Woolfe – The Red Hood Diaries Preview

One of the many successful Kickstarter projects of 2014, Woolfe – The Red Hood Diaries is a 2.5D platformer with a dark story based around fairy tales and featuring an axe-wielding Red Riding Hood as the central character. The Kickstarter campaign’s success was probably thanks as much to the gorgeous concept art as it was the promise of the game. Time has passed, the game itself has had more work and is now available on Steam Early Access, which is what this preview is based on. Launching in mid-March, there’s still time left to improve a great deal.

Surprisingly, the first game that comes to mind when starting to play is Dishonored. Opening in a city, the dilapidation, the suffering of the population, the dark overlord all seem reminiscent. A dystopian city isn’t the most interesting, but even with that first setting in mind, the sheer gorgeousness of the concept art is immediately obvious in the game. Characters are incredibly well-designed and that attention to detail spills into the ongoing narration Red offers throughout.

Gameplay is old fashioned, with both the negative and positive connotations that brings to mind. Perhaps the most obvious recent suggestion for how it plays are the Scarecrow sections of Arkham Asylum and that certainly isn’t a bad thing. It is a platform game though, and a quite pedantic one. Instadeath abounds.

It’s wrong to point out many flaws at this point though. It needs, and frankly deserves, a ridiculous level of polish that isn’t present. [Although walking into an area to be greeted with in-universe wooden signs saying “Boss Fight Under Construction” is a lovely touch]. Whilst it’s not to recommend in the current state, unless you want to support development, if the required level of polish is applied and the final game is a smooth and satisfying tour of the art and story the team have created this could still be something very special indeed.

Keep an eye on Gamestyle for the full review when the completed game is available!

Gamestyle Live – 28th January 2015

Bradley, Steve and Andrew talk about what they have been playing for the last week, after little has actually happened. Including discussions about Halo, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and others.

Slightly new format for the post, so carry on reading to find ways you enjoy our lovely little show.

Listen on Soundcloud

Subscribe on iTunes

Like listening to Gamestyle Live? Then subscribe on iTunes to get us every week straight to your listening devices, by clicking to logo on the left

 

Watch on Youtube

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

Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Instagram | Twitch

Spy Chameleon Review

A stealth puzzler, in Spy Chameleon you control the titular lizard as he must avoid a various assortment of cameras in order to reach the levels exit. With seventy five levels, each increasing in difficulty there’s plenty of content here for the enticing £4.49 price tag. And it’s a damn fine game.

We do love it when a game comes out of nowhere and surprises us, Spy Chameleon is one of those games. What starts of as pleasant tutorials showing you what to avoid soon turns into a mess of cameras, attached to everything from roaming robots to fish tanks. And to avoid them the chameleons colour changing ability comes into play.

During the earlier levels you’ll come across rugs on the floor with a specific colour, and with the gamepads face buttons you can change your colour from green to blue, red or yellow. By matching the colour of the rug you’re able to hide from the cameras. This gets a lot more difficult later on with the likes of paint cans used in a similar way, and not to mention the changing, disco like floors. It means you’re always on your toes.

The levels are brilliantly designed and thankfully the controls are nice and responsive, something needed when you have the colours of the floor changing constantly, with one wrong slip sending you back to the previous checkpoint.

These checkpoints being favourably positioned, allowing you to quickly try again if you’re caught. Doing this though doesn’t reset the timer and this is a game all about finishing levels in the fastest time possible. Not surprising when there’s actually a “Speed Run mode”.

Reaching the end of each level is challenging in itself, but the longevity in Spy Chameleon really comes from doing all the challenges. With each level you need to complete it in a set time, collect all the flies and then collect all the ladybugs (which are unlocked after beating the level once before). With it being impossible to do these in one run, levels will need to be replayed, at least doubling the games longevity if you want to 100% the game. There are also a number of achievements, some of which can only be unlocked in hard mode, which if you really want to get the most out of Spy Chameleon is the way to play.

Graphically everything is bright, colourful and cartoony. Serviceable would be the best way to describe it, not exactly setting the world alight, but it does the job. Music is the same pretty much, though it does have an opening theme song, the beat repeats after a few seconds which managed to burrow into my soul like very few themes do.

As has already been said with Spy Chameleon, going back and beating your previous times is a major part, which can be considered both its strength and weakness. Nintendo are not the best at advertising small, indie games, and with the Wii U’s sales being less than stellar it means getting a group of friends to buy the game will be a tough task. This is despite it being well worth the asking price. There is a global leaderboard, but beating your friends is where this sort of game thrives. It may seem harsh criticising a game for something like this, but it’s the stone cold truth that unless it goes multiplatform onto PS4 and Xbox One it may just sink without a trace. And that would be a shame.

The Birth of Gaming

The Conception – 1945-1994

“They huddled together, squealing with joy and surprise”

As people played with oscilloscopes and vectorised spaceships and asteroids, something very beautiful was being created. At the time there is no doubt what was going on was amazing, but in retrospect it’s frankly terrifying how much was achieved. We learned to understand roast chicken makes us healthy, that a square can be a ball, that progress is moving from left to right. It taught us abstraction, a generation of developers creating a language from scratch that gamers had to learn to interpret. A language that’s gone on to appear everywhere.

Beyond that, crucially, it offered the first hint that anything was possible. Developers pushed to create more, from the universe in Elite to the earliest flight simulators. Both might now seem primitive, but the hope they offered genuinely inspired a generation.

 

The Development – 1994-2013

“With time, things grew. There were setbacks, but none seem as serious as they did at the time…”

Thanks to the work of those forward-looking developers, the need for abstraction began to disappear. In this period, games were no longer something you needed to understand, but something an onlooker could accurately identify as a woman raiding tombs or as a local football team. Each new game, boosted further by each generational leap in console power, pushed closer to realism. From basic polygons to fully recognisable people and places, the leap has been truly inspiring.

Perhaps the focus on clever abstraction that defined the previous era dropped, but make no mistake: This is the era that told everyone games could be anything.

 

Hospitalisation – 2014

“And suddenly, pain. The rush to the hospital, the people keen to predict a death, and suddenly blood and shit flying everywhere”

Regardless of the quality of the games released last year, those won’t be what 2014 is remembered for. Controversy after controversy flew, the atmosphere around gaming darkening with each day. But anyone predicting a death of games couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Looking beyond the headlines, a build up of subtle changes took place. Infinity Ward defined the last generation with Call of Duty, but Titanfall saw the remnants of that studio making something that seemed a lot less real and a lot more like a videogame. Abstraction. When the representation of a funeral was seemingly proudly shown off in Call of Duty, the reaction was a mildly bemused shrug.”Of course you can represent that, but why?”

Indie games pushed from all angles. iOS has been encouraging people to think smaller for a while, but PS+, Humble Bundles and Kickstarter offered accessible ways to look at games doing things differently. Games existing purely on high-score tables came back in titles like Pix the Cat. Indie games found a new niche with games suited to streaming and YouTube, from the silly Goat Simulator to the super-difficult FPS Lovely Planet. And Elite came back, as impressive as ever.

Sure, there were problems. Developers trying to do the same as last generation but more so, Assassin’s Creed Unity being the obvious example, struggled. Monetisation in its various new forms (free-to-play, DLC, subscriptions, Kickstarter) all continue to prompt debate. But…

 

The Birth – 2015 and into the future

“Blinking in the light, barely able to support itself, but truly alive”

…As the dust settled on 2014, it was very clear that gaming wasn’t dying. The screaming heard was not a death but a birth. Gaming comes into the wider world and in a form from which it can learn and grow and now begins to fulfill that promise it offered from the very beginning.

Every gamer should be excited right now. Realism is no longer an impossible dream, making hugely impressive games possible, as Uncharted 4 and Halo 5 will no doubt prove. Further to that, Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and Microsoft’s HoloLens may all offer new ways to enjoy such worlds. If indie games are what you want, you’re going to be seriously spoiled for choice. From Drift Stage to Heat Signature and everything in between will offer new ideas and spins on old ones.

That isn’t the exciting bit though. The exciting bit is the culmination of both previous eras. Small developers will have the power and tools to create big, realistic games from their own perspective. Think of No Man’s Sky. Larger developers, increasingly freed from the graphical arms race, are free to once again to explore abstraction. Both will continue to be free to work in the areas they are already active in too.

In short, any developer will be able to create anything.

From the start, this is what gaming promised. It offered the hope of creators being able to create whatever they dreamed up and allow the gamer to go inside that creation. To interact, to experience, to play.

Here’s to the birth of gaming.

 

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

Becoming more apparent when you go back and see where it all began. Because aside from a few archaic design decisions, our trip back to Spencer Mansion makes us wish the series would return more to its roots.

A remake of the Gamecube remake, adding the word “Remaster” to the title may be overselling it a tad. It’s a little worrying right from the pre-menu cut scene, as you see a body bag slowly rise before the zombie within gets a bullet to the head, it looks horrific and not in the way it was intended. A blurry mess, it certainly shows that a few shortcuts have been made in getting this to the PS4. That said, despite being two generations past the Gamecube era, graphically the game can still shine in parts. Yes, certain camera angles will reveal some unflattering textures, but then there are moments where light floods through the windows and you’ll be surprised at how good it looks. Then a dog jumps through and eats your face.

It’s amazing really (or distressing depending on your age) that next year the original Resident Evil will hit the grand old age of twenty. Twenty years old! So it’s not too much of a stretch to think that might be some people’s first experience with the game that started it all. Well, if this is you then here’s the basic setup.

