Tales from the Borderlands: Episode Three – Catch A Ride Review

Seriously, three months is a long time in episodic releases, with the first episode being released December last year, going by their current release schedule it means the final episode won’t be out till December. Five, two to three hour episodes spread across an entire year is a little crazy. But then you look at how much work Telltale has taken on as of late and it’s still annoying, but understandable. Oh well, at least the quality is consistent.

After a quick “previously on…” segment we re-join Rhys and Fiona in trouble where the last choice you made (whether to trust Fiona or the ghostly Handsome Jack) plays a part in your escape. Then it’s a quick reminder that Borderlands could be considered Telltale’s “action” series as again the action sequences take centre stage as our heroes continue their search for the vault.

The best part of this episode though is by far the inclusion of Gortys. A childlike little robot that has a rather endearing innocent quality who is voiced brilliantly by Ashley Johnson (of The Last of Us fame). Also bringing with it some of the best comedy moments of the season. I’ve been critical the past couple of episodes that the humour misses the mark more than it hits, but this episode does have the best written material so far.

One moment Gortys is trying to drag a dead body so they can hurry and be on their adventure, only for Fiona to calmly say he’s “sleepy” as to not upset the little robot.

The main crux of the story is to obtain an upgrade for Gortys so you can go searching for a vault. And it’s the main overarching story that is perhaps the weakest in Telltale’s video game arsenal. It’s essentially an episode comprising of moments, good moments, but moments that still lack a purpose unlike say they would in a Walking Dead. There’s only really one choice that I’d consider major here and the cliffhanger ending is a little bit of a damp squib when compared to the previous episode.

Again, puzzles are very lightweight with only one issue where I struggled, but then this was solely because I forgot to scan every nook and cranny for one last interact-able object. Maybe it’s because I’m playing Life is Strange in between episodes of Borderlands, but the lack of puzzles is far more apparent now than it has been in the past.

If you’re still playing by now then you’re already heavily invested in Tales from the Borderlands, and as such you’ll be pleased to know it carries on its continued quality. That quality mainly comes in the form of Gortys, who is a fantastic addition to the cast. But I’m at that point now where I fear that Telltale fatigue is starting to set in. And with a million other projects in the pipeline, I do wonder if nothing changes gameplay-wise, how many of these styles of game can Telltale really make?

Bradborne – Part 6

After another break, Bradley decides it is time to go back for another session of Bradborne.

This time it is another run at Father Gascoigne and another, another, another and yet another. Oh and another. It becomes repetitive and frustrating, but lessons are learned ready for another run next week.

Apologies for the quality, it will be improved next time.

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

PART 6

Previous episodes can be found HERE.

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Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 26th June 2015

Brad and John take a look at the charts and releases for week ending 26th June (Friday).

The guys have a look at some of the new entries in the TOP 10, with LEGO Jurassic World, The Elder Scrolls Online and Payday 2: Crimewave Edition.

Talk then shifts to the disaster that is the Batman Arkham Knight PC release, before talking about a game that Brad believes will be known as one of the most important games of this or any other year, Her Story.

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks)

This Week’s Top 10

1 LEGO JURASSIC WORLD
2 THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE
3 THE WITCHER III: WILD HUNT
4 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
5 FIFA 15
6 PAYDAY 2: CRIMEWAVE EDITION
7 CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE
8 SPLATOON
9 DESTINY
10 MINECRAFT: XBOX EDITION

Anyway, details below on how to catch this week’s show.


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The John: Project Cars – Season 1

Some say he came to us from a distant far away planet, that he has the ability to control time and space and that he once drove a Bugatti into a Ferrari F355 so hard that they became one. All we know is, he is called John.

We welcome John to the Gamestyle family, as he plays through Project Cars, giving us videos of his various career seasons.

The opening episode is a complete full season.

PS4 version
Fanatec CSR-Elite w/ Fanatec CSR-Elite Pedals
AI 100%
All assists off
Session length 52%
NO RESTARTING!

It is a fantastic watch that shows how rewarding a game like Project Cars can be. There will be more to come in the coming weeks.

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Le Tour De France 2015 Review

When it comes to real world sports as video games I am pretty narrow minded. Ice Hockey, Basketball, Soccer (yeah I went there!), Football, Tennis, Baseball and Motorsports. All of those kind of fit as videogames and sports I don’t mind watching overall in real life.

Cycling is a sport that I appreciate, but have never been able to get into. I understand the effort and dedication that is needed to compete at the top level, hell I even took my son to watch one of the UK stages of Le Tour De France, but it was 4-5 hours of waiting around for what seemed a few seconds of actual action.

I am not belittling the sport at all as I know different people like different things, so when it came to games such as Pro Cycling Manager, I just never felt the need to play them. I have no interest in it, so decided to just let it go. However Le Tour De France 2015 landed in my lap and well here is my view as a complete outsider.

I am thoroughly impressed by what I am playing, if you ignore the cycling aspect you are left with a pretty damn solid management RTS game, with the cycling itself acting as more of a wrapper, a visual aesthetic to appeal to fans of the sport.

For the uninitiated, of which I include myself, you essentially take a rider in the race and control him across the entire event, but at the same time you also need manage the rest of your team. Which is something that really surprised me, as I didn’t quite get how much of a team sport cycling is.

You’ll need to make sure you have the right members of the team at the right point of the event to maximise your team’s points. So you may have a rider who is a great sprinter, so you’ll want him challenging at the front for the sprint stage, or another who may be better at mountain stages. There are even riders who are there not to win, not to even grab points, but purely to help other riders get the best out of the race they can.

Then during each stage, the tactics that come in are almost mind blowing in their complexity. You may have a rider make a break from the pack to up the pace of the stage so it best suits his team’s best positioned rider to get maximum points, or you may get the sprinters push right ahead early on so as to be first over the line in the sprint, before either dropping back into the pack, or trying to push on to create some distance.

The leader at the end of each stage gets the yellow jersey and the next stage is then pretty much based around him; with his team hoping to keep him as near to the front of the overall standings as possible, whilst others try to counter that to leave him behind in the pack.

The back and forth that goes on every second is strangely compelling and really does make you appreciate what it takes to not just win but to even compete. I am not all of a sudden a massive fan of cycling, but I was given an education.

It’s not just the action and strategy that has impressed either. Visually the game looks fantastic, as you wind your way through European countryside and towns, concentrating on the road ahead as some pretty impressive scenery whizzes by. Riders and bikes are both modeled rather well and adds to an overall immersion that I just wasn’t expecting.

One thing to be aware of though and this depends on you as a gamer and how much effort you want to put into such a game. Despite stages being somewhat shortened compared to their real life versions, this isn’t like compressing a 90 minutes soccer match into 5 minutes, or a 60 lap Grand Prix into 3 laps.

Each stage feels gigantic, so that you really do need to pace yourself and manage your rider so they don’t get too tired too soon. Race off into the distance early to try and get a lead and hold it? Don’t think so, you will have nothing left in the tank at the business end of the stage and will lose badly, as well as letting your team down.

When you get a stage that is 130km, it may not be a real 130km, but the scaling sure makes it feel like it. Yet in a game type that I assumed would get old and dull pretty fast I found myself completely and utterly engaged and when you do get a victory, either for yourself or the team…well, you feel elated in a way I once again just didn’t expect.

I honestly expected myself to be finishing a review of Le Tour De France 2015 by telling you this is a game for cycling fans only, but I can honestly say that I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone.

Gamestyle Podcast: E3 Special – Part 2 of 2

The second part to the Gamestyle E3 wrap up.

In Part 2 we talk Square Enix, Beigels, Bethesda, Microsoft and Sony. We realise John may not like videogames unless it involves 22 men and a ball, whilst Bradley is like a kid in a candy store with every bit of information.

This was probably the greatest E3 we have ever seen and Brad, John, Jon, Barry and Yann discuss it all.

IT’S E3 BABY!!!


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Her Story Review

I am sat here writing this review and my desk is a complete and utter mess. I have Post-It notes around the frame on my monitor, a notepad with a ton of scribblings in it, a mug of coffee, snacks and god knows what else.

You see I have spent the last couple of days trying to solve a case. A murder to be exact. I have footage of the interviews with the suspect and I need to go through them to find evidence that will either prove innocence or guilt. I have become infatuated with this case, I need to uncover something.

We at Gamestyle will be going into much more depth about this ‘game’ with a proper discussion about it. You can find the link at the end of the review (when ready) and don’t expect to see any spoilers here, just my thoughts about one of the most important games of this or any other year.

Many games need to introduce you to their characters so as to build back story, yet here is Her Story which throws you straight in without any setup. You boot the game and are presented with an old PC screen. There is a folder already open with some videos in it and no other instructions.

You play a video, then the next and the next until you have watched all the short clips available there and then. That’s it, you aren’t given direction on what to do next, yet somehow you just know. You remember a word from the interview and then search based on that word. It provides you with more video from interviews and all of a sudden it dawns on you. Just watching isn’t going to help here.

Me, I went and grabbed a notepad and a pen and started listening to the videos making notes of names, places, things that sound important so I can go and then search for them, opening up more of the story and going deeper and deeper into what happened.

Before I know it, I am in full on detective mode. All I needed to do was find a suit, unbutton the shirt a bit, not shave for three days, sit in the dark and I could well be doing a cosplay.

You spend your time with one person, yet you don’t actually do that, you aren’t interacting with her, you are just watching. Yet you feel closer to the story of this woman than you will 99% of other games. Even deeper still, she talks about others, people you never see, yet you feel close to them, you want to know more. You are losing yourself to this amazing story.

Now this is actual video content, using an actual actress, so I fully expect a range of emotions to show better than characters who are CGI, but hey, I lived through Wing Commander and the likes, so FMV isn’t always the answer.

For a game that actually has very little to do, in terms of interaction with the interface, there is so much to do. I have watched clips numerous times to soak it in, I have lost myself to this woman, this potential murderer and have fallen into her spell as she speaks.

I have had videos playing repeatedly as I go through my own hand-written notes. All that is missing is Sam Barlow sending out actual physical evidence for us to examine in real life as we consume the information on these tapes.

I’ve heard that phrase before! This name is new, does this match up with what she said earlier? You find yourself second guessing yourself, trying to piece everything together. To what end though? There have been no goals set out, I haven’t been told I need to solve the case. I mean do I? Surely that’s the point, but how? What do I do when I think I have enough information, there doesn’t seem to be an option.

Is this just a story? Is that it? Is there no point? But then why does that matter? This is an amazingly indepth experience that it doesn’t matter what the end game is. It really doesn’t.

Once again we are seeing an example of what proper mature gaming can be. I touched on Never Alone in 2014 and why that was an important game, but this eclipses that for me. It removes many of the trappings of traditional gaming and delivers yet another way to maturely deliver a story, to make you think about things and immerse you in a world like no other, because there is no ‘world’ here of which to speak.

It is you, you and this woman. You, this woman, her videos and a ton of handwritten notes. Sam Barlow has proven himself in the past to be an excellent writer, but with Her Story he has completely outdone himself and set the bar as high as it has ever been.

Alone in the Dark: Illumination Review

Oh my! Where to start, where to start? If ever there is a series with a checkered past it is Alone In The Dark. In my younger days it was one of the best horror games on the market and I had some very fond memories of playing.

The original 1992 release was something very special, a game that created a true sense of fear, not just using jump scares but utilising psychological fear with it. It got in your head and messed with it in a way I had never experienced before.

It has since been surpassed, but it was that that opened the doors for the genre, paving the way for the likes of Silent Hill. The original was special and deserves to be remembered with great acclaim.

Even the immediate sequels, whilst not hitting that same high, were still decent games in their own rights. Skip forwards a few years and The New Nightmare, which whilst being generally ok, started the decline of the series on the whole.

