Gamestyle LIVE – The Mod Squad

It’s been quite the week on the modding scene with Valve allowing paid for mods in Skyrim, but them and Bethesda taking a large cut. The internet doing what the internet does, followed by a reversal from Valve.

There is a bit of an argument over the value of Codemasters’ DiRT Rally and how cynical a move it is on their part. Bradley defends the game against the evil haters that are Steve and Andrew!

Game talk moves to movie talk off the back of the Batman Arkham Knight trailer, with a dash of Mad Max and Just Cause 3 thrown into the mix.

All this and more in this week’s Gamestyle Live

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Dirty Bomb Preview

Lifeless save for a few unconvincing pigeons and a bunch of rats that look suspiciously like someone round the corner is pulling them along on a bit of string. In a strange twist, Dirty Bomb the game feels like a preserved snapshot from the recent past. A class based multiplayer shooter rooted in the early 00s, only breaking from it’s old-school template to shoehorn in modern free to play mechanics.

After the likes of Titanfall and Destiny, Dirty Bomb is initially jarring. The lack of advanced movement abilities, coupled with the historic PC shooter twitch feel, can make it seem like you’re steering a block of polystyrene around. There is a wall jump but don‘t expect it to be much use without hours of practice. Where Titanfall set out to close the gap between player intent and execution, Dirty Bomb deliberately widens it. Gunplay is purely a matter of headshots and reaction times making face to face encounters feel dry, but amping up the satisfaction of outmanoeuvring an enemy before plugging them in the back of the cranium.

Developers Splash Damage have focused on objective based gameplay to the exclusion of everything else. Maps are asymmetrical defender vs. attacker affairs offering linear progressions through a handful of main objectives with side objectives opening or closing advantageous shortcuts. One highlight is the Underground map, playfully flipping the concept of high-ground advantage on its head with perilous runs down banks of escalators. Another prototype Millennium Dome themed map showcases a less constrained take on the formula, hinting at more variety in future updates.

Sadly the Mercs, Dirty Bomb’s MOBA influenced take on character classes, lack personality, amounting to a collection of accents pinned to drab character models. Aesthetics aside, they’re mechanically solid with the beta showcasing multiple takes on some classes. For example, one medic can drop a health station suitable for defence while another can throw down a stock of med packs to support teammates pushing forward. Mercs are monetised with two unlocked as default with another two temporary unlocks on weekly rotation. They come in two price points, which at £4.79 and £6.99 are a little steep although pack deals are available. There’s always the option to unlock them with in game currency and after 7 hours of play I’d grubbed enough credits through level-up bonuses to unlock a third but a fourth would take serious grinding.

There’s no option to customise loadouts either. Instead you get a handful of loadout cards detailing fixed sets of equipment and perks. Random cards can be bought with real or in-game currency and unwanted loadouts crafted into better cards. It’s an act of streamlining that presents newcomers with the familiar irritations of the free to play model but none of the fun bits. There’s no setting your sights on a coveted weapon or perk or splurging on an impulse buy. Progression, even with an investment of real money, is rooted in random chance.

As an online experience Dirty Bomb is stable and largely lag free. Visually the slightly cartoony depiction of London holds up well with liberal splashes of colour and the game ran smoothly on my ageing machine. The free to play aspects are transparent from the start and centred around unlocking options instead of crippling new players with pay to win dynamics.

There’s a good chance Dirty Bomb will find a loyal fan base, hungering for a pre-hat Team Fortress experience despite the excess free to play baggage. Crucially for me I enjoyed my time with it despite my ambivalence to that bygone era. I suffered my fair share of crushing defeats at the hands of far more experienced players, the old-school take on the genre being unforgiving but unscrupulously fair. I also fought through heroic last stands, steamrolling victories and tense cat and mouse encounters and, if you can judge an FPS by it’s moments, then Dirty Bomb delivers.

GS Plays: Will Fight For Food: Super Actual Sellout: Game of the Hour (Steam)

Because it is the best thing about the game!

Maybe that is being a bit harsh, because the writing in Will Fight For Food: SAS: GotH is pretty good too and raises a few smiles. It is just a shame it is part of a game that just feels like it is lacking everywhere else.

Brad is joined by Steve as they take a look at the game and even Brad, the worlds most positive gamer can’t find much to cheer about.

Anyway, check the video below!

Will Fight For Food: Super Actual Sellout: Game of the Hour is available on Steam



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Except we all know that is a lie, because the first boss was massive!

Join Brad as he continues his journey into the world of Bloodborne for the very first time. Armed only with his wits and help from Twitch chat.

Bradborne will be a weekly series that runs for around 90 minutes every Monday at 8PM (GMT).

Part 2 doesn’t see Brad quite continue in the same way as Part 1, there is a lot more death and over confidence turns to cockiness which leads to death and frustration. But all that is soon forgiven as this week’s run finishes with a first boss encounter.

Should you miss the live show, you can watch below on our Youtube Channel and be sure to subscribe.

Previous episodes can be found HERE.

Or if you want to watch live, then click the image below and follow us on Twitch.

Mortal Kombat X Review

The last Mortal Kombat game was a revelation and plucked the series back from the depths of despair (MK VS DC) into a great alternative to the Japanese heavyweights. It also showed that story modes could be achieved in a 2D fighter. So much so that MKX has a lot of expectations on its shoulders.

Despite a good chunk of the cast getting brutally murdered in the last game, the majority of them return, albeit in dead, zombie form. The story mode now skipping between two time periods, some of which takes place in the past with original characters like Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage before jumping forward into the future where the kids take over and all your old favourites have a few grey hairs.

Overall the story mode doesn’t form a cohesive narrative the same way MK9 did, which is a shame. It’s still hugely enjoyable, has some QTE segments that I actually enjoyed for a change and doesn’t have a nightmare of a final boss (a rarity for the genre). It just doesn’t bring anything particularly new. It does however do a good job showcasing how good it all looks. Character models, rain effects, it all looks simply stunning, particularly in motion. Without doubt, MKX is a damn fine looking game.

Aside from the story mode there’s also the standard tower arcade structure, now with the addition of Living Towers, which change over time. These can have various gameplay modifiers or just force you to play as a specific character. It’s actually the best single player mode, because everywhere else appears to be lacking, or downright awful, like the Krypt.

Making a return, the Krypt is now some weird meta-game where instead of just selecting graves to explode and obtain the secret item (after spending coins) you now have to wander around graves and underground areas to actually find everything. There are items to collect and as you progress and little QTE events as spiders jump out you. It’s awful. I just want to unlock some new costumes, I don’t want to play through some terrible mini mode where it’s ridiculously easy to miss something. Why? Why does this exist? A baffling design decision.

Now that I’ve let the anger subside a little, let’s talk about the good, and it’s that MKX still plays a fantastic game. It does take a while to get used to having a block button again, but once you get familiar with the mechanics you’ll be blocking attacks, pulling off combos and ripping off people’s faces.

Indeed, MKX takes the fatalities and X-Ray moves to a whole new level of cringe. Once your meter is filled pressing the two triggers simultaneously activates the X-Ray attack, a devastating move where you see your opponent get all sorts of broken bones. Then there’s naturally the return of the fatalities, which are suitably gruesome. While some have questioned whether they’re starting to go a little too far, in my view the whole game is so ridiculously stupid it’s more laughable than anything.

In addition to old favourites like Lui Kang and Raiden come the new kids. There’s the likes of Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs who are your typical military types; being the daughters of their respective MK veterans they also bring their fathers’ fighting influence to their move set. Then there’s the more outlandish characters such as D’Vorah and Erron Black. A common trend with fighting games that introduce new characters is old players insistence on sticking with their tried and tested “mains”, that is definitely something not seen in the online as from my time playing there seem to be just as many Kung Jin players as Kung Lao.

Taking the fight online is where the longevity will be found and after a shaky first week on release, it seems to have settled down somewhat. After more patches than you’d expect (or want) this shortly after release, finding an online match has become a lot more bearable.

Aside from ranked matches, there are also rooms where you can challenge whomever you choose, a king of the hill mode and various team based modes. There’s also the faction stuff, which is not that great. Choosing a faction at the start, you then have to complete certain objectives in order to gain points for said faction, such as Lin Kuei or Special Forces. There are certain events that happen after a winner is crowned, such as chipping away at a boss’s health, but on the whole it’s a largely forgettable mode.

While the gameplay of MKX has been refined since the last iteration, a lot of what surrounds it can be considered inferior. Fighting online is still a treat (now that it mostly works) and the combat (sorry, kombat) is still fantastic, it’s just a shame that the single player content and side stuff like The Krypt aren’t as good as they were in the last game. So, not exactly a flawless victory then.

Goat Simulator Review

Dagnabbit, that wasn’t meant to happen. Anyway, this is a review for Goat Simulator, a game that has no right whatsoever to be good, but for some strange reason, is.

The staff at Gamestyle are mostly made up of 30+ year olds who over the years may have become a bit jaded with certain types of games. These ‘Simulator’ games on the whole are awful shovelware crap, there is no hiding that fact. However, we also know that there is an audience for the decent efforts in the ‘genre’ and so onto Goat Simulator.

I had a plan here, I was to let my 8 year old son loose with the game, record it and let that be the review. However, he got a bit of stage-fright and forgot he was needing to talk whilst playing. We put the video up anyway and you can watch it below.

I still wanted his opinion so a little while after I sat down with my son (Lucas) and asked him about the game.

DAD: Straight off the bat son, what on earth is Goat Simulator?

LUCAS: It’s a fun game where I am the goat and I can wear jetpacks and headbutt people to make them fall over. I can blow up cars and fly far when it explodes.  I like being able to slide down a slide and onto a trampoline, then go into a house and wreck it.

That’s all very well Lucas, but seriously, what is the point?

I told you already Dad, I am a goat and I can do cool things like smash cars.

But you play normal games like Pacman, Rogue Legacy, Forza, NHL, Ratchet and Clank, etc. They have a point to them… what does this have?

It has points for doing things and it is fun.

No I don’t mean literal points, I mean why do you do these things? In Driver you need to go through a story and get to the end. What does this do?

What does literal mean Dad?

Really? It means using a word as actual fact, without it being a metaphor… wait you know this stuff, stop teasing me!

Haha, I know, but it’s fun to tease.

Yes, yes I know. So anyway, is there a story to Goat Simulator? Is there an end?

No, you give your goat mutations and have fun. It’s fun Dad, I like fun games and it is silly. You always tell me that games are an escape where you can break away from reality and just enjoy yourself, where you separate your real world from this one.

WHAT?!? You are 8 years old that is pretty deep, where did that come from?

It’s something you have always taught me about games, it’s why you let me play games that are for older people than me like…

STOP… I get it, let’s not get Daddy into trouble right now. We are going off topic a bit.

Look Dad, I am going to knock this man off a crane [fits of laughter]

[laughter here too] Ok, it’s fun and silly and we understand that is a good thing. So who would like this game then?

Everyone! Who doesn’t like fun Dad? Old men are so boring.

WHOA! Who are you calling boring?

You Dad and your friends, because you needed me to play this game to tell your reader friends if it is good.

Yeah, fair point! So look, you like it and it is fun. I have played it too and yes I had a good time, even playing together was great. But you need to give it a score.

I did that in my video Dad!

Yes but the sound was buggered and you barely spoke.