Either controlling S.T.A.R.S member Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield (depending on who you choose), you get sent to look for the missing Bravo team who were dispatched to the outskirts of Racoon City to find out the cause of the bizarre acts of cannibalism that have been occurring. Naturally Jill and Chris’ team get into a spot of bother also, and bolt towards the nearest mansion. Then, as the game pleasantly says, “Enter the Survival Horror”.

While there are a number of other characters, really the biggest one is the mansion itself. Some would criticise its lack of believability, but then they would be missing the point. Yes, it may be an architect’s nightmare, make zero sense, and be full of puzzles that would drive the actual occupants insane, but that’s what drives the gameplay and makes the game so good.

Emblems, keys, a dog whistle and even a musical score are items you’ll find scattered around the massive mansion. They all play a part in the puzzles you’ll encounter and best thing about them is that while they do require a lot of thought, they’re not completely obtuse. Notes can also be found and they detail the puzzles you’ll encounter without leading you by the hand. It’s a great thing to go back to a time when answers aren’t spelled out for you. With so many items though comes with it Resident Evil’s most annoying issue.

As Jill you get eight item slots, with Chris a measly six. So there will be a lot of toing and froing from supply boxes that are found throughout the mansion, and handily have magical transporting abilities so items can be collected from any supply box you find. On top of items, there are weapons, ammo and healing herbs that need a space, so there’s a lot of item management needed. Replaying the game and this is really the thing that feels the most archaic. Some would say the save system is also incredibly old fashioned in a day of checkpoints and constant auto-saves. It’s definitely a weird thing going back to using ink ribbons to save at typewriters placed through the mansions, but seeing as ink ribbons are in plentiful supply and even the typewriters themselves aren’t that rare to come across, it’s something that never really affects enjoyment.

Like a lot of old horror movies you may have discovered (and scared you silly) as a child, the horror of Resident Evil does feel diluted as the years have passed and that’s a shame. Having played through it all before there’s only so many times you can see dogs jumping through the window before the jump scare becomes merely a shrug. That’s not to say there aren’t still some surprises though, when a zombie arises once more as a Crimson Head (new super zombies that were added in the remake) it is enough to send you into a frenzy and bolt to the nearest door. Or if you’re brave enough, take them on. Unlike regular zombies, Crimson Heads stagger towards you at an alarming pace. While shooting is very basic (there’s not much room for actual pin point aiming), it does the job.

A new addition for this Remaster is a brand new control scheme that purists may scoff at, but newcomers could rejoice at. Tank controls are no more. No longer do you have to push up to walk forward no matter the direction you are facing, instead it’s the more traditional 3D movement. It makes dodging the zombies, dogs and other creatures easier to handle. At least until the fixed camera angle changes and you become disorientated for a brief second.

While there are elements of Remastered that shout “rush job”, Resident Evil is still, in this day and age, a great, great game and worthy of classic status. Now Capcom, if you’re reading this, how about a new Resident Evil game featuring the item management and combat of RE4, mixed with the exploration and puzzles of RE1? Now that would be the perfect game.

Splice Review

If you’ve ever played puzzle games like Spacechem, then you’ll know that there are puzzle games out there that set out to really test your powers of logical thinking, it’s not all just cheap Android knock off match 3 games.

There has been a bit of a boom in recent years with the environmental puzzler, the first person puzzler, physics puzzlers and platform puzzlers. However these games that still remain simple in their execution but set out to really test the grey matter are few and far between.

So it’s nice to see a game like Splice, which is exactly that. Everything about the setup is simple, from the basic menu screens which take you straight into the game, to the controls themselves. Even the visuals are simple and bring focus to each puzzle. Add to that background music which is more ambient than anything and works to relax your mind and you have the beginnings of something very enjoyable indeed.

Essentially you need to rearrange the cells on the screen into a predetermined shape as indicated by the white markings on the screen. You have a certain number of moves that you can make, known as splices (clever eh?) to get the cells to fit.

Where the challenge comes though is working out how moving one cell will affect another and how moving yet another will affect others again. Early levels are fairly easy and do a great job of getting you familiar with the concept, but as with all great puzzle games like this, the further you get, the harder and more complex it becomes.

But again, the secret is to make sure that the toughness and complexity comes from finding the solutions themselves and not on adding new mechanics that confuse matters and this is where Splice shines, because even though the mechanics do evolve over its 77 levels, they seem to do so naturally and in a way that makes perfect sense.

Splice will have you scratching your head, questioning your own intelligence and even wanting to throw the controller down in anger, but at no point is this because of anything other than the need to solve each puzzle. Everything else is wonderfully put together.

But that is all there is to say about the game really, it certainly isn’t for everyone, but it isn’t intended to be. If you are open to a game that is paced slowly and fancy challenging a different part of your brain, then you should pick this up right away.

Pix the Cat Review

He was owned by some people who used to love Pac-Man, used to love Snake and even when he was very young used to let him watch as they played Chu Chu Rocket. At first playing Pix the Cat seemed to be a puzzle, simply trying to complete the task he had been set to collect and distribute the local ducks seemed a challenge. Soon that stopped being the challenge, with finding the most efficient route through the maze being the challenge, trying to complete as many screens as possible becoming more of a racing game. Playing with Pix was to challenge yourself to get the highest score possible in the set amount of time. For a good amount of time everything seems like it could be great.

10/10 Lives Remain.

But sadly, Pix is quite an accident prone cat. Sure, we shouldn’t expect to be able to herd his kind, but this is a game that needs the tightest and most immediate of controls. It simply doesn’t have them. Early levels give you enough space and you’re moving slowly enough for it to not be a problem, but as things speed up and mazes become more complex it becomes a serious problem. Good runs are often ruined by the lagging controls despite knowing the route you wanted to take.

Pix knew the bus was there, but then accidentally walked in front of it.

9/10 Lives Remaining

The only other problem with the main mode, possibly a side-effect of the fact it is genuinely compulsive, is that once you’ve realised this is a racing game there are only 3 courses, Starter, Main and Dessert. Whilst unlocking the latter does take plenty of practice on the Main course, it’s massively limiting and for no real reason.

One minute he was fine, but then…

8/10 Lives Remain

For a break from all that, Pix was sent to play in a laboratory. If you are familiar with cats and laboratories then you could carefully predict this won’t have a good conclusion. Laboratory mode here is sadly without any mayhem and simply repackages the puzzle levels of Chu Chu Rocket with the intelligence and charm removed. A trial and error puzzle to guide your cat around a level, essentially memorising a step, restarting, finding the next, restarting. New ideas come and go, but ultimately these are the sorts of puzzles anyone with enough time could complete, but few should want to.

Pix swallowed some nitroglycerin and accidentally walked into a wall

7/10 Lives Remain

Pix had a secret, he’d always wanted to be a snake, so Nostalgia mode is ideal for him. Whilst there are some gentle puzzle aspects incorporated, every trick you learned whilst playing Snake 15 years ago still applies. It’s not that it is bad, it just feels lazy and pointless. Whilst both Laboratory and Nostalgia mode have their own appealing art styles, the way they both throw in new ideas seemingly on a whim to distract from how tedious they are, it doesn’t work.

A Nokia 3310 fell on Pix from a reasonable height.

6/10 Lives Remain

Ultimately, there just isn’t enough here to make a full recommendation. Regular DLC of courses for the main mode would be welcome, but they were really needed from the start. Pasta Games, also responsible for the excellent mobile game Rayman Jungle Run, are in truth extremely close to having a great game here. It’s just not, quite, there.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 Sisters Generation Review

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 Sisters Generation is the most absurdly-monikered game I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. A portable remake-of-sorts of 2012’s PS3 release, Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, Sisters Generation takes place in a blue-skied future populated by robot girls, talking mice and wilful misuse of acronyms. The game vomits sound and colour at you in such quantity that simply navigating the menus alone feels like being force-fed smarties whilst being pepper sprayed. The world is named “Gamindustri” and things just get worse from there.

Gamindustri is under threat from Arfoire, an evil deity (and sweet pun on the notorious R4 card) aiming to bring down the land from within using pirate software. To the rescue come our heroines – Nepgear, a magical robot schoolgirl with an inferiority complex; IF, who could probably have been replaced with a cardboard cutout, and Compa, a nurse with a potential recent head injury; “Super Win!”, she’ll declare after a victorious battle, fluffing a backflip and revealing her underwear in the process. Every time. Together they travel the world of Gamindustri, recruiting other paper-thin stereotypes to join their roving gang of cretins, and eventually to defeat Arfoire’s four guardians followed by the Deity of Sin herself.

The world consists of four cities, loosely based on past and present videogame hardware manufacturers and their products. Each city is home to a CPU, which inexplicably stands for “Console Patron Unit”. These CPUs take the shape of young women who can transform into HDD mode, which involves them taking on an android-like form, hovering, and wearing fewer clothes than in their default state.

Each city competes for “shares” – a dystopian opinion poll not unlike the Santa Belief System in Miracle on 34th Street, where mindshare for each CPU is measured in an absolute percentage. The populace is fickle, and can be swayed away from their existing allegiance if you complete fetchquests for them – often creepy, focusing on character breast size with an almost lecherous and unflattering obsession with the all-female cast.

