Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Adam

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition has further cemented Bioware as my favourite developer. I’ll be honest, I even quite enjoyed the much maligned Dragon Age 2, it wasn’t great, but it was okay if a little small in scope. Inquisition though is the complete opposite. As I said in my review, the small city where the majority of the action took place in Dragon Age 2 feels like an insignificant anthill compared to the scale of the world in Inquisition. A few bugs here and there (this is the PS4 version by the way) are forgiven as they’re not game breaking and compared to what else has arrived this year (DriveClub and Master Chief Collection I’m looking at you) they seem incredibly insignificant.

With so much content, after the first few hours my quest log was bursting at the seams, with each new land discovered even more adventure awaited me. And best of all, these are quests I wanted to complete. Not just out of some horrible need to hundred percent everything in the game, I wanted to help the people and play out my role as the leader of the Inquisition. People would often shout at me “get out of the Hinterlands!” But why? Yes, it’s essentially the starting area and the world outside is vast, but it was incredibly enjoyable just wandering around and helping out the people. You, as the Inquisition leader, felt exactly like that, a leader. Your comrades looked up to you and everything felt like it mattered, no matter how insignificant it was in the long run.

Combat was satisfying, characters were interesting and the main quest felt satisfying right through to the conclusion. It may not be the crown jewel in Bioware’s crown (that still belongs to Mass Effect 2), but this shows that they haven’t lost that magic.

It’s exciting that this is Biowares first foray onto the current gen platforms, because if this is the beginning then just imagine what they will be to accomplish later in this generations console lifespan.  Since it came out I’ve barely played anything else. It’s the ultimate time sink, and when I’m finally done with the core content, it’ll likely be DLC and expansion time. I think I need help.

We will be bringing you a new Game of the Year choice each day and then finishing off with a podcast discussion to pick an overall top three.

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom Review

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom is at its core a passable Legend of Zelda clone, no more not less. It lacks the charms of a Zelda title and the mechanics offer nothing new. On the 3DS there are touch screen options to manage you inventory, select things and the like, but that is pretty much it.

You go through a story doing various missions, killing enemies along the way, as you find new items and powers to allow you to access other parts of a map that you haven’t previously. It does all of these things competently, but still not as good as a Zelda game.

There really is very little to say, which makes it very difficult to expand on. A competent clone of an existing best of genre game, that is covered in a skin aimed at fans of a series. Nothing more nothing less.

So what we will do instead is help you decide if you should get Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.

Just answer these two questions:

1. Do you like Zelda Games?

2. Do you like Adventure Time?

If you answered:

YES/YES
Then go out and buy Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. As a fan of Zelda games and Adventure Time, there is nothing to stop you losing a few hours as you play this game to the end. There are plenty of references to the lore of Adventure Time and it is quite humourous  if you understand the show and the fact this is a Zelda lite type game, means you should be able to jump in have some fun and move on.


YES/NO
Well, it depends how desperate you are for a Zelda type of game. The mechanics don’t do enough to carry you past your dislike for Adventure Time and they certainly aren’t a match for Zelda, but hey, if you have exhausted every other Zelda option out there, then you may find something in this to pass a few days. Otherwise you are best off avoiding.


NO/YES
How much do you dislike Zelda? If the concept of the genre is enough to make you sick, then don’t expect anything here to change your mind. However, if you are a big fan of Adventure Time, the mechanics of the game are simple enough that you can enjoy the world and the characters that you know and love. You’ll get enough from the game on the whole to make it worthwhile having a look at.


NO/NO
Well clearly this isn’t the game for you. You hate Zelda (you monster) and you hate Adventure Time, so there is nothing for you here in the slightest. Find something else to play.

So there you have it. Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. It is simply run of the mill, but that is fine depending on how much you like Zelda type games, or Adventure Time.

Trine: Enchanted Edition Review

This is a weird one as the sequel to Trine has already been out on PS4 for just over a year now (which we reviewed here), so this Enchanted Edition, a port of the first game could possibly come across as a bit of a cash grab. But that would be doing it a disservice, because if you’ve not played it before, then this the best, most complete version of the game you’ll find.

A physics based, side scrolling platformer, Trine 2 features three characters that can be switched between at any given time. After touching a treasure known as the Trine, a thief, wizard and knight find themselves merged together. This forms the basis of the character switching antics, each character coming with their own unique skills and abilities.

The thief, nimble and armed with a bow and arrow can grapple onto any wood structures, swinging across chasms and to new areas. The knight, strong with his trusty sword and shield can take down any enemy. The wizard has the power to conjure boxes, planks and other platforms, as well as the ability to move them with his mind.

The main star of Trine though is the levels themselves. They’re brilliantly crafted and become quite a test during the latter parts of the game. And quite cleverly a lot of the puzzles have multiple ways to be solved. So there could be one part where you can use the wizard to create floating platforms, or maybe you want to use the thief to grapple her way across the wooden beams. It’s up to you really, usually the thief is the best option mind as the wizard is the most cumbersome of characters to use. As a game originally made for PC’s, conjuring boxes by drawing squares with an on-screen curser is not ideal when using the PS4 controller. Thankfully the game is incredibly lenient when it comes to the drawing. More often than not the squares looked more like circles, yet the game still gave us a box to work with.

Levels also come complete with enemies that need to be fought and the way the player chooses to dispatch them is just as clever as how they reach the end of the level. You might even find yourself killing them by complete accident. The thief and knight come with their trusty weapons, which is the traditionalist way, but there’s nothing better than using the thief’s grappling hook to swing and kick a skeleton off a cliff to its doom. Or better yet, why not push a block onto its head, or just create one with the wizard and watch it splatter your foe into a million pieces. With a few boss fights sprinkled in, the levels are brilliantly designed and look even better on PS4.

As the name suggests, this edition of the game is most certainly “enchanted”. Using the superior engine from Trine 2, lighting effects are simply gorgeous and the whole game has a much higher level of polish. In addition, the Enchanted Edition also brings with it online multiplayer, making this more than just a lazy port.

While this is no doubt the definitive version of Trine, we can’t help but feel it’s time for developers Frozenbyte to move on. From 2009 onwards they’ve been invested in the Trine universe, which is odd considering it’s not the world of Trine that makes the game so appealing. On the surface it’s a pretty standard fantasy world. But if this is the only real complaint we have (if you can even call it that) then Frozenbyte are certainly doing something right.

If you’ve somehow avoided Trine up until now then this is the point where you should really jump on board. Some clever physics puzzles make reaching the end of a level feel like a real achievement and despite the short playtime, it’s well worth the asking price.

UPDATE #2 – Sony leave Pockets Out of Pocket!

It recently came to Gamestyle’s attention that once again a PSN user has been hacked and had stuff purchased against their account. 

UPDATE #2

Pockets has had some further correspondense from Sony about his issue…We’ll just let this email speak for itself.

wow

UPDATE #1

Pockets had a phone conversation with Sony’s Customer Service. Just listen to it:

We reached out to the user known as ‘Pockets’ and this is the reply we got!

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On the 5th December I received an email thanking me for my PSN purchase of Shadow of Mordor for the PS3, a console I do not own. I immediately called the Sony customer service line and waited for around 30 minutes to talk to someone who was reasonably helpful and passed the matter on for investigation.

A week later I had heard nothing so called again and was ‘reassured’ that they were very busy but that the matter would be resolved soon. So I waited. This alone seems like a very poor response to fraud to me, having previously worked in the field for a credit card company, but so be it.

Today I received an email outlining the findings of Sony’s investigation which pointed out that the purchase had indeed occurred on a console other than my own but that they cannot refund me as they only do that if the software is faulty. So as long as the game the hacker bought with my money works it’s all okay apparently.

Here is the relevant section in the email they sent –

In relation to the transactions you recently flagged as unauthorised, our investigation concluded that the serial number of the console on which these transactions were made does not match the serial number of the console you provided to us on your original call. Regrettably, as stated in the PlayStation Network Terms of Service, we are unable to offer a refund for purchases made on PlayStation Store unless the content is found to be defective. We have taken the appropriate action against the console which made the purchase but unfortunately we cannot share the details of this console with you for security purposes.

So they have effectively agreed that fraud took place (in the same week that thousands of Sony email addresses and passwords were leaked no less) and yet they refuse to return the money that was stolen from me. No doubt they’ll argue the meaning; I think there might be an implication that I may have owned the other console somewhere there, they say the serial numbers are different, not that the owner is and I suspect this is what they would argue, but how am I possibly meant to prove anything in that regard? I was told on my original call that they would check IP addresses too so I have to assume they did this and would have also found that they were different. I can’t even think of words to describe this, hopefully it’s obvious to you how wrong this is although my experience with Sony makes me fear that it isn’t to them.

I’m sure Sony are fully aware of my, and no doubt hundreds if not thousands of other customers powerless position we are in when something like this happens. You’re beholden to their customer service centre which sometimes has wait times of over an hour before you can speak to someone. Only those with high profile Twitter accounts or some other online presence have a hope of getting them to listen. Fortunately I was asked to tell my story here. I have written to the head of SCEE customer service and await a reply.

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Gamestyle will be sure to follow this to the end so keep an eye on the site for updates as we get them.  We do ask you to share this on Facebook, twitter, anywhere to make sure this gets the exposure it needs. Because, for all that Sony get right with the Playstation, there allegedly always seems to be this sort of thing in the shadows.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Review

“Why is someone in a bear suit hitting on teenage girls?” is a perfectly reasonable question you might have after a few hours of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. Other questions may include “Why are there so many characters?”, “What’s a Velvet Room?” and “How does that robot girl understand the dog?”