That’s your fault Dad.

Ok fair enough let’s not get into this now…score.

I give this game a nine out of ten because it is fun, but you can’t go into all of the houses.

Thank you Lucas.

So there we have it, Goat Simulator is fun, it has no point whatsoever, but sometimes that is just fine!


3D Fantasy Zone 2 Review

Fantasy Zone has always been one of the best series on Sega’s consoles and the Master System games are arguably the best of the bunch, so it was great when they were announced for the 3D Classics range. It’s a little odd to be getting the second game first but the fact it’s here at all is something to be celebrated.

A mixture of cute and surreal, the Fantasy Zone series has long been known for its very bright and colourful graphical style and the fact it’s also pretty damn tough. The move to the 3DS has allowed for the graphics to really come alive and the limitations presented by the Master System are obviously not now in place. This means we get the true vision of the game developers wanted and it’s never looked better.

The 3D effect is not particularly amazing and certainly not up to the standard of Outrun or Space Harrier (for obvious reasons). It does however provide a subtle extra spark to the game without making it mind blowing, but there is only so much you can do with a game set on a 2D plane anyway.

Players are tasked with flying their little ship left and right with the aim of blasting all the bases that produce monsters. Once the last base has been destroyed you are thrown into a battle with the end of level boss. It’s a bit like Defender without the rescuing mechanic. You can also move over to the ‘dark’ version of each level if you want an extra challenge.

Bosses are inventive and huge. They often have small weak spots which you need to blast and fast reactions will be needed to have any chance at all. For instance – the first boss is a giant tree who requires his Pinocchio-esque nose to be shot back into his head. While doing this you need to navigate a constantly moving maze of logs. It’s tough and it only gets more difficult the further you get.

Luckily, there are a few things to help players along the way. First of all a new level select has been added to allow players to start from any level they have previously reached. As you only have three lives to complete the game this is most welcome. You can also buy upgrades for your ship but most of them have a very limited timed use so don’t expect to be taking on the boss with some kind of super laser.

The main thing is that the game is still fun to play in short bursts. The bosses can present big sticking points but then this is a title that first came out in 1987. The core game is still very good and the subtle improvements and additions should make it just about palatable for gamers used to more modern fare.

Overall, it is great to see a game like Fantasy Zone II make it into the 3D Classics range. If you are a fan of the original then there is nothing here to put you off and you should check it out right away. Newcomers may find it tough, but it’s an inventive game that still stands out and if you are up for a challenge then there is a lot of fun to be had.

Gamestyle LIVE – Star Wars

All Star Wars and no Star Wars make Bradley a something something!

Yes it is Star Wars week, which means Brad, Steve and Andrew jump aboard the space bandwagon and talk about Star Wars games, movies, spin-offs and stuff.

If you like Star Wars, then you’ll love this episode. If you care not for Star Wars, then you can join in with Brad’s pain. Until he gets to chip in with the only good Star Wars game ever release – Pod Racer.

This can be written here, because Bradley is the editor and can say what he likes. He says that most Star Wars games suck and have been overplayed. But that Pod Racer game is and was fantastic.

Anyway, details below on how to catch this weeks show.

Reviews and Ratings

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Tower of Guns Review

Tower of Guns came out on the PC some time ago and has generated a decent buzz. The project from Terrible Posture Games takes the now popular Rogue-like template and applies it to a first person shooter. It’s designed to give you a quick blast of fun when you have half an hour spare and it certainly gives you a few different things to play around with.

Though in the first person, it certainly does follow the randomness of many other Rogue-like titles. The enemies, level design and bosses are all randomly generated during each play through and you even get a little text story that assigns itself to you. Sometimes you are trying to save the president’s daughter; sometimes you are running from zombies (among other things). It’s a minor touch but something that adds a bit of humour.

As you carry out more runs in the tower you will unlock more weapons to use and more perks and bonuses that can be selected from the start screen. There’s a decent selection of both and they make enough difference to warrant some consideration before you go blasting.

During play you can pick up money to buy power ups and there is also a minor levelling system which increases the power of your gun by picking up blue dots and tokens. Aside from that you just point your gun at things and blast. While blasting things certainly is fun for a while it does quickly show up how little depth there is going on in the game and spending any real length of time with it is difficult.

The shooting itself feels a little lightweight with enemies looking a bit flimsy and a lack of punch from a number of weapons. This is a shame as something offering up bite sized chunks of Serious Sam intensity could have been a real winner. The random elements also don’t seem to create that many different things. Within our first five or six runs we noticed a large amount of repeated rooms and when a game is as short as this it becomes a bit of an issue for replayability.

It’s the lack of intensity that really holds the game back. You can be in a room with seemingly endless turrets and enemies charging at you but it still seems a bit dull. Maybe it’s the lacklustre sound but it just doesn’t thrill and that’s a bit of a problem for a game based on quick, adrenaline-fuelled lunch runs.

Though the game is designed to be blasted through in around twenty minutes, there could still have been a bit more going on. You do get a few surprises every five or so runs but after we finished the game once we didn’t feel that much like jumping in again. It’s certainly a nice and fun distraction but really little else.

Overall, Tower of Guns starts out showing some strong promise that it could be an excellent little blaster. However, the more time you spend with it the more the lack of depth and variety begins to become a problem. There is nothing bad or broken here but there is also little to keep players interested after their first handful of runs.


Controllers can be incredibly divisive things. In the run-up to the latest console releases they were discussed at length and started many an internet ruckus, but now they’re out and we all know which we prefer. For some it’s the much improved iteration of the DualShock and for others it’s the slightly refined One controller. In this piece I’m going to take a look at various controllers and let you know which ones I liked and which I didn’t, in a vaguely generational order.

As with any opinion piece, these are just my opinions. That much should be obvious and render the sentence redundant, but it’s important to state that I’m not being even remotely subjective here and will just be presenting my personal preferences in each case. With that said, I should let you know the pertinent fact that I have massive hands. Seriously huge. I’m 6’6” but my hands are still disproportionately large. They look ridiculous. Oddly, I don’t think this has really affected my controller preferences much but I thought I should let you know just in case you can read something into it that I haven’t noticed.

Nintendo NES Controller

I’m going to start with the NES and Master System. I think the Master System pad might have been the first home console controller I ever used and it was shit. Both consoles had similar blocky rectangle designs but the NES wins thanks to a much better d-pad and possibly better buttons. That Master System d-pad was just horrific.

That was easy then. 8-bit generation done, but before we move on let’s think for a moment about all those crazy devices that were around for the various machines of the time. The madness of the Master System left-handed stick for one. What were they thinking? I used quite a few things on my friend’s computers but never really owned any myself so can’t speak with any authority other than to say that I suspect none were very good. I did have a joystick for the Master System though, it was the Quick Shot one and it was awful.

Now we’re at the point where pads and sticks started to improve a lot, the 16-bit era. Again, my main experience was with Nintendo and Sega’s offerings, but the giant arcade sticks were cropping up in more homes and those Special Reserve ads for Neo Geos in the back of magazines made us all long for a big stick of our own. I’ve got one now, but at the time it was just an unobtainable object of lust.

As with so many things in gaming, I never had a problem with the Mega Drive pads at the time but now they seem terrible. Once again the d-pad was poor and the buttons were spongey. The 6-button version which came later was a huge improvement and I would imagine still holds up okay today. The texture on the d-pad was lovely. For me though, Nintendo win once again with what might be one of the greatest controllers ever. Of course, it would be almost useless for today’s games but these things need to be judged for their time and the SNES controller was perfect. The d-pad seemed the same as the NES one but improved in some intangible way. The buttons were almost touch-sensitive things that hardly needed pressing and the whole thing was so light you forgot you were holding it, surely the Holy Grail for any controller. Its weakness was the shoulder buttons which were a little clunky and often quickly broken. It’s still a stunner though and almost 25 years later those button colours sold a whole load of New 3DS machines to people of a certain age.

Sega Genesis Controller


The move to 3D in the 32-bit era demanded a different kind of controller, but it didn’t get one. I’m going to jumble this whole era together a bit as things went crazy for a while. One of the first ‘next-gen’ machines was the 3DO which had novel daisy-chaining controllers that were okay I suppose but owed more to the Mega Drive design than the SNES. I suspect this was possibly due to EA’s links with the console and their apparent preference in the time immediately beforehand for Sega’s hardware over Nintendo’s. The PlayStation, meanwhile, wore its Nintendo links on its sleeve with a broken up version of their d-pad and the familiar diagonal button arrangement. I remember thinking this pad looked amazing in pics before the console was released and it did end up being a good approximation of what the SNES controller had offered previously. The Saturn pad managed to somehow be a worse version of the Mega Drive 6-button pad where change for the sake of change ruined what was good about that controller. It was weird and angular where it shouldn’t be. There was a curvier revision but by then it was too late. (I might be wrong about the order of these Saturn pads but that would just make it even madder).

Other competitors included the CDi, which was just weird, and the Jaguar with its famous calculator pad. I actually didn’t mind the Jaguar pad to hold but it was hugely impractical and the buttons were at a disconcertingly steep angle. If you’re too young, or just don’t remember these pads, have a Google of those CDi, Jaguar and 3DO controllers and look at the horrors that might have been. I mean, CD32 for fuck’s sake! Think how lucky you are. I remember around this time, possibly later, I started to see Microsoft Sidewinder PC controllers in Dixons and places like that. I thought they were great to hold but never really used one and looking back now they seem a bit shit too.

I suppose the PlayStation won that generation’s war of the pads almost by default; none of their potential opponents really showed up, but that all changed in 1997 when Nintendo released the N64. What the fuck is that thing? I first saw the N64 ‘live’ and being used on Bad Influence as Andy Crane bumbled through the opening of Mario 64. He explained how you could hold the controller in two different ways depending on if you were using the stick or the d-pad. In reality, the stick caught on so quickly that hardly anyone had to worry about the d-pad and it became a largely redundant area of the controller that lived on the back of your left hand. So successful was the analogue stick that Sony quickly launched a revision that clumsily plonked two of the things in an awkward position on their existing design. A bit like when you run out of power in Sim City and have to whack a fusion reactor on the edge of your swankiest neighbourhood. It doesn’t matter, you’ll find a better place for it soon and knock that one down. Sony didn’t get around to doing so until 2013 and they didn’t so much move it as replace the nuclear power with solar power – it’s still in the wrong place but much less offensive.

Sony can be put to one side for the next few years as aside from Sixaxis and Dualshock shenanigans they didn’t change their core design. Nintendo continued to innovate with rumble paks, which were novel but didn’t add much at the time, certainly not enough to suggest that rumble would become the default feature it is today. The GameCube controller was the next leap, moving the analogue stick to the dominant position and thereby proving that this, not the d-pad would be gaming’s future input device. There’s a lot of love for the GameCube controller and I can see why. I too, was a fan, but it was also very much of its console. By that I mean that it was one of the first of Nintendo’s controllers that was designed for Nintendo games first and everything else second. I could play Winning Eleven 6 FE on it, but it didn’t feel completely natural doing so.

Xbox 360 Controller


It was Microsoft who would offer the next challenge with the Xbox. They fucked that up though. The controller was huge. Even with my massive hands I had issues. It wasn’t so much the size as the general design though. Something about it just made it uncomfortable. The buttons were in a strange parallelogram shape and squished too close together and the whole thing just felt clunky. If there’s one thing Microsoft (still) deserve credit for though, it’s listening. They released the new S controller and it was a revelation. It could be argued that it was the first ‘SNES’ controller of the 3D era in that it had what the SNES pad had but with the necessities of a modern era included in the right places.