2008’s Alone In The Dark, which was meant to be a reboot of the series just fell flat and in all honesty was a travesty of a game, both visually and atmospherically, which was a crying shame, as the concept was sound. A horror game presented as if it was an episodic TV show, it looked like a fantastic game until the moment you got to play it and despite some highs, they never outweighed the many lows.

Despite doing well financially it did seem to have killed the series stone dead, until 2015 and the release of Alone In The Dark: Illumination. A game which I am very torn about.

First let me touch on the negatives. The name, Alone in the Dark! Why, oh why is this game being called Alone in the Dark? Can someone tell me, because I simply don’t get it. It lacks any of what the previous games were, hell even the 2008 release felt like it was part of the Alone in the Dark family. This though just seems too far removed.

Here is why. Illumination shares more in common with Left 4 Dead and the likes than it does Alone in the Dark, played in up to 4-Player Co-Op as you navigate through levels trying to ‘solve a mystery’ whilst working as a team to fend of the evil that hunts you.

The only link in fact is that they have given characters slight backstories, such as Edward Carnaby, the direct descendent of the original Edward Carnaby and the witch who is the supposed grand-daughter of Emily Hartwood. The problem here, is that neither of them seem to share any of the characteristics that made those original characters what they were. Literally all they share are the letters that make up the same name.

Anyway, moody rant out of the way, it’s not all despair as the game itself is pretty solid, with a caveat. On your own it is a horrid, horrid game, that almost wants to punish you for having no friends, enemies circle you in a way that makes it nigh on impossible to attack without getting blindsided, through no fault of you own and it feels from the very start you need help.

That is proven the moment you get a lobby of people together and play in co-op, the enemy patterns seem to be the same and whilst they can still be difficult to pick off, it feels much more manageable if you work as a unit.

There are some lovely touches too, such as the use of light to weaken enemies, making them easier to kill. You are able to use your flashlight to keep them back a little, but you also need to make use of potential light sources in the area, whether that be a floodlight outside or inside lights. Again using your skills as a team it becomes a cracking game of cat and mouse at times as you try to survive and also get the enemies going where you want.

But it suffers the same issues the 2008 game did. Plenty of good ideas, but the overall execution just fails, which makes this a game to avoid on the whole. There is nothing for Alone in the Dark fans and for those who love their online co-op there are just too many better options.

In a game like this, where timing is important and being able to outmaneuver your enemy, it is shocking that the movement feel so slow, like your character is caught in thick, soggy mud. It feels like you are fighting yourself as much as you are fighting the enemies.

Hell, I played it, left it alone and tried to go back with a fresh positive perspective, but really is a game where I just wish I was playing something else. I close the game down on Steam and in my recently played list is Left 4 Dead 2, which is the standard any game like this should be trying to hit.

I really wanted to like this, because again the concept was sound, but it pains me to say that this is yet another nail in the coffin of the Alone in the Dark franchise and maybe it is time to let Edward Carnaby rest peacefully.

Depression, Gaming & Me

It was around a year ago that I finally realised that I had depression and that it was affecting me much more than I expected, it took me another month to actually do something about it, but I knew I had it and that I was no longer in control of my own life.

The point I realised? It was at a friend’s farewell BBQ, I just didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to be around anyone and had spent the week prior pretending to be unwell enough that I could skip it, but not too much that I would be forced by my partner to get checked out.

Anyway, it didn’t work and I ended up at this BBQ. The moment it clicked for me, was when the meat was ready to be served. Everyone made a beeline for the table and started helping themselves, as you do, however I stood back and let them all go for what they wanted, deciding to wait for scraps at the end, should there me any.

Why? Because in my mind, I didn’t deserve to eat the food that had been laid out. Despite my partner providing some of the meat (her home made burgers which are to die for incidentally), I was worthless compared to these people.

These people who had done well for themselves, pilots, teachers, lawyers, business owners, police and so on. All of these people are better than me, they are more deserving than me. They had money, they have status, I am a cretin who begs for money from a job that fails to pay me properly. Who am I to mix with these people. I look down on myself, so they certainly must do too.

I stood there and I remember this thought as clear as day.

I could kill myself right now and not one person would really give a damn. I could end it all and make everyone’s lives that much better. I am a cancer on society and I bring everyone down with me. My own son and my partner would be better off without me. I am bad luck and by ending my existence they will go on to live long and successful lives.

Those were my genuine thoughts. I even surveyed the area to see if there was anywhere I could remove myself to and finish it there and then.

Luckily for me, an opportunity arose for me to be able to leaver early and return home to be on my own. I could make it known I was feeling ill, get a life back home and wallow in my own self pity.

It was a very low point for me. I wore a mask for years, trying to be someone I wasn’t so that I could be accepted. Accepted by people who certainly didn’t share my interests and love. Sure we all had a single thing in common that meant we we in each other’s company a lot of the time, but despite having them all around me, I still felt alone.

It’s always the same y’know. At an event or gathering “Why don’t you dance?”, “Why don’t you join in with the singing?”, “You look miserable”, “Get up and have some fun!”

Yeah fun, get up and have some fun. Singing, dancing, pissing around with others. I don’t have the mental energy. I don’t find that fun, it is an effort and one I really cannot put on a show for. If I sing, dance, prat around, I leave myself open for mocking. It happened at school, it happened in my early years and in my mind it would happen again.

I also felt I needed to be the one to help, because if I helped I would have a reason to be liked. Need to move home? Bradley will do it. Need a coffee run? Bradley will offer soon. This minor task, I am on it. I was helping and maybe, just maybe I would be accepted.

Yet the harder I tried, the more miserable I became, the more I sunk into the darkness of my own thoughts. It is that darkness that gets you, that consumes you and whittles away at every positive thought you have until there is no light left, there is nothing but nothingness.

However there has always been one constant in my life, from as far back as I can remember… Videogames!

I wrote an article a while back about how videogames saved my life (which you can read here) and it is always a recurring theme in my life. I can honestly say that a good videogame has kept me from completely losing my being on multiple occasions. It is better than any medication I have had.

Now I am on medication for my depression, as said about a month after that lowest point I saw a doctor and got help and I am now on the long road to recovery. It is hard and I still have some very dark days, but I feel I can pull myself from that darkness easier than I could before. I still have issues with confidence and positive feelings, but there is always a slight glimmer of hope.

Now before I get on to why videogames play such an important role I want to clarify one thing. The main reason I fight, is for my son and my partner. I love them with all my heart and if not for them I dread to think what my life would be like. I would do anything for them as they would for me. Life for us isn’t easy, it is beyond difficult at times. But we have each other and that keeps us all going.

So what is the role of videogames? Why are they so important to me? Because as I mentioned, they have been the only constant in my life. I have always had them to turn to. From getting my first Atari, to a Spectrum 128k, playing a C64 at my Nan’s, then the various SEGA and Nintendo consoles to the modern Playstation and XBOX, mixed with PC and my favourite of all, the Vita.

I have been privileged to have watched gaming grow from the tiny seed it was, to the worldwide cultural phenomenon it is today. It has been there with me every step of the way. It has helped me through many dark times.

I am not a big reader of novels, I think a lack of imagination these days means I cannot really turn the words on a page into images in my head, I used to be a good designer, a solid artist, but again I have nothing, it has totally deserted me over the past few years. So I cannot even hang on to that.

Yet, here are videogames. I can be anything I want to be, a videogame will allow me to do that, it doesn’t judge me if I want to go round on a mass murder spree, or manipulate art in a 3D space. It doesn’t care if I want to spend 5 minutes with it, or lose myself for an entire day. No matter my need, there is a game for me at that time.

Not long ago, I had a day where everything seemed to be going wrong, every action I took, every word I said, seemed to have a negative effect. I needed a release I needed to cause some destruction to relieve myself from the frustration I was feeling.

I boot up Steam and scroll through my list of games, settling on Just Cause 2. I jumped in, ignoring where I left off in the story and just blew shit up for a good period of time. It was so satisfying, it closed my day out and meant I felt I could face another day.

It isn’t just big games that allow you to cause mayhem and live out fantasies that would see you in prison in real life. I have had days where I have felt stupid, so I can rely on going to play Sudoku on the Android, Two Digits on Steam. Slitherlink on DS or break out Danganronpa to do some mystery solving.

Again they are all there for me and somehow knowing I can put on one of these games and prove to myself I am not an idiot, helps loads.

Then there are times I look at myself and wonder what could have been, what if I did this at school, what if I did that? What if I decided to be a sports person, get into racing. Well again I can live out those fantasies in videogames. I can be an NHL superstar, a racing legend, I can be the best golfer in the world, ride a superbike, hit a series winning home-run and so much more.

Sports games hold a special place in my heart, especially the NHL games as I am a huge hockey fan. So when you score an Overtime winner in a Stanley Cup playoff game with a character you have created and developed, it feels just so amazing, you have those moments of joy that you miss in your real life and somehow they carry on when you put the controller down.

It’s not all about fantasy though, I have never dreamed of being a little Italian plumber who wants to save the princess time and time again. Nor have I wanted to be a disembodied thing like Rayman, not a super-fast Hedgehog, or more recently an evolving pixel character. So there are games out there too that are just fun, pure unadulterated fun.

Mix that too with games that are fiendeshly difficult and are designed to do nothing but test your skills and patience. Super Meat Boy, Trials, Super Kaizo Mario, Guacamelee and so much more. There really is something for every taste and feeling.

Games have got me through so much of my life and have always been there for me. They don’t judge me, or care what sort of person I am. They are just there and can be anything I need to just get through another day.

They are the reason I am still being, they have opened a door for me, that I never though possible and have helped me grow a lot over the last few years and especially in the last 12 months.

There are two things I feel I am good at in my life. One of those is fatherhood and anyone who knows me, knows how much my son means to me. The other is talking about videogames. Whilst to some that may seem like a pointless thing to be good at, let me explain a few things.

I got into writing by accident really. On twitter I saw that a person I knew (Adam from this very site) had a game early and had got it for free. So I asked how this happened and was introduced to Gamestyle, told to submit a review and see what happens.

Somehow I wrote something that was deemed acceptable. My review for DiRT 2, which was then published on the site and gave me the opportunity to write more. I honestly couldn’t believe it, right there on the internet something I had written for the world to see and not just a personal blog, but a legit gaming site (15 years indie and counting).

Now I won’t lie to you. I got into doing this whilst work was still going ok and I was getting paid to do my job. I did this as a chance to blag myself a few free games. But it did something to me, it felt good, it was like a drug and I wanted more, thus more started coming.

Now for all I know I could be the worst writer in the world, I certainly don’t have an English degree and I did design at college, so nothing that really helps me as a writer. I assume my grammar does enough to get me through and my musings are coherent enough. But I don’t really care, I can do this on the side and it made me feel good.

Then something happened that nearly ruined it all. Gamestyle was the victim of a massive hack and we lost everything and I do mean everything. The site was so badly destroyed that it was pretty much going to be left for dead.

I couldn’t let that happen, I needed this site in my life, it gave me purpose, something else I could focus on, an escape from the darkness of my being. I managed to convince some of the guys who were part of the site to allow it to carry on. I would help it rise from the flames, even if it meant starting from scratch.

Well three years later and the site is still going strong and if anything is riding the crest of a wave as we go from strength to strength. I would love to name names here. But it would take too long, so to all those who have been part of this since we rebuilt…Thank You! You have also been a part of keeping me sane.

This next bit might be a little odd for many of you, but I have never really had a dream before. I have never wanted anything so badly I would do anything to achieve it. But over the past two years I have finally found ‘my calling’ no matter how cliche that may be. I want to be in full time games media.

Why? Well let me tell you two of my main influences.

1. Kyle Bosman from Gamestrailers.com.

Kyle is a normal guy, he has his weekly show ‘The Final Bosman’ and his style is that of just an ordinary person who loves videogames. He is hugely popular and is living my dream. He doesn’t have a dumb gimmick like a PewDiePie. Who, despite not liking to watch, I still respect immensely. Kyle comes across as the everyman, one person in the gaming media who I feel talks to me as a gamer.