As the first installment of Atlus’ Persona franchise to appear on a Nintendo Console, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a bit of an oddball. Described as “first and foremost, for fans of the Persona series” by its producer, Katsura Hashino, this is a stripped-back traditional dungeon crawl featuring all your favourite characters from Personas 3 and 4.

Let’s set the scene. The members of SEES (P3) and the Investigation Team (P4) hear a bell tolling in the distance, and are then sucked into a mysterious alternate reality where they are all trapped in Yasogami High’s culture festival. A strange clock tower has sprung up outside the school, the other students seem oblivious to anything outside of the festival, and Zen and Rei – Persona Q’s two new characters – are found milling around with no idea why they are there.

It’s down to the two teams to work together, explore the labyrinth and discover the reason they have been transported there – helping Zen and Rei recover their memories along the way.

That plot could quite easily pass as fan-fiction, and it’s also worth noting that if you’ve never played a Persona game before, much of it will make little sense. Without previous knowledge of the series, you would be forgiven for thinking that Persona Q was a game based around crawling dungeons, and teenagers arguing about beef.

The meat (argh) of the game takes place in the various labyrinthine dungeons scattered around the school. You’re tasked with exploring each floor and defeating the monster at the deepest point of each labyrinth. Battles are dished out at random, there’s treasure to find and giant monsters, called FOEs, to avoid. Each floor is packed full of puzzles and goodies to discover, and once you’ve solved a puzzle, a shortcut will become available enabling it to be skipped on subsequent visits. It’s largely standard dungeon crawling fare packed full of daft vignettes of the two teams getting to know one another. These will either serve as a reminder of the superb characterisation from Persona 3 and 4, or for those whom Persona Q is their first foray into the series, come over a mixture of amusing and completely baffling. Why IS the guy in the bear suit hitting on all the girls?

The snappy but throwaway sketches make it feel like the cast are taking part in a sitcom rather than an adventure. Each character is almost a caricature of themselves – Akihiko speaks only of protein, Junpei is forever trying to attract the girls, and if Yukari were any more coy she might excuse herself from the game entirely. Herein lies the biggest issue with Persona Q – it is difficult to fathom and almost impossible to describe without constantly referencing back to previous entries in the series.

Zen and Rei are fun additions to the cast. Zen is quiet and moody, at odds with the rest of the happy-go-lucky cast. His no-nonsense attitude inadvertently makes him come across like Team Dad much of the time. Rei, on the other hand, is a one-hit wonder – tiny, brimming with enthusiasm and obsessed with food. It is a miracle how she ended up not only being tolerable, but very amusing at times. Even her voice acting is good – though the same can’t be said for the game’s stubborn insistence on referring to the protagonists (whom you have to name yourself) as “Leader”, which sounds clumsy and forced.

The combat system will feel a little uncanny valley-ish to players of previous Persona games. It’s had a slight overhaul from the puzzly nature of previous games, and is now a more traditional JRPG turn-based combat fare, with a twist. Each enemy has a series of weaknesses – a specific type of magic or melee attack. Landing a hit against an enemy’s weakness will put the attacking character into a boosted state – if they take damage they’ll lose that state, but if they survive until the start of your next turn without taking a hit then their skill/magic use for the following turn is free.

It’s a great incentive to attack smartly, and to formulate a battle plan against each group of enemies encountered. It prolongs the amount of time you can spend in the labyrinth as Skill Points (SP), the currency you exchange for magic use, are pretty scarce. Each character can also equip an additional Persona, which will grant them a set of additional skills to complement the ones they naturally learn, and crucially, a buffer of HP and SP that refills at the end of every battle. This deals with the issue of paying for your first, pre-boost, magic use in a very elegant manner.

Making the most of the tools available to you is important, as Persona Q can be harsh on mistakes. Enemies are powerful and will be quite happy to wipe team members out given half a chance – and while they can be revived in battle with items, once your team start dropping it can be a mad rush to get out of the battle before the whole squad are wiped out. You even have to fill in your own map! Points of interest like shortcuts, doors and, er, walls have to be put in manually, and forgetting will lead to frustrating hours of wandering a seemingly-complete labyrinth until the door you forgot to mark is located.

Persona Q is a curious game, especially as a debut entry on a Nintendo platform. It’s a giant in-joke with a really competent dungeon crawler stapled to it, and while you can definitely still have a great time crawling dungeons and laughing at daft antics, it’s just so much better with that extra knowledge. If you’re looking for an entry point into the franchise, this isn’t the best place to start; even so, I really enjoyed myself with Q, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the absurd standards I’ve come to expect from this series.

MovieStyle: Alone in the Dark

This is the fourth in the MovieStyle series, but it’s the first where I genuinely started to question what I was doing with my life. So you can probably guess what I thought about Uwe Boll’s second attempt at a game adaptation.

Normally I’d start by explaining the plot, but quite honestly I have no idea what was going on for large portions of the film. What I can tell you is it involves paranormal investigator Edward Carnby, mysterious relics, an army of horrible CGI monsters and an archaeologist who is evil for some reason. Honestly, the villain of the story seems to have no motivation for his actions. I think he’s just insane.

The plot does attempt to go a little deeper, involving Edward as a child being experimented on along with the rest of the orphaned children, but as a whole, it feels held together by string.

Really you know what you’re in for with the films hilarious opening action scene. A car chase that soon develops into a fist fight with some of the most face palm inducing stunts ever committed to film, probably none more so than when Edward does a Guile-like flip kick for some reason. There’s also a section in said fight where the demon inhabited henchman jumps from a building and clearly starts to pivot, you know, as if he’s attached to some sort of safety rope. This is the first fifteen minutes. We haven’t even been introduced to Tara Reid yet.

A performance like no either, portraying archaeologist and museum curator Aline Cedrac, Tara Reid puts in a performance that is so bad even Uwe Boll himself has said it was terrible. Not that she’s alone mind, Christian Slater as our hero Edward Carnby is at a career low here, the action delights of Broken Arrow seem like a distant memory. The only actor who comes out of this with any sort of credibility is Stephen Dorff who as Commander of Bureau 713 is trying to make the most of an atrocious script.

It’s probably worth mentioning the hilarious ‘love story’ between Edward and Aline. They already knew each other before the movie opens, Edward went travelling around the world without saying anything, so Aline hates him, greeting him with a punch. Then about half an hour later he’s instantly forgiven and they’re in bed together in one of the funniest sex scenes you’ll see. Not for the actions, but for the fact that the song “7 seconds” starts playing. It’s all very surreal.

And while I’m on the subject of music, the audio mix in this film is just weird. For large parts of the movie the audio obscures the dialogue so it’s hard to hear what people are actually saying. This ranges from the orchestral arrangements to the audio of things like helicopters. Then there’s this scene below, which actually made me burst out laughing.

And yes, the CGI is as bad throughout the film. Whenever you get a clear shot of the monsters it’s laughable. I’d say it was like watching a made for SyFy movie, but that would be too harsh on the SyFy Channel.

This whole movie is just weird, I mean, were people really crying out for an Alone in the Dark movie? And what an odd time for the film to come out, pretty much smack bang in the middle of two releases in the franchise. Four years after the quite well received New Nightmare and three years before the reimagined atrocity that came out in 2008.

So how closely it follows the source material? Honestly, I have no clue. Being in a modern setting and certain characters make this more in line with the recent entries in the franchises, but as for overall story, who knows? One thing it does lack when compared to the games is actual horror. As a series that is often mentioned as being the father of the survival horror genre, this is quite bizarre. A few bloody moments aside, there’s not one moment of actual horror in the film, no jump scares, nothing.

I’m going to wrap this up now because the more I think about it the more my brain hurts. In case you haven’t figured it out by this point, then no, no you should not watch this movie. Alone in the Dark has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but the sad thing is it must’ve done okay because there’s ma sequel. They made a sequel to this movie!

And with that I’ll see you back here for the next MovieStyle feature, Uwe Boll’s In The Name of the King. I hate my life.

Visual novel Steins;Gate is getting a Vita and PS3 release in Europe

Well, this is certainly unexpected. Today it was announced that Japanese visual novel Steins;Gate is finally get a European release on PS3 and Vita, courtesy of PQube.

It’s certainly a series fresh in our mind as the anime series has quite recently been made available on UK Netflix. The anime series by the way is superb and should be watched by everyone, even if you’re not a typical anime guy.

A time travel story featuring multiple endings, gameplay isn’t exactly in depth, reading masses of text before making a choice is very much the order of the day. That said, if it’s anything like the anime then the story will certainly be gripping.

Steins;Gate is currently just given a release date of “2015”.

Gamestyle Early Access – Goodbye 2014 A Year of Growth

Sorry for the longer than usual video, but Bradley wanted to fill you in on what an amazing year this has been for Gamestyle. From where we were at the start of 2014 with 3 writers doing what they could, to a team of dedicated staff who produce a ton on content.

We cannot thank you all enough, so please join us again in 2015.

As always, you can watch below.

We’d love to hear you feedback, so either leave them in the comments here, or one of our many social networks.

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DmC: Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4 the latest to get the Definitive Edition treatment

You can add another couple of games to the last gen re-release category as we’ll be seeing both DmC: Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4 arriving on PS4 and Xbox One.

Arriving on 17th March 2015, DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition will run at 1080p, 60fps and come with all the DLC that was released, all for the sum of £29.99.

Despite being a great game, Ninja Theory’s reboot/re-imagining saw a lot of stick from the hardcore DMC community for the new character designs and combat. Ninja Theory clearly aware of this are actually doing a fair bit of tweaking, including configurable controls and rebalanced gameplay. The trailer is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MruA6AfRpU

As for Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, this is currently pencilled in for a Summer 2015 release on Xbox and PS4, and that’s all we know thus far.

