aesthetic fool you, this can shock in the levels of violence, more than any ‘realistic’ game out there. Madsen may steal the show, but the supporting players also hold their own. As well as the surviving crew through episode 2, new characters are introduced, each playing a role in the hell Clementine finds herself in.

Technically season 2 continues to impress when compared to the troubles season 1 experienced. It’s not perfect, far from it, but it seems that Telltale are finally getting to grips with consoles. The only issue coming from saves. Despite easily clocking in at less than two hours we didn’t finish it in one sitting (we have busy lives!). So once the “Saving” disappeared from the bottom right we turned off the console. But upon returning we were transported back to the previous checkpoint, luckily they are fairly generously placed, so only took us a couple of minutes to return, but still it’s an annoying technical glitch. When Telltale finally make the transition to the PS4/Xbox One here’s hoping these issues will be left behind.

In Harm’s Way is an apt name for the most visceral episode thus far. While lacking in actual gameplay compared to previous instalments, episode 3 is held together by a story that will shock and surprise right through to its conclusion.

Games are Games

Something has been bothering me of late and it has a lot to do with games that have just been released and those that are coming soon to various consoles. The games themselves are fine, but the reactions to those games get under my skin somewhat.

There seems to a fairly decent sized group who have decided that the word Indie is a negative and that if a game hasn’t got amazing new graphics that blow things out of the water, then they don’t count as games. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that having a distinction between Indie games and big Triple-A titles needs to stop.

Because of the pure size of a supposed Triple-A game, publishers rightly don’t want to take any major risks. If a game doesn’t check all the boxes, then it is likely never going to see the light of day, which is why we have had many games that have been critical successes, but not commercial ones.

We entered a phase whereby following the format of a Call Of Duty, Gears Of War and the likes became the norm. Publishers saw that success and wanted a piece of the pie, which saw some fantastic games like Singularity, Bulletstorm, etc which tried to do something new within the popular genre, but still failed in the publishers eyes. It is the reason it has taken so long to potentially something like  a new Beyond Good & Evil (please Ubisoft, make my E3 2014), why there have been so many cancelled games.

We have also seen the end of real middle-ware games, because again, if something scores a 6 or 7 out of 10, in the eyes of the public that is seen as a bad game. The PS1 and PS2 era was flooded with games that weren’t perfect, but were still pretty fun to play overall, but towards the end of the 360/Ps3 era, if games were nigh on perfect, the indication was to stay away. So less risks were taken.

Then something happened, digital distribution became something that could be implemented. Because internet speeds were getting better, bigger games could be downloaded and it became less of a risk to put a game out there. Would Trials have gone on to become the success it currently is without Direct Distribution? Would publishers have taken the risk of that as a retail only game?

As much stick as Microsoft get now, there was a time where they could be seen as the heroes of the console generation. Their implementation of XBLA gave a platform to new types of games, riskier games that just wouldn’t be possible as a disc only release, as gamers would unlikely be willing to pay £20-£40 for something that may be small, or not matching the ‘quality’ of a Call Of Duty, GTA and the likes.

The success of promotions such as the Summer Of Arcade and the releases of amazing games like Super Meat Boy, Braid, Fez, Trials, Shadow Complex, ‘Splosion Man, Bastion and much more forced a change in attitude. Sony had no choice but to follow suit and make sure they were getting good games on their system, with the likes of Joe Danger, Journey, the PixelJunk games, etc. Which then lead to a battle of power between the two giants.

Both wanted to own this market, to the ones who had the rights to these games, they saw the figures and the potential profits that could be made and the winners were the consumers…For a while at least. All of a sudden the publishers then got their hands into this new idea and began to influence what was released and where. What this meant for the most part, was that the PC was still the place to go to for some wonderfully creative titles, thanks to Steam.

Then comes the Vita a man called Shahid and the release of the PS4. Sony seemed to know what gamers wanted. They had seen the calls from owners of the Vita for more and more Indie titles on the wonderful little handheld. Shahid Kamal Ahmed loved his Vita and he too wanted more good games to improve what was a pretty sorry looking library at the time. All of a sudden we were able to play some of those amazing games that were previously only for those with a PC, on our PS Vita, with ‘DAT SCREEN’ they were a perfect fit.