2.The Giant Bomb team.

Why these guys? Well they are doing now what I had planned for Gamestyle. They have taken gaming in its current state and used it to provide entertainment on a level never seen before. They don’t rely on reviews, they aren’t handcuffed by corporate sponsorship and just know what they are comfortable doing.

I watch them and they just seem to have a great time doing what they are doing. I would love for Gamestyle to almost be the UK version of that. Hell I want to work for Giant Bomb, it is my dream job, I am not going to hide that. However they are based in the US and the likelihood of that happening it slim. But hey it is a dream and I have learned that you need your dreams and nothing is impossible.

Over the past year I have managed (with help) to turn Gamestyle from a site that could produce 1-2 reviews a week if lucky, to one that now has content on a daily basis. Ranging from reviews, to podcasts, written features to video content. I did this…ME!

For me to do the podcasting, the Quick Looks, Let’s Plays and more took a lot out of me mentally. I have never been able to really talk to a crowd before, never felt comfortable talking and being recorded, despite doing a short run on a hockey podcast. I just didn’t have that confidence. Yet I feel confident about games, so it was all or nothing.

I recorded the first Gamestyle Live with a couple of the other guys and I felt sick, I very nearly backed out at the last second. I didn’t and we have grown and evolved ever since. I did throw up immediately finishing that first recording, but it was out there. A video podcast. No turning back now.

I still feel nervous about each recording I do now, but I have to deal with that in my own way. But it turns out I am decent at it and that people do want to listen. I get sick to the stomach waiting for the numbers to come in, but I have found ways to deal with that.

Videogames and Gamestyle are a huge part of me, second only to my family and if there is a way I can make this work full time then I will take it. It’s not just about making this a living, it is a huge part of what stops my going down the rabbit-hole again, what keeps my head above water.

I am even writing this because of a bad day mentally, I needed a release and this allowed me the perfect opportunity. I don’t expect people to understand why I need this, I just know that I do.

Depression is still a massive taboo, one that is very difficult to talk about with anyone. It is very hard to express how one feels inside, despite their outer personality. You only need to look at someone like Robin Williams to understand how complex depression is. That was a shock to almost everyone, because like most of us, he wore his mask very well.

Depression in my mind is something I will never be free of, I can pinpoint the areas that may have had a say in causing it to consume me, but I know it will always be part of me. I will have days and moments where there seems like there is an easy way out. Yet I have learned I have things I can grab on to to stop me falling into that dark empty void.

The game’s industry gets a lot of bad press, it is blamed for so many bad things that happen. Shootings, society, the likes of Gamergate, but those make the good news stories and sure Gamergate and the online harassment does need attention bringing to it. I feel horrible for Anita Saarkesian and what she goes through, I look at her as what inner strength can be and admire how she won’t let herself be taken down.

Yet stories of how games do things that affect the world positively, or even an individual like me, those never make the news, they aren’t interesting to the wider world. You need to look deeper to see how they improve the lives of kids with special needs for example. Or how they help this depressive get though each waking moment and somehow want to face the day ahead.

Videogames once saved my life, now they allow me to live one!

 

The Adventures Of Pip Review

If there has been one genre to be over-represented in the Indie scene, it is platforming. It can seem that week in, week out there is yet another indie platformer vying for your attention, which can make it hard for the best to stand out.

Most often come with their own take on the genre and in The Adventures of Pip it is based around the evolution of videogame graphics. Essentially here you play as Pip an 8-bit sprite who has been challenged with the task of saving the kingdom.

The kingdom is controlled by something called the Bit-Stream and whomever controls its power can control the destiny of the Kingdom. The Skeleton Queen has control of the Bit-Stream and has also kidnapped the princess…there is always a princess!

So as Pip, the only 8-bit character in a 32-bit world, you embark on your journey to be the hero, once gaining the ability to upgrade your powers, such as evolving and devolving through the various ‘bits’

On the surface The Adventure of Pip is a pretty standard platforming affair, as you move through each level taking on baddies, solving platforming puzzles and everything you’d expect. However it is this evolve and devolve mechanic that makes this game as fun as it is.

Depending on your  current state, 8-bit, 16-bit or 32-bit, you have different abilities and part of the puzzle solving is which state you should be in and when. Some areas will need you to be a single pixel, others may need you to be 16-bit so you can gain the ability to wall jump and attack enemies properly. And so on.

Overall it isn’t exactly a taxing game, but it can get quite frantic, with you needing to quickly switch states in a single area on the fly to get through. Now we aren’t talking Super Meat Boy levels of precision for platforming, nor the level of dexterity needed later on in the likes of Guacamelee, but this almost feels like it is a toned down hybrid of the two.

It works too, you do feel accomplished once you have made it through some areas, whether that be via your own platforming skills, or working out logically how to get though.

The games keeps a constant flow throughout, with only certain areas breaking the flow, or passing over the line to becoming a tad frustrating. Even when it comes to enemies, you need to consider your current state to play to their weaknesses and dispose of them as easily as possible.

Pip himself, as well as the world he inhabits, are full of character and show a great love for developing the character. If you played Thomas Was Alone, you’ll be well aware of how much character you can get out of a simple block shape and the same is true here.

8-bit Pip is full of charm, but so too are his 16 and 32-bit evolutions. The way each feels so different, but still liked is a joy to witness, you start to appreciate each one for what they bring to the table and that is testament to solid character design.

Length too is well considered, with the game beatable within a few hours. But therein lies the only real problem I have with the game. As much as the main length is just right, I felt no need to go back again and play, even after a break. I really want more, I want the evolving mechanic expanded on. Because as it stands, there is no real reason for me to to go back, it is one and done. Yet I want more.

I don’t want more of that adventure, I want to be able to use the mechanics in many other ways, have more challenges, that sort of thing. Which is where a Super Meat Boy excels, by having a main quest line, but plenty of reason to go back and improve, or find the bonus and variant levels. It just isn’t here which is a shame.

Now that isn’t to say I didn’t get value from what I played and if there is a sequel…well I will be there on day one to go on yet another adventure with Pip and who knows, maybe the evolution can stretch even further than 32-bits.

LEGO Jurassic World Review

It feels like it has been ages since we last saw a LEGO game, but looking back it has only been 8 months. That’s not long at all really, but such was the frequency in 2013/2014 an 8 month gap feels like an eternity.

That gap though has been heaven sent, because despite loving the LEGO games, there really was a sense of fatigue. LEGO Batman 3 was a very good title, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go for 100% completion like I had in previous games. Purely because there was only so much LEGO one could take in such a short space of time.

Here we are now though, with the release of LEGO Jurassic World and I have to say it feels good to be back into it. As for the most part it follows the tried and tested formula of any other LEGO game. Much like putting on your favourite pair of slippers, you feel comfortable the second you pick up the controller.

Now what excited me most about LEGO Jurassic World, wasn’t that it was a new game, but that it was based around Jurassic Park (well and the other films) and I love Jurassic Park, it still blows me away to this very day just how amazing it looks. Oh and that theme, how that theme song resonates with me.

So after a few minutes, imagine my joy when I hear the music of John Williams fading in. I challenge anyone not to get goosebumps hearing it, or to not hum along. It is perfect, perfect, perfect!

But hey! It doesn’t matter how much I love John Williams’ score, because I can listen to it anywhere, it still needs a good solid game behind it to make this a worthwhile acquisition. Thankfully for the most part it is just that.

The main hub is essentially the layout of the park, you can move around it fairly freely and the attention to detail from the original film is truly impressive. Fans of the Steven Spielberg masterpiece will instantly recognise the various locales from the movie and will fall for the LEGOfication of the world around them.

On the whole the individual levels are well put together, but some do start to feel a little tedious, especially when you enter levels based off the later films, but each one is fairly short and just about don’t out-stay their welcome.

The main problem, with this being a LEGO game and needing to be family friendly, there is some creative license taken with certain scenes, where death is swapped out for an ‘amusing’ alternative. Now I can see why this has been done, but for someone like me, it really is a shame as it removes from the overall immersion of playing out the film in LEGO form.

I don’t even think these cuts are needed either, the film is classified as a PG by the BBFC and I have watched it with young children who weren’t that bothered by those scenes, so it does make little sense to me.

That aside though, another minor issue with the game is the way in which it is voiced. Clearly some scenes are made with audio ripped direct from the film and tidied up, whereas other parts are re-recorded using stand-in actors and unfortunately it makes it very easy to tell the difference, once again doing massive damage to the immersion.

But that is from me, a massive fan of the original film, one of my top 5 films of all time, so I was always going to be its harshest critic, because anything that can potentially sully the memory of that film isn’t good in my books.

However, aside from a few personal issues and as a LEGO game, LEGO Jurassic World is a solid by the numbers affair and if you liked any of the previous LEGO titles, then you already know if you will like this.

Once I got over myself, I was able to enjoy the game a hell of a lot more, but what is worrying, is that for the first time, it is also starting to feel very stale, no matter how good the game is and it feels like it needs a little bit of a shake up moving forward.

Xbox One to Windows 10 Streaming

It was pointed out to me, that those on both the Xbox Preview Program and also the Windows 10 Preview Program, not only get access to the backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, but can also already stream from the Xbox One to a Windows 10 enabled PC.

I am not quite sure how I wasn’t aware of this already, but there you go. As soon as I found out, I jumped at the chance to test this out and let me tell you this. I wasn’t a believer in Witchcraft, magic or the dark arts, but I am a believer now.

But before I get into this, I want to first clarify how much of a fan of Remote Play I am with the PS4 to PS Vita. That is just fantastic, being able to play PS4 games on a handheld at home and out & about. However, the remote play does have a few limitations.

It is great for some games, such as the LEGO franchise and slower paced games, which don’t require twitch reactions to get the best from them. Also, for some reason it really struggled with NHL15 even if the connection was perfect and other games ran smoothly. But hey, this is a technology in its infancy so I accept the rough with the smooth.

Games such as Killzone Shadow Fall run great, but the lack of proper physical R2/L2 buttons meant it just didn’t quite feel right, despite the options to change the controls around. It still makes me yearn for a revised PS Vita with those buttons as standard, but clearly this will never happen now, so my only hope is that one of those customised grips makes it into full production.

But hey, I love me some remote play and it still gets used, showing to me personally that this isn’t just a fad and is something that is genuinely useful and would only get better as the years pass.

Which brings me to the Xbox One. I am not a fanboy, I own all three major consoles, I have been over this before. I have the best of all worlds and that makes me happy. An announcement a while back that said Xbox One to Windows 10 streaming would be a thing had me excited, but I was a little dubious about how well implemented it would be.

Well all those fears have been laid to rest after an evening playing around. Doing a few home tests and instantly seeing the future. Seriously, this is some crazy witchcraft happening here and had someone told my younger self, as I spent an age loading a tape deck to play my ZX Spectrum games on a very old style TV that had no remote and still had a tuner dial, I would have laughed in their face.

Well not strictly true, I would have been gullible and believed it, but you get the idea. Look back at yourself some 30 years ago, remember the games you were playing, how they looked and the effort it took to even start playing one.

The time taken to load, battling for time on the one shared TV in the house, crashes that meant another period of waiting just to load the game up again. Graphics that didn’t push the boundaries, single blocks representing characters, then crudely drawn characters that kind of looked like their box art if you used your imagination.

Now try and imagine yourself thinking how outlandish the claim would be that one day you will be able to play games that look simply stunning, some blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Not only that, but that you could play these games on another screen somewhere else in your home, as it is projected magically without wires and would be like you were playing those games on the TV the console is hooked up to.

It is an insane concept, it’s the reason I have no issues with things like graphical downgrades on Watchdogs, The Witcher III or anything like that. Why I don’t care about a game running in 1080p on one console but only 900p on another. I grew up playing Pong, Q*Bert, Space Invaders, Centipede, Defender, etc. Mortal Kombat was to me as real as it would ever get. But here we are, just look at what we get to view and interact with today.