South Park and Venom DLC – Zen Pinball 2 / Pinball FX 2

South Park

Pinball junkies rejoice! It’s time for more glorious flipper hammering action and bumper bashing insanity with Pinball FX2/Zen Pinball! Warm those fingers up and let’s get down to some righteous high score chasing chicanery and put our foot to the floor for a Wizard Mode activating extravaganza!

No, you can’t make Pinball table releases sound exciting. Ah well. Anyway, two releases to review, and a total of 3 tables. First up is the South Park pack. A little belated as the backlog got the better of me and it’s been languishing on the hard drive, but now I’ve put some time into it it’s an interesting pack, and pretty decent value.

For the frankly paltry sum of £3.99 you get the South Park Super Sweet Pinball table and Butters Very Own Pinball Game table, and what’s nice is they’re actually very different experiences. Well, as different as 2 pinball tables can be.

The Super Sweet table is, initially, off putting. The music is obnoxious and the entire table seems incredibly convoluted and complete sensory overload, with busy artwork and 9 separate triggers you have to complete to activate the Wizard mode. However, spend a bit of time with it and you find a deep and involved table which is actually a good slice of fun, especially if you’re a fan of the show. If you’re not, well, you can always turn the music off.

The Butters Very Own Pinball Game table is also fun, but a much more sedate and open table, with modes based around Butters’ apparently over-active imagination. It’s actually quite charming, which is something I never thought I’d say in relation to South Park. It’s a good thing they decided to reign this one in, because if you had the same Volume-Turned-To-11 aesthetic as the Super Sweet table it might have driven some to throw their pad through the TV.

VERDICT: YAY

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Venom

The Venom table (Venom as in the Spider-man villain, not Venom the geordie black metallers. Although, thinking about it, I’d pay good money for that table) is a bit of a let down after the South Park pack, and also compared to the abundance of other Marvel tables available to download.

Thematically it’s fine if you’re a fan, with plenty of references to the various incarnations of the Venom Symbiote and its offspring, but as a table it feels cramped and disjointed. It’s difficult to explain, but the various sections feel very compartmentalised and not cohesive as a whole table and as such makes attaining Wizard Mode more convoluted and troublesome than the South Park Super Sweet Table.

Also the overuse of ramps is marred by some very strange physics that don’t plague other tables. Either the ramps are too steep or it’s an actual bug but they’re very ‘sticky’ and often the balls stop halfway or don’t make it the whole way around, say, the Carnage orbit despite you being sure you’ve timed it correctly.

It’s a shame because the Marvel license has brought some excellent tables to the game, but this one just seems cobbled together. It’s only £2.49, so chances are you’ll buy it and get that much out of it if you’re one of those compulsive buyer types (*cough*) but if you’re not bothered about a full pinball library there are other tables more deserving of your two hundred and forty nine pence.

VERDICT: NAY

 

Rock Boshers DX: Directors Cut Review

From the moment the game starts to  load, Rock Boshers DX: Directors Cut will make the old gamers will fondly remember the ZX Spectrum smile from ear to ear.

With a loading screen directly lifted from what must be the only computer that also doubled as a competent door stop, the memories will soon come flooding back and a warm glow will soon envelop you and that is even before you start the game.

The game itself is arcade adventure of sorts with elements of a 8-way directional shooter, that also has some rather crazy story behind it to give the game a narrative that at times can be quite funny.

You control a young Queen Victoria who has recently left Earth to look for adventure on the planet Mars.  The main game is split into three areas, which all contain eight levels that are just a single screen where you must find your way to the lift to move to the next one.  In each level you will encounter various enemies that are trying to kill you, including guards, zombies and some strange alien creatures.  There are also keys to collect, computer terminals to destroy both to aid your progress, and the best of all weapon upgrades.

Your basic weapon which you control by using the right stick, is a simple pistol, but as the game goes on you can acquire such weapons as machine guns and a rocket launcher, which become much needed as at times this can be a really tricky game.

Graphically it really does capture the look of the ZX Spectrum, using a limited palette of only fiveteen colours, and with some classic Spectrum attribute clash.  The developers Tikipod really have shown the Spectrum a lot of love and this shows in the sound as well, with some great title music and authentic 8-bit sound effects.

Overall, Rock Boshers DX is a just a lovely little game to play, of course fans of the Spectrum may get a little more out of it than other people.  But even younger gamers who don’t remember the time when it was home computers that ruled the gaming world and not consoles, will still get much enjoyment out of a game that looks pretty simple, but at times can be tricky, with more hidden depth that it’s looks may perceive.

 

It hasn’t Always Been Cool to own a Console.

It was 1989, I was 12 years old and to be quite honest, I was quite unique among my peers, not in a bad way I must add, but there was something about me that made me stand out, and that thing was….. I  was a proud owner of a Sega Master System.

Back in the late 1980’s owning any form of game console was not quite the popular and common thing it is among the game playing public of today.  When I was given my Master System for my twelfth birthday, I was literally the only person I knew that owned one.  All of my friends were owners of some type of home computer. The better off kids owned Atari ST’s or the Commodore Amiga, while the less fortunate, were still playing their games on Sinclair Spectrum’s, Commodore 64’s, or the not so common Amstrad CPC.

I was never given a home computer when I was a kid; though I did ask for one every year for Christmas or my birthday.  I was always so jealous of my computer friends, and looking back now, I am fairly sure I used to base my friendships on if the owned a computer.  Having no computer of of my own had already made me feel like a bit of a social outcast, so when I was the first person I knew to own a games console this situation didn’t really improve.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying owning a console made me the laughing stock of my class but owning one back in 1989 could be a sad and often lonely experience. I was unable to swap games with anyone, and the release schedule for the Master System was so bare, I would look at envy at my computer owning friends who were able to play something new every week, while I was stuck with nothing but Shinobi and Hang-On for six months. Shinobi though of course was a cracking game, though I did have to use a cheat to get past one of the end of level bosses to be able to finish it.

Other consoles were even less popular than Sega’s 8-bit machine.  The only place I ever saw a Nintendo Entertainment System was in the Boots in Swindon town centre, and to honest, the graphics looked dull and blocky compared to what I was used to with my Master System.

This was soon to change, consoles in just a few years after 1989 were taking over computers and becoming the machine of choice for gamers.  When I was at college, almost everyone had either a Sega Mega Drive or Super Nintendo, and games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II and Super Mario World were often discussed in mainstream media.  And in 1995, with the  European launch of the Sony Playstation, gaming even started to become trendy.

I will though, forever hold dear to my heart what it was like to be a console owner, when it was was the opposite of being cool and trendy.  Among my friends I was pioneer of sorts, leading the way to a better life of games without loading and brighter colours, but like all pioneers, it was sometimes a hard path to tread with many obstacles in my path(the price of Master System games being the biggest one).  But looking back now, I wouldn’t have it anyother way now.  My love for Sega and console gaming in general has never faded, and the days of playing on my Master System with its bright blue sky gaming are some of my fondest memories. These will live with me with forever, along with the cheat you had to input to choose levels on Shinobi (which is press up, hold down and press button 2 on the title screen).

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review

Tomb Raider was an excellent reboot of the mainline Lara games, but there are a few fans of the spin-off release, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. It was a game that offered a purer experience that had more in common with the original Tomb Raider than anything since, mixing action with plenty of puzzle solving and most importantly, the raiding of tombs.

It was a game that was received really well by both critics and fans alike, but it never seemed to do as well commercially as the high review scores suggested it should. However that hasn’t stopped a follow up for current gen consoles and PC. As this time Lara (and Carter Bell) are is joined by Osiris and Horus to defeat the evil god Set.

This is a story that is set up purely to play to the games strengths and make the 4 player co-op make sense. It doesn’t do anything spectacular and won’t remain with you forever, but as far as stories go for setting up puzzles and fights…Yeah it is perfectly acceptable.

It isn’t the story we came for though, it is the wonderful gameplay, which is back in full force from the original, but has been tweaked and improved from the bottom up. As with Guardian of Light, Temple of Osiris is best played with friends in co-op, but what you have here is something that works dynamically based on how many are playing.

The last effort was clearly designed for co-op which made it a bit dull in single player, here though there has been care and attention put into any type of playthrough. Single player has many strengths and is perfectly playable and fun, but when you add extra players, there is a dynamic change to the way levels play out.

It is a clever system that does a great job of adjusting how the game is played and how puzzles are solved, as well as how enemies are tackled. What this does is ensure that the game isn’t just a single player game with co-op options, nor a co-op game which has had some single player options shoe-horned into it.

It goes beyond just changing how puzzles are solved and that sort of thing, the loot pickups also have different effects based on how many are playing. Aside from personal pickups, that effect your own character, there are group loot items, that affect everyone that is playing and rather than simply being just shared health and gems, it does something with the way weapons work.

If one player picks up a loot item that allows them to use a spread shot and another gets one that gives them fireball shots, the two will combine to give you spread fireball shots. Which is utterly fantastic, as are some of the combinations you can create throughout the game. These aren’t just endless though, as taking damage will also restrict their use which keeps them just about perfectly powered.

It’s not just the various pick ups that impress. Each character has their own set of abilities, with Lara and Carter having a similar set, then Osiris and Horus also having similar, but again with each having their own signature also. It means that again the balance spot on no matter how many players you have.

That is the thing that really impresses with Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, it has wonderful balance throughout. Sitting there enjoying the game on your own, with others in the same room, with others online or even through PS4’s Share Play feature. All these options will see the age of co-op games rise to the top and this is a great example of how good it can work.

It’s not the longest game you’ll ever play, but it is a game you’ll be happy to go to time and time again. Because aside from the main missions, there are various collectibles, extra dungeons and reasons to go back to beat all the objectives and challenges. Do it on your own, then do it all again with friends and again with other friends. There will also be some DLC (as there is a season pass) that will hopefully also add more for you to enjoy.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a fantastic game. It doesn’t matter one little bit if you are a long time fan of Lara, or not, just the game alone is worthy of your time and the co-op is some of the most enjoyable you will experience. A wonderful end to 2014.