Microsoft would continue this with the 360 controller, a slightly more ergonomic version of the S controller which became many people’s favourite. Nintendo meanwhile, went all waggly. I’m not sure how to class the Wii controller. It’s undoubtedly revolutionary in what it did but at the same time it’s not very good as a traditional game controller. I never really got on with it but I fully accept that I probably missed the point, or that the point just didn’t appeal to me, so I’m not going to comment too much on it.

That brings us on to the current gen and Sony’s first true design change, well, ever really. Before that though, I’m aware I’ve missed out all sorts of gems here. I’ve focussed mainly on first party pads but those third party offerings are their own mysterious world. Who is it that buys the GAME own-brand £9.99 controller and are they a step up from the person that buys the second hand crisp-encrusted GAME controller for £7.99? I don’t mean to be snobby here but why buy something which is very honest about how shit it is on the box? I’m amazed that this type of third party controller still exists but I suppose it’s for people who just want something for the occasional visitor to use. I both understand it and really don’t understand it at the same time. There are also the optional devices like arcade sticks and steering wheels. I still have two sticks and once had a fancy wheel set-up but one day you look at it and realise it’s maybe a bit much and start to feel ridiculous. For the more emotionally secure there’s a huge range of quality sticks and wheels that can offer all sorts of experiences for all sorts of prices. As someone whose first ever interaction with a videogame was probably through a Pole Position cabinet steering wheel I have a soft spot for the crazier set-ups but I’m happy to leave them in my youth now, I just don’t have the room.

Back to today then and we have three consoles on offer with three fairly different pads. Let’s quickly get the Wii U out of the way as I know most people don’t include it (despite it clearly being the best). It was a while before I tried the very odd looking GamePad in a GameStop in New York and I was surprised by just how comfortable I found it. Maybe it’s my big hands again but I found it to be much better than I expected and I still use it over the Pro Controller which is a fairly derivative 360 pad knock off. The lack of analogue triggers is an odd decision and there is a general feeling of ‘retro’ or even third party-ness about the Wii U’s pads but they’re perfectly serviceable and I’ve found them to be pretty decent.

The DualShock 4 then. Hailed as the second coming by many who tried it before release and dismissed by many others as soon as they saw the stick placements. I owned a PS4 for just over a year and found the controller to be excellent if a little fragile. Many people had issues with the sticks wearing away and I suffered this fate a few times – football games kill DS4s. However, for the purposes of this piece I’m not going to include durability as a factor and as such, the DS4 deserves praise for its comfort and the precision of its sticks.

Sony PS4 Controller


The Xbox One controller is a revision of the 360 controller, which was a revision of the S controller. You could argue that Microsoft haven’t really innovated much but then they didn’t really have to. I’d only played with this controller on demo pods until recently but found it to be comfy enough and chose it as my controller for the PC I built recently. Having used it more now I can say that it’s fine. Nothing more really and it’s a bit clicky in places, not that it matters, just a bit odd. I think if I had to choose I’d go for the DS4 at a push. Sony’s controller just feels a little ‘softer’ and I think I prefer it’s buttons. The sticks may also be slightly better. However, in the real world durability is a concern, as is customer service, which is why I’ve gone for the One controller on PC.

That’s it then, my self-indulgent trip through controller memory lane has come to a close. Add your own thoughts and let me know what I missed out or forgot about in the comments. What would you have on your controller desert island? For me, if I had to have one for all time? Give me that SNES pad.


Over and over and over!

Join Brad as he starts his journey into the world of Bloodborne for the very first time. Armed only with his wits and help from Twitch chat.

Bradborne will be a weekly series that runs for around 90 minutes every Monday at 8PM (GMT).

This first episode sees Brad feeling his was around the opening areas and staying alive a lot more than expected.

Should you miss the live show, you can watch below on our Youtube Channel and be sure to subscribe.

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La Maluna EX Review

The Wii was the first console to get a port but now we can pull our hair out wherever we are with this portable version on the Vita. It may seem a strange choice but La Mulana is a perfect candidate for on-the-go gaming, even if it is still incredibly difficult.

For those unfamiliar with the game, it follows an intrepid archaeologist as he drops into the legendary ruins of La Mulana. It’s a puzzle platform game in the purest sense, with block pushing and weight placing high on the agenda. There’s lots of whipping, pinpoint platforming and traps galore. There are also massive great boss monsters and lots of death.

There’s no getting away from just how difficult the game is. Especially when you first start, it can seem overwhelming and any hints at what to do are obscure to say the least. Once you break through the initial barriers things do get much better for players though. It took us about an hour and two wasted save files to really get going. The third time we started it all began to click and we would recommend any player to use a guide for the first couple of areas if you feel you aren’t getting anywhere.

Once we had gathered the warping Holy Grail, bought a symbol decoder from the shop and got past the first boss it became a much better adventure. It’s all about getting your head around what you need to do and once that happens it reveals itself to be an excellent platform adventure. By the time we reached the second proper area everything was fine and it felt we were really getting into it.

Level design is strong throughout with areas different enough from each other in terms of enemy type and design. There are fiendish puzzles and riddles to solve but the core dynamic is based around placing weights on pads to make things happen in the environment. Weights can be picked up on your adventure but it’s normally best to buy a hefty amount at the village shop before diving back into the depths.

Once you have the Holy Grail you can warp to any discovered Grail points which makes life a bit easier. We did have an issue with certain points disappearing from our warp list though – if this is a bug or something we haven’t worked out mechanics wise remains to be seen. There’s a host of different equipment and weapons to buy and you need to make sure you are well prepared to have any chance at all. What makes life even more difficult is that you don’t really know what order you should be attempting the areas (and you really do need to get through them in the right order to stand a chance).

Indeed, there is very little signposting at all. The first time we played we didn’t even work out that each area needed to be completed and subsequently dived down as deep into the ruins as far as we could go and had to restart our save file as we just couldn’t get back to where we wanted to be. It’s also slightly annoying that the game comes with borders either side of it. Making a Vita game and then not adjusting the port to the system’s native aspect ratio is somewhat bizarre to say the least.

Overall, there’s no denying that La Mulana is both an excellent platform game and a great addition to the Vita’s catalogue. However, it is very tough and obscure at times. It’ll certainly appeal to the Spelunky and Super Meat Boy crowd but requires a more patient and thought-out approach.  If you stick with it you’ll find a great adventure game. Many though may well be put off by all the barriers it throws up for players and that’s a real shame.


War for the Overworld Review

One of the earliest games I remember throwing hours into on my first PC was Dungeon Keeper. I had played other games of course, but something about Dungeon Keeper just grabbed me. Back in the days when I couldn’t pick Peter Molyneux out of a crowd, or paying to dig a block would ruin everything.

Nearly 20 years ago! Time really does fly doesn’t it? Now, we cannot trust a word that Mr Molyneux says and the Dungeon Keeper name has been completely destroyed by some really immoral pay to play ethics. A return of Dungeon Keeper should have been a glorious thing.

Thank the Devil then for Subterranean Games and their title War for the Overworld which is the true sequel to Dungeon Keeper and Dungeon Keeper 2, in fact it takes its name from the subtitle of the cancelled Dungeon Keeper 3.

Let us call a spade a spade here, this IS Dungeon Keeper 3 in all but name, a quick look at the history of the development of both this and the cancelled DK3 will make that blatantly obvious and oh what a joy it is.

For anyone who has played a Dungeon Keeper, you will feel right at home, the core concepts remain faithful to what you will remember, the controls are like riding a bike and overall the game feels like putting on your favourite pair of lounge pants and sitting in your favourite armchair. It just has that comforting feeling that everything is right with the world.

You know the drill. You start with a core dungeon, that you then dig out to expand…all in real time, not having to pay for the pleasure to do so, or wait 165 days, or whatever you’d need to on the EA mobile release. You then build your dungeon out further, attract more minions, build rooms, prisons, training areas, etc to make your disciples better, stronger, faster.

You use them to build out yet further, whilst at the same time trying to take down enemies who dare to advance on your creations. It plays properly in real time, so you need to be thinking on your feet at all time, making split second decisions that can make or break your game at any one time.

Look, it is Dungeon Keeper, so just jump in and settle into the underworld and have fun!!

A few things to add, which are the reasons this has taken a while to come to a conclusion about the game. It is constantly being updated and improved, bugs are being ironed out, things are being balanced and much, much more.

Now whilst this is nice to see, a developer supporting their game in such a way after launch, it does feel like it should still have an Early Access label to it. Game crashes have ruined many a play session, but thankfully these are becoming less and less frequent. The UI is a bit of a mess and there are still a lot of placeholders all over the place.

There are also a fair few parts that are locked out right now, with things like Survival Mode coming later down the line. Now credit to Subterranean Games, they are honest about this, but to the outsider this is a game being sold on Steam as a finished product. If it still had the Early Access tag and was being worked on in the way it is, then I’d be screaming from the rooftops about how you should be getting this…RIGHT NOW!

As it is, I feel the game should come with a warning. It is everything you want from a true successor to Dungeon Keeper, but for most people, you may be better off waiting until it is finally finished. I can only really say that if you are that desperate to get you some Dungeon Keeping action, then pick it up.

There is a lot of potential here and when it is finished, it will be absolutely essential, but as it is? It is for those who REALLY need a game like this in their life and want to show support to the developers.

Ready, Player One

Set in the year 2044, the world is a pretty grim place where mass poverty rules. Our hero of the story, Wade, does what everyone else does and escapes his surroundings by logging onto the virtual reality world of the OASIS. There he is known as Parzival, he goes to school inside this virtual world and generally just hangs out with his friend Aech in his own virtual chat room.

The crux of the story revolves around the hunt for the Easter Egg. Upon the death of the OASIS’ creator James Halliday, he stipulated in his will that hidden within the OASIS is a special Easter egg that once obtained, will get the winner Halliday’s entire multi-billion dollar fortune. The stakes are high as the evil corporation IOI also want the Egg for themselves in order to take control of the OASIS, and as the story progresses it’s clear they will do anything to obtain it.

First of all, there’s one main issue I had with Ready, Player One that crept up almost constantly throughout the book. It’s Cline’s insistence on giving history lessons whenever a specific TV series, game or movie comes up. While it’s understandable that he wants to get across how much of a nerd the protagonist is, it also becomes slightly annoying when the story slows down as you’re told the history of some obscure Japanese television series.

The other slight issue I have is with certain interactions between characters. As well as Aech there’s also Art3mis, a fellow egg hunter and love interest for Wade, this is despite them never meeting in person. Indeed, the most interesting factor of the OASIS world is that you can be whoever you want to be. The problem is the dialogue can at times feel forced and unnatural. Certain parts were actually reminding me of the movie Hackers with our trio of nerds sounding incredibly unrealistic.

Still, despite my reservations I had a damn good time with this book. Is it a work of high art? No. Is it hugely enjoyable, escapist fun? Absolutely! And it doesn’t hide this at all. It’s a story of good vs evil with plenty of trials and tribulations ahead for Wade and his cohorts as they try to find the Easter Egg. You’re painted a wonderful picture of this bleak future that Wade finds himself living in that it’s understandable that people would want to escape into the OASIS.