Sisters Generation is crammed full of properly dreadful puns, and videogame references ranging from the iconic (Mario) to the exotic (Lucifel from El Shaddai!). These crop up on the character map from time to time, and will occasionally reward you with unique items for listening; however with no indication of who has goodies for you, there is a lot of irrelevant noise to sit through unless you recognise every single reference. There’s only so many times you want to listen to an upturned bucket called “Ten Buyer” telling you he is selling items of indeterminate origin if you have no idea what the joke is.

Dialogue between the cast is little better; a procession of vapid conversations backed up by a complete absence of character development turns moments of plot progression into a gruelling minigame. If you don’t fall asleep or turn off your Vita, you win – the prize is another trip into the field, where disappointment awaits in the form of Hyperdimension Neptunia’s bland combat.

The turn-based battle system feels complex at first. Team formation, combos and backup characters can all be tweaked pre-fight. Enemies boast two separate life bars – one for health and another representing armour. Despite this, cracks show almost immediately and it ultimately delivers very little. Attacks come in three distinct flavours – armour-breaking, damaging, and multi-hit; the latter builds your EXE drive (a super bar that can enable additional attacks and super moves) faster whilst the former deals with an enemy armour bar more efficiently. Rather than a strategic and positional battle, it ultimately boils down to a routine that never changes – sprint up to the enemy and hit it a lot.

Against bosses, there is only one strategy that will end a battle before the heat death of the universe. Ensure your EXE drive is full before starting the fight; break their armour (a process that will take a good 10-20 turns), then spend your entire EXE drive in a single turn to finish them off. If an enemy’s armour bar is empty at the beginning of their turn it refills by about a third, resulting in yet more tedious mashing. Holding the L button during combat will at least skip all combat animations, in a rare concession to user-friendliness.

What’s most disappointing about this game is how it knows it is wasting your time, yet proceeds to do so anyway. To begin with progress is simple, but early on boss encounters represent difficulty spikes so steep you’ll swear you’ve missed something really important. You haven’t. It’s not that they are tricky to beat; instead they will simply one-shot your team if you haven’t spent a while grinding first.

To the rescue come “plans” – effects that can be toggled to alter how the game plays. One of these drops the strength of opposing characters to a more balanced level, resulting in a diminished necessity to grind. For those so inclined, enemies can also be strengthened, but this seems to just make them hit harder rather than require any additional skill to defeat. Why it was felt necessary to put the player through this initial grind before they acquire the appropriate plan is beyond me.

Several other timesaving plans become available as you progress – one removes the necessity to constantly mash the Square button to discover hidden items whilst exploring; another makes your EXE drive bar fill faster. Obtaining items like these, which drastically improve how the game flows, is even more egregious – it’s window shopping where all the windows are blacked out, and the shopkeeper is trying to kill you. The next shop is three hours away and might be closed. Mystery items are required, and no information is provided on where to find them, whether a plan to toggle alternative drops for a specific area is necessary, or if it’s a rare drop from a specific enemy. The sheer amount of time the game expects you to spend aimlessly meandering through it is by far its biggest issue, and nothing short of staggering.

On the plus side, the credits roll is quite nice, and single-handedly does a better job of inserting the characters into a videogame world than the preceding eternity of pandering nonsense. There’s probably a small and dedicated market for this game – those who will understand most of the references and can stand the irritating cast – but if that doesn’t sound like you then there is little to recommend here.

I have invested over twenty hours of my life into this game and, as a result, am seriously questioning my life choices. On occasion, games contain design decisions of such ill judgement that it is difficult to imagine how they ever made it through testing. HNR;B2SG, on the other hand, is packed so full of them that it must have become sentient during the development process, pretended to pop out for a smoke before turning up in a basket on the doorstep of Sony HQ, complete with a note stating “Please look after this game”. For me, it was a disappointing experience and not one I’m keen to repeat.

 

Gamestyle Live – 21st January 2015

Bradley, Steve and Andrew look back at Nintendo’s latest Direct and what it means moving forward. They ask how Nintendo can somehow keep getting it wrong, but still demand our money, which we fall for time and time again.

As always, you can watch below.

Or, listen only via the Soundcloud link.

Hopefully on iTunes next week.

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

Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Instagram | Twitch

Teslagrad Review

It’s now finally with us and we can explore the mystery of a small boy with magnetic powers escaping into a castle after being chased by some Rasputin-esque looking pursuers.

The game has a style that though familiar we haven’t really seen before. The Soviet influence reminds us of steam punk animations and fairy tales from the Eastern Bloc and it works perfectly to set up a mysterious and unique atmosphere. There is also very little text with the story and controls explained via drawings and animated theatre puppets. The silence further intensifies the mystery (even if the lack of tutorial is a little confusing).

There is gamepad support but you’ll have to set it up manually. Again, this can be a little odd at the beginning of the game as you don’t really know what half of the commands are. Once you get it sorted out though it’s a much easier way to play as you’re going to need very quick reflexes to get through.

Teslagrad is a difficult game and it requires sustained amounts of quick thinking, jumping and precision placement to get through most sections. Most of the time you are trying to avoid dropping onto spikes or electricity but there are also some shadowy beasts and mechanical enemies to avoid from time to time. You don’t really have any offense so you’ll be darting past them and running away a lot.

Our little hero is far from powerless though and you’ll soon find the equipment that gives you the use of a unique set of powers. First off you’ll get the positive and negative magnetism glove. This allows you to change the charge of magnetic services and blocks. This means you can get blocks to move or fall, or use opposite charges to propel yourself up tunnels or across chasms. The next thing you’ll find is the ability to ‘blink’ or teleport a short distance. This is vital for passing barriers or dodging enemies and moving electrical fields. Before long you’re having to bounce around and blink all at once in sequences that require constant movement. It’s tough and challenging and certain sections will be repeated over and over and over.

Dying is perhaps where the biggest weakness in the game lies. The controls can feel a little twitchy at times and I don’t think we’ve ever been so frustrated by a character auto-climbing up a ledge they’ve grabbed onto. Death can also feel unfair with the blink ability very difficult to judge while in motion. What compounds the issue is that if you miss a jump or die, there are times you’ll have to repeat quite a large section to get back to where you were. Don’t even get us started on some of the bosses that just never seem to die either.

Frustration aside this is a very clever and well crafted game. You do get used to the controls and both the level and graphical design is of a standard that makes you want to persevere and get to the next section. The constant climb up the castle and gradual revelation of the mystery within it are engaging and will likely keep you striving until you reach the end. There will be some gamers who just won’t be able to cut it though and that’s a shame as this is a beautiful fairy tale that you really should try.

Citizens of Earth Review

Yes, you heard that correct, Citizens of Earth is a love letter to the wonderful Earthbound and it is clear where the influence comes from. It is at this point where I’d tell you to just go ahead and buy this if you were a fan of Earthbound, but it isn’t quite as simple as that.

Citizens of Earth isn’t a bad game, far from it in actual fact. It is possible to have a fantastic time building up your followers and progressing through the game, leveling your party up and making them stronger and stronger.

There is also a well written story arc that pokes fun at various aspects of the world of politics and does a decent job of calling out a lot of the crap within it, not only just from politicians, but also media and general public. All this without also taking itself too seriously of trying to ram home a message. It is not a satire, it is a fun story that uses its backdrop well.

This brings us to one of the biggest issues with Citizens of Earth though. As entertaining as the writing is, the characters themselves (bar yourself) lack enough personality for you to actually care about them and it ends up being a case of choosing the best party based on attributes alone.

Compare this to other games where you need to form a party, Persona 4 Golden for example, choosing the other characters to form a party for a particular run was difficult, because you grew to love and hate their many personalities, which had a bearing on who you wanted, it didn’t matter if Chie was possibly the wrong choice, you wanted her in your party.

But here, there is no extreme feeling, there is no love, no hate, there is only indifference, which is a crying shame really, because there was a lot of potential here to create a world and a set of characters to really bring it to life.

The battles that occur and occur way too often are a tad infuriating. It is not as sophisticated as a Final Fantasy, Demon Gaze or anything like that, but tries to take those formulas and simplify them in order to make the game more accessible to the casual user.

But that is where it falls down, there doesn’t seem to be any notion tactical nous and you can often beat most battles by spamming the same moves. Which then becomes monotonous after a while. You can increase and decrease the difficulty at will, by going to the school yard and changing it there, which is a nice touch, but it still doesn’t change the excitement levels.

What we can say though, is that the battle system does a great job of explaining how different things work in turn based battles and why you should be using a mix of defensive type move, buffs, attack down, etc. So it does make a good training exercise for anyone coming into the RPG format for the first time.

The battle system wouldn’t be so much of an issue, if it wasn’t for the sheer amount of enemies that litter the maps and force you into combat. That is the point of a game like this granted, but it feels in Citizens of Earth that this has been over done to the point where you want it to end, thus turning down the difficulty, not because it is hard, but because you want the battles over with quicker so you can move on.

You are given various tasks to help progress the game as well as for recruiting people, the people you recruit will help you in various ways, such as a car sales man who can help you get a car around town. Then there is a conspricy nut who can help you forge new elemental attack types and various others. This is a well thought out mechanic and makes taking on side quests worth the effort.

It is a shame that there are some real negative parts within Citizens of Earth, because despite all that, it is a game to have a good time with, one that you can play in nice short bursts and still make progression. However, despite the Earthbound influence, it never quite lives up to expectation and is one that is maybe better off waiting for a sale.

Flyhunter Origins Review

Steelwool Games have definitely designed this game for the slightly younger audience than myself, and no, I wont be telling you what age I am! If you happen to be from this audience, I think Flyhunter Origins is for you. In short, it is a platform game with 21 levels of running, jumping & collecting going on throughout.