 

Tengami Review

Tengami caught our eye well over a year ago at the Eurogamer Expo back in 2013. Amidst the throng of noise and colour around the Nintendo stand was an unassuming screen displaying a delicate looking game.  A very apt first impression, this is a very calm and thoughtful game that is much more about contemplation and the journey than it is about simply getting to the end.

There is no real plot to speak of as your journey follows a lone Japanese wanderer as he seeks to return four cherry blossoms to a bare cherry tree. It’s very similar in tone to something like Journey where it is the adventure that subtly writes the story into the minds of the player rather than having it explicitly stated.

The main draw of Tengami is its art style. The world and everything in it are created to look like a paper pop-up book. The game starts by opening the book and as you progress you literally turn the pages.  The environments are absolutely gorgeous and no other game has had us continually reaching for the Wii U screen shot button.  It is also underscored with some lovely sound to fully immerse you in the oriental world it is portraying.

Aside from wandering around beautiful environments you will need to solve puzzles in order to progress.  This is done via the Wii U pad and generally involves sliding things around or making different parts of the environment pop-up. There are also musical puzzles (normally revolving around bells), and puzzle boxes that need to be unlocked by looking around the environments for symbols.

The puzzles range from being very simple to quite fiendish in design. The puzzle boxes which require looking around the environment can be very tricky – until you realise you may need to hold turning pages half open to see some of them. It certainly makes you think and there is nothing here that should stop you completely dead in your tracks for long.

Our only real gripe with the game is its length. We managed to get through it in a couple of hours and though there are Miiverse stamps to collect there isn’t really too much to come back into it for. Unlike journey where the thrill of the ride is enough to replay, here you already know the puzzles so unless you want to wander the beautiful world again there is very little to draw you back.

This certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, it moves at a fairly slow pace and there is a lot of wandering to be done between puzzles. That said, we feel that everything it sets out to do it has accomplished pretty much perfectly.

Overall, Tengami is unashamedly the game it wants to be and there is little compromise to players that might not get it. For those looking for something different this could be the perfect game. It merges the concepts of art and video games and has created something unique. Yes it’s short, but the fact we wanted more speaks volumes of the experience we had with it. There are things here that will make you smile and show you small moments of magic and for us that’s more than enough.

Tales From The Borderlands: Episode One – Zer0 Sum Review

Few companies have grown in size quite like Telltale Games. Since The Walking Dead exploded they seem to be taking on projects at an astounding rate, some would say they’re taking on too many. After all, how can they keep up the quality when they’re churning out game after game? Just this past month both Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones have been released. But, if the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands is anything to by, then we really needn’t worry.

Borderlands as a universe is one you either love or loathe. The madcap antics of vault hunters, bandits and creatures aren’t for everyone and Tales won’t change your mind, in fact, it might further cement it. From a company that clearly has such brilliant writers, it’s slightly disappointing that the humour misses the mark more than it hits. In fact, in the few hours playtime the game only really elicited a slight titter. This is not to say the writing is bad per se. When it’s not trying to make the player laugh it’s well written, enjoyable, contains plenty of memorable characters, with a story that goes from strength to strength.

Initially starting as your main male character of Rhys, voiced by Troy Baker (because of course he is), you find yourself being dragged by an unknown bandit and this is where Rhys starts to tell the bandit the story (a “Tale” if you will) about how he ended up in this current predicament. A story that stretches from space to the barren wastelands of Pandora. Not just being in control of Rhys, during portions of the game you will also get to control Fiona, a thief whose story is intertwined with Rhys’. Quite cleverly, as both are telling the same story there are often contradictions and embellishments, something the other character quickly pulls the other up on.

Gameplay wise, this is a Telltale game through and through. You get choices to make, QTE’s to beat and plenty of things to examine. It seems with each passing game it moves further and further away from the classic point and click formula. Remember puzzles? I don’t think Telltale does as what was once a staple of the genre has been all but eradicated, which is a shame, as episodes normally last around the three hour mark so something to stretch out the playtime a little would be most welcome. Bizarrely in the game you get an actual inventory, which at least in the first episode, seems pointless as you don’t need it for anything. There are a few moments that utlise the Borderlands setting, such as Rhys being able to use his artificial eye to hack computers and scan objects, but even these just rely on the player selecting an option and continuing to click on things. While the formula of Borderlands may be safe; it is however, the most competently made.

Telltale’s console output has had a few hiccups along the way. Jerky scene transitions, graphical bugs and save game issues were commonplace. Nothing like that can be seen in Borderlands. Moving from scene to scene is absolutely seamless with none of the stutter that became a major annoyance with The Walking Dead. And it’s a good thing as the action sequences are just incredible. Many times you’ll want to watch the background action, instead of concentrating on the simple QTE’s that appear. Amazingly paced, the way the game starts off small before ramping up to an epic final sequence makes the game really end on a high.

As an opening episode, Tales from the Borderlands is mightily impressive. Containing some of the best action sequences Telltale has put together, and the tantalising cliffhanger means we’ll see you back here for episode 2.

Gamestyle Live – 10th December 2014

We have a guest. A special guest who is surely a bit more professional than Bradley and Steve. We welcome Gametrailers’ own host of The Final Bosman – Kyle Bosman

As always, you can watch below.

Or, new to Gamestyle…If you want audio only, here is the Soundcloud link.

We’d love to hear you feedback, so either leave them in the comments here, or one of our many social networks.

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The Crew Review

An open world, myriad distractions, a main storyline that is entirely forgettable and secondary to the world created around it. This all sounds awfully familiar…

The Crew is dull, frustrating and not worth your time or money. That’s it. Wait for the £20 price drop if you’re jonesing for a next-gen racer. 5/10.

Are you still here? God almighty. Look, it’s probably best if you take my word for it, because I’ve spent hours writing, re-writing and re-working this bloody review to try and explain why the game’s so spectacularly mediocre, and it just ends up being 2000 incredibly protracted words about how the decisions and workings of The Crew crunch and grind against each other like a broken machine.

OK, fine, I’ll try to be concise. But I’ll fail.

The story is tedious and boring. It’s actually terrible. I understand criticising the story of a racing game is basically pointless. It’s not like we’re expecting War and Peace with Aventadors and Dodge Chargers, is it? It’s just the backbone narrative of the so-called single player portion of the game is such piss-poor, bog-standard, super-generic revenge story hokum it should come with a warning on the box about putting you into a coma.

Of course, plot can be ignored. You just get through that shit to enjoy the game, right? Well, yeah, if the game’s fun to play. The thing is, the gameplay is also boring. There are a few reasons for this, foremost being the handling of the cars and the physics engine are teeth grindingly frustrating. The cars lack any kind of feedback or friction, and as such you never really feel in control of them. You can mess up a whole race because you twitch the stick slightly to the right, hit the curb and completely lose control by over compensating for the bounce and roll of the car.

This is doubly frustrating as the Missions tend to lean heavily towards escaping from the police/enemies and chasing people down to ram them off the road. Replaying those in particular becomes a chore as the handling, inconsistent traffic and rubber banding AI conspire to make them about as much fun as smashing yourself in the vitals with a lump hammer.

As you start unlocking more upgrades for the cars they start being more interesting to use, and the alternate tuner specs add some variety to the handling despite the underlying problems, but there’s a larger issue with the ‘economy’ in game and it’s quite a convoluted one so bear with me. Or skip to the end and read the final summary if you haven’t already. Spoiler: I gave you the score at the top of the page so if you’re not even going to read the summary, you’ve already lost 5 minutes of your life reading this far.

There are five tuner specs for different race types (Street, Dirt, Perf, Raid and Circuit), and you can upgrade various parts of your car in those specs. You do this by accumulating car parts by achieving Bronze, Silver or Gold in ‘Missions’ or ‘Skills’ (challenges dotted around the game world). This is essentially a loot system; you get a Bronze, Silver, or Gold level upgrade to a part (for example Tyres) which improves the overall rank of your current spec and also gives a random tuning bonus (for example Braking). You are awarded that part and can instantly apply it to the car you’re in, but it’s also put into your garage so you can install it later or buy it for a different car of the same spec. With me so far? Good, that makes one of us.

The specs are unlocked with each new area as the main story takes you through the map. Each area tends to focus on these new specs, but also throws in some of the previous ones to help unlock upgrades for them. Because of this way of gateing parts, you’ll find yourself repeating Skills and Missions often just trying to keep each spec as high as possible to deal with the missions. You can unlock upgrades beyond your current player level to equip or buy them later, which is nice, but you’ve still got to replay the bloody things as you’re stuck in a loop of needing Gold parts but not having a car good enough to get Gold parts.

So like most MMOs of any creed or colour there’s grind involved. Fine, it goes with the territory, but there’s a seam of insidious cynicism to this grind that I don’t like, and it involves the games currency. In the game you have 2 currencies, Bucks and Crew Credit. Bucks (complete with it’s own little symbol that looks like a B dollar sign) are stingily doled out from Missions and Skills, although you can replay (*cough* grind) them. Money is more generously given from online races, but I’ll get back to that, because I need to get the thing about the Crew Credits off my chest.

Crew Credits are, to all intents and purposes, microtransaction money. The game gives you 100,000 but you don’t seem to be able to obtain them through any other means than buying them with real money. And everything in game from cars to parts to paint jobs can be bought with Crew Credits for about a third of the price of what you pay in Bucks.  In single player, this isn’t much of a problem as you get a boost to your cars every 5 levels to make them competitive, but when you consider  the cost of something like the frankly bonkers RUF CTR-3 was 260,100 Bucks or a meagre 67,993 Crew Credits then the disparity is glaring. That is, to put it bluntly, a bit fucking ridiculous.This disparity really comes to the fore online.