It was clear again there was a market for these games and Sony made what could likely be the best business decision they could. They basically said to the Indie community…”You want your games on our system? Then go ahead, no restrictions”. Developers had the control, they could put their games out there, on to a console, without the need for a publisher. They were no longer bound by what publishers would see as ‘safe’ options and could have their own games played by as many people across as many platforms as they wanted.

Sure Microsoft’s [email protected] initiative isn’t ideal, with some of the policies it has, but it too shows that they know there is a market for these games and the Indie movement is riding the crest of a wave right now, so they rightly want a piece of that. But what this means is that we have games like Octodad, Resogun, Don’t Starve, Outlast, Daylight, Stick It To The Man, Stealth Inc and more, available on our PCs, Vita, PS3 and PS4 and that is just for starters.

The Binding Of Issac, N++, Nidhogg, Pavillion, Rime, Hyper Light Drifter, Hotline Miami 2 and so much more, are already on the horizon. For many of us, that is just so exciting, these are fantastic games that are a joy to play and the fact that more and more people will get exposed to them is even better, as it should mean the developers earn the money they deserve to go on and make yet more wonderful games.

However, whenever these games are mentioned, you always here the same comments pop up…”I didn’t buy a PS4, just to play games I could play on a SNES” and other comments which allude to the same thing. As though because a game has a certain style, it doesn’t deserve to be on this system, or that system. It somehow doesn’t deserve to share the same space as the next big-budget extravaganza.

Worse still, some believe that games like the ones mentioned above are somehow stopping the big budget games from even seeing the light of day. That releasing Nidhogg will stop the released of the next Call Of Duty. Having Stick It To The Man on PS+ is stopping Square from making the next Tomb Raider.

That is disappointing, because as a gamer, I am just glad I have the choice. It would be a sad world of we didn’t have choice. It is what makes things interesting and this is just as true in games. The fact I can spend a few hours playing Spelunky, but then move on to Infamous: Second Son, before jumping back to my Vita to play some Luftrausers should be lauded. Every gamer should be celebrating the diversity of games we now have access to.

I think it shows we are now at a stage though, where many of the voices you see on the comments sections of blogs, YouTube, etc have come from an era where their first experiences of games were from the PS2 era, maybe even some whose first experience was a 360 game. They haven’t experienced the joys of an original 2D Mario game, or some of the wonderful titles that came out of a bygone gaming era.

2D gaming is looked down on rather than admired. Titles such as Rayman Origins and Legends showcase what is possible with a simple platformer today and no matter what some will say, this wasn’t possible back in the 16-Bit days of the MegaDrive and SNES. Sure the basic actions aren’t far removed, but just look at the world Rayman is in, it is alive and it looks beautiful, there is so much going on. Now look back and some of the older games and look how lifeless they are in comparison.

That is the major difference now. There are no limits on what an artist can create, or at the very least, minimal limits. Creativity was dialled back in previous generation, simply because hardware would have been unable to allow this rich lavish worlds even in 2D games, but now this has changed and for the better.

You just have to look at Ubisoft’s recently released Child Of Light, or the upcoming Transistor, they are stunning looking games in every sense of the word. Sure they aren’t trying for hyper realistic graphics like DRIVECLUB, Watchdogs and other such games, but then that wouldn’t suit them. But they can now match what a creator originally envisioned, with games able to look much more like the original concept art, rather than something that gets scaled down the further along the development process it goes.

I mentioned Watchdogs above and almost everyone must know the issues that game has had, tons of money thrown at it, but still needing to dial back features and visuals. It is a game that has had a rough time of it, because it cannot match it’s creators original concepts. But with these so called ‘small’ games, that is different. These are games that want to take you out of reality, take you to a whole new place and there is loads of room for games like that, alongside everything else.

It is why I hate the terms Indie, Triple-A and so on, because they pigeonhole games, they almost stop certain gamers from trying them. You get the Call Of Duty crowd who won’t play Indies, because they are ‘for kids’ or ‘crappy old games’ and the elitist Indie gamers who look down on those who love the big blockbuster shooters like they are a cancer on gaming.

The truth is, it is fine to like different genres of games, I myself used to avoid RPGs like the plague when I was younger. Tastes change though and I am having a wonderful time discovering the genre with stuff like Persona 4 Golden, Demon Gaze, Ys, etc. But I still enjoy a good FPS at times, I still play NHL, FIFA, Madden, dip in and out of racing games, and fall head over heels for new Indies, just to see what concepts could be coming out as these developers start to have creative freedom.