It’s an enjoyable story, and it’s understandable why it was almost instantly courted for Hollywood but it may be a difficult adaptation. On top of the various games consoles and games that are constantly referenced and play huge parts in the plot (like Joust and Pac-Man), there are also movies and spaceships from across all media.

The OASIS being as vast as it is, travel between worlds can either be done with teleportation or using spaceships. These ships including various Star Wars vehicles, and even the Serenity from the Joss Whedon show Firefly. Oh, and the book also features Mechagodzilla and Ultraman. I’m not joking. In fact, what would be the best part of the book features these two giant behemoths, so omitting it due to license trouble (highly likely) would be a massive blow.

But anyway, that’s the movie, this feature is about the book. And while it may not set your world alight, I found Ready, Player One to be a hugely enjoyable romp that I found difficult to put down.


Bastion – Yay or Nay

I will make no secret of my love for Bastion, I have played and finished it on Xbox Live Arcade, iOS, PC and even on the Chrome store as a browser game. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it and I will return to it many times before I die.

So I am not here to tell you about the game, nor am I going to tell you what you should think about it. You can make your own mind up, try various demos, try it in your browser, wherever.

There are many issues people have with remasters; for some it feels like a pointless cash grab, others see them as harming the production of the next AAA game, others simply don’t like paying for content they already own on another system.

Yet, here is Bastion, a game that has been released on pretty much every system out there, bar the ones owned by Sony. There is no PS3 version of this game, that you’d likely already own, so in all fairness, you shouldn’t expect some kind of free upgrade. But hey, if it was on PS3, you can be sure there’d have been a cross-buy option, which is the case with the PS4 release. You’ll also get the Vita version when that too arrives.

As for the updates, there really are none, it is the exact same game you may have already played, so someone coming in fresh isn’t getting any special treatment and if you decide to leave this release alone, you’re not missing out on anything.

In actual fact, it is only a bump up in resolution that really shows, it looks nicer than on iOS and the Chrome store, but really only marginally better than on XBLA and barely any difference to the PC at all.

Much of that comes down to the art style, it is still just as wonderful and striking as the day it first graced us in 2011 during the XBLA Summer of Arcade. For me it was one of the first games that really showed just how amazing an Indie title can actually look and what can be done when a developer gets to control their own content.

So listen, Bastion isn’t for everyone, there isn’t much I can sell you on if you have finished the game already and I know everyone isn’t the same as me with their love for this great title. But to have it on another platform, where it can potentially find a new audience? That makes this verdict easy.


Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night Review

Chainsaw Warrior was originally released as a solo board game back in 1987 which has been revamped as a budget title (£4.79rrp) dice rolling card game on Steam. It sees the player fighting against hordes of Aztec Zombies, as well as a 60 minute timer, to save reality from Darkness.

Character statistics (health, resistance to venom and radiation, melee and ranged damage as well as reflex) are randomly generated at the beginning of the game. Players are then given a random number of equipment points  depending on your statistics to spend on weapons/armour/gadgets before launching into a bit of backstory behind why you a raiding an Aztec pyramid.

The main game screen is clearly laid out with your statistics across the top, the card to be drawn on the left and a text box on the right which details dice roll information. The middle section is left clear for you to deal with the current card in play.

Each action or card drawn takes 30 seconds from the 60 minute timer allocated to players to clear the three decks of cards making up the Aztec pyramid, and prevent Darkness from winning. So essentially it works out to be 120 turns to clear 75 cards.

Turns are taken by clicking the card in play to see what fate befalls you – which in my experience was nearly always a zombie/crocodile/jaguar/warrior that wanted to eat my face. Combat is simply deciding what weapon to use based on the blurb given for the enemy at the base of the card and rolling 2D6 (or two six sided dice) for the amount to add on to their reflex to see if they block. If they do, you retry until you destroy it or if they don’t block, you destroy the card and carry on your way. This continues until one of four things happens – you run out of health and die, you run out of radiation resistance and die, you run out of time and fail, or you beat the cards.

This game is simple to pick up but relies totally on random number generation (your basic stats, deck order and battle encounters) and if you are unfortunate enough to roll some high numbers for the enemies and low for yourself then you can waste a lot of time on a basic mobs.

Subsequently, there are minimal choices to make through the game and each playthrough felt like a chore trying to get to the end where generally you failed and there was little you could do about it anyway.

Gamestyle LIVE – Modern Gaming

This week Brad, Steve and Andrew talk about modern gaming, where it is at right now, where it is going and why those plastic toys are just so damned popular!

Brad and Steve have a disagreement over Guitar Hero Live, Andrew likes games that are are about numbers and we have a fair few technical difficulties.

Gamestyle Live is at its best when the script goes out the window and this show is all over the place but was a ton of fun to record. We hope you like it.

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Titan Souls Review

What if a game removed all the fluff? What if it decided that going through hours of grind beating away various minions with ease was a pointless endeavor? What if that same game decided that leveling up your character, finding new and improved weapons and armour, was all…well, pointless? What if it was you and the bosses?

Welcome to Titan Souls!

That is exactly what this game is, you vs 20 different bosses, no fluff, no upgrades, no leveling, just you and your single arrow vs 20 different mighty Titans.

It may sound like yet another Indie trying to be different for the sake of being different, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, if anything this is an homage to games such as Shadow of the Colossus, where it wants to create a spectacle and make each encounter a memorable one.

Unlike Team Ico’s epic, this is on a much smaller scale and seems to focus more on a trial and error system and for the most part it works and it does it with next to no handholding whatsoever. You are dumped into a world and you have to just work stuff out on your own.

At no point does the game explain to you that you just have a single arrow that you must retrieve each time it is fired, nor does it tell you what you need to do to progress, or what you might encounter next. It sets you into a level and turns its back on you.

This means one thing…you will die and you will die A LOT! You thought you die often in the likes of Dark Souls and Bloodborne? Well this takes it to another level. Because even when you think you may have worked out what is coming, or how to take on a Titan, something will surprise you, or blindside you when you least expect it.

Now I half expected this mechanic to frustrate the living hell out of me, but it is so well designed that you can and you will learn from every death. You go back to the same encounter armed with more knowledge, you find other ways in which you can use your solitary arrow and after many tries you can finally beat your current nemesis.


Now 20 Titans with no other enemies may sound very little, especially when many can be killed in a single shot, but I defy anyone to make their way through the game first time in just a couple of hours. This is a game that requires patience and rewards perseverance. You don’t get in-game rewards, but you do get a sense of accomplishment for having beat a game that has set out to beat you.

It is also a game that is set up for not only beating it, but ideal Twitch and Youtube fodder for those speedrunners. To see someone get through Titan Souls in one sitting and going for speed records will be something to behold because to myself, it will require a special amount of effort to get that good and to learn all the various Titan patterns and not fail at any of them.

Titan Souls is a game that will leave you feeling beaten for the most part and at times it may not always feel enjoyable, but at the very same time, it is so well designed and crafted that you accept that and you take on the difficulties as a challenge you must beat, which makes this a must have game.

Bloodborne Review

In 30 years of gaming I thought I’d seen every idea, every plot element, every boss fight, every twist on every genre. With game publishers now multi-million pound corporations, churning out their umpteenth blockbuster catering to the lowest common denominator, and all the while monetising everything … yeah, I thought I’d seen the very best gaming had to offer. I simply wasn’t prepared for Bloodborne.

Let’s get one thing straight. If you’re after a linear game with a lot of plot, characters, and exposition, you should look elsewhere. If you’re after a game that you can breeze through in a couple of evenings before moving on, you should look elsewhere. Bloodborne will not hold your hand, it will not give you a handy checkpoint to continue your progress, and it will punish you for every mistake without mercy; it is the harshest of mistresses. So why play it? It’s simple: Bloodborne is arguably the best modern-day example of design and ingenuity to come out of the games industry.

Bloodborne casts you in the role of a hunter, searching for a cure for your ailments in the gothic town of Yharnam. The game’s introductory sequence pulls no punches as it sets its stall out. Yharnam is a constant nightmare. Imagine a town comprised completely of every creepy building and old church you’ve ever seen, and you’re not even close. So what’s remarkable is just how beautiful in its horror Yharnam can be.

Bloodborne’s graphical style is unique. If you analyse things up close, you’ll notice a distinct lack of texture detail. But what Bloodborne lacks in texture effects and detail it makes up for in actual architectural detail. Every brick in every building, and every paving stone you walk on, are all rendered with great care. Carved reliefs are actually carved, not flat surfaces, and it’s all hauntingly lit by Yharnam’s gorgeous, blood-red sky. Bloodborne is a masterclass in architectural design, and the further you venture into Yharnam, the more twisted it becomes, as do its inhabitants.

Yharnam’s denizens are almost all hostile, and extremely dangerous, so it’s just as well that Bloodborne offers some great options for taking them on. You may have noticed I haven’t yet mentioned From Software’s previous titles, Demon’s Souls, and Dark Souls. Well, while Bloodborne does retain the essential DNA of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s previous games, there is one fundamental difference: you no longer have a shield. I loved my shield in Dark Souls, I felt safe with it. But it was like a crutch at times, a crutch that Miyazaki-san has judiciously removed.

Now you have to be on the front foot in all your battles. You will still have to exercise patience, but more often you will be rewarded for courage and bravery, thanks to the game affording you the ability to regain some of the health you lose, provided you retaliate in a timely manner. It’s an interesting technique that works really well, and can really save your skin in knife-edge battles with tougher foes.

With the absence of the shield, the counter system that will be familiar to any Souls fan suddenly becomes a lot more important. With the options of a pistol or a shotgun-style blunderbuss in one hand, and your main weapon of choice in the other, countering with your firearm and then following up with a visceral attack never gets old. While the combat is indeed difficult – you absolutely will die, and often – it is almost never unfair. With the exception of one particular boss fight, I can count on the one hand the times I felt my death was not my own fault.

Of course, this is a From Software game, so you can expect some great boss encounters. There is an argument that Bloodborne’s bosses lack the variety of those in From’s previous titles, but that doesn’t make them any less satisfying when you take them down, and some of them are very memorable indeed. The levelling options for your character have been pared back a little from those of the Souls games, but it’s by no means a dumbing down. The system has some great options for experimentation, and is clearly geared towards repeat playthroughs.

The true star of the show, though, is Yharnam itself. Early on you’ll unlock a shortcut back to near where you initially start the game. That’s just a taste of the wondrous, ingenious design on offer here. The way Yharnam’s varied regions all link together in one coherent, nightmarish whole, is astonishing. Not since Super Metroid on the SNES, some 20 years ago now, have I been so in awe of a game’s design. Discovering the game’s myriad shortcuts is almost a mini-game in itself.

An extension of this genius is the game’s sound design. As you inch your way through newly discovered areas with dread, you will find yourself listening for the first signs of any enemy. A distant groan, a sudden bark, or the crack of a rifle shot can suddenly fill you with panic. It’s a cliché to call a musical score haunting, but it really is the appropriate term here. The score is fantastic, and I can’t wait for its release later this month. The track during the final battle in particular is one I’m looking forward to adding to my regular playlists.