The online games I’ve played on The Crew have been all but white washes as matchmaking is an apparently alien concept to Ivory Tower. The poor handling model makes the inevitable shunts that people give you (because nobody turns the option for collisions off) a frustrating inevitability. Each area has its own themed online lobby, with Faction vs Faction (which faction you belong to is chosen during the main game and can change at will) or Free For All. I haven’t been able to get a single game of Faction Vs Faction at all. Free For All is much quicker, but also frustrating as hell seeing as you’re dumped in with people who can easily have cars 1000 points higher than your car has (the rating determined by the parts fitted and the base stats of the car). Obviously the parts have to be unlocked in the first place, and as I mentioned there’s a boost to all the cars every five levels, but because the Crew Credits make all the parts and cars so much cheaper it only takes someone to stump up £39.99 for 600,000 in Crew Credits to put them at a serious advantage. It’s borderline pay to win. In a game that costs the best part of £45 that is fucking abysmal. The tragic thing is it’s not the first game to do this and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

The singular thing about The Crew that impressed me was the map. It’s huge. A condensed caricature of the United States filled with prominent landmarks, cities and lots of roads in between. The problem with massive maps is that they can be overwhelming. A large map does not equate to large amounts of fun, especially when they’re filled with things to discover and do like all Ubisoft open world games are. There’s so much in there you’ll get fed up of driving on your own to some forsaken wilderness to look for another landmark that gives you bugger all XP.

However, if you have a couple of friends with you hooning around, simply driving from Detroit to Las Vegas just because you bloody well can you kind of forget the odd handling, and you can definitely forget the awful story and you just take in the sights, talk rubbish and grab some collectables along the way and for that tiny instance there’s a glimmer of brilliance.

But when you don’t have friends around you can try and fill those gaps with other players who inhabit the always-online world (when it’s not breaking or kicking you out for no reason because Ubisoft’s servers can’t handle the load despite at least one closed alpha test and 2 beta tests. Aaaaand breathe.) and this is where the brilliance fades. Out in the God knows how many hours I’ve played I’ve only ever had 1 other person join me for story missions, and he buggered off fairly quickly.

And this is it with The Crew; it tries to do so much and excels at nothing. It falls apart on almost every level, and given the potential it had that is a damn, damn shame.

WWE 2K15 Review

Wrestling, it is a pantomime, a wonderfully over the top opera. As much as you can claim to be too old for it, you cannot help but become engrossed when it is on. The Attitude Era in particular was just amazing and the games that supported it were the best quality also. Since then, not so much. However WWE 2K15 hopes to change that.

It is fair to say that the WWE games over the past few years have been running on automatic, with roster updates and the occasional new features, but by and large they have never managed to hit the heights of those N64 games. So with the 360 and PS3 era now all but over, can WWE 2K15 take advantage of the extra power of PS4 and XBOX One?

Well in short…No.

Sure on the whole WWE 2K15 has had a nice lick of paint and wrestlers such as Triple H, John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, etc look stunning, but look a bit further down the roster and it is clear that many of the superstars haven’t had the super treatment afforded to others. Which is a shame, because when you get two major stars in the ring, it is hard to argue against the stunning visuals.

There are some issues with presentations also, as Yukes have attempted to go for a TV style presentation, which overall works nicely, but then has some very odd design choices. Such as proper cut away replays, rather than the picture in picture stuff they use for the real deal. It comes across as though this is being presented by someone other than WWE themselves which takes away from the overall feel.

The problems don’t just end with presentation though. The jump into next gen and being overseen by 2K would hopefully have seen a huge improvement on the basic gameplay mechanics. However, again these seem stuck in the past and are nothing more than ok. They work in terms of allowing two guys to beat seven shades out of each other, but lack that something that makes wrestling…well, wrestling.

You only have to look back at WCW vs NWO Revenge, No Mercy, etc on the N64, the games developed by AKI for how to bring the world of wrestling to videogames. The reason they were so good to play, is that these games were in on the act and knew that we were in on the act.

Recent wrestling games and clearly shown here, have tried to go for a ‘wrestling is real’ feeling, that every punch, grapple, kick, chair shot, is designed to maim and hurt. Animations because of this just don’t flow all that great and in general feels very, very loose.

Without wanting to sound too harsh for a moment though. When played in local multiplayer it is still a fun game to play and it is possible to have a few hours of fun at any given time, just playing the various match types with you favourite wrestlers. It is only when you play against the AI that the game really begins to suffer. It is time to rip up the blue print and start again.

The various modes are interesting, but also show up a major issue between generations. There are modes on the PS3 editions that don’t exist on the PS4 and vice versa. This is annoying and a very bad practice that is designed it seems to get wrestling fans to pick up both versions this year. Yet the modes that are missing from each version aren’t really enough to warrant double dipping. It just annoys you more than anything.

One mode that stands out in 2K15 is My Career. Based around the same ideas as seen in 2K’s NBA series, you create a wrestler and taken him through an entire career to be the number one superstar in the WWE. It can use some improvements, but there is a lot of potential here. Yet at the same time it does highlight the issues with the gameplay mechanics.

My Career is presented in such a way that it will chart the rise of your character from tryout hopeful to being the next Stone Cold, Rock, etc. The progression and the presentation here buys into the idea that wrestling is a show, it gives you various events that must be completed to move on. It gives you an impression of just how hard you must work to make it to the top. Going from an initial tryout, through NXT before getting your big break and so on.

But again, mixed with the current mechanics, it just doesn’t mix as well as you’d hope as it goes from this behind the scenes look at what wrestling is all about, to the typical basic fight stuff. Sure there are objectives to meet in matches, but these are centered around doing damage, rather than maybe looking to hit certain moves at certain times.

Imagine a wrestling game, that was all about the technical side of things, making sure you hit certain milestones in matches as instructed by a ref on the go, or predetermined before you enter, designed around actually putting the best show on possible, just like the real thing. Having game mechanics built around that would give the genre the injection of creativity it needs.

As it is though, this is just another wrestling game and unless you absolutely MUST own the next gen version, then there is little reason to upgrade. WWE 2K15 isn’t a ‘bad’ game, but it is now certainly a very stale one.

 

Shovel Knight Review

Shovel Knight has been looking like a good game for a very long time and we loved it when we tried the PC version out. Another in the long line of retro styled platformers, it has always had something a little bit special about it. It’s taken a while to get here from the PC and we are delighted to say that it’s still as excellent as ever.

The game follows the tale of Shovel Knight who used to act as one of the champions of the land, defending it from evil along with his companion Shield Knight. One day the two knights fall fowl of a cursed amulet in a magic tower. Shovel Knight awakens to find Shield Knight has been sealed in the tower and the entrance is now impassable. While Shovel Knight hides away from the world the evil forces of the enchantress take hold. In doing so she unseals the magic tower and Shovel Knight sets off to rescue Shield Knight and stop the evil.

Shovel Knight is a platform game that wears its influences very plainly on its sleeve. There’s a  bit of Mega Man in there, (though you don’t take powers from fallen bosses), Some Duck Tales style bouncing, a bit of Castlevania 2 and 3 with the sub weapons and even a touch of Dark Souls. The thing that sets it all apart though is while all these elements are identifiable the game feels like something unique. It’s not just a trip down memory lane but a game that has taken key elements and forged its own identity with them.

The graphics and music are 8-bit themed and it certainly feels like the sort of thing you could be playing on a NES or Master System. Despite the potential limitations of the style each level is filled with detail and they each have their own clear identity. This is where the main Mega Man influence comes and it keeps things fresh as you never really know how an enemy boss knight’s stage is going to have to be approached until you get into it.

The adventure is set across a map screen with locks at the edge of it. Defeating the correct enemy boss knights releases the locks and allows you to move to the next section. As well as the enemy castles there are villages where you can get new gear and special levels which offer up gems or unique adventures for our hero to conquer (You can also go and speak to a big fish thing which fills up empty chalices with magic). You’ll need all the gems you can find as it acts as the in game currency and allows you to buy a whole host of secondary weapons and shovel and armour upgrades.

It should be pointed out that though the game is called Shovel Knight, this is not a title in the same vein as Steam World: Dig or Spelunky. It’s very much a platformer in the Mega Man or Castlevania style with skilful jumping and boss fights on the menu for intrepid explorers. The game is challenging but it has a very well balanced difficulty curve and we never felt completely out of our depth. Levels also have a large amount of checkpoints and there is no lives system in place so you can keep continuing. The main penalty for death is losing a chunk of your money. When this occurs it hangs around the area you died and must be reclaimed. If you die again then it’s gone, much like Dark Souls.

It’s a game that wants you to keep playing it. The constant supply of gems and available upgrades, the gradual revealing of the map, the extra levels – it all just keeps you wanting to see what else is out there and what’s going to be next and there is always something more to see. You’ll get random monsters and bosses roaming the map like in Mario 3 or pick up a new weapon and be able to complete a level you couldn’t before. You’ll just keep going and going until the end and then there’s always new game +.

Overall, Shovel Knight is a brilliant game. Everything is does it does well and everything works. It’s balanced and challenging and constantly offers up new surprises. The controls work perfectly, the levels and enemies are well designed and there’s a nice chunk of humour in there as well. This probably is it for the 8-bit retro styled platformer as to beat this would really take something. We tried and tried but it simply cannot be faulted. It’s just a magnificent game.

Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender Review

The are at times games that are difficult to review. This can be because the content is controversial and requires some considered thought, other times you may want to avoid any spoilers, or game is bad, so you need to be careful with how you critique said game. None of those are the case for Aqua Kitty though, the issue here is how to really sum up the game in more than a few words.