Throughout each level you collect little blobs as you go, swatting enemies & jumping about the scenery. If you have played any platform games in the past, you will be instantly familiar with this game & how it controls. That is one of the great things about this game, its not holding your hand for several initial levels, you simply instinctively can pick it up & play which is perfect for the target audience here.

As the story progresses, you encounter various cutscenes, some Wipeout style flying levels chasing enemies, basically the level design is very much in style of the classics, Ghosts & Goblins, Zool, Earthworm Jim etc which start on the left and you work your way across the right to the end of the level running, jumping & collecting as you go yet without the difficulty of some of these games.

The look of Flyhunter Origins isn’t going to win any E3 awards, its all fairly simply ‘nice’, nothing too flash and nothing too bland either. I think this is the main crux of this game, it doesn’t want to insult or do anything wildly exciting or new, its happy just doing what it does.

This game is perfect for that rainy Sunday afternoon where you know you can download this and let your kids while away a few hours without having to worry about them too much. This certainly  isn’t Conker’s Bad Fur Day or some such.

Bayonetta 2 Review

By all sensible and logical business reasoning, Bayonetta 2 shouldn’t exist. The first didn’t sell anything worth a damn, despite it (insert ‘probably’ here for the  opinion-as-fact-Nazis) having the best combat system of any third person action game made and being absolutely bashit mental in many of the right ways (and, unfortunately, some of the wrong ones). It tapped into niche gameplay mechanics lots of people don’t care about and made obscure references from SEGA games anyone under 30 may not have played. It didn’t help that SEGA can’t market their way out of a paper bag.

For a long time fans of the first game held empty hope for a sequel, secretly resigning themselves to a future without one. So when it was announced that there was indeed going to be a sequel and it was exclusively coming to Wii U there was a strange elation/disappointment dynamic for a lot of people. It’s a sad fact that without Nintendo picking it up out of SEGA’s dumpster there would be no Bayonetta 2, so be grateful.

Bayonetta 2 doesn’t alter the template too much from the first game, but when Platinum got it so right it’s difficult to see why they would. Just in terms of aesthetics Platinum are practically untouchable. That much you can see from the first game, Vanquish and Wonderful 101 to name three but Bayonetta 2 takes that cool and turns it up to deafening levels. Character design, environments, colour pallette, animation, weapon design, enemies, costumes. I could go on. But I won’t. If you bought the edition that gives you the first game you’ll see the difference in fidelity between them. The first Bayonetta looks very washed out compared to the vibrancy of the second. This may be a byproduct of porting from older systems, but the difference is immense.

The story is usual type of nonsense we expect; Umbra Witch Bayonetta is off on some ridiculous journey to save her fellow Witch Jeanne from Inferno after one of the Demons that Bayonetta controls escapes its portal and kills Jeanne.

A screenshot from Bayonetta 2.

Sporting a new slinky, impish haircut and an amazing array of retorts that will either make you chew your knuckles or bark with laughter, you lay waste to the denizens of Inferno and Paradiso while listening to some God-awful accents from insufferable secondary characters. So far, so Platinum and by God it’s glorious.

The gameplay remains much the same but tightened within an inch of it’s life. All new animations mean combat flow is improved and the already impressive combo system has been expanded upon. The wonderful thing about Bayonetta’s combat is that any cack-handed chimp can chain together a string of punches and kicks and it looks spectacular. Mash that pad and you’ll make it through the game fine, but the real trick is to do it all flawlessly, with variety and style. Each combat section is graded with medals from Stone to Pure Platinum depending on time taken, combo multiplier and damage taken, and it’s here where the replay factor is with Bayonetta.

The desire to actually be good at the game is immense, and the combat is so much deeper than would you would initially guess (if you hadn’t played the first game, obviously). The Witch Time dodge, Dodge Offset and even the use of Taunt being essential to racking up the combo multiplier. There’s the addition of a magic meter consuming Umbran Climax move you can trigger instead of Torture Attacks, as well as switching between weapon sets mid combo. I could try to explain it all in depth here, but I don’t have a word count high enough and I’m still rubbish at the game myself.

There are people out there who won’t play it because they don’t (or won’t) own a Wii U, or don’t agree with the powerfully overt sexualisation of the main character (I’ll leave that discussion to people more intelligent than I), or they simply don’t get on with third person brawlers. They’re missing out on one of the most inventive, gorgeous, sheer-off-of-its-tits experiences modern gaming has to offer.

Bayonetta 2 is an outright fantastic game. It’s another very good reason to own a Wii U and it outclasses practically every other game of this type by a considerable margin.

 

Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition Review

Taking control once again of the mentally handicapped Duke, you will shoot your way through hordes of aliens, saving babes and reciting lines from every action movie ever made. He is a character from a different time and playing it these days it comes across as rather sad and tragic. Paying strippers to expose their pixelated breasts was probably cool back in the 90’s, but nowadays it’s a little weird, or maybe as Roger Murtaugh would say, “we’re getting too old for this ****”. Lethal Weapon funnily enough being probably the only action film that Duke doesn’t steal a line from.

That’s the bad, the good though does outweigh it somewhat. Remember the good old days when FPS games made you engage your brains just a little and you didn’t just go around traipsing after the AI that conveniently has a “Follow Me” icon above his head? Well, we do, and this is an FPS design choice we wouldn’t mind seeing a return of.

Making your way through each level requires a little thought. Levels are very open and will require you to scour every nook and cranny looking for keycards and the path to the exit. But much like that other 90’s FPS you may have heard of Doom, level design does get worse as you progress through the game. There’s really no surprise that it’s the first level people remember most fondly (and it’s not just because of the strip club and movie theatre portions). Levels do degenerate a little into cheap ways of getting you killed, with monsters coming from hidden rooms, sneakily placed laser trip wires and sections where stuff just explodes for no reason. So basically, you’ll need to save regularly if you don’t want to struggle through the latter sections of the game.

As the “Megaton” name suggests the game is certainly not short of content, containing the original set of levels as well as a number of expansions that were released along the years. This includes the Christmas themed Nuclear Winter and even a Caribbean themed one where Duke battles aliens on the beach, which naturally includes a lot of scantily clad (and pixelated) women. They’re all really good fun, if only the Vita port could do them justice.

Sadly bugs are fairly frequent, at least once per level the game would just freeze for a couple of seconds before you took control once again, which tends to happen randomly. The most annoying however (which thankfully only happened once) occurred when trying to reload from a previous point. A really nice thing about Duke 3D is how it handles death. Get killed and you’re taken to a replay of events that led up to that point, right from the beginning of the level. So it’s a lot like something you’d find in a racing game like Forza Horizon or Grid, where you’re able to select the point you’d like to resume from. Sadly this didn’t exactly work as intended, as at one point the game simply failed to load up the replay (complete with error message) and threw us back to the start of the level. And then there’s the problems with multiplayer.

Every online game played thus far has been unplayable. The maximum player count is only four, yet it has some utterly atrocious lag. Players jumping across the screen, guns firing five seconds after pressing the button, it’s dreadful. This isn’t even with a full room, just play a simple 1v1 game and it’s still a horrible mess. Perhaps the developers had to rush it out in order for it to hit January’s Playstation Plus date, because as it stands, it really could’ve used a couple more months development time.

There is a lot to like about this trip down memory lane, but really Duke Nukem 3D just feels like a relic from a bygone era. While we would welcome back some of the classic FPS design traits, the rest is best left in the past.

My First week of PS4 and Dust: An Elysian Tail

As a result I’ve deliberately been a latecomer to the new generation of consoles, which gave me a bit of time to see what my friends bought and what exclusives were coming for each platform. Eventually the inexorable lust for New Things crept in, and when Black Friday rolled around PS4s were shifting for £300 with goodies on top, which was enough incentive to take the plunge. Street Fighter V’s exclusivity, announced a couple of weeks later, removed any pangs of buyer’s remorse I might have had at the time.

Then I had a bright idea – I’ll tell the story of the difficulties of new console ownership! As it turns out, there weren’t any worth speaking about. Getting it up and running for the first time was trivial – just hook it up to your network, sign in to PSN, answer a couple of questions and then you’re away, and by “away” I mean “stuck in update purgatory”. My biggest problem was that I didn’t know where the eject button was.

I picked up a really solid lineup of games with the PS4 – Grand Theft Auto V, Wolfenstein: The Last Order, Diablo III and Driveclub as well as the free copy of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare that was given away as part of the Playstation 20th Anniversary celebration. Despite this, thanks to Playstation Plus, I’ve been playing none of those; instead, I fired up Dust: An Elysian Tail while waiting for other stuff to download and for reasons I cannot fathom, have been completely unable to put it down.

Dust: An Elysian Tail looks better than ever.
Dust: An Elysian Tail looks better than ever.

Dust looks and feels like a Sega Megadrive game that you remember fondly from 20 years ago, nostalgia bridging the gap between how you remember the 16-bit days and how they actually looked. Part platformer, part fighter, part Metroidvania, it really evokes an era where all you needed were some areas to explore and bad guys to kill. Also, a time when anthropomorphic animals were all the rage. Dust is an inconceivable bear/dog hybrid; Fidget, your flying companion is a flying cat/bat, and the main antagonist of this game is a dog with a beard. How does that even work? You are already covered in fur stop it

In motion it is beautiful, seeing you carve through swathes of enemies against fantastical backdrops. On the other hand, character portraits come straight out of a teenager’s shoddy collection of Goof Troop fanart. Combat is satisfying, allowing you free rein to knock enemy units about; later, additional moves are added to your repertoire to give you more freedom over your combos. This comes to a head towards the end of the game where the average enemy stops just being a bump in the road, and actually starts fighting back.