So anyway, here I am sat at my PC as I boot up the Xbox App in Windows 10, which by the way is a really slick piece of software with a top notch UI. I boot up my Xbox One and sign in then head back to the PC and choose to connect via the app, before choosing the ‘Stream’; option.

Sure enough, up pops the Xbox Dashboard right there on my PC screen within a few seconds. I fiddle around with the controller and there seems to be no lag at all to my untrained eye. But that’s a dashboard, what would happen when we give it a stress test?

So I boot up Hand of Fate to give it an easy start. A card game that doesn’t require much in the way of quick reactions and yep this was fine, it was cracking quality on my monitor and it played exactly like it does on the console itself. An easy pass on the first test.

Next up I load Roundabout, an indie game that is essentially KuruKuru Kururin but with a limo. It isn’t a demanding game on resources, but requires the odd bit of quick reactions to get through some missions and again the streaming held up and I noticed no difference from playing natively. Another pass.

I wanted to try something more demanding, but instead felt I should have a fun test first. Backwards compatibility had been announced and as a preview member I can use it right now. So I boot up a couple of 360 games I have access to that are already set up for the program and give those a whirl.

First up is Hexic HD, a pretty simple puzzle game (very good by the way and free) and yep, sure enough I was playing an Xbox 360 game, via my Xbox One right on my PC. It works and all is good. Again though this is a pretty non-demanding game so I needed something that would need some twitch reactions, so on goes N+.

Once again I cannot find any fault with how the game played, it was like playing right there on the native console and there seemed to be no lag that affected my gameplay one little bit. So far it is four for four on tests.

One final test though. I booted up NHL15 with the idea of playing a game online. It is a game that requires split second inputs and concentration, the game must run smoothly or it is horrid to play. Plus I figured that the online aspects would really test the streaming to the PC.

All I will say is that I am absolutely lost for words. Despite a couple of dodgy moments when loading, it held up just fine and the only time it froze was when my opposition seemed to have connection issues. I lost our game due to being out of practice, but at no point could the blame be on the streaming. Five for five and I cannot believe what I am witnessing.

Now I would have loved to try this with a Street Fighter or other such fighting game, but had none to hand at the time. So I cannot say for sure this would be ideal for those sorts of games, where the counting of frames and so on matter. But then if you are playing those games seriously because you must win, or it is competition, then you probably won’t be doing it on another screen elsewhere in your home.

Now as I said at the start, I love the PS4 to PS Vita remote play, but Sony will have to react to this from Microsoft, because it is now a whole new ball game and for something that isn’t technically ready for release and likely still being optimised, then I am simply blown away.

The future is here and who knows where it will be in the next 20 years.

Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- Review

The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is much more informative.

To get the cheap joke out of the way at the outset, one can only assume that they went with Xrd as the logical option in their naming convention for the series would invoke memories of BMX XXX. There’s a game I’d almost forgotten about.

Guilty Gear Xrd is the first entry in the series to dive into 3D one-on-one fighting. Gameplay remains in two dimensions, and through a variety of clever techniques Arc System Works have created a visual style than can be described as nothing less than gobsmackingly gorgeous.The level of detail that has gone into the animations is meticulous and whilst the action strictly stays in one plane that does not stop the camera from flying about at key moments, all done in such a way that there is zero detriment to gameplay.

Guilty1
The action is wonderfully fluid

The rock music that comprises the soundtrack does a good job of getting the adrenaline pumping and in the fighting spirit, although if you’re not a fan of the genre this could be annoying. All the pre and post match dialogue is voiced with different lines depending on who you’re hitting in the face.

The fighting is fast and geared towards sensible aggressive play and while still deceptively technical, Arc System Works have stripped back some systems from previous Guilty Gear titles and made the game much more accessible. Despite this, there are still numerous universal systems in place. Faultless defense, instant blocking, overdrives, blitz shielding, dust attacks, instant kills, and three types of roman cancels – to name but a few, and that’s ignoring the wealth of movement options available. The learning curve for a newcomer is steep, but very rewarding to overcome.

Helpfully the game has a variety of training modes to ease you into the game, suitable even for someone completely new to the genre. First point of call is the tutorial mode which introduces the basics of fighting games all the way through to systems unique to Guilty Gear. There is then a separate mode for more in depth tactics, including more complex systems like the jump install, and this mode also features advice on how to deal with some of the tactics for each character. A standard training mode, which allows you to set up scenarios just as you want them, is included and a challenge mode for each character rounds things off, starting from how to do each special move, basic bread and butter combos, and finishing with combos that if anyone landed one on me in a match I would probably just cry. Spending time experimenting in the lab and then using the new knowledge in a match is a great feeling. Whilst there are combos that require very specific timing, Guilty Gear Xrd limits this to the much harder end of the spectrum, and many spectacular looking, and lengthy, combos can be mastered with a little practice.

Guilty Gear is just amazing in motion
Guilty Gear is just amazing in motion

With 17 characters in total (which includes 2 DLC characters) the roster is less populated than previous titles, however this means that each character feels especially unique. A pool playing assassin, an immortal haiku spouting vampire, and a dolphin summoning pirate all fit in with the less outlandish characters. The five new characters to the series join the game’s roster with ease, including  Elphelt as one of the most crazy, having no less than 3 guns, fruit grenades, and an overdrive that involves a wedding cake. However, that’s ignoring Bedman, literally a sleeping man strapped to a fighting, spiked, hospital bed. However with the characters being so different, and the game being an over-the-top fighter, it can be a little hard to get your head round some characters’ abilities until you’re more familiar with what they can do.

For the single player there is an arcade mode, versus the computer mode, the aforementioned training modes, and M.O.M. – a bizarre cross between survival mode, a fighting game, and a light RPG. Special mention has to go to the 5 plus hour story mode where gameplay consists of sitting and watching, and pressing a button to advance to the next line of dialogue, with the occasional “would you like to save?” message. If this is too tricky you can set it to auto mode and remove 99% of the button pressing – you’ll still have to save. This is a continuation of the story started in arcade mode however if you are into the lore of Guilty Gear it is worth persevering with as it is this mode that unlocks entries in the encyclopedia, which contains pretty much everything there is worth knowing about the series.

Outside of local multiplayer Guilty Gear Xrd has a unique take on the online side of things, where players join a lobby of up to 64 people, with players then creating a room holding up to 8 people. Within each room are 4 arcade machines, meaning that 4 fights can be happening at the same time which can cut down on a lot of waiting around, and everyone can chat to everyone else in the room regardless of which machine they’re at. Each machine also has 6 spectator slots meaning a regular winner stays on can be set up with everyone watching. Private matches are a little harder to arrange, involving hidden rooms that need to be searched for and passwords to be shared. A direct invite system would have been nice (like almost every other online game ever) but this may be a limitation of the game featuring cross platform play between PS3 and PS4 players. My experience of online play has been good, with very few laggy matches. A nice touch is that while fighting you can see the current delay in frames shown at the top of the screen, although this alters my game plan and execution timing by precisely nothing.

Guilty Gear Xrd is an easy game to recommend to any fighting game enthusiast and a brilliant entry point to the series, and those with a passing interest in the genre will learn a lot from the excellent tutorials.

Gamestyle Podcast: E3 Special – Part 1 of 2

It seems everyone and their dog is doing some kind of E3 wrap show of sorts, so we thought why not us?

Brad is joined by Games Reviews partner John, Jonathan, Yann and PlusCast host Barry, as they discuss the conferences from Nintendo, PC, Ubisoft and EA.

They pull no punches as to their opinions both positive and negative.

IT’S E3 BABY!!!


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Steins;Gate Review

A visual novel, it’s hard to describe what you do in Steins;Gate as gameplay. There are moments where you get to reply to certain people through text messages, but other than that you’re along for the ride. And what a ride it is.

Playing as Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed mad scientist, Okabe accidentally develops a way of sending text messages back in time. Sending these messages in turn means being able to change the past. And while the world changes around him, Okabe is the only one who remembers sending the messages and remembers the world before it changed.

Time travel is a tricky thing to get right. As I’ve recently come off Life is Strange, as enjoyable as I’m finding that game, it plays very loose with its time travel laws. Steins;Gate is the opposite. So much thought appears to have gone into the way time travel works that it’s a little mind melting.

Okay, if you showed the story to an actual scientist then it may fall apart quite spectacularly, but to the average Joe it feels believable. Conversations are filled with talks of various time travel methods, worm holes, paradoxes and the like. The excellent dialogue plays a huge part in this also, the translation team definitely did a fantastic job. Even SERN and the Large Hadron Collider play an integral part in the story.

And what a story it is. As already said, the only interaction the player has is with text messages. When Okabe receives a message he’s able to pull up his phone and select specifically highlighted words, these words acting as a trigger to send a reply. More than a throwaway thing, what you say in each message does play a part in the story, as it alters the course with six different endings. However, from what I’ve discovered it seems impossible to find your way to the True Ending without looking it up in a guide. Or being incredibly, incredibly lucky.

If there’s one complaint I have with the story is that it can sometimes have a few pacing issues. There are moments during the tech heavy discussion that you just want the main story to progress, but instead there’s a lot of standing around and discussing everything from time paradoxes to cosplay.

But making this more forgivable is that the majority of characters are just so enjoyable to be around. Okabe’s sidekick Daru could be considered a loveable perv, then there’s fellow scientist Kurisu who refuses to put up with Okabe’s nonsense. This may seem blasphemous to people who’ve played the game, but the only character who started to grate was Mayuri. The rather dumb friend of Okabe, her incredible stupidity may seem like gleeful innocence to most, but it was a little too much for me to take. But maybe that’s just because I have a cold, dead heart.

As a game that is purely story it’s hard to go into too much detail, but oh boy, does it go some wonderful and, at times, dark places. It will have you hooked till its conclusion (and then you’ll play it again to get another ending!).

Steins;Gate then is yet another great game to arrive on the sadly unloved Vita. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you’re craving a deep story and interesting characters you won’t find much better.

E3 Specials: Why Competition Matters

If there is one thing this E3 has proved, it’s that we as gamers need Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to be doing well. Why? Because if they have a reason to be at war, then we are the winners.

I am not a fanboy, I own all three major consoles, a PC and both the Vita and 3DS. I want great games to come out on all of them, to make my investments worthwhile. I need to see a mix of big Triple-A titles, Indie games and even ‘experiences’, because I love having as many options as possible and as many games as possible to match my current mood.

When both the Xbox One and PS4 were announced, it looked every bit like the PS4 would run away with the plaudits and the sales. However some internal changes at Microsoft has seen the Xbox One gain a lot of traction and help Microsoft get back to the top of their game.

Microsoft showing fight has seen Sony also needing to up their game, otherwise they stand to lose a lot of potential custom to their main rival. All whilst Nintendo do what Nintendo do best, make wonderful first party games that continue to be timeless.

As I said, this E3 is proof of why they need each other. Microsoft came out early and hard, with 2015 release dates for Tomb Raider, Forza 6, Halo 5, Fable Legends, as well as getting Rare back to what they do best, a new pro controller, backwards compatibility, HoloLens and much more.

Seriously, at this point it already looked like E3 was ‘won’ by Microsoft, it was a hell of a presentation and it ticked all the right boxes, getting the attention of everyone. It actually made me concerned that Sony would not be able to top it and would be on their heels a bit.

Then in the early hours in the UK (2am to be precise) Shaun Laydon walks on stage and after a brief welcome builds up a game, we all recognised what was being described, but we have been burned many times before. Not this year though, we only went and got THE LAST GUARDIAN, right at the very start of the press conference.

For me, this was it, the reason I wanted a PS3, so many years in the making, eight years of hurt. The light of belief fading away year on year, but here it was, it was real and I will soon finally be able to play it.

Sony wasn’t done there though. Back at the Playstation Experience we were left dumbfounded by a reveal of a port of a PC version of Final Fantasy VII. This isn’t what we wanted, not like this. However that ‘reveal’ seems like it was a massive troll attempt and maybe even designed to lead to this moment.