Well here we go.

Aqua Kitty is a competent shooter that takes a fair amount of influence from original arcade hit Defender…The clue is right there in the title, go on have a look. There it is. That is it really, the game in a nutshell. Eight out of ten.

Ok lets have a proper look. Aqua Kitty is a fantastic game to play and offers up ease of access whilst also giving players a well balanced challenge. It is split into three modes across the map with levels being either Easy, Normal or Arcade. Each level has the objective of defending a base whilst racking up the scores. Die and it is game over, let both bases get destroyed and it is game over. Simple, simple, simple.

That simplicity extends to the control scheme too, move around using the left stick, shoot with X and change the way you are facing with L or R. That once again is it. This is a game that you can play on a regular basis or just go back to when you have a gap in your schedule. It is extremely easy to get back into each and every time.

Yet that simplicity adds to an addictiveness that will see you gravitating to it every time you turn in your Vita. It has that certain something that sees it as more of a comfort game than anything else. You feel happy just knowing it is there and waiting for you whenever you need it.

Graphically it is also a throw back to the likes of Defender, but with a crispy 16bit underwater setting. It has a certain charm to it that works well with the music and general sounds too. A faint but recongnisable ‘meow’ will alert you to the fact a capture is about to happen, so you are able to get to the location quickly and be the hero.

If you are after a well crafted game for the Vita that you can just pick up and play whenever you feel like it, then Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defenders is a fantastic option and we wholeheartedly recommend it.

Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix Review

We have to admit that we are huge fans of Kingdom Hearts at Gamestyle. The original release on the PS2 was something of a wonder. In the days before we were living on internet forums, the source for information came from magazines and it was very rare you knew everything about a game ahead of release. So Kingdom Hearts was a massive unexpected surprise and a game that has a crossover that shouldn’t work, but just does.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD was a Kingdom Hearts dream, allowing them to play through the best versions of the games once again. It also meant there was rumours and leaks of Kingdom Hearts III, which were later confirmed.

Now we don’t really want to delve too much into what the games are individually, such as their story and characters, because either you are a returning player and know what to expect, or this is your first foray into the Kingdom Hearts world, thus you want nothing spoiled. But know this, for the most part the games play as they did upon their original releases.

Now we are lucky enough to still own original copies of Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep so are able to compare this Remix with the originals and instantly we can say that some work has gone into these and they are very, very competent updates. Playing the original Kingdom Hearts II on a HD TV doesn’t quite hold up and shows how far visuals have come in recent years.

However the ‘Final Mix’ HD version is clean and crisp, whilst still maintaining all the character you’d expect. It is purely on a visual side that work has gone, as all original gameplay options remain, for good or bad. Including an overly long introduction that seems to go on forever before letting loose on the game. But like Persona 4, don’t let that stop you, because it is a fine game once over that initial opening.

Birth By Sleep is also remastered for this release, but coming from an original PSP version see the HD upgrade not look quite a well done as you’ve seen in Kingdom Hearts 2. It isn’t bad, but it does appear it would have needed a full blown remake built from the ground up to make it work on a big TV.

So that is where we will do our only bit of port begging. Birth By Sleep would look stunning on the PS Vita’s OLED screen and is a wonderful handheld title, that just fits better for a handheld console than it does on a home console. It feels like a huge missed opportunity, especially for one of the better Kingdom Heart releases.

It is the tweaked gameplay elements that make Birth By Sleep standout, as it adds a more strategic element to battles, but one that feels easy to get a grasp of. We won’t lie, RPG titles tend to get played through once and once only here, but Birth By Sleep is a game that we are happy to go back to time and time again, especially on the battered old PSP we have laying around. it is just so satisfying to play.

Those aren’t the only two releases on this compilation, as just like 1.5 there is a release that has had all the gameplay removed, to leave you with nothing but a collection of cut-scenes to tell a story. Much like 358/2 it feels a shame that it has been stripped down, as there seems no real rhyme nor reason for it.

If you are fully into the Kingdom Hearts lore, then this is still a worthwhile addition as it helps you understand where certain aspects of the story are going and how things all link together, but again, it would have been nice to have a proper release of Re:Coded, despite the mobile origins.

If you weren’t a fan of the series though, there is nothing here that will change you mind. The story which starts off strong in Kingdom Hearts, becomes more and more convoluted and nonsensical as the various games split away from the main arc.

Overall Kingdom Hearts 2,5 HD Remix is a game that fans of the series will love, it compliments the release of 1.5 HD and sets up the anticipation for Kingdom Hearts III. It is also the perfect excuse to keep the PS3 plugged in and hooked up to the TV.

Toybox Turbos Review

There are some things which are best left buried, like cursed Nazi gold, or the fact that you saw Uncle Gerald dancing in your mum’s stockings and suspenders through a crack in the door while babysitting you when you were little. The table top racer is one of those things.

Well, maybe not as creepy as Uncle Gerald but definitely something you want to squirrel away in your memory, only to be ferreted up when the Police come knocking and you’re called as a witness.

That analogy was pretty drawn out. Sorry. Anyway, Tabletop Turbos attempt at trying to resurrect the sub-genre is brave enough but falls short of being the nostalgia filled love in some of us hoped it might be.

The game starts out making all the right noises; it’s bright and colourful, it has a jaunty (if repetitive to the point of wanting to put the pad through the TV. Or simply just turning it off) soundtrack, lots of very solid, rounded, chunky vehicles with handling to match, and tracks created from and littered with household goods. So far, so Micro Machines.

However, the problem lies partly in the fact that the genre never really succeeded in the leap from 2D to 3D. In 2D the field of view afforded enough distance to make snap turning decisions but, until you learned the tracks, left enough of a surprise with obstacles and turns to keep you on your toes. In 3D if the camera isn’t done exactly right then it can ruin the whole thing, and even if it doesn’t ruin it entirely it can make the experience frustrating as hell, and that seems to be the case with Toybox Turbos.

The camera is functional, but in some of the single player game modes it can feel a little spongy and indecisive, leading you to some frustrating scenery entanglement. It’s not game breaking as such, but doesn’t feel much better than, say, Micro Machines V3. However, the developers  have included 2 other top-down camera modes which try to emulate the old style, but somehow fall short.

The single player offers up a variety of game modes, with classic staples such as 3 lap races and time trials, with the additions of elimination rounds (like the classic Micro Machines multiplayer), Overtake (where you must overtake X computer controlled opponents to gain the bronze, silver or gold) and Boss Battles(1v1 elimination), through which certain vehicles are only obtainable. You collect coins around the courses to add to the total gained when you place, and you use these to buy the funky dinky toy cars to pad out your garage, although once you’ve found one you like the feel of there’s not much incentive to go back and buy the rest.

The game is rather satisfying in its chunkiness of handling, and the environments and types of vehicle are enough to set the nostalgia glands pumping but there’s a couple of things which just keep it shy of being thoroughly enjoyable and in the realms of a mildly fun distraction.

The camera has already mentioned, but in addition to that there’s the inclusion of weapons which feels quite cheap and tacked on without adding much to the proceedings, only to give you a reason to hate the AI . The mines dotted around the courses in time trial just feels outright mean. They’re not randomly generated, but they feel like an unnecessary obstacle when all you should be worrying about getting round the course in the most efficient manner possible.

At this point there needs to be a caveat made about the multiplayer part of Toybox Turbos, seeing as it’s a Micro Machines game in all but license. Codemasters went to the lengths of adding joypad ports into the cartridge (on the Megadrive releases at least) on the original series to make it easier for you to play against your chums and as such was a very large part of the game but here, unfortunately, local multiplayer wasn’t tested because, to be depressingly honest, I have no friends to test it with. Seriously, no-one. When I tried Online Multiplayer I actually couldn’t find a game. So, there’s a chance this might be a cracking party game, but as it is it has to be taken as a single player game and in that it’s an ok distraction, but wears itself thin pretty quickly. It’s a shame.

There’s a feeling that had there been a bit more time thinking about the weapons and camera and even maybe something like a Hot Wheels or Matchbox license, this game could have been a great revival. But given that licenses cost lots of money and the leader boards aren’t massively populated it seems that this might be the eulogy of the tabletop racer.

 

Street Fighter V – Exclusive to PS4 and PC

Well, this is a pleasant surprise! The first trailer for Street Fighter V has been leaked and it’s a PS4 and PC exclusive.

There’s no word on whether this is a “proper” exclusive, or just timed. More details will hopefully emerge after it makes its actual debut, which maybe tonight at The Game Awards or tomorrow at The Playstation Experience.

The trailer, which you can view below, shows footage of tournaments interspersed with a Chun Li Vs Ryu fight. It looks to use a similar art style as IV, only a lot prettier.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2btl2e_street-fighter-5-teaser_videogames#from=embediframe

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Review

Ask us what our favourite XBLA game was. No go on, ask us. It was and still is Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. It can still put many new released to shame, both in performance and just how enjoyable it is to play. 

First off it is 1080p and solid 60fps, yet it plays amazingly well. The core mechanics are honed to perfection and it is one of the best score chasing games you can ever wish to play. So when Bizarre Creations folded, it was sad because they are such a talented company, it was sad because there would be no more proper PGR games and it was sad because there would be no follow up to the excellent Blur. But most of all, it was sad, because that seemed like the end for Geometry Wars.

Fast forward to 2014 and another name from the past. Sierra games! This is Activision’s publishing name for downloadable titles and one of the first on the menu… Yep Geometry Wars. Excuse us if we go all Daniel Bryan for a second but… YES! YES! YES! YES! Well, that was until the first previews started leaking…3D? What the hell is this?