The script, on the other hand, isn’t much to write home about – Dust has amnesia! Also, he carries a talking sword that knows allllllll about his past. However, An Elysian Tail isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself – for instance, one sidequest has you rounding up escaped sheep. To do so, you must stand in front of one like any other item and press up to collect it, which despite the sheep’s size, results in it being placed in your inventory like any other item, much to Fidget’s bewilderment.

There are a few moments where dialogue is so far wide of the mark as to be unintentionally hilarious, such as an interaction between Dust and a young member of an underground-dwelling race, who is grieving the recent death of his father. Crucially it is completely impossible to take seriously, as the underground dweller bears an uncanny resemblance to a potato.

All joking aside, there was just something special about Dust that kept me hooked, over and above the fact that it is full of bunnies. It’s unapologetically a product that feels like it was conceived twenty years ago and has only just come to light. A journey starting in a grassy expanse, taking you through various geographically-unrelated areas before a final showdown with the big bad. There’s even a snow level.

As for the PS4 itself? The pad is nice (even the touchpad is pretty good), and being able to charge it whilst the PS4 is on standby is a godsend. Easy access to screenshots and streaming is probably not getting the attention it deserves; Remote Play using a Vita is fine for games that don’t become unplayable when input lag is introduced, so will be a great way to play Persona 5 in bed when it eventually comes out.

Basically, just buy a Megadrive yeah?

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition

Once upon a time obtaining ‘Art Of’ books was a nightmare, usually having to import them from Japan at ridiculous cost. Of course, this means a lot of Western games were overlooked and the reams of concept art were consigned to crappy, tiny A5 books that came with limited editions. If you were lucky.

These days that’s not the case, with book publishers snapping up game rights to put all that glorious behind-the-scenes processes for us to feast our eyes on, while we lament that we’ll never be a fifth as talented. One of the finest of these publishers is Dark Horse. Usually with a Dark Horse published book you’re in for a seriously high quality treat, and The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition is no different.

It’s absolutely bloody lovely. I mean, most art books are lovely, but the detail and breadth of processes shown is gorgeous.

dragonart1

One of the great things it shows is the intricacy to detail that you can’t really appreciate when you’re playing the game. Sure, you look around the world and go “This is gorgeous. I like her armour. That looks cool.” but the processes behind the look of the armour aren’t apparent until you see them break it down into the layers that make it up. The variations of the armour for each faction and the characters is extensive as well. It’s always wonderful to see what could have been.

The explanations behind the design decisions sometimes leave you wishing there was a bit more text in the book to give you more insight into the influences and flow of process (especially into the characters), but the book is massive and packed with designs from tiny things like helmets and scabbards, to the stained glass in various buildings which you may not notice when tramping around the cities, to massive double page environmental studies.

There’s a ridiculous amount of work in here and it shows that the worlds Bioware build are born of an incredibly talented team with an abundance of imagination and attention to detail that many developers don’t (or can’t) match.

VERDICT: Absolutely YAY.

 

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD Review

Let us look at the games from the Oddworld guys, which stands to reason seeing as this is a review for Munch’s Oddysee HD. Both Munch and Stranger’s Wrath were given the treatment first for the PS3 and were fine conversions of the original games, offering that lick of HD paint and not much else. Stranger’s Wrath was also released on the Vita and again little was different.

That was perfectly acceptable, as both of these games were great upon their original releases. But then in 2014 came Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, which set a whole new standard, not only for the Oddworld games, but for HD remakes in general. It took the original game and rebuilt it from the ground up. We reviewed it here and loved it, as it was clear that the game had a lot of extra love and attention put into it.

So does that mean that every single HD remake needs that same sort of attention? Well, no, not at all. Munch’s Oddysee is just great to have and play on a Sony device, having completed the PS3 release in 2013, I was only more than happy to play again on the Vita. It is a different beast to both Abe and Stranger and one that I loved back in 2001 and still love today.

Also, playing on a Playstation feels right now, Abe was introduced to us on the PS1 but Munch could only be found on the Xbox and I remember lots of talk about how it wouldn’t run on the PS2 as it wasn’t powerful enough and other such gubbins. In any case, it became a launch exclusive on Microsoft’s new machine.

Munch really is a cracking game too, an excellent mix of platforming, puzzle solving, collecting and battling. It blends together exceptionally well and for me, it moved at a wonderful pace too. There were no difficulty spikes that became soul destroying, but it still needed you to engage your brain a little and think ahead. The mechanics work well and are always clear as to what you need for each section.

Going back to the Munch after 10 years was like putting on a glove and unlike some other older 3D platformers, the controls just felt natural as there was no fighting the camera too much and in general it came across as a game you could play for the first time today and not feel completely lost.

The Vita release is just a joy and despite having a few rougher edges than the PS3 releases, it still looks wonderful on the Vita’s OLED which is really helped by the art style of the Oddworld games, again something that also reflected in Stranger’s Wrath too. It does go to show that art style will always trump the pursuit for photorealism.

So this brings us back to the original point. HD remakes. It doesn’t matter if they are given a lick of paint, or rebuilt from scratch, as long as the final game is something that can be enjoyed and it is clear that Munch’s Oddysee has had less attention than Abe’s remaster, but it is still a game that I am happy to play again and am thankful for the opportunity.

Gamestyle LIVE – 13th January 2015

It’s time for a look ahead to the joys that 2015 will bring the world of gaming 

Steve steps away from wanting to kill things, to relaxing in space. Andrew likes more than games broken on release, or he hopes so anyway with Batman and Bradley chose something other than a Vita game for his most anticipated.

As always, you can watch below.

Or, listen only via 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.

Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Instagram | Twitch

The Art of Destiny

Destiny might have its problems, and those problems might vary depending which side of the divide you sit on with the game, but I think most people would be hard pushed to say the art direction is nothing short of fantastic. If they do say otherwise, they’d be wrong. So there.

The Art of Destiny is a lovely hardback filled with the gorgeous kind of art you’d expect from a company like Bungie, being the size of company that has the money to bring on board super talented folks.

It’s always nice to see the processes that lead to the final in-game renderings, but here there’s also quite a bit of what didn’t make the cut, some of which makes you go “Aw. Shame.” like the giant robot hand poking out of the wastes of Mars. It’s also feels a little sad to see the kind of time and effort that’s gone into giving the various races, characters and factions of the game a history which is almost completely ignored by the awful story. It makes you wonder how much they actually cut out.

It's lovely, just look at those pages!
It’s lovely, just look at those pages!

Still, there’s a frankly glorious section on the iconography and graphic design for the various symbols, logos, banners and markers as well as some small insight as to why the 3 classes armours and aesthetic accoutrements are designed the way they are. Apparently the Hunters cloak varies in length depending on how high a level the item is. Huh.

It has the usual environment concepting and promotional paintings you expect, and overall it’s a gorgeous book. Definitely as an accompaniment to the game but also for anyone who just likes sitting and staring and lovely concept art.

VERDICT: YAY

Retrospective: Mega Man X3

As the SNES was nearing the end of its life, it was time for one last adventure with X and crew before they departed to the next generation of consoles. Having already looked at the first two in the series, it felt only right to round out the SNES trilogy and see how it all ended. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a damp squib.

The first X is a classic and its lofty heights have really never been reached by any future instalments. It was a remixing of the Mega Man formula that won people over, but unfortunately as time went on, the X series fell into the same trap as the originals. Originality falling by the wayside in favour of more of the same, only not as good.

The only real original touch in Mega Man X3 being the completely unnecessary addition of even more collectables. Like previous entries in the series, there are armour upgrades, energy tanks and heart containers. On top of that you now have Robot Rides. These picks ups allow you to call forth a robot from specific platforms located in each level. There are four in total, each having their own different weapons and abilities. Coming with their own health bar (and will be needed to find other collectables) they are quite useful, though not required to complete the game, they just help make it easier. And you really need the game to get easier, because if you manage to complete it without getting a decent amount of the upgrades then hats off to you sir.

The plot is entirely insignificant, though this is really nothing new for the series. Mavericks once again must be defeated, as X and Zero must stop Dr Doppler from building a new body for Sigma. After an initial opening stage where you get to control both X and Zero, you’re thrust onto the ever familiar level select screen and get to choose which maverick you go after first.

By now you probably know the score. Beating bosses gets you their weapon, some bosses are weak to specific weapons, so there’s a bit of trial and error in discovering the “correct” path through the game.

The sad thing is, a lot of Mega Man X3 is instantly forgettable. Level design is weak and the music, normally something you can rely on with this series, is mostly bad. We’re not sure on the specifics, but it does feel like a lot of the original developers of the series may have left, it just feels different, like it was worked on by a completely different team than the original. Or maybe they just ran out of ideas, after all, when you’re naming boss characters Crush Crawfish and Volt Catfish you may be running into trouble.

The good news is it has done away with the terrible FX chip boss fights that plagued X2 and in turn dropped the framerate into single digits. Not that X3 is devoid of frame drops however, during certain sections where the action is thick and fast there are noticeable dips in the framerate.