Final Fantasy 7 is getting a proper remake. We are getting something else we have wanted for years, but perhaps had given up hope of ever getting. So talking of losing hope, there are two other games that leave that massive hole in our gaming hearts. Half Life 3 being one, but hey that was never happening.

So how about Shenmue III… take that in for a second. Shenmue III is real and can finally give us closure. Now this isn’t an announcement of a release, but for a Kickstarter to get the game made. Yet it meant something, it meant we can get that game we have dreamed of. If it reaches the funding goal it is coming to PC and exclusively to PS4 on console.

Will it make the funding goal? Well it set a target of $2m and as I am writing just an hour after the end of the conference, it is already approaching $900,000 and by the time you read this it will have likely broke $1m and maybe even be funded.

This is going to break records on Kickstarter and to understand just how big of a deal this is, within minutes of the announcement Kickstarter itself was brought to its knees, because that many people flooded the site wanting to put their money down to get this done.

It is currently 04:15 GMT as I write this article, yet I am too hyped up to sleep. This for me is probably the best E3 I have ever seen. Not only has competition allowed Sony and Microsoft to push themselves even further, we also have Bethesda and Square-Enix giving conferences at E3 for the very first time.

Bethesda launched E3 with details on Doom and Fallout 4, including a 2015 release date, but also topped it off with an announcement for Dishonored 2 which, based on the original, will be another cracking title.

Square also must have something big up their sleeve. because why else would they choose to do this? Why now? Why this year? Plus we had EA giving us Mass Effect 4, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 and Battlefront. Then Ubisoft with the wonderful Aisha Tyler providing more The Division, Rainbox Six: Siege and also a new Ghost Recon.

Add to all of that we also have a 3 hour PC presentation to come. This shows me that PC gaming is getting back to the top and has some special stuff to show also. (Half Life 3?) It again is competition that is driving this, giving more reason for developers, publishers and platform holders to want our custom.

As I said at the start, all of this sees only one winner. Us! The gamer, we are being tempted with our wishes being granted, free games and innovation to drive us to certain products. It is impossible to now side with only one for the entirety of a generation, which is why the big hitters are doing so well.

I’ve not even mention the likes of No Man’s Sky, Recourse, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Dark Souls 3, Mirror’s Edge, For Honor, South Park, Trackmania and so much more. Because this E3 more than any other has just blown me away, made me excited for the coming months and even years with the variety of wonderful looking games we have to come.

Oh and also, Unravel, a game about a teddy bear(?) shaped piece of yarn that looks adorable and simply joyful, which came out of the EA conference of all places.

It’s a great time to be a gamer and if this competition heats up anymore, then we are in for a special few years.

GS Plays: The Steam Summer Sale

Do you hate having money? Detest that feeling of having some savings in the bank? Wish you didn’t get paid so you weren’t ruled by the almighty dollar?

Well Valve has a game just for you, one that can either cost you very little, or make you go bankrupt almost instantly. It is called the Steam Sale and it has destroyed lives for years now.

Bradley has recently found his way back into PC gaming and has braved the latest update from Valve’s most popular game to date.

Check the video below!

Watch Now

Steam Sale is available on your browser for free (well you’ll spend £££’s)

GET IT HERE


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Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy Review

You suddenly wake up in the middle of nowhere… your hand stained by someone else’s blood… swiftly accosted by gruesome ghoul-esque figures only to be suddenly rescued by an unknown saviour… to say that the game starts with a bang is a bit of an understatement.

You are thrown into the thick of it from the get-go with only a limited tutorial to start off with, everything else can be accessed via an in-game manual which is fine to a certain extent, however, it can be slightly laborious to access this and fully digest all of the information contained within when it could have been explained in a more obvious manner gradually throughout the game.

I’ll be frank and say that if you’re not into dungeon crawlers then you might as well quit reading now as this game probably won’t be for you. If you’ve never heard of this title before then you can be easily forgiven as it is actually a polished amalgamation of a Japanese language only DRPG trilogy which was originally released on the PC during 2008-2010.

The premise is fairly simple, you are found one day randomly having passed out in an abyss. Upon returning to your place of study, it appears that you have Code-Rise abilities… these abilities allow you to fight against the variants (monsters) that are appearing in the abysses (dungeons) that are popping up all over a near future Tokyo. These Code-Rise abilities essentially allow the user to summon up the power of an ancient hero, giving them super strength and allowing some more studious users to utilise magic spells.

You are quickly indoctrinated into a group otherwise known as the ‘Abyss Company’ whose mission is to seek out and boldly go head first into any abyss at the crack of a whip whenever the CPA (Code Physics Agency) commands. This organisation is seeking to research and to ultimately put an end to the variants once and for all.

Initially, you can choose from basic mode or advanced mode, they are exactly the same in terms of difficulty with advanced mode giving you direct control over the customisation (looks) of your characters. Once you have your characters, it’s time to start storming the abysses and completing all and any missions that are assigned to you. These come in two flavours: 1. missions that will advance the story – which to be honest, if you’re familiar with dungeon crawlers you may expect by default, no plot whatsoever and whilst Operation Abyss does have a good fair old go at constructing a storyline, it isn’t particularly spectacular and it’s not really until the 2nd half of the game that the plot really hits its stride. 2. Side quests which either involve exterminating a supremely powerful variant, finding something for someone or well… searching for someone who keeps getting lost.

Some of these missions are purely aggravating as you’ll repeat the same or very similar missions over and over – in particular there is one ‘find a lost person’ mission that went on for a bit too long… I mean, how much can one person get so lost that they seemingly never even seem to have a remote clue of where they are? I’m not one for overt realism in games but I did think that this was taking it a bit too far – questing just for the sake of quests!

Exploration of dungeons bounces between an addictive exciting excursion where you’ve no idea what lies round the corner to seemingly never ending drudgery as you traipse round an already explored dungeon looking for one specific square with no clue other than ‘it’s further deeper in!’. The dungeons themselves are fairly plain looking, somewhat reminiscent of what an HD version of Wolfenstein 3D or the original Doom would look like now. This could have been a really gritty and grimy game but instead most of the sections are quite bland and fairly neutral – some blood stained floors or dirty walls wouldn’t have gone amiss. Occasionally you’ll come across something out of the ordinary, spirits or a couple of dead corpses tucked away in an obscure corner of the map. In contrast to the dull dungeons, the sprites are really nicely done, as well as having interesting and unique designs – they definitely have utilised the whole colour pallette, it’s just a shame that there isn’t much in the way of attack animations.

During your tedious plod around each abyss, you’ll encounter a number of random battles which play out in a slightly strange manner, namely you cannot attack the variant that you want, instead you will attack one variant within a whole group – this detracts from the strategy of the game but actually makes it a bit more difficult and random. It is also imperative that you use magic to heal yourself and cure yourself of any ailments as these can and will get you killed if you don’t tend to them as soon as possible.

The dungeons themselves are laid out on a map in a similar vein to Etrian Odyssey which automatically becomes uncovered upon exploring it. There are various sections, dark areas where only the map is visible, water, shock panels, dispel panels and a number of other traps just waiting to trip you up. Figuring out the puzzles and routes in the dungeons can be fun sometimes but often you’ll find that you’ll figure out the route only to be stopped by a locked door and the game will give you absolutely no hint as to what key is required. Luckily there is a system similar to Dark Souls where players can write notes that are scattered around the dungeon.

There are a few caveats around levelling up as well. You can only level up when you go back to the medical centre to rest which can make exploring dungeons difficult when you’ve levelled up a few times and really could do with that extra power in order to vanquish the variants. Near the beginning of the game, you are also level capped to 15 until you progress with the story which seemed a bit pointless given the battle mechanics and that variants will become stronger and more aggressive the longer you fight them, until you choose to flee from battle which lowers the variant levels.

As for the voice acting, only the English audio and text is available, after a bit of research this is apparently due to the way the game was programmed. In general the sound isn’t fantastic, memorable or alluring and the only real sound of note that I found was the one where the characters bump into a wall (which will happen quite frequently if you start dozing off in the middle of a mission like I did on many occasions).

Customisation and crafting really is the game’s strong point, it takes a while to figure out at first but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be well away with creating stronger weapons, breaking down older ones for parts, analysing armour and boosting the stats of your current gear. There is what feels like a metric ton of gear to carefully construct, boost, affix and break down if required. I really enjoyed analysing the junk gear that variants dropped along with creating exotic and rare items.

Overall, this was a frustrating and lukewarm experience that lacked cohesion and synergy. There are a lot of unusual and intriguing elements along with brilliant customisation. However, they are all quite loosely tied together and whilst it isn’t the worst game ever, it unfortunately doesn’t live up to the developer’s previous high standards that were set by Demon Gaze.

Quick Views: Guild Of Dungeoneering (Steam)

Welcome to a new feature on Gamestyle where we give you a short rundown on Early Access and soon to be released titles in a couple of short paragraphs, just to give you a heads up on what to keep an eye out for.

Up first is Guild of Dungeoneering, a turn-based dungeon crawler with a Deck Building mechanic.

The idea here is that you build a  deck of cards that allow you to build and travel through dungeons, battling monsters and collecting loot, with your end goal to rebuild your guild to former glories.

What I found here with my initial look at the game, was that it is very easy to understand, with a simple but effective tutorial mission to ease you into things. You get given an initial deck of cards, which contain a mix of dungeon room and paths, as well as various battle cards, that each have their own abilities to attack and defend against the various monsters you confront.

What is nice here too, is that you also draw loot cards, which you choose where to place and by collecting the loot dropped from these cards, you can then spend those rewards on improving your guild and taken on bigger and tougher enemies.

Each dungeon is technically procedurally generated as you lay down the cards to fit on a part filled map, creating special rooms which may contain extra drops, or even have nasty surprises laying in wait. This works well to make sure each run feels different and keeps things fresh on the whole.

Battles are fairly simple too, you see a choice of cards you can lay, where you work out what is best to beat your opponents card and hopefully inflict damage on them.

Guild of Dungeoneering is out on 14th July 2015 and despite being a month away from release it is looking very solid and well polished. Whilst it won’t be a mainstay game in your collection it is shaping up to be a nice side game to dip in and out of every now and again.

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 12th June 2015

Brad and John take a look at the charts and releases for week ending 12th June (Friday).

We give you our thoughts on some of the standout titles each week as well as having a more in depth talk about one that we really feel deserves the attention, whether that be positive or negative.

This week Bradley gets excited for Match-3 game ‘You Must Build A Boat’ and also reveals his interest in the Dyatlov Pass Incident and why he loves KHOLAT so much.

All this as well as discussion on the charts and the rest of the week’s new releases.

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks)

This Week’s Top 10

1. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
2. GRAND THEFT AUTO V
3. FIFA 15
4. SPLATOON
5. BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE
6. PROJECT CARS
7. FARMING SIMULATOR 15
8. DESTINY
9. MINECRAFT: XBOX EDITION
10. CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE

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


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KHOLAT Review

KHOLAT was somewhat of a surprise release for me. I had literally heard nothing of it, but the name rang a bell. Why was this you ask? Well I love the unexplained and the name of Kholat pretty much defines unexplained.

A few years ago, I was searching the internet, going down a trail of searches that led me to a story known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Essentially what happened was, in 1959 a group of nine hikers led by Igor Dyatlov went missing in the Kholat Syakhl region of the Ural mountains in Russia.

 

Their bodies were eventually recovered, but their injuries and what led to where each body was found was somewhat of a mystery. The main part of this being the types of injuries suffered, but the lack of external injuries that would show signs of a struggle. Basically the impossible had happened.

I don’t want to delve too deep in to this right now, but if you want to know more, then there is plenty of theories out there, including written material, films and more. These theories range from the down right skeptical, backed up with scientific ‘facts’, to the more outlandish, which will mention aliens and other such forces that shouldn’t be possible.