Geometry Was is a 2D top down twin-stick shooting, high score chasing, perfect example of a game. We basically needed GW2 with maybe a new mode or two. Why in the hell is there bloody 3D levels all up in my face?

So the day arrives and it is time to play Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions, with a lot less excitement than anticipated. So here we are, might as well give it a go.

Well bow down to all that is holy and good in the world. Despite reservations, Geometry Wars 3 is a Geometry Was game and it is still that game in its purest form. The 3D levels aren’t as distracting as they first appear, the core concept of the game is still there and guess what? It only has a classic mode that pretty much gives you GW2 in a new skin.

So what is new aside from 3D maps? Well first of all, you are now introduced to an Adventure mode, that sees you taking on various levels one by one, before then taking on a boss type level. Initially for old fans this seems a bit of a let down, especially as the levels have this iOS style 3 star system. However after a while that need to perfect each level hits and you forget why you had reservations in the first place.

As you progress the stars you earn can be used to unlock new abilities and Geoms collected can be used to upgrade those abilities. Again it is something that hardcore fans might not like, but they are there and in the new levels and Adventure mode they work really rather well. There is an option for those of us who’d much rather have a purer experience.

Classic mode is pretty much an untouched re-release of the GW2 levels and modes and is where you will spend most of your time, beating highscores, getting your top scores toppled and going back in to improve again and again and again and again. This is Geometry War and it is still in glorious 1080p and 60fps.

There is also the co-op and multiplayer aspect that have been brought in. At first they seem like they don’t belong and create a fair amount of havoc when played, purely because it takes a long time to adjust to other ships being on the screen and moving differently to what you are trying to do. But after a while it just clicks and whether you play online or offline, it is a frantic and enjoyable experience.

When Resogun arrived on PS4, it felt a bit like a spiritual successor to Geometry Wars, but now the king is back and it has been more than worth the wait. Just think about this for a moment .We live in a world where both Resogun and Geometry Wars can exist and not only exist, but do so side by side on the same console.

It is the gaming equivalent of finding yourself heading to a hotel room after a wedding with the two best look bridesmaids on each arm. You know you are coming out of that experience with huge grin that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

 

Gamestyle Live – 3rd December 2014

Gamestyle live is back as Steve and Bradley are joined by returning Gamestyle Alumni Andrew.

Discussion was meant to be based around celebrating Sony’s 20 Years of Playstation. However it became something different in the end.

The conversation branches off a fair amount as we talk about Saturn, Dreamcast, Gamecube, Vita and much much more. Also we have some big news to announce at the end of the show.

If you missed the live show then fear not, as you can watch right below

We’d love to hear you feedback, so either leave them in the comments here, or one of our many social networks.

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Little Big Planet 3 Review

Little Big Planet 3

Sony have tried to get a mascot that can match that of SEGA and Nintendo ever since they stepped into the console market. Jak, Daxter, Ratchet, Clank, Crash and more. All of those are good characters but none as iconic for Sony as Mario and Sonic are to their companies. When they introduced Little Big Planet on the PS3, Sackboy was to become that mascot and to some degree he has.

Sony have been able to market him well, with his games and various bits of merchandise. Yet he still isn’t at those Mario levels yet.

The main reason for this are the games themselves, Little Big Planet was a very interesting game, it looked (and still does) beautiful, the textures were almost lifelike and Sackboy had a lot of character. All the previews showed a charming game that looked like it would be a ton of fun to play and create things in.

The problem with previous LBP games are that whilst the creation tools are amazing, they were also difficult to get used to and the gameplay just lacked that something. It was fun enough but simply not memorable, thanks to some floaty controls and frustrating moments. That was improved on in the Vita release which was recognised by many as the best version of the series yet.

So on to Little Big Planet 3.

What you have here is essentially more of the same, a series of pre-made levels set out in a story environment, access to a community hub to find user created levels and the ability to create your own. There have been a few tweaks though that do improve things.

First up is the level structure, you still have a hub you must navigate, but now you are given a series of tasks that start in a bigger worlds and take you into deeper levels, where you eventually complete said quests. It is a nice change from the usual, select this, go to that, do this here and back to another menu.

Little Big Planet 3 (PS4) Promo Image

Obviously though, the biggest change is the introduction of new characters and a potential marketing goldmine for Sony. Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop join Sackboy on his journey and add a bunch of interesting new mechanics. Swoop can fly, toggle can shrink or grown and Oddsock can wall-jump and other things. It does a nice job of introducing new things, but there is a minor niggle here.

The characters are introduced one by one, after you complete level to ‘rescue’ them, they can then be used to find the next and so on and so forth. The problem here, is that is pretty much a main structure of the game. You actually spend little time with the new characters as part of the main arc and whilst you can go back to old levels to replay them, it feels a bit of a letdown.

Having said that though, the new characters are wonderful and Oddsock is hard not to fall in love with, he acts like a big stupid puppy and whilst Swoop and Toggle have personality, it is Oddsock that stands out the most. Hell we want out own little Oddsock to sit with the Sackboy that is on the shelf right now.

Little Big Planet 3 (PS4) Screenshot

What is interesting too, is thar the characters to fit well into this world and there is surely more to come from them. Whether that be a load of DLC levels, Little Big Planet 4 or some kind of spin off series. When Sonic started to introduce ‘friends’ it became the beginning of the end for him, but this could well be something that help proper Sackboy to the next level.

Little Big Planet 3 is compatible with all previous DLC including costumes, which is a nice tough, it is also compatible with older community created levels, which whilst again is nice to see, actually causes a few issues. There have been tweaks to the gameplay that are for the better, but it also makes some older created levels pretty much broken, purely based on the clash between new mechanics and old. The fear is that in trying their hardest to be fair with already purchased DLC, they are holding future iterations of the game back a little.

At this point, many wouldn’t be overly annoyed it the next Little Big Planet was completely standalone, as long as the gameplay warranted that. The next game really does have to nail the platforming mechanics because whilst improved the floaty feeling is still there, which is a crying shame.

There is something about a Little Big Planet game that keeps you coming back and despite a few flaws, it is still a great game to play. However it is a game that is best shared and not one for playing on your own. Sitting down with family is a wonderful experience and thanks to some clever creators, there really is an endless supply of content.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Review

Overwhelming would be the best way to describe the initial foray back into the world of Dragon Age. Your quest log can become gigantic as you struggle to decide whether to close rifts or hunt for that woman’s missing jewellery. In that sense, this is the exact opposite of what Bioware did with Dragon Age 2, so you may feel the need to rejoice at that.

It wasn’t a bad game per se, but changing the huge open world of Dragon Age: Origins to the smaller city of Dragon Age 2 rubbed people the wrong way. Not to mention limiting your choice of character to play as, no longer could you select a dwarf or elf each with their own unique beginnings, instead you were stuck the human Hawke. Inquisition in a lot of ways goes back to what it did so well with Origins. And you feel more like the hero than ever before.

Surviving a devastating blast that leaves many dead, as your chosen character it’s up to you to save the world from demons! It’s a standard setup of an RPG, but the way it plays out is possibly the best Bioware have ever done. You see, power is everything. As the leader of the Inquisition it’s up to you to recruit allies, complete quests and basically do everything to increase the fortunes of your people. You feel like the leader, and the one everyone is looking at to lead them. Once power is gained it’s used to open up further quests, some critical story missions, others side stories that are just as, if not more, interesting.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Missions are selected in the war room. A nicely crafted table reminiscent of old war movies where you and your allies plan your next mission. Not just for yourself, your agents can also be sent on missions solo to gain new items, this taking a specific amount of time. Much like the missions you get in an Assassin’s Creed game.

You think that’s it? Well, no. On top of the standard quests, once in the world you have landmarks to discover, new camps to setup and just general dungeons and caves to explore, usually ending in some nice new loot. The amount of content is simply staggering. Many times what should’ve been simple trips from one end of the map to the other takes an hour long detour as a new cave structure is found and must be raided. It helps that the game looks simply gorgeous, with a decent variety in environments. One minute you’ll be walking (or riding your steed) across the green fields of the Hinterlands and the next traverse the barren desert oasis, sometimes stopping to just take in the sights or use the PS4’s share feature to show everyone the view from atop the mountain you’ve just climbed.

Hilariously once you’ve finally gotten a grasp on what needs to be done, about ten hours into the game you get thrown even more gameplay mechanics to learn. It’s the game that really does keep on giving.

Of course, all this content would mean nothing if the combat doesn’t hold up. Thankfully, it does. It plays a lot like previous Dragon Age games. Along with your three fellow companions, you can simply swing your sword (or whatever weapon you may have) till everything falls down or use special abilities that are unlocked as you gain levels. Pressing the touch pad also giving you a more tactical advantage as you can organise your party in a more effective way, telling them what enemies to target and the like.

Potion hoarders though may be a little disappointed. You can only carry a limited number, with a few slots for specific potions, whether they are health or weapon related is up to you. Later in the game you get to upgrade how many you can carry, but it means there’s only so far you can go before health starts to dwindle and you’re forced to head back to your camp and restock.

As expected from a game this huge is that there are a few bugs that you will encounter. There are a few graphical hiccups here and there that can be forgiven due to the sheer scale of everything. The worst encountered is where the radial conversation wheel would disappear with the only way to progress being to skip the choice and go straight to the next piece of dialogue. Luckily it only happened a couple of times, the second of which we decided to wait around and see if dialogue would continue correctly. And it did after about two minutes of waiting. Compared to the troubles of Master Chief Collection, Assassin’s Creed: Unity and DriveClub though this seems incredibly insignificant.

In taking on the criticisms of Dragon Age 2, Bioware have created a world rich with content and adventure that is so jam packed that it’ll take you months to see everything the game has to offer. If this is just the beginning of what Bioware can produce on these current gen consoles, then this generation we’re in for a treat.