What’s refreshing about Bloodborne is that it’s feature complete. There are no signs of anything that may have been cut for future paid-for content, which in this day and age is really quite something. Bloodborne is a meaty experience that is a constant delight and terror in equal measure. You will have to forgive me for the lack of specificity in this review, but to go into more detail about certain levels, bosses and enemy designs would spoil the experience for anyone playing for the first time.

Bloodborne is a sterling example of what can be achieved with the latest technology while also recalling an older, simpler time, where a game’s actual structure, gameplay, and content took precedence over its potential profitability. Hidetaki Miyazaki and his team at From Software are on top of their game, and deserve all the plaudits they absolutely will get this year. It’s somewhat lamentable that Bloodborne is only available on the Playstation 4; this is a game that everyone should play.

Satellite Reign Preview

Is it me, or is there something about games that use an isometric view? I mean, there is Bastion, Transistor, Shadowrun, Diablo and so many more games that look spectacular using this view. Well there is another to add to my list of stunning looking games and that is Satellite Reign.

Developers 5 Lives Studios have a clear influence here and it is that of Bullfrog’s classic Syndicate. The proper Syndicate that was a proper RPG, not the recently released shooter of the 360 era. We don’t want a game based around that, they are ten a penny.

You hear the term ‘Spiritual Successor’ thrown around like candy at a Macy’s Day Parade and we have been guilty ourselves in doing that. However, this is the second game in a matter of weeks that really is the true successor to something that has long been forgotten or totally destroyed by a large publisher.

You know… War for the Overworld and Dungeon Keeper. Well this is to Syndicate, as that was to DK. A smaller team who were clearly fans of the original inspiration wanting to give likeminded fans a taste of something good.

Satellite Reign is joy to play too, with controls that make sense and clearly set out objectives that will also allow you to experiement. This is an Early Access game, but it really doesn’t feel like one.

It has a few problems sure, but there is nothing about this game in its current form that can scare you off. It looks the part, it plays well, it feels a lot more complete than most fully released titles these days.

The Cyberpunk setting may well be an overused cliche these days, but it works really well here and no aspect is oversold to the point it was to shove the setting in your face. It feels like a near future and almost realistic in what technologies it uses.

The AI on the whole is pretty solid at this point, though it feels it could use some tweaking, but again there is plenty of time for this to happen.

The one aspect that does let it down a little at this point is the opening tutorial levels, which feel a little rushed and lack the direction you need. At points is feels like it is holding you back a bit too much, but at other points it isn’t quite explaining the mechanics as well as you need.

The thing is though, any issues I have with the game at this point are really minor and more in line with my own expectations of a game, rather than any major flaws you expect from an Early Access title.

Once this hits full release we can safely say that you should jump in, if you have any love for a tactical RPG, but we are confident enough to say… Get it now in Early Access, you won’t be dissapointed.


Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones Review

Previously released on Wii U in October of 2014, Stealth Inc 2 is the follow up to the 2011 indie hit Stealth Bastard (later renamed Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark for consoles) and now it is coming to PC/PS4/XB1.

I very much enjoyed the original game, it was a great call back to the Amiga days of puzzle platformers I adored as a child, the sequel also harks back to those days in that when a game found mild success a sequel was soon to follow but somehow managed to be both better and worse. You know how Lemmings was a huge breakout success, then with Lemmings 2 they added to the formula and presentation that made the game better on first impression but over time you’d realise that nope, the original is the best one, well that seems to be the case here too.

Where once you accessed chambers (levels) through a menu, now you get the facility hub that require light puzzles (often using new gadgets unlocked in previous zones) to access new chambers. It brings a touch of the Metroid formula to the series.  Another new addition are cut scenes, they are rather nicely animated however it makes the game feel overly dramatic, the lack of this story element didn’t hurt the original and frankly I don’t feel it works all too well here.

Where this game expands on the original outside of the core levels, it falls over in the core levels, there are a large number of cheap deaths as well as some precise object throwing that is just a bit too niggly for it’s own good; and then you have timing issues, you’ll work out what needs to be done only to find that getting the timing right takes super precise platforming. Saying this, some of the puzzles are just absolutely fantastic and brutal, once you start to get into the swing of things you’ll constantly be restarting a level to improve your score/time. The checkpoints for each chamber are well placed and that makes starting over a breeze.

As previously mentioned, there are gadgets that can help you in the facility hub, it’s a great feeling to get a new gadget and then realise you can use that gadget to open up out of reach areas. Where the chambers keep things very directed, the facility allows you to get creative and have fun exploring.

There is a lot of game here, about 10 hours for those willing to persevere, however I can see a large number of gamers never giving this game that long to really pull them in.

If you have a PS4/Vita combo it’s a great game to play passively via remote play whilst you watch TV or are in bed, luckily there is also a native Vita version which in all honesty is probably my choice of platform for this style of game.

The game does so much right it makes what it does wrong as frustrating as some of the deaths found here. Stealth Bastard was a great throwback as stated and since then a large number of excellent puzzle platformers have appeared and in some cases they do things better (Fez and Mark of The Ninja spring to mind), however if you are craving a game that will challenge, frustrate and reward you then there is a lot to like here.

Bloodsports.TV Review

As a born again PC gamer, well I think that is what I am anyway, I am only just finding out about a genre of games that has passed me by somewhat. The MOBA! What confuses me more than anything is that there are MOBA games and then there are games that are a bit like that, but not.

This is where Bloodsports.TV comes in. It shares a lot in common with the MOBA, namely in the control scheme, click to go here, click to attack this, press this button to allow that and so on and it is an Arena Battle game in many respects.

However, it also plays like an action oriented tower defense, much like an Orcs Must Die, but still maintaining the top down view you’d expect in titles such as DOTA2 and Heroes of the Storm.

Now I am not going to lie to you, I started this game in a very skeptical manner, because as far as I could tell, it was going to be a poor man’s take on a DOTA2, it has a look to it that is inspired by Borderlands, which is putting it mildly and in all honesty it lacked that immediate charm, it didn’t seem like it had that hook to draw you in.

Even going through tutorial missions, it still lacked that something, as they are very restrictive and plod along at a very slow pace, often finding yourself wanting to take the next action, but waiting for the tutorial to catch you up. I found myself remonstrating with the game more often than not. “Yes, yes, I get it! Now let me perform the action.”

I almost wanted to give up and put this down to a bad job, give the game a 4 out of ten and move on to something else but that would be unfair on my part; because this is a game that the developers say is best played in co-op and the tutorial is a single player experience to bed you in.

So with that I got a partner and started playing through the various missions whilst chatting away and something happened. The time flew by, this was a rather enjoyable experience and the initial negative thoughts I had faded away.

Myself and my gaming partner made our way through numerous levels and missions, enjoying taking down the enemies that dared advance on us, even the missions we failed didn’t bother us too much, as going again didn’t feel like a chore, but more an act of determination. Knowing what we did wrong and how we can approach it next time.

Bloodsports.TV also does a very good job of handling progression. You will start at level 1, but the various unlocks and perks that allow you to take on later levels are drip fed at just the right pace, meaning that each mission feels well balanced. You never feel like you are just grinding to level up, nor is the game forcing enemies on you that are stupidly overpowered.

Sure some levels are more difficult and some are a little easier, but this is by subtle amounts, which feel logical. Those levels that seem that bit easier are like a reward and slight respite and those that up the difficulty are there as though they are trying to get the best from you. Like a movie based drill sergeant from the the likes of Full Metal Jacket.

This isn’t a perfect game, as the earlier issues still ring true, making it one that isn’t easy to get into, whether you are an expert or a newcomer. It still looks like a bit of a spinoff from Borderlands and it is awful to play on your own.

That being said though, when played with a friend or two, this is something else. It isn’t as hardcore as some MOBA games and it doesn’t require that long term dedication to get the most out of it. It is a nice game to have sitting on the hard drive, just ready when you are. Plus, at the £6.99 being charged you will find plenty of value for your hard earned money.

Axiom Verge Review

As soon as a new indie game comes out, there are those voices that shout about how they are keeping the AAA titles from being made. That the latest Call Of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed is somehow hampered by these small budget, one man developed games.

The truth, however, is that it is these titles that are keeping gaming fresh, that they remind us of what a videogame should be. That whilst it is nice having the big blockbusters with a budget twice the size of an Eastern European country, we need that balance, those games that we can just pick up and play for fun.

Axiom Verge is one of those games that feels like a videogame and not an interactive movie and sure, it takes cues from other genres such as the Metroidvania, but it somehow still manages to feel fresh.

Now I am a big lover of Indies but I was never really drawn into the anticipation for Axion Verge. It wasn’t the retro graphics that put me off, because I love that art style, it wasn’t the way it looking in motion, because damn, if that game didn’t flow well. In fact, I can’t put my finger on what it was. I like Metroidvania games, but something about this just wasn’t that appealing.

I don’t like to admit that I’m wrong and I would love to report that my initial feelings were spot on and this is a simple take it or leave it game, a seven out of ten at best.

But oh, how wrong I am!!! Axiom Verge has jumped straight in as my number one game of 2015 (as of April) and one I cannot put down. I want to take it everywhere with me, which brings me to my one and only issue. The Vita release is still some way down the line and even the promise of cross-buy doesn’t hide my disappointment.

Seriously, I have played it on the PS4 and the way I review games is to spend around 30 minutes with them initially, before writing down some initial notes, before returning later to go deeper into the game. Yet that opening half an hour turned into 3 hours and only ended then because of needing to leave home for a prior engagement.

My first initial thought was to grab the Vita and see if there was cross-save, but failing that I’d be happy to play it separately with a new save. Alas, this wasn’t yet possible, so I had to leave the game alone… for now!

The moment I was able to play again, I was right there. This is a Metroidvania through and through, it is a game that isn’t afraid to wear its influence right there on its sleeve. At this point I should be telling you that as a game Axiom Verge fails to gain its own identity, that is feels like it is just being an homage to the genre, so much so it could have been called Metroidvania: The Game!

I should be telling you how this is a bad thing. Yet it is quite the opposite, by not trying to be anything that it is not, it doesn’t do anything that could cause it to be a poor man’s interpretation of previous games in the genre.

It does everything by the book, teasing areas that you cannot yet reach, drip-feeding new weapons and powers that will eventually see you backtracking more than a recently elected politician. You have done this before, no matter the setting. This is a game that relies on the core mechanics of the genre and simply runs with it.

It could be called lazy or unambitious, yet it is anything but. It is clear that this has been made by a fan of the genre first and foremost, someone who just wants to play more of those tried and tested games and set out to do just that, succeeding perfectly.

What is even more impressive is that this was made by one person, Tom Happ. Whilst the one man team isn’t exactly new, it still impresses when the game in question has the level of polish that Axiom Verge does, it may look extremely retro, but it feels fresh because of the way it plays.

The Spatials

The Spatials is a multifaceted indie game which combines the laid back Sim-esque fun of building a space station with a real time combat system and exploration game.

The overall aim of the game is to explore the 30 randomly generated subsystems, with over 100 planets in total, to conquer them and gather resources. This enables you to upgrade your space station, which is conveniently located on an asteroid, and satisfy the guests who visit.