Reading back it does seem like we’re being overly negative, but then that’s what happens when you set a very high bar with the initial game. X3 is not terrible by any means, there’s still a lot here to like, it’s just this is what happens when the series sets a very high bar. It certainly managed to keep is hooked enough to see it through to its, rather annoying conclusion.

The annoyance not coming from the boss fight itself (boss fights in the game are mostly enjoyable, tactical affairs), but rather what followed. Without spoiling, it turns out that the destruction of the final boss wasn’t the end, and you would have to accomplish something else before the credits rolled. Fail to do so and it means death. And death means you’ll have to defeat the final two bosses again. When this happened to us controllers almost went flying.

And so Mega Man X says farewell to the 16 bit era, not with a bang, but with a whimper. With its availability now on the Wii U as opposed to the high price the SNES original goes for, it’s far easier to pick up now more than ever. If you’re invested in the series this far then it’s probably worth picking up. But it’s a shame that this is how its run on Nintendo hardware would end.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Review

Nintendo over the last year or so have been on quite the hot streak with regards to the games they have published for the Wii U. From Super Mario 3D World, and up to the release of Super Smash Bros , Nintendo have hardly put a foot wrong.  Their latest release is Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, which is a expansion of the Captain Toad stages in Super Mario 3D World, sadly unlike that game and the other Nintendo games of late, this one is a little disappointing.

But lets start with what this game does well.  Graphically like all of Nintendo’s WIi U games it is another stunner.  As you would expect from a game that uses that same engine as Super Mario 3D World, its technically flawless, full of colour and has some those little touches you only seem to get from Nintendo games. The soundtrack is also up to Nintendo’s usual high standards, and Toad himself sounds just as adorable as he looks.   It is also very fun to play, moving toad around the 64 and 18 bonus levels is a simple task(apart from one thing, which will be mentioned later), and most of the levels themselves are a joy to play.

There is no denying it is hard not play this game without a smile on your face, it’s fun, charming, looks and sounds amazing and it never really becomes frustrating(though getting every gem on all the levels can be a little tricky),  But there is something missing that stops it reaching the heights Nintendo’s other Wii U games have and becoming a must-buy title.

For starters while Captain Toad may give you over 80 levels,  these are mostly consist of a single screen, and you can easily burn through them in pretty quick time.  It may take a little longer to find all the gems, but as the challenge in most levels is simply rotating the camera until you can find them, even this wont take the average gamer an awful long time.

As easy as it is to control little ol Toad, the glaring emission of not being able to turn off the gyroscope to control the camera can become annoying very quickly, as any slight movement of the pad causes the camera to swing wildly around causing you to lose many avoidable  lives.

Overall, the whole game just feels a little bit twee, maybe it would have been better released as a budget title or even as DLC for Super Mario 3D world, as for £40 you don’t really get a lot of game for your money.  It is a fun game to play, and I would expect most people will enjoy playing it, but Nintendo could have put a little more content in, and a two-player co-op mode would have been nice as well.

 

 

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: The Almost Rans

2014 was a great year on the whole and despite a number of games grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons, there was still so much on offer that gave us reasons to be thankful. Making our decisions for Game of the Year was difficult, so we also give some shoutouts to the ones who almost made it.

Jonny

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC)

Describing Hearthstone as anything other than a revelation in online card games would be doing it a disservice. Hearthstone’s digital-only nature, rather than being a digital representation of an existing phsyical product, is key to this. This results in a streamlined experience, removing many of the esoteric mechanical barriers that usually turn people off trading card games during their first exposure to them.

Being based on one of the most successful franchises of all time might have had something to do with Hearthstone’s success, too – but regardless of its license, Hearthstone is a triumphant demonstration of how to digitise a physical concept from scratch, and is a beautifully-paced free to play experience to boot.

Twenty million players can’t be wrong.

[divider]

Adam

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

This is one of those games that was released at the start of the year and has been largely forgotten about. I have a strong fondness for the DKC games of old, but this is probably the best in the series.

As amazing as Super Mario 3D World is, it really does take a while before it ramps up the difficulty. Tropical Freeze is hard from the third level. And yet, as difficult as it gets, it never feels unfair. It looks simply stunning, each Kong character you control feels different and the music is just sublime. If this is Retro Studio’s swansong with the DKC series, then it’s a great one to go out on.

 

Surge Deluxe

I felt the need to put this here because, well, nobody has mentioned it. It’s a little block puzzler for the Vita where using the touch screen to match blocks of the same colour. That’s the basic setup, but for expert players it goes a lot deeper.

Surge Deluxe is probably the most fun I’ve had with a puzzle game in years, and still fire it up on occasion to try and beat my score. I was also the best in the world at this game from around a week or two. Just thought I’d mention that.

[divider]

Simon F

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment 

Playing the latest Sherlock Holmes game by developer Frogwares is almost like slipping into the actual smoking jacket, Holmes himself would often wear,  as this game is just perfect for those long winter evenings.

Playing this game is no more stressful than reading a book, and while there are some moral choices to make, during each one of the games nine cases, getting stuck is almost impossible and it is even possible to skip through all the puzzles you encounter if you are finding them too difficult.  In-fact I have been known to nod off a few times while playing this game, but that has usually been due to how much this game relaxes me, and not because I have become bored.

In a world where the majority of games require your brain and fingers to be working at full speed for long periods of time; I think there will always be room for titles like Sherlock Holmes and its rather lovely undemanding gameplay.

 


Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 

All I can say about this game is…….thank God this franchise is almost back to it best.  In yet another year where FIFA once again disappointed, playing this years PES, is like welcoming home a long lost son, you never thought you would see again.

While it isn’t quite up to the incredibly high standards of PES of old, this years titles has taken a huge step back up to the previous plateau of PES 3-5 , and is now quite easily the best football(Soccer for you Yanks) game that was released this year.

It is not perfect by any means, and keeping in tradition of all PES games, the presentation is still miles behind other sports titles but it gets so many things right,  and is just so much fun to play.  Hopefully Konomi will just make a few tweaks to next years game and not change anything to major, as if this happens, they could well end up releasing the greatests football game the world has ever seen.

[divider]

Bradley

Never Alone

I said this during my review, but when we said we wanted games to be more mature, this is exactly what we meant. Never Alone approaches a subject that doesn’t exactly stand out as a subject for a videogame in a very mature way.

It treats its audience with respect and assumes intelligence and a willing to learn. The gameplay itself is fairly average, but it is the the sum of all its parts make for one of the most amazing experiences of the year. If you haven’t played it yet, then I urge you to do so and start of 2015 in the best way possible.

 

Sunset Overdrive

It was a game that wasn’t on my list of must haves when it came to deciding on an XBOX One, but it was one that intrigued me from the very first moment I saw it. It was one of the games I picked up with the console and boy was it worth it.

It is a just fantastically fun game that is full of amazing moments time and time again. It makes fun of many videogame tropes and unashamedly revels in them too. Even quests that should be dull are joyful and exciting to play. This game alone makes my decision to get another next gen console worth it.

 

Hyrule Warriors

I am going to cheat and add a third game to my almost rans. Hyrule Warriors is just a fantastic game. Dynasty Warriors gameplay set in the world of Hyrule. Basically going round slaughtering enemies for fun. A joyous experience and one that I cannot get off of once I get going.

[divider]

Steve

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein is unashamed in it’s straightforwardness. It simply does not faff around. There are no real bells and whistles, no multiplayer mode for people to ignore after a week, no time warping mechanic or super powers, just a man versus more Nazis than there are bullets in the world using lots of guns that are noisy and very satisfying to dual wield. Any game that allows you to shoot two sniper rifles at once for no other reason than ‘just because’ is alright by me.

It’s just incredibly well done in every single respect. The lack of multiplayer allowed Machine Games to make a game that feels solid, rewarding, and worth every single second you play it. It has some excellent voice acting and even decent plotting and dialogue.

One of my favourite aspects of the whole game is that all the German characters speak in German, aside from the times when they’re actually supposed to be speaking English. All the newspapers are in German, all the posters, all the propaganda literature, letters, even the songs by a certain Liverpool beat combo of the 60s have been redone in German in keeping with the game’s setting. It might sound like a strange thing to focus on, but if you compare it to Singularity it shows how poor just putting on a cod accent and making only aesthetic changes to English to emulate another language in print actually is. It wrenches you out of the world. It would have been a shame if they had gone down the route of printing everything in english but in a germanic gothic font and having the characters voiced by someone who sounds like Herr Flick from ‘allo ‘allo.

It’s one of the best FPS’s I’ve played in recent years, never mind 2014. Whether we’ll get a sequel or not, I don’t know. Maybe it should be left on that note, because it’s a very, very high one.

[divider]

Andrew

Shadow of Mordor

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na MORDORRR.

Before buying it, I’d assumed that like previous games set in Middle Earth, Shadow of Mordor of was published by EA. That isn’t the case, it’s published by Warner Bros, much like the Arkham Batman games. So when someone says “it’s rather like Batman” what they mean is that it’s functionally identical, the combat, even the controls. If you like to read the word “Wraith” in place of the word “Bat”, you aren’t keen on gliding but do like grassy hills more than cityscapes then this is the game for you. The new system with the captains having internal battles to make it worth picking out targets, when combined with a slightly more elegant stealth system makes the game endlessly playable. Whilst this is “just” a Batman game, it is a very good one.