Tales to Tiara II Review

Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord is a name that I will grow tired of typing in record time. It doesn’t even make any sense! So Tales to Tiara II it is.

Making its series debut outside of Japan, Tears to Tiara II is a Strategy RPG-cum Visual Novel, and boasts a terrifying 80 hours of content. This review is based off a “meagre” 25 hours’ worth, which took me to the end of a major plot arc and felt like a good time to stop and reflect.

If you’ve ever played a Shining Force game, Tears to Tiara will feel like an old comfy jumper, such are its similarities with Sega’s classic series. Battles are structured almost like a boardgame – victory is achieved by moving individual pieces around the map into strategic locations and killing the opposing faction before they take you out. To begin with, your party consists of a small number of specialist units, but as time goes on additional characters will join your travelling troupe, each with their own unique skillset. One of them is an elephant. It is good at goring anything that doesn’t get out of its way.

Each skirmish allows the deployment of a fixed number of units, so selecting the most appropriate team for the trials that lay ahead is crucial. Skirmishes and opponents are varied in scale and size, and while not strictly difficult, the enemy AI will punish mistakes without prejudice. Magic-users are the most fragile of glass cannons, who if left in danger will almost certainly perish; Archers fare little better, and neither can defend themselves up close. Even the archetypal tank in plate armour can’t take too much of a beating, so ensuring they are well-supported is essential.

Fatalities are not permanent, mercifully. In most battles, appropriate elephant usage is integral to success – not only does your elephantine companion deploy in any battle large enough, he also tows a trailer that contains all unused party members. These can be used to fill the space of a fallen comrade or rejig your team mid-battle, but elephant warfare should be used sparingly – if felled in battle, the caravan is gone for the remainder of that instance.

The levelling system splits skills and stats down the middle and gives each its own experience bar. It’s an interesting separation that helps keep support characters up to speed for doing what you want them to do, rather than having to grind their stats in combat so they don’t become useless later on. It also unlocks chain stocks – bars that build up over the course of a skirmish that can be cashed in for additional melee strikes or a temporary boost to magic.

This system still won’t stop those characters from getting mauled if left in danger, but clever positioning of your team will take care of that. Enemies can’t just brush by your front-line to attack the easy prey at the back, as units exude a sphere of influence – spaces immediately surrounding a character are impassable without first stopping to engage, allowing for great tactical depth when positioning.

Another great mechanic involves rewinding time mid-fight. At any point during a battle, including after you have been defeated, you are able to rewind to the start of any previous turn. It’s a simple idea that bounces neatly off the game’s mercilessness. Tears to Tiara is a long game, so the measures to help avoid wasting time are vital. I just wish it knew when to shut up – in the 25 hours I’d invested before making a start on the review, a significant portion of that was spent trudging through a mixture of serious political and military discussions, mixed with bizarre love stories.

There are certainly moments of gold hidden in the dialogue, but having to trudge through vast swathes of clunky plot – like the twenty-minute childhood flashback that occurred after defeating a specific boss character – significantly lessen the impact of the odd witty line. Emotional moments come across as clumsy and overly verbose, and what could have been a whirlwind adventure following a political rebellion against a religious empire, instead comes across at times more like being read a mixture of teen romance and the shipping forecast.

The overabundance of story content might be the only black mark against Tears to Tiara (other than its absurd name that I have to keep typing out), but it could easily be off-putting enough to turn people away from what is otherwise a varied and innovative SRPG. If you’re on the fence, here are a few of the bullet points that I wrote down while planning this review:

  • Elephant warfare
  • You can buy a pig, and make it fight
  • You can cause animals to defect

If opportunities like that don’t make up for this game’s issues, I don’t know what will.

Gamestyle Early Access – 2014! It’s Not That Bad

So 2014! What has been so bad? Broken games, no games, too many Indie games, not enough good games. It has been simply the worst year of gaming ever. Gaming is broken, it is the beginning of the end.

Well Bradley doesn’t agree, he likes games and likes what he has played this year.

Listen to his opinion below.

The Evil Within Review

The Evil Within is the new game by the Resident Evil writer Shinji Mikami & Bethesda studio where you play as Sebastian Castellanos, a detective seemingly dragged into a nightmare by a psycho.

The game starts with you having to escape from what appears to be a butcher, who is gleefully & methodically carving up fresh human flesh. So, not quite the game for all the family to relish, or play together, on a Saturday afternoon. This is one gory game, which never lets up in that regard.

Here you really have to be careful about who and how you kill as both health packs & ammo are not quite as abundant as you may want although there are plenty of ways to distract or kill your enemies. A favourite of mine was to crawl under a wire which, when triggered, made the enemies paint the walls with their insides. One thing about this game is that it can be somewhat difficult at times, you can lower the difficulty at any time although this will reset the chapter that you are on so its probably best to do it at the beginning of one if you ever feel the need.

Enemy design in this game is superb, from the butcher, to a spider like woman, zombies with glowing eyes, giants and much more. You can stealth kill your enemies at times but I found that most of them have somewhat impeccable hearing and would come running having heard you from across a room. One thing you can also do is melt the corpses of the recently undead using matches that you can pick up throughout which can trigger a nice scream as they burn.

With Mikami involved in the game, you can imagine the kind of thing you come across both in story, enemies, weapons and level design and it very much feels like the spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4. While this is very much a good thing, The Evil Within does have some minor quibbles. For example, melee is not something I would recommend in the game unless you are really stuck, as when you melee an enemy and they return the favour, often it drains your health massively which seems a tad unfair. The character movement is identical to RE4 in that Sebastian is rather stiff as he cannot jump, or crouch to shoot. It does seem a tad odd considering RE4 was released originally almost ten years ago.

The story takes a while to get going but once it does, is highly engaging, and throughout the game you can also pick up pages from Sebastian’s past which ‘flesh’ out the story nicely (Sorry!). One thing I liked was the removal of Sebastian from the main story to save your game which I will leave you to discover exactly what I mean yourselves. Suffice to say, when you hear some music playing that’s when you can start breathing a sigh of relief!

When all is said and done Mikami & Bethesda have created a gorefest, which grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go throughout.

A solid adventure and a music for horror fans out there who want to play a game which could be described as RE4’s spiritual successor as mentioned earlier.

Plus Cast – December 2014

We are in the middle of a restructure at Gamestyle, as you may well have noticed. You should be seeing reviews coming through mire regularly for one, but also a lot more media stuff. Including a weekly live show on a Wednesday and Early Access on a Tuesday.

Our friends at Plus Cast include Bradley so here is there latest podcast covering the month of November for PS Plus and look forward to December’s content.

Enjoy

Minutes Review

Time has weird properties. Time spent at work can drag. Time spent waiting for something exciting to happen can feel like an eternity, and subsequently pass by in the blink of an eye. Throughout all this, time never lies – no matter how fast or slow it feels to you, its inexorable march forward is steady and consistent. A minute is always a minute.

Red Phantom Games’ Minutes has a simple premise – you are given one minute. During that one minute, you have two objectives:

  • Pick up as much coloured stuff as possible
  • Don’t die as a result of picking up too much black stuff

Utterly abstract in its presentation, Minutes has you controlling a resizable circle as you aim to collect beams and blobs of colour over sixty stages. Each stage is identical every time it is played, so what originally seems impossible rewards a patient approach along with trial and error. Stages start off tricky and don’t get any easier, and an on-screen timer reminds you that no – a minute has not passed yet, and yes – maybe now is a good time to start panicking.

The goal of Minutes is to score as highly as possible, and points are earned collecting the coloured stuff. The more your circle is expanded as you collect it, the higher the score multiplier is. Collecting the black stuff increases your damage gauge, and upon hitting a critical amount the level ends prematurely in failure. Four distinct powerups are also on offer, of which one can be used per stage. Quell slows time, but not your circle – enabling movement to previously-impossible areas; Fortify heals you; Shield keeps the bad stuff out for a set amount of time; and Blast destroys all black items near your circle.

Once you have got to grips with all that, it’s a journey through the sixty stages – where things start off simply and get very difficult very quickly. New types of obstacle and collectible objects are introduced frequently to keep things fresh along with a new aesthetic every five stages. From here the game wants two things from you – to get perfects, and get high scores. Easier said than done, as the sheer amount of stuff to collect and obstacles to avoid that are thrown around on screen is astronomical after the first few stages.

Perfects are achieved by completing a stage having taken no damage, collected all the coloured stuff, and achieved a certain score, as well as finding “Minuteman” – a smiley face that blends in to the background a little too well. High scores are achieved by collecting as much stuff as possible at the highest multiplier possible – and for me these two goals are a little contentious. Minutes encourages you to go for a “Perfect”, but significantly higher scores are available by sucking up a bit of damage in exchange for keeping your circle large and multiplier high. The two things the game expects you to achieve run at cross purposes with one another.

This wouldn’t be so problematic were it not for the amount of time it takes to get up to speed. Each stage gives you three score targets to achieve, each one rewarding you with a star; however, to begin with no powerups are available and the multiplier cannot be changed. This makes it impossible to achieve more than one star at first, and the powerups and ability to alter your multiplier are unlocked as a reward for hitting set star goals. Not only does this make it impossible to achieve a “Perfect” until you’ve bashed through a large number of levels at a reduced capacity, it also increases the number of times you have to retry each level without a complete toolset. What’s even worse is that once you’ve unlocked all the powerups, better versions of those powerups become available. It’s a cycle that leaves you feeling like you’ll never be able to do the one thing this game should truly excel at – chasing high scores.

Minutes is very challenging, and a successful navigation through the madness of the later stages is incredibly satisfying. Sadly the amount of babying and learning through failure results in an experience that gives you something to achieve – but won’t actually let you properly do that for far too long.