The game is very colourful and simplistic, which is positive as it runs very smoothly and due to the random generation of the planets for exploration and conquering means that nothing is ever the same. Missions themselves, in most cases, are basic “find the pirates and kill them” which involves click-to-move navigation and action buttons 1 through 5 for your intrepid explorers’ abilities (1 and 2 for dps, 3 is crowd control, 4 heals and 5 regenerates energy) to vanquish your foes – these take approximately 5 minutes to do. Interestingly, there is no permanent death for the explorers and should you fail they are returned to your space station and enter stasis until you return, where they are automatically revived. If you complete the area you are rewarded with resources which are used for building up the space station, credits which are used for everything as the in-game currency, and experience (and possible ability upgrades) for your explorers. Once you’ve conquered an area you can also use credits to excavate resources on a set time duration (12, 6 or 3 minutes based on how many people you have in the embassy).

The space station UI is very easy to navigate, and simple touches like the builders grid make it easy for you to design your spaceship to look exactly how you want and quickly fix any building placement errors. There are lots of neat little touches like the arcade, bar and library which are a welcome change to the typical format and are accessible by upgrading the technology tree. The simplistic UI also helps when viewing visitor’s cravings to increase your standing with visitors and staff at the space station. However, as with most games of this ilk the beginning is a little slow and very dependant upon credits to enable you to upgrade or progress which meant redoing a few missions for quick resources.

There are very few negative points I noted in my playthrough aside from that there isn’t much to actually challenge the player – as mentioned there is no penalty for failing a mission apart from having to redo it (which is fine by me!), there are no environmental dangers when carrying out missions (call me weird for hoping the big lava pit would have actually done something horrid to my whiny scientist guy Branson Gold…) or any enemies coming to trash your space station to slow your progress like similar games.

Due to the random generation of the worlds and resources there is a great amount of replayability and the simplistic nature of the game makes it great for dipping in and out of when you have a spare 15 minutes.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

Part of me wanted to do a full review for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. However in terms of what the games actually are, there is no difference. If you’ve played any of the original releases you’ll know exactly what you think of the games. If you haven’t we have reviews on our very site.

So I decided this was a case of seeing if it was worthwhile buying this new version, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. We’ve already looked at the slightly disappointing special collector’s edition (Clap Trap in a box) with the remote control Clap Trap, for the bewildering £290 pricetag. But not everyone has £300 to throw at such a thing…we’d like to, but we don’t.

The Handsome Collection on its own is a much more palatable £40 RRP and can often be found cheaper if you look around. With that you also get all the DLC that is available which truth be told adds a ton of value and whilst the box claims of ‘OVER £100 of Content’ should probably be taken with a pinch of salt considering the various sales since release, there is no denying that £40 for what is on offer is value for money.

I myself have never completed a Borderlands game to 100%  and I have never really jumped into the DLC, purely because I often don’t have the time, but every now and again I get tempted to jump in. My problem here? I have pretty much retired both my PS3 and 360, meaning I would have had to look at buying on PC for extended play time and needing to start all over again.

Well for me, that kind of is the case, as I have saves all over the place, on a lost 360 profile, PS Vita for one, PS3 for another… My furthest progress was on the 360, so that is now lost and starting over isn’t that big a deal. But there are plenty of people out there who have progressed pretty damned far and the idea of starting again just doesn’t appeal.

Luckily The Handsome Collection allows you to import previous saves, which needs a bit of farting around, but it is possible, also there is no cross-platform importing, which is even more of a pain for those who jumped from 360 to PS4 and vice versa. This is where Diablo III was very impressive, as was GTA V. So it really is a shame that this wasn’t possible here.

The other issue with The Handsome Collection is that the ports themselves aren’t all that great, there are various performance issues that stop them being the definitive versions at this moment in time. The Vita port got a public slaughtering, but it was still so impressive to get Borderlands 2 on to a handheld that performance issues can be forgiven.

But jumping from PS3 and 360 to PS4 and Xbox One should be as big a task, especially when there seems to be no plans to port to PC and it is easy to see why, as those versions are clearly the best still. Which then begs the question… why not port the PC versions? Wasn’t one of the big selling points of the new consoles how much closer to PC infrastructure they were?

The Handsome Collection could have been one of the most impressive remasters so far, because content wise it does feel like the best value for money, but some odd decisions and what feels like second rate ports leave a bad taste in the mouth.



Borderlands Claptrap in a Box Edition

So normally I don’t buy into the whole “Oooo look at this awesome special edition” stuff but I have to say when I found out at the end of January about the Claptrap in a Box edition, which was being released with the Handsome Collection containing Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, I was beyond excited.

No date was announced for pre-order, or where, or how much it was likely to bankrupt me so I was a little apprehensive whether we were likely to get one. After weeks of checking spam tweets from 2K Gaming I finally saw the announcement in mid-February that it was available for pre-order. I scurried over and my jaw nearly hit the floor: £289.99!

How desperate was I for a remote controlled Claptrap? After a 30 second internal debate of “Should I or shouldn’t I?” I decided to go for it (and ordered it using my husband’s credit card…).

Fast forward to the end of March when I received a huge box. I carefully unpackaged the outer packaging to reveal a shiny yellow and white box displaying my prize. I slowly opened the box breathing in the “new smell” (don’t mock me! I know it’s the first thing everyone does when they open a new game/DVD…honest…!) and removed the A4 lithographs of the Vault Hunters which were printed on high quality paper and held in their own folder. The images themselves aren’t too shabby and they wouldn’t look amiss framed and put up on the wall of a man-cave. There was also the limited edition tin which, let’s face it, have become so common these days that I tend not to see them as anything different from the norm.

So on to the Claptrap, who came in his own special Hyperion box. The details were exceptional, with the box looking like it had come straight out of the Borderlands. Even the polystyrene holding Claptrap in place was custom designed with Claptrap’s unit info “CL4P-TP” and more Hyperion branding.

Claptrap is made from a strong heavy duty plastic which I found a little disappointing as deep down I’d hoped, that for the cost, he would be metal. The arms are slotted into the holes under flaps in his sides and have no movement beyond being posed manually. The app needed to control him is downloadable from the app-store for iOS or Android – however if this is removed at a later date you will be unable to use your remote controlled buddy which is a little worrying. Using the app is hard on a small phone as you can’t see much of the view from his camera due to the function buttons. The control and view are not as responsive as I’d hoped (even though it had to be set-up on its own wi-fi network), however the different phrases are amusing whilst he’s whizzing around. There is also a stealth mode function which can be used whilst he’s sitting on your bookshelf to scare friends walking past by making him talk.

Overall it’s a nicely put together special edition with a lot of attention to detail in the packaging. However given the overall price tag for the plastic body, non-remote controlled arms and app that could eventually be unsupported, and with the limited other extras I have to go with…


Zombie Army Trilogy Review

If you read the internet, everyone is sick of zombies. Sick and fucking tired of their pasty, shambling arses. If you read different parts of the internet everyone loves zombies. Everyone loves them to DEATH.

Opinions, eh? People said the same thing a few years ago about games set during World War II.

So Zombie Army Trilogy is probably the result of developers Rebellion going “Which two overplayed yet profitable tropes can we mash together to make a game that will overjoy some and boil the piss of others?” and someone piping up “World War II and zombies!”

Then Clive the tea-lad might have pointed out that people will be sick of both of those, to which Rebellion went “Ah, but you’ll be SNIPING the undead bastards! With gratuitous gore! And slow motion replays showing the vertebrae shatter!”

They then all had chocolate bourbons and tea while nodding to themselves at a job well done. Maybe.

To be perfectly honest there isn’t anything about the premise of Zombie Army Trilogy I don’t like, because I’m that kind of shallow prick that laps up remasters, shooting games and anything with zombies in it. So seeing as this has all three I should be in hog heaven. But I’m not.

The problem with Zombie Army Trilogy (or Nazi Zombie Army as it was known in it’s two separate incarnations on PC) is that its tight budget shows through on almost every level.

The game looks fine as it goes, although everything has a wrapped-in-plastic shininess to it, and the levels feel like a series of various sized boxes with a smaller variety of boxes skinned and acting as scenery, all of which are recycled extensively through each game.

The selection of playable characters all have a dead eyed look and absolutely no voice acting at all. The music is budget Carpenter synth, but thankfully used sparingly.

Not only are the protagonists dead eyed robot looking cretins, the cut scenes show four characters (like in Dead Island) even if you’re playing single player which would ruin the immersion if it wasn’t for the fact the game is ridiculously <relevant> preposterous and the plot paper thin bunkum.

But who cares about story and visuals, right?! It’s got a low RRP! It’s a remaster of budget PC games! You’re here to eradicate the undead in the most satisfyingly violent way you can; i.e. with high velocity lead encased in brass projected through the eye socket! Well…

The central mechanic of the game, the sniping, is lifted from Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series, and as such is solid and entertaining for a while. Perform what the game deems a particularly excellent shot and it will cut to a cinematic camera angle and follow the bullet in slow motion where it then enters the target and gives you a super gorey x-ray shot of their bones shattering and a gout of blood more gratuitous than a congealed cadaver should eject. And it does this a lot.

It’s a good job they put an option to turn down/off the frequency of the slow-mo as waiting 5 seconds for the shot to run it’s course after every 3 bullets fired took any shine off the moment. It’s good to still have on as it’s one of the few things in the game that provides you with any semblance of satisfaction.

It’s a shame that the rest is a shambling abomination of appalling game design. It breaks so many spoken and unspoken rules that it becomes a teeth grinding, pad throwing, soul crushing exercise in frustration.

The biggest problem with the game is that trying to make sniping entertaining for the running time of each game (about 4 hours apiece) is incredibly difficult, so Rebellion have slotted in sections where you’re required to dispatch hordes of the undead that lay siege to a closed location. You’ve got trip mines, landmines and dynamite to lay beforehand in the hope it’ll stem the tide somewhat, but all it really comes down to is you running around like a loon hoping to stay far enough away from them so you can get them in the sights of your rifle or so you can lob a stielhandgranate in the middle of a mob.

You have secondary weapons for close encounters, but they’re not very effective for crowd control. The shotgun is especially weak. You’d expect it to dismember a small group of zombies with it’s spread, but it pretty much just takes out one at a time.

There are a few variations on the siege, but they all boil down to the same thing; hold out until you manage to kill every zombie the game throws at you. This happens with alarming frequency and after the first 5 or 6 of them they get very tedious indeed, especially the ones with a turret to use as you’d have better luck eradicating them with an effing spud gun for all the damage the gun emplacement does.

In amongst the regular zombies there are some special ones with different powers to mix it up a little, and in the main they’re a decent stab at making you apply tactics but there’s still too many poor design choices, like the bullet sponge bullshit in the form of Super Elites. These big buggers just keep coming at you taking headshot after headshot after headshot while mowing into you with their LMG and being a royal pain in the arse. It’s less pronounced after the first game but it’s like they went “Oh, er, we need something to make the game more difficult. I know! A big zombie that takes like 7 headshots to kill! Ace!”, not realising it was an awful idea.

The reasons why Zombie Army Trilogy doesn’t really work are as numerous as the dead shuffling through the levels. It’s a horde game designed around a mechanic which doesn’t work with large volumes of enemies. Zombies are legion, there are thousands of them, and the idea is to make you feel overwhelmed by the tide of corpses looking to rip your head off and suck on the stump, but the challenge only comes from finding a way around the ravening horde to get far enough away to pick them off.

Between inconsistent checkpoints, awful forced horde-mode battles, repetitive one-note gameplay and generally low production values it’s just not worth the time or effort to put Hitler and his armies back in the ground.