It is fascinating stuff and the fact that it still remains a mystery some fifty six years later, shows that there is no definitive answer, no outright truth as to what happened to the nine lost souls. Which, in turn, makes it ripe for story telling, which is where KHOLAT comes in.

KHOLAT the game, is clearly from the mind of someone who has their own ideas about what happened in 1959 and uses many of the accounts of what may have happened, such as certain lights in the sky, noises and the like. It is used in such a way as to create a solid foundation as to what your objectives are.

If you have played and like games such as Outlast, you will be at home with the basic premise of how KHOLAT will work. It is a first person exploration horror game, but instead of the usual setting of an abandoned hospital or somewhere else claustrophobic, KHOLAT instead put you into an open world, which somehow makes you feel even more claustrophobic than those other games in this genre.

The Ural mountain setting is vast and open, but it also feels like it is closing in on you, as you feel drawn to certain areas, or down certain paths, all of this pretty much done on a whim, on a feeling that this is where you should be going, like a force is guiding you.

There is no HUD to tell you where you are, or where you are going. Instead what you have is a basic map and a compass, that you must pull out and read to have any clue as to your destination. Imagine the map and compass idea from Far Cry 2, but with any way point or guide assistance completely removed.

I have some experience of map reading from my days in the army cadets and it seems you will need to be able to trust yourself with a map, as you are simply given this one map, with a few co-ordinates written in the corner and a mark to show where your camp is. You don’t even get a marker to say where you are at this current moment in time. So if you get lost (and you will get lost) you have two options.

One is to push on to where you think you should be heading, or the other is to make your way back to the camp and start again. Even that can be difficult, because the weather in the Ural mountains can really mess with your sense of direction. As can the the feeling that you are never safe.

It seems that every step you take there is something that can distract and disorientate you, whether that be reaching your chosen destination and discovering another piece of the puzzle, catching something out of the corner of your eye, or even hearing something that you are compelled to investigate.

There are jump scares, but even these don’t seem to be part of some major reveal, in fact they mainly seem to add to the mystery even more, as you ask yourself what the hell that was and why it is.

It is amazing how beautiful this game is both visually and in the sound department, especially as you are in areas that are designed to feel the same, designed to bring that sense of isolation. But just looking at the snow beating into your face, whilst you hear chilling wind and watch trees blowing around, it somehow just looks and feels wondrous, all whilst still making you feel on edge and tentative.

In terms of gameplay KHOLAT just about manages to walk a line between being a pure walking simulator and a nothing dull walk here do that type affair, because that is pretty much the crux of it. You find a co-ordinate, reach it, find a note or something to further unravel the mystery, rinse and repeat. But because the story is such a mystery, you feel so immersed.

I would recommend reading up on the Dyatlov Pass Incident before playing, because I felt  having a knowledge of the source material helped me understand the game more, as despite an overview of the incident in the intro and some wonderful narration from Sean Bean, there is no real guide as to what you must do, or how you must do it. The story is only expanded upon at the start and end of acts and through the various notes you find.

The game does start to fall apart a little towards the end, but it somehow manages to just about finish before it gets too stretched out. It doesn’t quite fit with my own theory on what happened in 1959, but it does follow on the more interesting theories I have read about.

This is a great example of a game that not only looks and sounds stunning, but is willing to take a risk with a known true life event and run with their own thoughts on what happened and doing it in a way that doesn’t insult either the source material or its audience.

The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum Review

I have a predisposition to avoid games by NIS. This is not because they do anything wrong or I dislike the games they make. Rather I have lost a great number of hours to Disgaea and its sequels over the years, and I have much less free time than I used to. So seeing those three letters when loading up The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum filled me with a sense of dread mixed with a little anticipation of diving down a rabbit hole. Luckily, for me, the outcome was somewhat of a relief.

A visual novel cum dungeon crawler, The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum couples copious amounts of (mostly well voice acted) reading with some moral dilemmas and straightforward, yet potentially punishing, turn based exploration.

This is a sequel to The Guided Fate Paradox, which (full disclosure) I did not play. However having finished The Awakened Fate, outside of some characters from the previous game turning up in the post-game content, I did not notice any references and so there is no requirement to have played the former game. Which was good as the story was interesting enough to keep me playing until the end. Cast as Shin Kamikaze (no, really), he is killed by a team of devils and subsequently revived by angels to become their God and change the course of the ongoing war between the forces of Celestia and the Netherworld. This is all before the first bit of dungeon crawling. Shin is a bit of a loner but gains two companions in the form of an angel called Jupiel and a devil (working for the angels) called Ariael. The story, whilst fairly predictable, is well written and Shin believably develops as a character over the course of the game.

Presented as a series of chapters, each part also has a randomly generated dungeon to explore where the goal is to reach the lowest level and/or defeat the boss that waits there. Due to the circumstances of his revival Shin is able to ‘deitize’ at will to either an angel or devil form each of which gives an advantage against opposite enemy types. Each form also grants access to different abilities yet the majority of the time I found the standard attack to be sufficient. This system rarely adds an extra layer to proceedings as with some diligence you can usually limit battles to a one on one encounter and the biggest challenge I found, to begin with, was remembering to change back to human form after a fight.

However careful planning is the most important factor as mistakes can result in rapidly losing health. If this runs out then the dungeon is failed and you are booted back to the pre-dungeon menu sans all of the items Shin was carrying, including those which were equipped, but keeping all the experience earned. Due to an item upgrade system this can result in losing a powered up weapon that has had huge amounts of money poured into. While this could be extremely annoying there are items that can limit this (including a revival gem and an exit) but these take up valuable inventory space. There is also a factor of risk as you can easily get into a situation where the next hit will defeat an enemy but if you miss Shin will run out of health. This is a bigger issue the further you reach in a dungeon as if you leave you start from the first floor again. In the worst case scenario there is a shop available to purchase items, but these are not as good as the ones you find lying around when exploring.

Levelling up grants a point to spend on a huge grid, split into angel and devil sides, to use to increase an attribute or grant a new ability for the corresponding form. This also ties in with the ‘Ultimate Choices’ that appear throughout the game. These present some dilemmas and are not the typical black and white choices. An early decision sees you weighing up helping injured angels resulting in more being hurt, or abandoning the wounded to take the fight to the devils which will result in fewer casualties in the long run. The game is peppered with such choices however they do not appear to have much impact on the story. On trying both options on a couple of choices the exact same scenario unfolded after taking a slightly different path to get there. However while the game tries to present these as grey scenarios the options are presented as either favouring Jupiel or Ariael. Furthermore when you make a choice you get a level up point for the corresponding side. As I was aiming to put equal points in the angel and devil sides I tended to base my moral choices around which side I needed the point for rather than the potential outcome of my decision. I think that says more about me than the game.

Whilst I enjoyed the story I don’t have particularly strong feelings for The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum. Nothing stands out as bad and exploring dungeons presented the right level of challenge throughout, but at the same time it does nothing to get especially excited about. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not every game needs to be revolutionary or a blockbuster, and The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum was an overall pleasant experience.

Preparation of a Presentation – E3

Early June, mere weeks before E3. A large, south-facing corporate meeting room in the platform holder’s building. Large windows allow natural light in and a number of potted plants quietly photosynthesise. One man in a suit is about to open his test run of a presentation to another man in a suit…

 

“Hello”

“I think I’ll have to stop you there. Do the kids still say “hello”?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they don’t”

“Your phone is right there.”

“I don’t know any kids to call though. I could call a school, would that be weird?”

“What? Yes it would be weird. I mean search the internet with it.”

“Ah. Search, yes”

“You don’t know how to, do you?”

“Not on my phone”

“We made that phone.”

“Haha”

“No, really. We did.”

“Oh.”

“We make lots of other things. They used to be the focus of the business.”

“Did they really?”

“They did.”

“Then why aren’t they doing that any more?”

“I think they thought they’d make more money from the games industry.”

“We make more money than movies, you know. It says that later in my speech”

“We’ll see.”

“That’s fascinating! Everyone loves movies. They had women in one of them recently too you know.”

“So what have you got after hello? We’ll mark that as a maybe.”

“I think we should get a focus group to work on that”

“Good idea, so what is after hello?”

“and welcome”

“Hm. OK, we’ll see what the focus groups come back with on hello and we might need to change that too.”

“I thought this year we could take out some of the sales figures stuff, you know, for the kids. They must hate that stuff”

“Oh god no.”

“What? Surely they don’t enjoy that stuff?”

“Oh, no. They hate it, but if we get rid of that we’ll have a twenty minute show and everyone will mock us.”

“I suppose. I’ll need to get some figures then”

“We’ll get the factories to confirm how many we’re building in the next five years and use that.”

“Can’t we use sales figures?”

“Now why would we do a silly thing like that? Anyway, what next?”

“I’d not got much further, I don’t know what we’ve got to announce”

“Oh, sorry. Pretty much nothing.”

“What?”

“I mean, we’ve got a few things coming out in the next couple of years, but we’ve already announced those. There’s no way we can afford to do more than a couple of things a year, they cost way too much.”

“Third party exclusives?”

“No, but we’ve got a couple of timed-DLC exclusives.”

“Main single-player content?”

“Just costumes and stuff.”

“That’s not very good.”

“Well, no, but we can still invite Ubisoft on stage to demonstrate the game for ten minutes based on that. That’ll pad it out.”

“Even I know everyone hates Ubisoft, we can’t have them on our stage!”

“Everyone does hate Ubisoft, but everyone forgets they hate Ubisoft whenever Ubisoft announce something.”

“But if it’s only for the announcement…”

“It lasts. They remember being excited about the announcement, then they buy the game and…”

“…And then they hate Ubisoft.”

“Exactly. But as long as we distance ourselves a bit by Christmas we can give them as long as they want on stage.”

“Indie games!”

“Bless you.”

“No, I mean, I wrote indie games down here in my notes. They were huge the last two or three years, everyone loved the focus on them”

“You remember our meetings?”

“Well, yes, we might have only put them in as we didn’t have any real games, but…”

“I think people worked out that we made them up to fill time on stage.”

“We probably should have released some of them…”

“Probably, but we can mention them again this year at least. It’s not like they’re real indies anyway, they’re just developers too scared to pitch for triple A amounts of money”

“True, on both counts”

“Anyway, important part. Who is going to play us out? I was thinking Avicii…”

Space Colony Review

When I had a PC in my early years, I loved playing The Sims. I played it in two ways, depending on how I felt. One was to try and make my little sim family have a nice life, the other was to torture them. I loved that game, I really did, but I never really felt any of the sequels and had no interest in the console rehashes and me too type games.

I also never knew of a game called Space Colony, which was essentially The Sims in space. Which a younger me would have loved…LOVED. Unfortunately for me, this was originally released in 2003 by which time I was primarily a console gamer.

It really is hard to to describe Space Colony as anything but The Sims, as it shares so much with the classic life simulator. There are some things that set it apart such as a story mode alongside the other options of sandbox and galaxy modes.

The story features on Venus, a woman who is sent to the planet to do contracted work, during her time she will build out the colony, meet new people and eventually have further interactions with various other alien races, both good and bad.

Whilst Venus is the main focus early on, she actually becomes less important it seems as you progress and are introduced to new people. Those can do other jobs, improve their own relationships and much more. You don’t totally forget Venus, but it makes you wonder why she is introduced as such an important part.

The story is fairly short, but is entertaining enough and actually makes a better tutorial than the actual tutorial. Most of my time is currently spent in the sandbox mode, where I can play more like The Sims I loved all those years ago.

You have numerous planets open to you and it is completely open, allowing you to expand as much as you see fit. The simplistic controls and menus mean you can easily concentrate on building areas and managing relationships and character needs. It works well as not a main focus game, but one you can dip in and out of on a daily or semi regular basis.