Endless Legend

Where Shadow of Mordor re-skinned a great game and made it arguably better, this year also saw Civilization: Beyond Earth released. Essentially a more complicated version of Civilization V (no real extra depth, just complication) it was an incredibly disappointing release. Endless Legend, on the other hand, takes Civilization as a starting point and loads every single part of it with interesting new twists, oceans of lore, clever gameplay mechanics, elegant combat. It even looks gorgeous, elegant and tidy with fantastic art direction. It’s roughly as good as a 4X (“eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”…PC gaming is a bit like that, sometimes) can be and comes massively recommended. Due to Civilization appearing it didn’t get anywhere near enough attention, so this is thoroughly deserved as a nomination.

I am, however, awful at it.

 

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

The discussion of whether Smash Bros can be considered a fighting game is best left by the wayside, what it is however is the pinnacle of party entertainment. This latest entry even has a Mario Party style board game, only a lot better. In the new mode called Smash Tour, players select a Mii and then move their way around the board, powering up and collecting characters. Traditional smash fights scattered throughout, winning gets you that player’s character. It all culminates in one last fight as, hopefully, you will have amassed a decent roster in a winner takes all fight. It’s a nice new addition that will hopefully be built on in future instalments.

Over the years Smash really has grown exponentially in regards to content. The original N64 game was a fairly bare bones affair and now there’s so much stuff it can be quite overwhelming. There’s a regular single player, a bunch of challenges, trophies to discover, new characters to unlock and mini-games to play. Oh, and there’s also an online mode.

It could just be bad luck, but so far every online game of Smash played does suffer from a little bit of lag. And with a game as frantic as this, a little bit of lag could mean life or death. You could say it’s hardly surprising, Mario Kart 8 is perfect online for instance, but then that is a more slow paced affair, Smash is absolutely mental. And this insanity is really what appeals the most about the game.

More often than not rounds end with people asking “what the hell happened?” If turned on, items come thick and fast with everything from Pokeballs to the ship from Galaga. It makes Smash Bros such a unique beast, because usually this sort of randomness has us cursing the screen, and yet, that never really happened, particularly when playing with people on the same couch.

It became joyous just watching the various moves each character performs, even when your character is on the receiving end of them. This is particularly evident with the Final Smash moves. Smash the floating icon and you get this ultimate attack that perfectly captures the feel of each character. Seeing Pac-Man turn into a giant version of his 2D incarnation, chomping through enemies is a sight to behold. There’s Mega Man who calls upon all the different versions of himself to destroy everything, Captain Falcon who runs over people in his F-Zero machine and Dr Mario who just throws giant pills at everyone, because of course he does. They are all encompassed with a barrage of colour making the game wonderful to look at. Who says the Wii U is underpowered?

Fan service also comes in the form of the music. The musical library is just astounding, with themes from every Nintendo game you can think of (and some third party ones). Fighting outside Dr Wily’s Castle with a Mega Man 2 remix playing will bring a smile to any retro fans face. All songs are locked away in the vault, and we won’t lie, we occasionally put the game in just to listen to them.

Probably the main criticism you can level at Smash Bros is that playing by yourself is quite a lonely experience. Yes, there’s a ton of single player content, more than you might expect, but playing with friends in the same room is the games main selling point. It would be nice if the online compared to something like Mario Kart, but sadly all the games we’ve encountered so far have had bouts of crippling lag that was never encountered with Mario Kart.

Smash Bros shows that despite the Wii U’s constant struggle to gain mainstream acceptance, Nintendo are still ploughing ahead, producing the most fun content you can find. Gather some friends together and there really is nothing better.

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Gareth and Simon T

Bayonetta 2

(Gareth)

The fact this game exists is both brilliant and amazing. A sequel to a niche game that while considered to be one of the best action games of a generation didn’t rack up the sales it so richly deserved. Yet, Nintendo decided to throw a bunch of money at Platinum to make a sequel for its struggling platform, because….well….who knows?! It certainly wasn’t to make money as once again, Bayonetta 2 didn’t set the charts alight.

Maybe Nintendo are just big Platinum fans, because who isn’t? They are the masters of the fast paced, character action genre and Bayonetta 2 further cements that fact.

How many other games has you fighting a boss fight every five minutes? It’s almost a never ending stream of spectacle, from the opening fights on top of a jet to flying around and fighting a dragon. All are visually brilliant, and show that despite its lack of power, the Wii U can stand proudly next to the PS4 and Xbox One.

So thank you Nintendo for making this game a reality. Now how about Bayonetta 3?

 

[divider]

 Dragon Age: Inquisition

(Simon T)

This year has been a busy year for me; I haven’t had as much game time as I had hoped. The only game this year that I’ve played and that really stood out was Dragon Age: Inquisition.

I don’t think I have put that much time in to a video game since Skyrim was released, when I finally finished the main story in Dragon Age: Inquisition I think my total game time was near 200hrs, and even then I still had a few Dragons to kill.

To be honest I did spend an hour customizing my character before even starting to play the game. I made a Dwarf Warrior that looked like me; my second character is a Dwarf Mage.

Normally when I play a game for that long I get sick and rush to finish it off. I didn’t feel that way with Dragon Age, as soon as I had finished my first play I was already planning on starting my second run.

And that’s the beauty of a game as big and detailed as Dragon Age: Inquisition. There are that many different story options to make you really need to plan a couple of playthroughs to explore all your options.

Even though Inquisition takes place after Dragon Age 2 and is technically a spin off it’s nice to see a few familiar faces from Dragon Age 2 make an appearance, there are a few new features that haven’t been present in the previous games which made the whole experience great, such as weapon and armour crafting, I’d love to know how long I spent looking for various metals and hunting various animals in order to craft various things, and not to forget lots of Dragons to kill.

Aside for a few little glitches in some of the quests with the NPC’s falling through floors the game itself on whole was great; the combat in the Dragon Age games keeps getting better and smoother and the combat in Inquisition is amazing, with my warrior character I like to get in thick of it and cause holy hell with a hefty 2 handed weapon.

I love this game, and even after finishing it once I still love it.

 

MovieStyle: Need for Speed

Well, I suppose if you’re going to adapt a racing game for the big screen then Need for Speed is probably the best one to do it with. After all, the series has been trying to weave in actual stories into their games for years now. Obviously, the movie disregards them and has come up with its own tale. NFS purists though needn’t worry though, it’s just as ridiculous as in the games.

It’s the old story of a person being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Well, to be honest he sort of half committed it as he was a part of the race that saw his good buddy dead. However, it was Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) who caused the deadly collision and escaped while Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) took the fall. Skip to two years later and it’s a trip across the country as Tobey is paroled and left to get vengeance, with cops and other races hot on his tail.

If there’s one good thing that can be said about Need for Speed it’s that it feels pure. There’s no fancy CGI trickery (from what I can tell), these are real cars, real stunts and real crashes, much to the dismay of the pedestrians.

For those of you familiar with the first few Fast and the Furious movies, they were actually about street racing as opposed to the utterly mental, heist movies with cars that they became. Now, even though there were street races, the characters for the most part seemed to care about causing accidents with innocent pedestrians or other vehicles. They would cordon off the race track with traffic cones and the like, which doesn’t seem to be an issue for Need for Speed. Nope, Arron Paul and company don’t seem to care about anyone else and cause wanton damage and destruction all for that ultimate thrill. And that made me hate pretty much all the characters in this movie. Even Vin Diesel, who for all the intents and purposes was the villain in the first Fast movie, was a more likeable character than the lead protagonist in this movie. That’s a bit of a problem.

During one moment he intentionally instigates a car chase with a police officer just to show his mechanic buddy how his car veers to one side. Couldn’t you have just told the character this with words?

Aside from Aaron Paul, fresh from Breaking Bad success, the other most well-known actor is easily Michael Keaton. The creator of the underground street race that both our hero and villain are taking part in, he just exists to spout bits of exposition over the radio. If you add up all the screen time he has then it’s clear that it was probably shot over one weekend, all in the same set. Michael Keaton never leaving his radio studio for the entirety of the film, it does make you wonder how he was able to organise everything. Especially as it’s a little flimsy with the rules on how people are chosen for the race. That said, Keaton is hamming it up quite well in scenes. Not quite scene chewing quality, but it’s clear he’s making the most of a subpar script.

Need for Speed seems to be trying to fill that street racing gap that was left when Fast and the Furious moved on to bigger and better things, with the movie at times feeling like an advertisement for certain car manufacturers. Probably none more than the Ford Mustang which seems to be just as big a character as any of the human leads. It’s a good ambition, and sets it itself apart from the Fast series, but could’ve and should’ve been more exciting than this.

As I’ve seen a lot of these video game adaptations, they tend to fall into one of two categories. The so bad they’re kind of entertaining category, or the so bad they’re just really boring. Need for Speed is very much the latter. Some nice, real life stunts and a couple of spirited performances don’t help make this anymore watchable.

Episode 21: Garry Schyman

Gamestyle welcomes Dork Tunes to the family.

Here is their latest podcast – Episode 21 – Garry Schyman

1. Bioshock Main Theme
2. Saruman Revealed
3. Will The Circle Be Unbroken (A Habershon, C Gabriel)
4. Eleanor’s lullaby
5. Pairbond
6. Elizabeth

 

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Jonny

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

A mixture of interactive story and Scooby-Doo simulator, Trigger Happy Havoc follows the tale of fifteen students at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, a private school for the students who are the zenith of their field. All is not as it seems, however – upon entering the academy, it is found that all exits from the academy are sealed, and the principal has been replaced with a stuffed bear. As if that wasn’t enough, one moment the students are joining the academy for the first time, the next they are being pitted against their fellow students in a Battle Royale-style death game.