NOTE: at this time the co-op mode hasn’t been tried out, as the game has sucked my will to live/the desire to give it a go. I will try it out and if by some miracle it drags the main game out of the mire I’ll put a review up for it. But don’t hold your breath.

3D Out Run Review

For many a retro gamer mentioning Out Run conjured up memories of racing at high speed through a host of idyllic locations in a Ferrari. There have been numerous remakes over the years but only the Xbox version in 2004 really managed to capture that spirit of freedom and speed that the original had. That’s all about to change as this could well be the definitive version of Sega’s much loved classic.

For those not familiar with Out Run – the goal is to race through the stages against the clock while avoiding traffic and other obstacles. There are multiple routes that can be taken and up to five possible final roads to travel down should you reach the last stage. Hitting traffic slows you down, while hitting obstacles at speed can flip and roll the car causing the driver and his blond passenger to fall out and eat up much needed time.

Though fairly simplistic at heart – it can also be tough to complete at times. You have a high and low gear to help control your speed but sometimes those corners come out of nowhere and you’ll be flipping into the nearest corn field. Luckily for us the controls are wonderfully responsive so anytime you do find yourself viewing the brutal crash animations you know it’s your fault. It’s about speed and control and if things get too tough (or easy), you can alter the difficulty and your time allowance in the options menu.

This is a conversion of the arcade game so you are getting the original experience with some nice enhancements. The two most obvious of these are the framerate and new 3D effect. The framerate has been bumped up to 60FPS which makes everything zoom by at breakneck speed and certainly captures the thrill the original game had upon first release. The 3D effect is also impressive and really adds to the experience. These two additions, coupled with the classic graphical style, really help to elevate the game and it makes everything a whole lot of fun.

There are a few other things thrown in as well, such as some new songs and the ability to track your times and scores on each course. It all shows that a fair amount of care and attention has been put into this and someone clearly cared about the franchise during the process.

Overall, 3D Out Run is both a wonderful version of a classic game and something that is still fun and relevant today. It’s a game that always brings about a smile when playing and it comes from an era when the sheer joy of the experience was heralded above all else and there is no better game to illustrate the point than this.

Pillars of Eternity Review

“Oh, where to begin?” Jonathan looks nervously at his computer screen as he contemplates something, then looks like he has as idea. “Perhaps with a brief history…” His posture relaxes as he takes a deep breath.

“Pillars of Eternity is an RPG from Obsidian Entertainment in the vein of Infinity Engine games such as Baulder’s Gate, and is the first new franchise they have worked on since 2010’s Alpha Protocol. So instead of covering someone else’s creation they have created their own world, full of choice and incredibly detailed.”

“You begin, as is often the case, by creating a character. To be honest I normally slide a couple of bars about – it’s no longer the default character if I do that – and get through this stage quite quickly.” It appears that Jonathan is thinking of a recent experience, and because in this narration you are slightly psychic, you know this to be Bloodborne. “Thinking of a name is another matter entirely though, as Stacey, my wife, will attest.”

“Pillars of Eternity, on the other hand, provides almost an excess of choice at the beginning, and it comes across as though each choice matters. Initially you pick one of six races, with the standard tropes present such as human, elf and dwarf, but there are also some curveballs with the Godlike particularly standing out. You then flesh out your character with things like origin, backstory, appearance and voice. Most importantly is the class selection. There is a healthy mix of skill and magic-based characters, with the cipher and chanter being fairly unique. As the former had an ability to charm opponents temporarily this was, naturally, my choice.” Jonathan pauses for a moment and collects his thoughts before continuing.

“Anyway, after spending half a lifetime in the character creator,” he exaggerates “it is time to begin the adventure. Your avatar is a foreigner as part of a caravan looking to settle in a new land yet things quickly go wrong. Strange things start occurring to your character and your aim is to discover what that is and try and fix it. It quickly transpires that bad things are happening in this land and that you’re now involved. There’s a surprise.”

“The game handily provides tips as you progress, yet given the complexity of the game these never become overwhelming. Conversations are nicely presented, with a surprising amount of voice over work, yet given the amount of text in the game not everything is spoken to you. Given that the game takes place from an isometric perspective and the screen is fairly static while conversing, Obsidian have seen fit to interlace the dialogue with descriptions of the speaker’s body language that add extra depth to the chat.” Jonathan winks knowingly. “I should probably stop this farce of a review format now I’ve reached the punchline, yet I’m going to stick out out. Your choices in conversations are clear, and it is always explicit if the response is trying to be clever or aggressive, etc.”

“Outside of talking, Pillars of Eternity takes place in real time, except you can pause and issue commands at any time. You can also, at will, halve or double the speed the game runs at too – making travelling quick when needed, and ensuring you do not miss anything in combat. The game also features a customisable list of when it will automatically pause, such as on spotting an enemy. Apart from when fighting the very weakest of foes you will be pausing a lot, assessing the situation, and issuing orders accordingly. Your party, of up to six, is very versatile with a number of available abilities with weapons and armour not limited by class. If you want a priest to wield a longsword and be on the frontline of every fight that is an option.” Jonathan pauses. “Maybe not a very good option, but a possibility nonetheless. You can gain companions as you travel the world yet the game further accommodates differing play styles by giving you the option to recruit extra people into your team by visiting an inn, which takes you back to the character creator.”

“Both long and short term damage is represented in the game, via health and endurance respectively. Endurance is the one you’ll check most as this conveys the damage taken in each battle and can be replenished through abilities and items. If a character’s endurance runs out during combat then they are out of the remainder of that fight. Health gradually goes down over time, more so through damage taken in fights, and can only be replenished through using a campfire to rest or visiting an inn. Characters can die permanently by running out of health. Abilities are generally classified as either ‘per encounter’ or ‘per rest’ with the more powerful ones saved for the latter. The game can be difficult and your party can get taken out quite quickly if you’re not paying attention or have an unbalanced party set up. This can be quite punishing as Stacey was originally going to review this yet after a fairly frustrating 8 or so hours on a Saturday was about ready to throw her laptop through a window. I took the review on instead and I’m certain you will be please to know that the laptop was saved. For now at least.”

“On initially discovering a type of enemy your information regarding it is limited to precisely bugger all. After felling it several times you can see its statistics but cease to earn experience. Instead the majority of the experience points comes from completing quests, deactivating traps, and picking locks. Pillars of Eternity is accommodating to different play styles and you can often talk your way out of a situation or avoid it completely. This is best demonstrated by an example of one early side quest . I’ll avoid outright spoilers although your outcome may be entirely different.”

“So after completing an early quest the party was approached by a mysterious stranger who urged them to dispose of the ruler of that part of the land. After some questioning the deed was afoot. Travelling to the target’s castle one of the party commented that surely they were not just going to walk through the front door. Agreeing, an alternative way was found, whereby everyone scaled a wall and snuck in – yet were a little fatigued by the climb. Stealthily progressing (with just 2 senseless murders) I conveniently found six sets of clothing that would allow my group to blend in. Popping these on, the party started wandering around trying to work out where to go. Along the way they were questioned as to why they were not where they were supposed to be, and the main character managed to talk his way out of it. Until I discovered, the hard way, that a red cursor means you’re stealing. I learned this after Steve (the barbarian, obviously. I did say I was terrible at naming things) helped himself to the contents of a cupboard and suddenly the four other people in the room turned hostile.” Jonathan looks a little embarrassed at this. “One quick bloodbath later, the disguises were ditched. I then found an old man to talk to who was willing to help in the quest if his favourite pupil was rescued. Given the amount of effort the party had been through the old man was convinced to stand guard for eight hours while they rested to regain their strength. Waking up I noticed lootable objects and thinking the old man wanted our help he would be happy to lend some supplies too. Nope, he turned hostile and was swiftly dispatched. At this point diplomacy was out of the window and so the party murdered their way through the dungeons where the pupil was found. He thanked us, told us to let his master know (oops!), and ran off. I’m hopeful he will never discover the truth.To cut an already long story short, the group made their way to the throne room (on the way killing a couple of guards who were minding their own business), and had a revealing chat with the ruler. After deciding not to join his side he and his guards were slaughtered to. Stealth, diplomacy, and outright massacre all in one mission. If I were any better at either of the former two a lot of lives could have been saved. It is situations like this that really make Pillars of Eternity stand out.”

“As well as trying to emulate the conversation style of Pillars of Eternity, this review also features one other similarity. Both have a lot of text, although I’m willing to wage that the game has a lot more. If you’re turned off by a lot of reading this may not be the game for you but you’re also unlikely to be reading at this point. Maybe you’ll notice it thanks to the proximity to the score.”

“Pillars of Eternity provides a deep, open experience. The combat is satisfyingly difficult but if you don’t like micromanaging the party it will soon grate. The story had me grabbed and the amount of detail and lore is dumbfounding. Choices in conversations can affect future events, and you can kill,” Jonathan stops for a second “attack, I should say, anyone you come across. Or you could just wander as a stealthy near-mute who tries to avoid everyone. In fact I might give that a try now…”

Ironcast Review

I am a sucker for Match 3 type games, I mean I am totally infatuated by them. Whether it be the cream of the crop such as Bejeweled and Treasures of Montezuma Blitz, to even finding it difficult to stay away from Candy Crush Saga. I love them and and all the various types of spinoffs they create. Ironcast is no exception, therefore I jumped at the chance to review it.

Ironcast is an RPG Match 3 title, the sort that has been finding more and more popularity over the years, where you match tiles to level up and beat enemies, before moving on, leveling up some more and progressing the story. It is a mechanic that tends to work really well, as it does here.

Unlike a Super Puzzle Fighter, or Puzzle Quest, instead of matching 3 tiles by swapping them, you draw a line through adjacent tiles to fill up a meter that allows you to perform separate actions. If you’ve ever played the excellent mobile game Dungeon Raid, then you’ll already have a handle on the matching mechanics.

Each player has an overall turn that is made up of two options. The matching stage, which gives you 3 opportunities to make matches and fill the meters and then the action stage. Here you choose to level up defenses, attack and fix any damage. You can choose to mix up how you approach each turn, so you’re not forced to do the match stage completely, then attack, then finish.

You can choose to make an attack, or fix some damage to a weapon, etc. then make a couple of matches, increase defenses, maybe attack again, then do your final match and then maybe take another attack attempt, all before ending your turn. The fact that there is some wiggle room really adds to the tactical nature of the game and does make you think about your approach.

How you do this can depend on a number of things, a strong enemy type might see you needing to constantly manage your defenses, whilst chipping away with attacks, or you might have a collection mission which sees you needing to just stay alive whilst matching special tiles, or you may even need to concentrate an attack on one part of your opponent, so as not to damage a certain part.

Why? Well because you can also collect blueprints, which allow you to equip upgrades, whether this be to your main and secondary weapons, your defense or other attributes like your evasion. All of this will cost money, which is earned through winning battles and beating objectives. Money can also be found by making matches of coin tiles too.

It can’t all just be spend on upgrades willy nilly though, as it also costs to fix any damage you have at the end of a battle, which again means you need to carefully plan ahead with how money is spent.

This isn’t a simple progression based RPG styled game though, as it is more Roguelike in fashion, because once you die, you die. You will need to start again from scratch, which is something you will be used to by now if you have ever played a Roguelike title.