There is something else though that  I touched upon that is really sad to see and that is the hatred for mid-tier games and this notion that a game must be perfect, or else it is a failure. This is personified with Knack, a PS4 launch title that was the whipping boy for the media, which carried over to gamers.

Knack was destroyed by the opinion of various critics and also by many vocal gamers who hadn’t played it. It was described as a kids game, but described as that in such a way that it became a derogatory term. Now Knack is the quintessential mid-tier game, it is far from perfect, but it still offered some elements of fun, especially when played in co-op with a member of your family.

Now, whilst it is all well and good to always want fine dining, sometimes it is ok to have a home made Bolognese, it isn’t the greatest food you will ever eat, but it is still fine, it does the job and you enjoy that meal for what it is. The same is true of Knack, it isn’t Super Mario World, or Half Life, but it doesn’t need to be. What it did was offer some nice variation to a launch lineup, making sure there was something for everyone and for many who did play it, they enjoyed it…for what it is.

I can understand the tribal nature of gamers when it comes to the systems they have, why people will defend Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Valve to their graves. It is because they invested a lot of money into a system and they want to be justified. What I never understand is, why this carries over into the amazing choice we have in the industry. Why we have to pigeonhole genres, gamers and even specific games so much, why we cannot be happy that there is something for everyone.

If there is one thing I want to see from the games industry over the next few years, is that we start to understand a game is a game, no matter the cost, the size, the genre. No matter what. If you can play it with a controller, a mouse & keyboard, with Kinect, Move, VR, gamepads, Vita, touch-screen, hell even mind control, then it is a game. If you paid 69p, £2, £10, £40, £100 it is still a game. If it is sports, RPG, puzzle, FPS, racing, life sim and god knows what else…IT IS STILL A GAME!

Remember, it all started with a few lines and a dot and look where we are now!

 

Daylight Review

You know how it is, one creepy horror game set in an abandoned location comes out, then others follow! You’d be forgiven for believing that Daylight is a me too type game after the success of Outlast on PC and PS4, after all, from the outside it does look very similar, but it is actually quite different. 

Daylight begins with very little set, dropping you to an environment with no knowledge as to what you are there for, or what you are meant to even be doing. You are basically told “here is a device, use it to follow a map and to light the way” and that is it. So you do what come naturally and start to move.

It is only as you start moving around the environment that the story starts to unfold bit by bit, but never actually giving you an outright reason as to why you are where you are, or why you are in this position. It drip feeds you little snippets of information, via clues left around the building and the creepy voice that guides you.

It is a very interesting concept, that uses the idea of the unknown to completely unsettle you and because it is so miserly with the information and back story, you find yourself creeping around, literally not knowing what is around the next corner, or through the next door.

Part of this, it that the world is procedurally generated, which means even if you go back for another play through, you won’t know what is coming. It isn’t a new idea and there are plenty of games that do that sort of thing, but in a game where you want to keep the player right on the edge, it works exceptionally well.

And it does keep you on edge, played in the dark, with headphones on the atmosphere created is one of the most creepiest you will find. This is largely in part to the sound design, as you hear footsteps, wails, voices and more throughout your stay. It doesn’t matter who you are, if played in the right environment, it is hard not to be drawn in and feel completely uneasy as you play.

If you decide to play using PS4’s streaming services, then this is one of those games that has the interactive parts almost spot on. Anyone watching can type in certain key phrases to the streaming chat window, that will have an automatic effect on the game. Such as if someone types the word ‘feet’ you will start to hear footsteps. The idea is to allow those watching to try and make your experience all the more harrowing. The issue here, is that being a single player game, it can soon become tiresome when you have a crowd of people doing the same thing over and over, to the point where you switch off the interactivity and play it without.

Essentially in Daylight you are trying to survive and escape and unlike other survival horror games, you have no weapons whatsoever, leaving totally exposed to the dangers around. The most you have are some flares, which can warn off the bad entities which stalk you and is a really interesting concept and one that deserves to be explored further in the genre. Just knowing that at best you can put off the inevitable, rather than battle it really does change the fear factor.