Isolated from the outside world, the students begin to hear disturbing news about themselves, their past and what awaits past the main gate, and are offered the chance to see the truth. The price of freedom is simple – take the life of a fellow student, and don’t get found out. If caught, they are sentenced to a grim and grisly death; if not, they’ll walk free… but the others won’t be quite so lucky.

And so, it falls to you to solve the mystery of Hope’s Peak, traversing its claustrophobic and unpleasant hallways. Each day is a barrage of paranoia and fear, every interaction partly a glimpse into fraying minds trying to stay sane, and partly probing for answers, information… anything that might get you out of there. Alive, at least – because getting the wrong idea and making the wrong accusation will result in a premature trip to the glue factory.

Danganronpa’s atmosphere is what makes it really shine. Hope’s Peak feels dismal and unwelcoming; every window has an almost comedically-thick steel plate bolted over it, and exploration purports ill omens around every corner – making it from one end of the school to the other without incident offers a sense of genuine relief. At various times the students are given free time to relax and interact with one another – at first, in an attempt to humanise the bizarre situation they find themselves in, and later, post-murder, coming to terms with their own mortality.

I’ve made my own life difficult by choosing this as my game of the year. Danganronpa is one long murder mystery packed with twists and turns, which means that if I tell you all about how good specific moments in the game are… it’ll ruin them. So forgive my brevity and take my word for it. It’s lovely – but it’s a secret.

 

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Andrew

Driveclub

To clarify: I didn’t buy Driveclub before it was (almost) finished, a good while after release and even then it was second-hand. That Sony have so far made no money from me directly for Driveclub feels the correct response to their ineptitude with the game upon release. The launch was an utter mess, and the useless communications they offered did as much damage as the useless server code. There are so many things Sony need to learn from this, but they probably won’t. It was, frankly, a disgrace. Combined with Halo: Master Chief Collection and Assassin’s Creed Unity, 2014 was the year publishers realised gamers will buy stuff regardless. A real low point in the history of the medium.

With all that in mind: I bloody love Driveclub.

Its preposterously pretty, of course. The effect when the rain pours in Scotland is convincing enough for us to have not worried if they’d taken their independence. The handling manages to convey the feeling of these being real, and different, cars without becoming at all bogged down in simulation. Whilst the AI is one step down from firing green shells, the time trials are all-but perfect. Well designed tracks combined with the handling give the feeling you can and the feeling that you can truly get better.

Thinking back I don’t think a racing game has been my pick of the year since Sega Rally appeared on the Saturn. Like that game, and despite what the promotion for Driveclub said, this isn’t an epic. It’s small, focused and frankly old fashioned. Shaving off microseconds is enough to make me ignore the racing entirely, clubs becoming a reason for doing specific time trials and for that alone, it’s my game of the year. Graphically this is the start of this generation really showing us what it can do and the combination makes Driveclub truly magnificent.

(When the servers work.)

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Bradley

Velocity 2X

Every now and again, a title appears that will just live with you forever and in 2014 there were a few. Binding Of Isaac, Spelunky on Vita, Rogue Legacy, TxK, so many great titles. Yet after thinking about it for a little bit, there was one that just stood head and shoulders above the rest.

VELOCITY 2X

I was fortunate to get hold of the game a whole month before its official release so we could review it and it was my main game for that month and beyond, way beyond playing enough for the review and easily beyond release.

This was a game that stopped me playing other games I was meant to review, because it seemed flawless to me, everything about it was joyful, even points where I had to restart because I screwed up.

I will keep on calling this a ‘gamers game’ because that is what it feels like to me, a throwback to the old days where games were difficult, but fun, where part of the enjoyment was overcoming some difficult situations and being rewarded with something harder or more challenging, looking forward to meeting those next challenges.

What is even better is that so many would have got this game for ‘free’ as part of PS+ hopefully exposing it to a much larger audience than it would otherwise have been. There is DLC which adds more levels and I urge you to show support to Futurlab and buy those right now.

It is my game of the year for 2014, but I sure as hell will be playing it deep into 2015 too.

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Simon F

Mario Kart 8

For me my game of the year was a fairly easy choice, for starters, unlike a lot of full price titles, Mario Kart 8 actually worked from day one.  There were no need for any patches, online multiplayer worked without a hitch, and more importantly the game itself is absolutely amazing.

For me, it is the best Mario Kart there has ever been, yeah the A.I still cheats, and it is still as frustrating as hell to get hit by a blue shell just before the finish line, but quite simply this game could put a smile on the face of even the most wizened gamer.

The whole thing is just a joy to play, it has been polished so much the box almost sparkles when you open it to take the disc out(though that is something you only do a few times as the disc will be firmly stuck in your Wii U for quite a while); and even though the Wii U is supposedly the lesser console compared to the PS4 and Xbox One,  graphically, this craps all over every game that has been released on those consoles all year.

This game truly does have that magic that only Nintendo seem able to bring to gaming, and with the the downloadable content that is already available and with more to come next year.  Mario Kart 8 will be a game I will happily dip into time and time again, if only to cheer me up, with its explosion of bright colours and honed to perfection mechanics.

Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Steve

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

This year has been pretty good for games. After the deluge of sheer quality in 2012 and 2013, 2014 was always going to be a bit underwhelming, especially with the slew of HD-Makes *punches self in face* and re-releases but we’ve still seen some ace examples of gaming across all formats.

In fact we’ve seen so much I haven’t got round to playing a lot of it properly. I’ve only just started Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Alien Isolation is on the way after dropping below the £25 sweet spot. Also on the way is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, which technically could be a 2014 GOTY seeing as Nintendo have fannied with the release dates. I’ve put barely any time into Hyrule Warriors, or DriveClub or Master Chief Collection (but part of the reason with those two is because they were busted to shit for ages. Some would say MCC still is). But this isn’t about them. It’s about an expansion pack. An expansion pack I can get away with calling my 2014 Game of the Year because it’s also part of a whole game released on the new generation.

“Boo!” some might cry, “Boo and hiss! You can’t have an expansion pack as your game of the year!” I can and I bally well will, so sod you.

I mean, it’s true the glut of changes Blizzard made to the fundamental loot system, talents and the removal of the real money auction house on the PC came without needing Reaper of Souls. It’s also true that some of those changes were in the Xbox 360 and Ps3 versions of standard Diablo III, but with Diablo III – Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition (to give it it’s full title) it’s the whole package of changes, tweaks, additions and alterations that make it great.

The most important change was the loot system overhaul. Diablo was always all about the loot. Well, loot and really awful dialogue with knuckle chewing delivery, but it’s the fundamental reason as to why we play Diablo. Hit evil in the face, get the loot, hit more evil in the face, get more loot, rinse and repeat. The promise of shiny, glorious, stat filled gear is the driving force, and in the vanilla game there was no desire to grind for loot, in no small part because of the Auction House. The combat was excellent, but it was only half of the deal. It had to be satisfying to kill hellspawn but there also had to be the possibility of reward other than the satisfaction of punching their bones out of their body.

Loot 2.0 (as the change was called) was supposed to decrease the occurrence of loot but increase its usefulness. To be honest, it still seems like the game vomits loot at a rate of knots, but it’s all infinitely more desirable than before. They also overhauled the crafting, because that was practically pointless AND a pain in the arse.

So technically all this was pre-Reaper of Souls on PC, but it’s all part and parcel of the expansion in my eyes. Diablo III was in desperate need of a shot in the arm, and Blizzard gave it an overdose. It added more incentive to keep punching the demon hordes in the crotch and taking their shinies. No longer was it required to grind through the story missions for loot, instead giving us Adventure Mode to grind individual bounties and Nephalem Rifts to grind repeatedly for no reason other than the promise of upgraded gear. If you did those on higher difficulties it’s not unheard of to have to run back to sell up to make room for it all. There was little else in gaming this year that set the saliva glands off than a screen full of orange and green beams reaching up to the top of the screen. Even when you checked it all and found barely incremental updates, it didn’t matter because you just went back for more, again and again.

There was an extra act, with fantastic new areas with typically fantastic art direction! More hokum story and awful dialogue! A new class! The Crusader, which is an obscene amount of fun. Wanging your shield around like Captain America then leaping up to the sky in a streak of lightning and coming crashing back down to turn the enemies into demon paste is a powertrip, even by Diablo’s already ludicrous standards.

The new merchant allowed me to indulge in my penchant of choosing style over function, because I need to look as fabulous/bad ass as possible when I’m punching demons in the knackers and stealing their treasure. It also helped that she could alter properties of my amazing looking armour to scratch that min/max itch. But mainly it was about looking great.

The changes and additions made a game that’s commanded more of my time this year than any other game, so much so that between me and my better half the UI has bruised the panel of my TV.

Reaper of Souls would have been enough for GOTY on PC, but the console versions controls and same screen co-op (first implemented in the previous gen release) make it difficult to go back to the PC version. I find it too clunky to manage the inventory, to hit the thing I’m trying to hit, to generally have all I need from this glorious game in my hands, sat on my comfy settee in front of the TV instead of sat on my own, upstairs in front of a smaller monitor. It’s fantastic, and all from a game that originally disappointed me massively.

So yeah, it’s a cheat to choose. Yeah, there have been games that probably deserve the accolade of Game of the Year more, if only by dint of actually being a whole game rather than expansion. But none of them are as satisfying or compulsive as the game Reaper of Souls made Diablo III into.