What happens here, is that when you die, the XP you’ve collected is then added to a ‘global pool’ which grows after every death, once you hit a new level, you are rewarded with new starting weapons, boosts, machines, characters, etc. all designed to make your life easier and carry you forward in the game.

It is a system that works really well and rather than being frustrated by death, you almost look forward to it, just to find out what you may unlock next. There is a wonderful balance to Ironcast and it is a game that lends itself well to playing in small bursts, or for longer sessions.

If you have even a passing interest in puzzle games, then Ironcast is a must play title, as it is easy to approach but rewards dedication. The level of polish that the game has too is just the icing on a very well made cake.

Etherium Review

Let me admit something to you my friends, before I even get into this review. The last game that even comes close to Etherium that I played was Command and Conquer back in the mind nineties and I was awful at it, I had no talent at all for managing squads, or building resources. I was a platformer guy and I am fine with that.

The problem is, as I get older my reactions are getting slower and I struggle to beat games on a more consistent basis. So when I saw Etherium I decided that now might be the chance to have a look at the 4X type game again. I am a lot more experienced now and I am happy to sink time into this sort of game…

Etherium is an odd game for a newcomer really, because it is a very streamlined approach to the RTS which makes cracking the usual tough exterior a lot more manageable when it comes to commanding units and building up resources before moving on to attack and take over the enemy areas.

The problem here though, is that there is a pretty big assumption that anyone playing this has knowledge of the genre which makes it very difficult for a newcomer to get to grips with things. Now I am all for games not hand holding and making the user work, but in a game like this, I feel it needs a complete idiot’s guide type introduction.

Whilst the information is there, it fails to break it down enough to ease new people in and in an age where gaming is opened up to more and more new people it should be a choice at the beginning about the type of experience you are after. I felt though, that maybe I was being overly harsh, but I took advice from a friend who loves this genre and even he felt it wasn’t simplifying the tutorial enough for newcomers.

Anyway, I am a newcomer and I shouldn’t focus on that alone, I also have the task of reviewing this game, thus I push through and learn as much as I can and on the whole the streamlining works well to keep the action flowing whilst allowing you to easily identify and manage the various aspects of the game.

Everything is laid out on a hexagonal style grid, where you expand out and build your resources. Claim a hexagon and you control that area, meaning you can build a base on it, farm resources, set up various important structures.

These will allow you to build more units, improve your tech, defenses and much more. The UI does a pretty good job too of presenting you with all the information you need, such as informing you that an attack is happening, or you may be short of units, that you may need to upgrade a certain aspect and more.

After a few hours it starts to click and you do start to feel like a commanding general or some such other important war leader type. You almost enter a zone and start taking actions based on logic, based on what your ultimate goal is, rather than what may make sense based on early tutorials. You start to realise how you can use the expansion path to your benefit. Forcing enemy units into a bottle neck allowing you to take them out in a controlled manner, whilst having turrets and other defense systems managing other areas, allowing you to build more before expanding out further.

What started of as a rather frustrating experience turned into one that I happily lost hours to as I commanded my armies, created alliances with other factions and took down my enemy with precision and force.

But, being an RTS and 4X style game, one simple mistake can turn the entire game on its head and the same is true of Etherium. This is a game that is very quick to punish and 45 minutes of progression can be undone in a few short moments. Instead of becoming angered by this, you learn and you come back stronger. Hell, you can even learn how to adapt to those mistakes and turn them into advantages.

It is this subtlety that shocked me the most, as with most games in other genres, you screw up, you die, you respawn at a checkpoint and you just try again. But in Etherium and other such games, you learn to think on your feet and do some damage limitation, before trying to turn the tide back in your favour. Etherium does a fantastic job of giving you that feeling of a war being broken into smaller battles all on the same screen.

There is a lot I like about this game and its one I will be spending time with, visually it is impressive with so much going on, especially when zoomed right in. Even zoomed out it is pretty easy to identify what is going on and which of your units is involved in which battles.

However, one thing that did feel a little off, was the movement across the map. Many of the UI elements are to the side of the screen, which is great as it doesn’t obscure the action, but the limits of the UI elements and the screen edge seem to be too small and it is easy to accidentally move the screen away from where you were originally focused, meaning you then need to re-adjust before then completing an action. It is one major annoyance on an otherwise decent package.

It is hard for me to say where this sits compared to other games in the genre, but as a newcomer going in blind I felt like it was a game that can be a good introduction to the genre and one that I can happily recommend if you wish to test the waters.

Driveclub – A Revaluation

One of the first things I did (after the hours of updates) when I bought my Playstation 4 last October was to pre-order Driveclub from the PSN store.  Evolution has a great track record when it came to driving games and from all the videos and photos I had seen of the game, it quite simply looked beautiful, and the social aspect of the game sounded really interesting as well.

Forward a week and my digital copy of Driveclub was pre-installed and ready for me to play.  12am arrived on October 10 and I immediately started loading the game.  Anticipation levels were quite high, so to be faced with an error message popping up right after the title screen, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.  Sadly this was only to get worse, a friend of mine was trying in vain to form a club and after around an hour or so and countless server error messages, he finally managed to create a club, but my attempts to join it seemed impossible that night.

These sort of problems more or less summed up just how bad the launch of Driveclub was.  Server issues continued to dog this title for many weeks, and players of the game like myself soon got used to the red text appearing on the screen when driving, informing us that Driveclub’s servers were once again down and things like times, ghost data and club progress would not be saved.

The game was receiving by now an awful lot of negative press and forums were full of people complaining and demanding some form of compensation for the mess the online and social aspects of Driveclub were in.  What made it worse, the actual game was bloody good.  Okay it may not have looked quite as good as the pre-release videos had made it look, but my God was it good fun to play and with a sense of speed I believe is up there with the best of any videogame there has ever been.  We here at Gamestyle originally reviewed it a few weeks after its release and were impressed with it, but bemoaned the server issues that were still plaguing it.

Four months after its release, playing Driveclub now is almost a completely different experience. Evolution Studios really have to take a lot of credit and praise for turning it around and saving a game which was the biggest exclusive the PS4 had over the recent Christmas period. Introducing new features like the simply quite stunning dynamic weather, which has to make Driveclub the best looking console game I have ever seen.  The free tracks and cars they gave away as a form of apology for all the server troubles, and lastly just making all the features the game was supposed to launch with work, including the addictive challenge mode  which has has me staying up many a night to trying, and usually failing, to beat my friends times over the nice varied track selection this game can now boast.

Driveclub, after it’s initial problems is now simply one of the most fun and thrilling driving games I have ever played. Sure there a still a few things wrong with it, for example there is still no option for private lobbies when playing online and the forthcoming replay feature will hopefully arrive soon, to further allow me to admire the sheer beauty of this game, but overall the current state of the game is now a million miles away to how it was when it first launched.

But to put it simply playing Driveclub now is a joyous experience, hardly a day passes by, where I don’t load it up, even if it is just to play a single time trial on one of my favorite tracks (for which there are loads of them).  This is helped by the arcade structure of the game, unlike for example Forza Horizon 2 with its open world take on the driving game, in Driveclub you are only eight button presses(and very little loading time) away from getting on the road and driving along some of the most beautiful vistas a video game has ever rendered.  It’s arcade nature also means its handling is lot less po faced and more accessible than other games, which means almost any gamer can grab their controller and be driving a beast like the Pagani Huayra with very little practice.

Maybe it feels like I am heaping just too much praise on a game that was in such a bad state when it launched, but honestly, I really feel it is all very much deserved.  I know this may be blasphemous to some people, but I am happy to say now almost all of it’s issues have be ironed out, I would rank Driveclub alongside Project Gotham Racing 2 as the best driving game of its kind.

Evolution Studios and Sony were quite rightly pilloried for the debacle that surrounded Driveclub when it launched and their slow response when it came to fixing the servers. But equally now, they  should also be praised for listening to all the complaints, and with a lot of hard, and I expect many, long nights, they now have a game they can really be proud of.  I personally believe they have been a shining example of a developer that has listened to their customers and have given gamers, after a little time, what we originally wanted from Driveclub.  A bloody great driving game, that is now one of the jewels in the PS4’s crown.

Gamestyle LIVE – Remastered

This week Brad, Steve and Andrew talk about some stuff they have done previously, but add an extra level of shine and make this the definitive conversation on that subject.

Yes, this week we are talking about the remaster and how on the whole it isn’t actually such a bad thing. Does the current crop of remastered games really have an effect on new titles? Is it really such a new thing? Each of these subjects is tackled.

We go off course a fair amount too, because it wouldn’t be Gamestyle Live without pointless chat about nonsense.

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Paperbound Review

While promotional materials of the Dreamcast boasted of the potential of six billion players sharing the online experience together, online was a poor substitute for the frenzy that was jostling the expletive next to you with your elbow when they directed a cat into your rocket in Chu Chu Rocket, a quick swipe of a giant axe that launches you into Pharaoh Walker’s laser vision in Power Stone 2 or sharing the dysfunction that was playing Quake 3 Arena with those terrible, terrible controllers.

Nor is the Dreamcast an aberration. The Micro Machines 2 multitap cartridge, Smash Bros’ enduring community and even the simple truth that split-screen Halo was always more memorable than any online experience. Online has an indisputable presence in gaming, but it is my insistence that it is better when in that same tangible space that lets you swear blue and throw real punches at your once-friends, and it is great to see the indie space taking up the mantle.

Paperbound, a competitive multiplayer arena fighting game from developers Dissident Logic, pits players as characters from classic fiction – as well as a range of indie games figureheads – battling across literary landscapes. In the vein of modern arena battlers Nidhogg and Towerfall: Ascension, one-hit kills prevail in a multitude of modes and options including variations of King of the Hill, team battles and the classic deathmatch.

The feather in this cap is that each character maintains their own centre of gravity that can be reversed at the touch of a button, making for erratic movement and exciting chases. Players weave and bound across stages, throwing scissors as throwing stars and maneuvering through gravity reversals becomes more important than the neglected jump button.

As such, the tone seems more in keeping with Nidhogg than the latter despite the encouragement of four participants, and with the pace of games extremely fast and frenetic, there is a steeper learning curve than most arena battlers. However while the pace of the game is relentless, match times are unpredictable and the victory condition of two of three game types – winning players must exit the stage through a temporary portal that will disappear on death – will easily test the patience of most. Paperbound will undoubtedly be a hard sell for those casual, substance-fueled weekend multiplayer sessions or discouraging to new players weaned on Smash Bros.

Nor will dissenters find much to love from the art and sound efforts, with a forgettable soundtrack failing to cement itself with the same authority as Paperbound‘s strong art style. Broad strokes and pastel shades lend a tangible, textual quality across its five tomes inspired by 16th century Japan to a more convincing portrayal of Dante Aligheri’s 14th century epic poem Inferno than the million-dollar budget, EA-published Dante’s Inferno.

Unfortunately the art style is let down by a Flash game quality, occasionally to the detriment of gameplay as characters can be hard to distinguish in some of the larger stages. Not that many of the designs make things easy on players – one stickman variation will look much like the other, not matter how many bells and whistles are added.

Paperbound has a lot holding it back but at its core it’s is an inventive, feverish multiplayer game that has in it the magic to inspire the same kind of cursing and joy as the best multiplayer game – it is the magic of the formula.