Daylight also takes its cues from Dungeon Crawler type games, as you only start to unveil more of the map as you move further into the game. Going through a set of doors, or down a new hallway will then reveal where you are, only when you have hit a dead end, will that be marked on the map. The game forces you to explore and has a genuine sense of feeling lost and helpless. For the most part hearing the noise around you but never quite knowing from where or whom they are coming from really adds to that sense of fear also.

There are puzzles of sorts in certain areas, which mainly consist of using your glow-sticks to uncover clues, or find items that can be used to get to new areas, or be taken to places to unlock new areas, nothing that is really complex and designed mainly to get you moving and push you in the direction the game wants you to go.

The game is short too, as it can be finished in 2-3 hours for the most part, with the idea being that you’d go back and play numerous times. The issue here, is that unless you are a trophy hunter, there really isn’t any real need to go back it is a game that blows its load on that initial run. The scares only work the first time and all the effects that draw you in become tiresome on another play through.  That is fine though, as it is a cheap price and there is nothing wrong with short games as long as they offer up an experience.

With the procedural generation of levels the idea is that you would want to go back time and time again, knowing that every new game will be different and the concept is a sound one, but as mentioned above, despite never knowing what is around the corner, the fact you finished it once, means that all that atmosphere, the scare tactics and even the story lose their edge on a second and third attempt. Which is a shame, but don’t let that take away from the first go though, as that is where Daylight is at its best.

Daylight does offer an experience and just about doesn’t outstay its welcome, it offers a ton of atmosphere and a feeling of helplessness that other games in the genre have been unable to do. A far from essential purchase, but one that will keep you entertained for an evening alone.

Titan Attacks Review

Ah Curve, how you spoil us. With their recent output, Curve have been on somewhat of a hot streak. Producing games such as Lone Survivor, Stealth Inc, Proteus, Thomas Was Alone and more. Now granted, they haven’t developed them all and have been on the publishing side, but when you see the name Curve attached to a game, you do need to take notice.

So when Titan Attacks came on the radar, that is exactly what happened,  yet unlike some of their previous output, the immediate appeal wasn’t quite there. On the surface this is a game that looks like a bog standard Space Invaders clone, which doesn’t really seem all that appealing, in a world where we have Space Invader Extreme and Space Invaders Infinity Gene.

Even when you first start playing, it is a game that feels like it is lacking that certain something. The two updated Space Invaders games both brought something new to the table and update the original concept by throwing amazing visuals and music into the mix, with added speed, to test your gaming reflexes, so when you come to a game like Titan Attacks, it originally just feels slow and wrong.

However, after beating a few levels, you realise this is almost pure Space Invaders and is a hell of a lot more challenging than you expected. Sure the enemies move at a slower pace and early levels can be cleared with ease, but as you move on, the way the enemies move, the various types there are, start to make this a really tough game to beat.

That concern you had, that this is a cheap clone is all but gone, as your concentration levels are at their maximum. Sure your eyes aren’t bleeding through blinding visuals and immense speed, but you feel a real danger to your craft as you dodge bullets, try to take down clusters of enemies, get those bonus points and just complete the stage.  It grabs you and once it does, you are hooked.

There are some nice touches that do set it apart from a basic Space Invaders too. You earn money with every kill, get bonuses for taking down certain enemies and there are chances to collect aliens that may fall from some ships to again earn bonus points and money. This adds a risk vs reward element to proceedings, do you try and rescue that falling alien and risk being hit by enemy fire, or do you let him be and stay safe. By going for it, you may get extra money that will become useful for getting some all important upgrades.

You can upgrade various parts of your ship, such as buying extra shields which act as your lives, upgrading weapon power, smart bombs, etc. How you utilise these is important to your progression in the game, as spending everything on shields may keep you safer for longer, but it could mean that you need more hits on tougher enemies to take them down. Spending everything on weapon upgrades may see you take out enemies easier, but leaves you battling not to be hit.

In later levels getting this balance right is vital, as you can and will be bombarded by enemy fire and your reflexes need to be at their sharpest just to stay alive, whilst still trying to take down the enemies and finish the stage. The patterns they take in the game really have an effect too, as you see a mix of the usual left to right and back again types, the ships that move along the screen, others which bounce around the screen in a more random fashion and more. When these all start mixing it becomes a hell of a task to manage them, stay alive and win.