Presentation leaves a lot to be desired and still looks like a game straight out of 2003, with a fixed isometric view and some janky looking graphics. Whilst it isn’t ugly as such, it feels like a game that wouldn’t lose character by getting a lick of HD paint… unlike Homeworld which lost tons of character.

That being said, I do feel like I am being petty here, it does what it needs to do and nothing more. I have spent time in and out of this game since picking it up and will continue to do so for a while yet, as it enters my regular rotation of quick play games to go alongside the meatier titles.

If you liked The Sims and you like space, then you will love this, it is fairly deep but is easy for the casual gamer to get into, striking a wonderful balance for all. You can do better, but you can also do a hell of a lot worse.

GS Plays: Turmoil (Steam) Early Access

Have you always wanted to be an oil baron? Dreamed of being alive in simpler times? Or even just watched the excellent There Will Be Blood?

Well, what you didn’t know, is that you really do want to play a simulation game about drilling for oil. Honestly you really do, especially one that is as well put together as Turmoil.

Despite this being a Quick Look for an Early Access game, I actually forgot that this wasn’t a completed title yet and still needs work, such is the quality of what we have access to now.

Turmoil is a simple, yet challenging take on the simulation games, that does away with realism to allow you to concentrate on the fun side of things at a pretty nice pace. Most of the on-screen parts are made up of lovely bright visual, but there is still plenty of graphs and stats for those who love that sort of thing.

Anyway, check the video below!

Watch Now

Turmoil is available on Steam Early Access for £6.99

GET IT HERE


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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III Review

You know what? I am a fool, a fool who lives in his own bubble of optimism. I like to try and think only good things about games, because people put their time and effort into making these pieces of entertainment that I think many of us take for granted. Which is why generally I won’t attack many games negatively, because there is always some good in them.

Which is why it pains me a little to write this review, because the good in this case only rarely pops out from cover to let us know it is there. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III are anything but incredible.

I found out a couple of years back that I liked Diablo. Actually scratch that, I loved Diablo and even liked many other games that are either in the same genre, or that have basically tried to clone Blizzard’s glorious title.

There have been many that have been wonderful in their own right and others that whilst not being as good as Diablo, have at least been entertaining and given me my money’s worth. So I was pretty optimistic going into The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing III, I’d not played the previous two, but had heard good things.

Here is the problem for me. This is a game that so wants to be a Diablo type game, but doesn’t quite know how to make it fun, how to bring enjoyment to your time with it. It just doesn’t seem to get what makes a game like this such a joyous thing.

My first and biggest issue is with the controls, they are clunky, awkward and just don’t feel as smooth as they need to be to really concentrate on the action. Becasue that is what makes a game like this work, controls that become second nature, that don’t mean you are concentrating on your character, but rather the intense action that surrounds you.

Here though, you are so focussed on Van Helsing himself, to make sure he is where you want him, is aiming correctly and generally doing what you want, that you often get overrun by groups of enemies.

Now I am not against difficult games, I love a challenge, but only if that is by design. Difficult because enemy AI is recognising your attack patterns, or using techniques to create more damage, not because you just can’t concentrate on what is important.

The same goes with the looting in the game, at no point did I feel myself getting excited about what may drop or what I can gain to make my character even better. If anything it just feels like it was put in the game because it is the done thing.

So therein lays another massive problem, Van Helsing III just isn’t fun, it lacks character, which is criminal withy a game that features a well known creation in the world of literature. It is a great starting point and there are loads of references to create something special, it just isn’t here.

Now it isn’t all bad, so I do want to finish on a couple of positives. Firstly, despite the lack of character in the game, the visuals and the world creation are pretty damned sublime. It’s why I got so excited when I first booted the game, it just look wonderful, the effects, the lighting, the atmosphere are there in spades.

The other thing I really did like and the one thing that pushed me further, was the mission structure. The main and side quests mix together really well and you do get to meet some interesting characters and potentially some good lore based stories, it’s just that these are never expanded on enough.

Now The Incredible Adventues of Van Helsing III isn’t the absolute worst game you can think of, it does have some nice ideas and it looks lovely and many of the issues I mention above can be patched and the issues I have with the lack of character are personal due to an interest in Bram Stoker’s original creation and what became of that over the years. Others will unlikely share those same concerns.

However. in a world where this genre has been done so much better and there are so many other options, it is nigh on impossible to recommend it to anyone.

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries Review

The blankets are numerous, wrapped around the foot of the bed, around the sides, pressing me down in place. A nightcap covering my head. Downstairs a commotion, the door forced open and it promptly stomps upstairs and frowningly Woolfe enters the room.

We squint at each other.

Woolfe opens…”My…my those are big eyes”

I nod. Eyes widened, like those of many of the Kickstarter backers, by the concept art that made Woolfe so tempting to back and it really does shine through in the game. A good solid 3D engine and great art direction make the world of Woolfe consistently attractive and however generic the settings are, they’re always worth a pause to admire. The use of generally well-placed secrets encourage a bit more exploration of the world and it’s hard to pick any problems at all. The sound, apart from a few problems noted later, is good and the music is well-suited. This is a very good looking and well presented game.

Woolfe tucks a finger under the blanket, frowns. “I see you’ve got ears too”

Already Woolfe’s presence in my room is trying. The story here is odd, frankly. Everything feels compelled to mention fairy tales with no link to what is happening in game, but then the overall story has no real relationship to any fairy tale. It’s just broadly miserable with main character Red defined by her family members who have died. For a hero, she’s portrayed as little more than a dislikeable psychopath which reduces the story to a battle of evil against another evil rather than bringing in any moral vaguery. The key enemy in the story is built up all game then only appears on screen for 5 minutes and is essentially an evil version of Mandrake the Magician. The Pied Piper is the only other enemy, who responds to questions by playing his flute and manages only to evoke the Scottish hotel owner in Little Britain. His flute-only responses do mean he avoids one of the main dialogue problems:

Sometimes the lines all start to rhyme, but then after a little time, just suddenly stop and you’re left with something that makes no real sense at all.

Such awkward speeches are padded out by jokes to help define Red but they fall flat and on at least one occasion try and get a laugh at flaws in the game itself.

I reach up to bring the covers back into place. “Your fingers are so…elegant” says Woolfe.

That may be, but they’re of little help here. Where the world is gorgeous, the interaction with it isn’t. The eternal problem of the lack of precision of 2.5D platformers have regarding aiming jumps and which platforms can be interacted with isn’t solved. The brief moments when the game returns to a 2D plane are a relief and see the game at its best but they’re too few and far between. The combat is as vague, with no real art to taking down enemies beyond bashing and hoping. There is a slow-motion button and a number of special moves that are both awkward to trigger and slightly useless that add no depth either. There’s just not enough in either case to really feel like the game can claim confidence and this is really where it all starts to fall down.

Woolfe knows. Woolfe has to know, but it risks it anyway. “Your teeth are bared. Why?”

My Gamestyle preview ended asking for polish. The core gameplay problems above were never going to be fixed, but tiny things going wrong spoil the whole experience. There are so many tiny technical glitches too that undermine the game. Sound from the cut-scenes suddenly cuts ou…and then ANOTHER POPS IN MORE LOUDLY BEFO…and then you’re back at the game just as suddenly. The end of cut-scenes will sometimes transition you back into the game where you’re already being attacked by enemies, or watching a platform you need to stand on disappear, or…for a game that has left Early Access it’s disappointing.

“Come closer and you’ll see” Woolfe leans forward into range, “they’re all the better to eat you with” and I snap. I bite down angrily, swallowing down and spitting it back out disgusted.

Even despite all those problems, the strength of the art gets a long way to carrying the game through to a recommendation. After two or three hours you get used to the problems to an extent. Then the game finishes. Apparently this, like Broken Age, is a Kickstarter project that raised over its aim and yet only provides the first part of the game. Unlike that, there doesn’t seem to be much made of this being the first part, it certainly doesn’t mention it on the Steam page and as a standalone game ends in a massively unsatisfying manner. With the second part seemingly relying on the success of the first, it seems possible or even probable that the other half will never appear. The first half gives itself no time to develop, no time to offer anything new, no time to really do anything of anything apart from offer up new glitches. And thus, this game is not recommended.

GS Plays: You Must Build A Boat (Steam)

Puzzle games are wonderful aren’t they? But do you remember a time when they hadn’t had their soul ripped from them by Free to Play mechanics. Mechanics such as timed lives, pay to win boosts and the like?

Remember when the likes of Tetris, Columns, Puyo Pop, Puzzle Quest, Dr Mario, etc were just about the skill of it all? Remember how great it felt to get better scores, or progress because you were beating the game and not the game allowing you a small taste of success in the hopes of you spending more money to get that feeling again?

Well, You Must Build A Boat, the sequel to the fabulous 10000000 by EightyEight games does just that. Building on the base mechanics set out by the original to create a fine game that reminds you of those glory days of the puzzle game.

Anyway, check the video below!

You Must Build A Boat is available on Steam For £3.99

GET IT HERE

 

Watch Now


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Brad and John’s Game Reviews – 5th June 2015

Brad and John take a look at the charts and releases for week ending 5th June (Friday).

We give you our thoughts on some of the standout titles each week as well as having a more in depth talk about one that we really feel deserves the attention, whether that be positive or negative.

This week Splatoon gets a bit of discussion as it debuts at number 2 in the charts, before looking Bradley gives his opinion on the recently released Massive Chalice from Double Fine.

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks)

This Week’s Top 10

1. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
2. SPLATOON
3. GRAND THEFT AUTO V
4. FIFA 15
5. FARMING SIMULATOR 15
6. BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE
7. PROJECT CARS
8. DESTINY
9. MORTAL KOMBAT X
10. MINECRAFT XBOX EDITION

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


 Listen on Soundcloud


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The Gamestyle Podcast – Episode 00

Welcome to a new podcast from Gamestyle.

From the ashes of Gamestyle Live, the Gamestyle Podcast rises. Brad is joined by Reviews co-host John, as well as husband and wife writers Jon and Stacey.

This week is somewhat of a test episode to iron out any technical issues ready for next week’s official launch and to make sure we all get on.

Things are a bit ropey early on, but get smoother as the podcast moves on.

Also, listen to the end for a chance to win Steins;Gate on PS Vita (UK)

Oh and finally…We did have Barbie Girl by Aqua as the intro initially, but the podcast got taken down by Soundcloud.


Listen on Soundcloud


Listen and Subscribe on iTunes

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


Reviews and Ratings

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Splatoon Review

Trust Nintendo to take an established genre (the third person online shooter) and bring its own, colourful twist. It’s a style of game that you wouldn’t expect them to make, especially as the Japanese giant has been criticised many times for not quite understanding how the Internet works.

Although there is a single player component, Splatoon is largely being pushed as an online experience. Following a short tutorial explaining the moves (and unfortunately forcing you to use some terrible motion controls) you’re then thrust into the lobby area. This is where the real people hang out and share Miiverse posts with each other, or you can look at what items people have equipped and order them from the rather shady guy hanging out in the backstreets. There are also shops to buy new equipment and, of course, the main hub where you enter online matches. It’s like Destiny, but without the dancing.

There are certain moments during the game where it does feel like “my first online shooter”, which of course for Nintendo it is. So lobbies are very basic and the matchmaking doesn’t seem to know how to match with people in closer proximity. So a number of times I was matched up with players in Japan. Thankfully lag was unnoticeable in most matches with only a couple of disconnects occurring, but then that could be because everything was moving at such a high pace it’s hard to notice any latency in the paintballs hitting.

The first online mode that was added was Turf War. The aim being to paint as much of the map in your colour before time expires and naturally shooting the enemy as well if they get in your way. It means it plays completely differently to any other shooter out there. The first thing most players will do at the start is circle their own spawn point and paint it all before venturing out into the more contested ground. Weapons come with their own strengths and weakness, so for example while the paint rollers are great at painting the map, when coming across an opponent they’re only really useful in close quarters.