There are smart bombs which can be used to clear an entire level should things get too hectic or difficult and is useful for just moving on, however you won’t receive any bonuses or the like, which then means getting upgrades for the next level becomes harder and in turn makes the next level itself harder to beat. One such situation saw us with a single life left and a lot of enemies left, the smart bomb was used and the level cleared, but that left us with no money to upgrade and straight into the next stage with just that single life.

Titan Attacks is a re-imagining on a classic and whilst it doesn’t reach the height of Space Invaders, nor that game’s own modern updates, it does produce a wonderfully enjoyable game. It would be easy to dismiss it right from the off, but that would be doing it a disservice, because once it gets going, it is easy to lose hours to the game, as you test yourself time and time again to go further and get better.

It isn’t a classic must have title by any stretch, but for its price and the fact it is cross-buy on PS Vita, PS4 and PS3 means it does offer great value. It is best on the Vita though, as the gameplay and visual style works better on the smaller screen, but having the option there to play it on any of your Sony devices is great and hopefully something we’ll see a lot more of.

If you are hankering for some classic old school arcade fun, then you cannot go wrong with Titan Attacks, it isn’t perfect and it isn’t the best Space Invaders inspired game on the market, but it is more than worth your time and money.

Sportsfriends Review

Something seems to be happening on home consoles lately, especially since the PS4 has come out. We are starting to see a return for the local multiplayer games. Towerfall set the bar and Sportfriends aims to follow suit. 

Previously when a game has been local co-op or multiplayer only, it has been seen as a bit of a negative, taking away from the experience by not allowing online play. Whilst that has been true in the past, it has been because of the type of games they were. With Towerfall and Sportsfriends, local is the way to go and it works.

Sportsfriends is a pretty small game, boasting just four events, with one of those requiring four players, no more no less. The other three are played with 2-4 players. You hear a fair amount about games that a ideal for parties, the likes of Rock Band, Singstar, Just Dance and the like. The problem with these games, is they require a certain amount of talent and confidence. Not everyone wants to dance or sing infront of other people, no matter how drunk they may be.

This is where Sportfriends fills a gap, it is stupid fun, you require no talent, no need to want to be the life and soul of the party, you just have good old fun with friends and family, sober or a little bit merry. As said there are four events to take part in and each one of them is as simple as can be.

Barabariball has two teams standing on a platform surrounded by water, the idea is to get the ball and throw it into the water on your opponents side, each time you do this, you get a point. You can jump in after the ball to stop the other team scoring, but you will in turn lose a point yourself. It is a really simple concept and can get hectic, especially as four players face off against each other.

Johann Sebastian Joust is probably the standout game of the four, as it doesn’t even require you to pay attention to the TV to play. Up to four players hold a controller, or move controller each (more on that in a bit). They stand in a circle and the idea is to keep your controller still, whilst forcing other players to move theirs. This usually ends up in a bit of a wrestle as you try to get one up on your friends. It is such a simple premise, it is silly but it is a barrel of laughs.

Super Pole Riders is probably the most complex game of the set, with players having to move a ball that is on a line to their opponents goal. They do this using a pole which is controlled with the right stick, whilst moving the character with the left stick. Players can either move the ball with the pole, or use the pole to vault their guy upwards so he can kick the ball. However, you also need to be aware of opponents who are fighting for the same ball, but can also knock you off your pole giving them a small advantage with no opponent to worry about for a moment. Again it is hectic and fun.

The final game is Hokra, which requires four players as standard. With Hokra, you have two teams of two players and the aim is to get the ball into one of your home zones and keep it there until your square fills up, the first team to fill their square wins the game. Yet the other team just need to run into you to get the ball and make off with it to their own home zone. The battles that can be had here are fantastic with some games last a fair amount of time, as you win the ball, set off, but get it stolen back, before you steal it yourself and so on.

It got to the point where players were discussing tactics, of how to get the ball and get to a zone whilst another defended trying to keep it as long as possible, the back and forth becomes tense and exciting very quickly an makes for some entertaining times even for those just watching.

One of the biggest fears we had for Sportfriends before playing, was how much anyone would get out of it, unless they had four controllers, or enough move controllers for everyone. Especially when it came to Johann Sebastian Joust. But fears were quickly quashed, when it became apparent you could use a mixture of controllers, move controllers and even the Vita to play. The Move controllers don’t even need the camera to function for any of the games, which put to rest another fear you may initially have…needing to buy a camera. It isn’t needed at all.