The most unique part of the game though is the way you can turn into a squid and travel through your paint. It means being able to scale walls, go through grates and take cover when you’re under attack. And it’s used to recharge your paint gun. It also graphically looks rather nice, much like the rest of the game. Nintendo certainly know how to get the best out of their somewhat limited hardware.

Actually since I started writing this review Nintendo have already added new modes. These are a King of the Hill style mode called Splat Zones and ranked matches. It bodes well for the future of the game, especially as it made it to #2 in the charts, something which seemed unlikely for a Wii U exclusive and new IP. Long may this support continue.

The six maps released so far are all brilliantly designed, making it hard to pick out a favourite. No team has the advantage, there’s plenty of different routes through the level and they’re not too big or small. It’s impressive when you consider this is Nintendo’s first attempt at this kind of game. As for the single player content, well that’s a bit of a surprise

Despite being positioned as mainly an online game, there’s still a good slice of single player content here. A number of stages are played out with the aim to reach the end, killing all the enemies and navigating the world in order to rescue the Zapfish. Surprisingly these levels don’t feel like an afterthought and actually have a number of clever features I wish were in the online portion, such as being able to travel along zip lines and a cleverer use of the terrain.

In addition, using one of the Splatoon amiibos unlocks a number of different challenges for each of the levels, and each coming with their own reward.

Splatoon just screams Nintendo. Everything about it from the bright, colourful world, to the addictive gameplay make this a great online shooter. It may lack the options of its realistic brethren, but I haven’t had this much fun online in a while. If Nintendo continue this continued support then this could very well be one of the best games on the Wii U by the end of the year.

GS Plays: Super Indie Karts (Steam) Early Access

Remember Super Mario Kart on the SNES? Well, we do and Bradley still claims it is the best of the Mario Karts to date.

So when Super Indie Karts appeared on Steam Early access he could help but take it for a spin and what he found was the greatest homage to the Nintendo classic he has ever seen.

It is a game as Indie as it can get too, made by a single developer, featuring lots of cameos from Indie characters from other Indie games and it even has the word Indie in the title.

This is also a great example of the sort of game that should be on Early Access, something that is not quite ready yet, but it still showing lots of promise.

Anyway, check the video below!

Super Indie Karts is available on Steam Early Access

GET IT HERE

 

Watch Now


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Bradborne – Part 5 (and 4)

So it seems after a huge technical issue last week, Brad forgot to upload part 4 of Bradborne. Well worry ye not, as it is here as part of a double header with Part 5.

It is a couple of weeks where things go bad, Brad somehow just forgets everything and becomes more and more frustrated. Yet in Part 5, he will bring out his evil side and show the glee he has when he finds new ways to murder his foes.

Also moments of survival that just defy the odds.

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

PART 4

PART 5

Previous episodes can be found HERE.

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

Pinball FX2 / Zen Pinball Tables

We have a trio of tables from Pinball FX 2 / Zen Pinball for you as Steve gives you a quick run down on which of these is worth your time.

 

Star Wars Rebels

When all is said and done, pinball is pinball. Ramps, bumpers, ball locks, flippers, being completely unable to judge where the hell you’re supposed to hit the bloody ball because you have all the hand-eye co-ordination of a meth addict with a head injury, all that good stuff. What Zen do with their seemingly endless stream of downloadable tables is try and make them thematically interesting. I mean, chances are you’re going to buy them all anyway, because why wouldn’t you when each is less than the price of a coffee, but not all themes necessarily appeal to all people.

This is the case with the Star Wars Rebels table. After rinsing the living hell out of every other aspect of the Star Wars franchise for table inspiration, it’s no surprise that Rebels got the treatment as well. The table itself is fine, if a little uninspired, but not being familiar with the source cartoon (and thusly not giving a rats bollock about it) most of the character references, voices and mode themes are lost on me. It’s probably aimed at younger gamers, although I’m not sure how many kids play pinball. Also, as a table taken on it’s own merits it’s just not interesting enough to recommend. It’s all a bit too simple and bland, especially when you could be playing the excellent Empire Strikes Back table.

VERDICT: NAY.


 

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

The second of the trio of tables reviewed today is the Avengers Age of Ultron table, which suffers from pretty much the opposite problems that Rebels had. It’s needlessly complex in its requirements for Wizard Mode, the table art is really busy and makes it difficult to see what’s going and generally has too much extra gubbins that seem to be tacked on for the sake of it.

Take the choice of difficulty level at the beginning of the game, for example. It changes the score and time available in modes and the pitch of the table, but it just seems to serve no real purpose other than to make it unnecessarily convoluted.

Also, as bizarre as this may sound, it takes itself far too seriously. It’s a pinball table, for God’s sake, but the way the incidental dialogue is delivered (by a mix of credible and completely awful soundalikes) you’d think they were in some broadway drama or something. As such, it’s just no fun. Zen are capable of very entertaining tables, and Marvel has no end of licenses to pillage (as has been seen already with the multitude of licensed tables already available) so it’s just disappointing.

VERDICT: NAY.


 

Portal

The final table is a bit off an odd one. When the Portal table was announced most people went “Buh? Wah?” and then put their tin foil hats on and tried to extrapolate some way of it meaning Half-Life 3 was about to be announced but I gave a little squee of excitement as more Portal in any form isn’t a bad thing. It’s a simple table, probably more simple than Rebels is, but it has the bonus of being fun to play. I know I keep prattling on about fun but why the hell would you play video games if they weren’t fun?

One thing I like about the table is that it’s a high scorer. It’s easy to trigger the (thematically wonderful) modes and rack up some decent scores from them and there aren’t too many of them that lead up to Wizard Mode. The table is relatively clutter free, has some lovely set dressing and uses samples from Portal 2 as its dialogue. As it should be. Getting a soundalike to do GlaDOS would be easy given the post processing on Ellen McLain’s voice, but also a borderline heretical notion.

Out of the 3 Portal feels most fun, simply because it  isn’t over blown and it isn’t boring. Being rewarded with a decent high score despite being a cack handed chimp is always going to get a thumbs up from me, so if the Portal theme doesn’t float your boat then you might as well give this table a miss too. Saying that, if you don’t get on with Portal we can’t be friends anyway.

VERDICT: YAY

 

The Next Penelope: Race to Odysseus Review

When I first heard of The Next Penelope and found out it was a racing game, I just couldn’t get the image of a futuristic Wacky Races out of my head. Sadly this has nothing to do with that at all. Thankfully it is still a cracking game.

My first impression of The Next Penelope is that if there was to ever be a proper 2D Wipeout clone, then this would be much of the way to being that, however it is a lot more than a simple racing game, which I will come to in a bit.

What really impressed me early on, was the way your ship controlled, the momentum, the inertia, everything was spot on, even the differences in speed. I was a little concerned when first starting the game up, to be informed I didn’t need to worry about accelerating and the game would do this automatically.

However, it really works well, as do the choices with how you steer the ship. You can either use the left analogue stick in a similar way you’d expect in a Micro Machines or the like, essentially a more traditional option. Or you can use the left and right triggers to make left and right turns.

I found that the triggers offered a greater control, especially when navigating a series of corners or battling other craft.

The combat and racing in the game are top notch and offer up a decent challenge and whilst laps are pretty short on the whole and the field can be sparse, the action is always there and keeping you involved.

What really makes this game stand out though is the story and the setting and usually I am one for despising story in racing games, just let me race and do away with the fluff but here it is integral to what makes this game work.

The concept here is simply bizarre, ancient Greek mythology mixed with futuristic racer, which not only includes racing, but also traditional boss battles that would feel at home in bullet-hell shooters or a game such as Velocity.

It blows my mind that not only could someone combine these aspects, both in terms of setting, but also gameplay, but that they could also make it work and work really well.

Again, there are things here that I pretty much hate in certain genres, such as upgrading elements of your craft, but here it really does make sense and it fits with a story that is really well scripted.

Now whilst this next bit shouldn’t have an impact on one’s feelings towards a game, sometimes it is hard to ignore.  The Next Penelope is a one man game, a proper one man effort too. Aurelien Regard has programmed the game, done the artwork, the music, etc and I can tell you this; it is another example of an Indie that puts AAA studio output to shame.

It has been in Early Access for a while, but I largely wanted to avoid it until it got a full release, so I am unable to comment on any issues it may have had, but the simple fact is this; The Next Penelope has released without any bugs or issues that I have been able to find.

There is a multiplayer option included, but at the point of this review I have been unable to test this, as I have had no one to play with me. This is because it is local multiplayer only, which is a shame, because it could be a ton of fun with online play. Again I appreciate this is a game by a single person, so hopefully it is something that can be added should the game sell as well as it deserves.

I went into The Next Penelope with low expectations, a game that would be fun for a couple of hours and then move on. What I found though was something that has blown me away, forget this being an achievement of one guy, it is a spectacular game in its own right and one that shouldn’t be as good as it ended up being.

Farming Simulator 15 Review

It is widely accepted that most of the ‘simulator’ games are just plain awful. Yet there are a select minority that have somehow risen above the crap. Goat Simulator which just throws the crazy at the genre and is played as a big joke, then there is Euro Truck Simulator, which plays it seriously and is genuinely a joy to play.

The other title to stand out is Farming Simulator, so much so that it is pretty much the template on how to not only make a simulator game, but how to also make a yearly iteration. Because looking at the back of the box features, it really has grown since the original 2007 release.

I have to go for back of the box, as it isn’t a game that has ever interested me previously, but having a son who played and loved Goat Simulator and now takes notice of posters and other point of sale, meant I was getting this game, like it or not.

One thing I found very early on, is that there is a hell of a lot going on in this game. I was hoping I would just get to drive a tractor around a bit and that would be it. Well you can do that if you want, but I am a serious critic and must try to play properly.

I took tutorials on how to plough, sow, bundle up hay and so much more, including the new woodcutting machinery. I was also surprised to learn I would have to manage livestock. Not only that, I would have to balance the books and make sure my farm stayed in the black. It was going to be a full time job! Well at 5x speed anyway.

This is where you can take one of two approaches to the game. Mine, which was to try and play it seriously, earn a living and progress to make my farm a success, managing those books, being sure to get my produce to market, making a profit, re-investing, ploughing, sowing, harvesting, rinse and repeat, so I can grow yet further and give myself more work to do, or hire hands to help me.

Or…as my son did. Jump in whatever machine is laying around and go full on crazy, go anywhere, plough anything you want, cut down all the trees, try to attack a car with a chainsaw, make patterns in the crops and not give two hoots about any of the ‘boring stuff’.

It shows how well made this game is, that it will really show the different mentality between a child and an adult, but allow both to get something from the experience but in two totally different ways.

I am finding that I really do enjoy trying to run the virtual farm properly, making sure I have employees who can do certain things and make my farm more productive, whilst I am free to what I need to, so I can expand or increase profits.

It is a shame somewhat, that you are a bit restricted in what you have access to in career mode, needing you to progress to unlock the use of better equipment and vehicles, but it is only a minor problem, as personally I am enjoying the reward of being able to look at a new tractor and know it can soon be mine.

The depth that Farming Simulator 2015 has really took me by surprise, right down to being able to give individual budgets to your employees so they can make purchases of needed items themselves and really being able to micro-manage the hell out of everything.

I went from being a single worker going through the motions in my large farm, to spending less and less time actually working and delegating to my staff. Yet hard times came, when profits started to turn into losses and I needed to fire some and get back to working myself, which meant things stopped running as smoothly. I would find myself in a hole and needing to change things to start cutting those losses to get back into profit.

This is where the game does brilliantly, as you really do need to think about how certain actions can have some major consequences. I grew way too quickly and it came back to bite me on the arse, yet I was able to stem the bleeding and am currently slowly recovering.

I came to Farming Simulator 2015 with some very low expectations, but am now besotted by it. Sure it looks a bit rough around the edges visually, but I can’t deny I am really enjoying what I am playing, it won’t be for everyone, but those willing to give it a chance will find a rich and rewarding experience.