The ease of use of the game, the quickness to set up and play really does make this an ideal party game. It took mere seconds from booting the game to have four players on various controller types, laughing, giggling and generally having fun. And whilst initially it felt a little disappointing that there was no single player option, it does make sense, this isn’t the sort of game that you can enjoy on your own. Even if it used bots as opponents, there is no better fun than owning your friends and family. It is a game that knows its strengths and plays to them perfectly.

There is great value too, because if you buy it on the PS3, you get the PS4 version free as part of a cross-buy promotion, which can be ideal if you are visiting a friends house and they only have the other system to what you may have. The PS3 version unfortunately doesn’t support the Vita, but that is a minor issue and not one that can be blamed on the developers anyway.

Sportsfriends isn’t a game that you will play every day, it isn’t a game that is for a lone gamer, it is purely for getting out when friends are over, at parties, when the whole family is at home, those sorts of occasions. It may only be played a handful of times a year, but we can guarantee you, that those handful of times, will be wondrous and full of great memories.

MovieStyle: Doom

Video game adaptations usually fall into two categories, either the so bad they’re good, or so bad they’re just unwatchable. The first game I did for this feature (Wing Commander) certainly fell into the latter. Doom though is stuck somewhere between. The first time I watch it I found it dumb, stupid and yet watchable, but on future viewings (yes, I’ve seen this movie more than once) it too started to be less fun and more tedious.

An early-ish role for Dwayne Johnson before he would later turn himself into a Gears of War character, Doom feels like it so desperately wants to be Aliens you almost feel sorry for it. Something I missed on my first viewing there are a number of moments that definitely bring to mind the sci-fi classic, and not just the ragtag group of military types that get sent into a hellish situation. One character decides to take a look into an air vent before falling backwards in shock, there’s a sewer section and one characters fate is nigh on identical to Hudson’s. A few new ideas wouldn’t go amiss.

As fans of Doom would know, the game takes place on Mars where, quite literally, all hell has broken loose. Problem with the movie is, aside from the Martian locale, the Hell section of the story has been excised completely. Instead the story focuses on scientists on Mars (one of which being played by Rosamund Pike doing a shaky American accent) finding humanoid remains that have an extra chromosome that essentially makes them superhuman. Obviously this leads to experiments on humans and it all goes a bit pear shaped. Cue the arrival of Dwayne and his team, the only other one of note being Rosamund Pike’s brother Grimm (played by Judge Dredd Karl Urban), who show up all guns blazing.

The other squad members being interchangeable and range from a creepy rapist guy who reminded me of a young Rik Mayall to the one they just call The Kidd, as soon as you’re told it’s his first mission you know exactly how well it’s going to go for him. I suppose it makes a change from the usual “this is my last mission” stereotype. There is one character that could’ve been quite interesting given a decent script. This being a born again Christian type who cuts himself whenever he takes the lords name in vain. Of course, this would’ve been a lot better and more appropriate if the whole story of Hell had actually been included.

To add to this stream of negativity, the Mars setting may have made things interesting, but far from it. In fact, I actually forgot the film was set on Mars until Karl Urban stops for a moment, looking out at the window to briefly see the Martian landscape. All of the film is set around dark, poorly lit corridors. So poorly lit that it’s actually hard to tell what is happening half of the time. So I guess in that respect it’s very faithful to Doom 3.

And speaking of faithful, let’s talk about the first person segment. Instead of scattering first person moments throughout the movie as a nod to the game (which could have worked), for some reason the directors thought It would be a good idea to have one long section where Karl Urban is in full on Doom mode. First person camera positioned just as in the game with gun in front and a musical rock track that sounds sort of like a remix of the music from the first Doom level. It comes complete with monsters jumping out, a pinky demon and even a chainsaw. This is the sort of thing that would sound amusing during a script meeting, but in theory is just bizarre and is the worst kind of fan service.

Doom is quite clearly aiming to grab in the video game crowd and really doesn’t care about the large movie going public, which probably didn’t help the critical reaction it got. But the weird thing is that despite its faults, the movie sped along at a decent pace and unlike with Wing Commander didn’t feel like time itself had stopped. So I guess there’s that.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Trailer

Another year, another Call Of Duty, but this time with added Kevin Spacey. Who seems to be channeling Frank Underwood for his part in Advanced Warfare.

See the trailer below:

Expect more news and updates as E3 approaches.

Sony’s Indie Showcase Brings Some Goodness

So E3 is coming, but that hasn’t stopped Sony from getting ahead of the game and making some juicy announcements. With a whole bunch of Indies coming to PS4 and PS Vita.

The games pretty much speak for themselves, so just take a look at their trailers below:

Nidhogg (PS4)

Spelunky (PS4 – Cross Buy)
spelunky

Chasm (PS4)

Skulls of the Shogun (PS4)

Source (PS4)

Axiom Verge (PS4, PS Vita)

Drifter (PS4, PS Vita)

Jamestown Plus (PS4)

Starwhal: Just the Tip (PS4)

Escape Goat 2 (PS4)

Ironclad Tactics (PS4)

Apoteon (PS4)

If that is what Sony have announced ahead of E3, then we should all be very excited for what they have saved for the event itself.

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl Review

A remake of the 2007 DS original, Etrian Odyssey Untold manages to capture that old school RPG flavour that people loved about the original, but also creating some of its own ideas along the way. Some of these ideas though being more successful than others.

At its core Etrian Odyssey is a first person dungeon crawler RPG where your character and fellow adventurers are tasked with exploring the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, a massive area complete with multiple floors and threats, as well as the ruin of Gladsheim. The big difference with Untold compared to the original is the addition of another game mode – Story Mode. While Classic Mode is still present and like the original features custom characters and maps, the Story Mode now has a narrative with pre-set characters, cut scenes and voice acting. As the Story Mode is the new addition, this is the one we spent the most time with.

While the addition of these new story elements would be welcome for some, the problem comes from how cliché a lot of it is. The moment an amnesiac character is introduced eyes began to roll. The main story is also not as intriguing as it needs to be in order to get people hooked. Initially revolving around being sent to the labyrinth and ruins in order to seek out the cause of tremors that appear to be rocking the region, it takes a while to start going anywhere. Although throughout the story you are given other quests (such as kill monsters, find missing people etc.), it takes around ten hours for any sort of interesting narrative to evolve. That aside, The Millennium Girl does do everything else really well.

A first person dungeon crawler at its core, the most unique of gameplay traits is the way you have to actually draw the map as you explore. With a grid based layout, as you wander around you’ll be using the bottom touch screen to create the map. It being imperative you draw it correctly, unless you want to spend the next half an hour looking for a way to the next floor because you foolishly drew a wall in the wrong place. With traps and multiple paths there are plenty of things in the world to keep you on your toes, as well as the random battles.

Battles are a straightforward turn based affair, with standard attacks, special skills etc. Levelling up though allowing you to place points into specific skills. So you can strategically plan out how you want each character, for instance placing points into defence for your main healer or spending all the points on attack and go in all guns blazing. There are also Grimoire Stones that can be combined and equipped to your party members to improve stats or skills, these being obtained through fights, like everything else in the game. Most floors in the labyrinth are also filled with FOES. These enemies are actually viewable in the world and are much tougher than other, more standard enemies. Like yourself they also move one tile per turn, so memorising their patterns is a must if you choose to avoid them. But of course, beating them earns many rewards.

All these items you collect being sold at Etria, the hub town that acts as your safe haven. Unfortunately you can’t walk around in any capacity; it’s simply a menu with options. Whether it is spending time to recuperate at the inn, collecting quests from the local pub or buying items from the store. It does the job, but there was slight disappointment that it wasn’t a real, living, breathing world that you could explore, especially as graphically everything in Etrian Odyssey looks rather nice. It would have been great to explore a town at your leisure without the fear of a monster jumping out and biting your face off.

If there’s something in Etrian Odyssey that we truly hope gets stolen for other JRPG’s, it’s the ability to change the difficulty mid-game. Finding a section too difficult? Then go to the options and lower the difficulty, there are probably other JRPG style games that have done this, but it doesn’t seem to be very prevalent in the genre. But maybe we’re just getting bad at games in our old age.

The Millennium Girl may have a plot filled more with cliché than originality, but the exploration aspect makes up for it. The plot may offer little new, but the gameplay itself brings with it enough fresh ideas to keep you playing till the end.