Life is Strange: Episode 5 – Polarized Review

Every now and again a game comes around that despite having issues you cannot ignore, you can’t help but be in awe of what you have just experienced. A game that while not perfect you want to shout at as many people as will listen about how they must play this game. Life is Strange is one of those.

Now that the conclusion has been reached it’s time to look back on the game as a whole and while there were a few bumps in the road, it’s a game that has largely been excellent.

As a story about time travel you’d imagine it all breaks a little towards the end, like so many films and games that have come before, only it doesn’t. It’s quite amazing how neatly it all ends, no plot holes (from what I can tell) and some of the decisions I was forced to make left me reeling, playing an important part in the way the plot unfolded.

Though it’s not without its blemishes. The teen dialogue can at times feel forced, with Chloe’s constant use of the word “hella” being the main culprit. It’s an annoying trait that you do reel in slightly as each episode unfolds and despite her annoying moments you do like her character, despite the faults.

Then there are the breaks in the story where they needed filler. Remember the bottle collecting part from a previous episode? Well, that’s back again in episode 5 for some reason, albeit in an optional achievement capacity.

As episode 5 begins our hero Max is in a sticky situation. The true culprit has been revealed and only the use of her time travel powers can help her escape. It’s certainly a big opening and requires some thought on how to escape, often rewinding and trying different options in a trial and error fashion. Trial and error being something I usually hate, but here it weirdly works as you witness each outcome and figure out how you could’ve avoided it.

Be warned as well, there is also a stealth section. As soon as I saw what was to come I let out a massive sigh. Forcing stealth gameplay into something that isn’t of the stealth genre usually ends in utter misery. Here, it’s different. Thanks to the ability to rewind time, it’s never challenging or a problem. It’s just a little gameplay section on the way to furthering the story. As soon as you get caught just press the trigger and everything rewinds as Max stays still.

When it comes to gameplay moments, this is possibly the weakest episode. Aside from the two bits mentioned above there’s very little else other than talking and walking. The latter being used quite a bit as Max’s nosebleeds and abuse of time soon leads to some utter bizarre moments later in the story.  But then this is the finale. It’s clear the goal was to finish the tale and tie everything up into a neat little package. And they succeeded. Endings are hard as countless games have proven, often leaving loose ends or just leaving a sour aftertaste. Life is Strange manages to wrap everything up so neatly it’s actually a little surprising. It’s a story that despite a few hiccups had my utmost attention throughout.

It’s one of the most interesting games released in a while that I can’t recommend enough. It’s not just the surprise of the year, it’s possibly the game of the year.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night Review

It’s really amazed me to see what started off as this late PS2-era, niche JRPG turn into this unexpected success story with an anime, enhanced port on the Vita and a number of spin offs. The latest of which being Dancing All Night, a nice little rhythm game.

If you think about it, Persona 4 fits better into the rhythm game mould better than most, after all, a major facet of the rhythm genre is music. And Persona 4 has some of the best music you can find. But it also has the same issue that Arena (Persona’s fighting game spin off) had.

Most notably it’s with the Story Mode. If you’re heavily invested in the Persona 4 lore then this won’t really affect you, but like Arena it plays a lot like a visual novel with a few gameplay portions thrown in. The story takes a long while to get going with the opening part being quite boring, even for someone like me who’s digested everything from Arena to the anime it’s a bit of a slog to get to the actual meat of the story.

The mystery while obviously not as in depth as the JRPG does eventually go some more interesting places. Yu and his friends being asked by Rise to be her backing dancers in an upcoming concert/festival. Things go a bit wrong however and they soon find themselves dragged into another world where instead of hitting things, they have to dance to win. It actually makes more sense when you play the game, and it’s quite clever how they somehow managed to wrap a story around a game where you just press buttons in time to the music while your character does some crazy dance moves in the background.

Gameplay is quite simple. Notes coming flying in from the middle and you have to press one of six buttons as it passes. Soon though you’ll have to press two buttons at the same time, hold buttons or flick the right stick as things get more challenging. And it does get challenging, at least on the hard difficulty.

While easy is just there so people can see the story as quickly as possible, even Normal posed zero problems. Beating each song was a cakewalk and I never failed once. Hard is a completely different story as only a few misses and it takes a while to build your meter back. Your fail state depending on the little people characters at the top of the screen, going from red (you’re screwed) to flashing and jumping (you’re awesome).

It’s a shame that like every game of its type from Elite Beat Agents to Guitar Hero, you’re too busy focusing on not screwing up that you can’t take in the visual delights that’s playing out in the background. Dancing All Night is a lovely looking game, and the few moments I did take a glance it was quite a great sight. There is a replay mode though so you can just watch and enjoy if you so choose (and pick up a trophy for your trouble).

With a good amount of songs and not to mention future DLC in the pipeline, there’s certainly a decent amount of content here. Not to mention three difficulties, a ton of content to buy in the store (for in-game currency) and the potential to go back to past songs attempting to beat your old score.

However while this is a phrase that I really dislike using, this game really is only for existing fans of Persona. The story mode could come across as incomprehensible nonsense for those who aren’t familiar with the setting and characters, and while the inner monologue tries its hardest to get newcomers caught up, the Persona 4 lore is so deep that explaining it can be difficult.

If you love Persona though and can’t get enough of Yu, Kanji and Yosuke then you’ve probably already ordered your copy. And rightly so.

Yoshi’s Woolly World Review

Coming after the likes of Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, two of the best platformers on the Wii U, Yoshi’s Woolly World already had an uphill struggle to try and stand proudly alongside them. And it’s been a bit of a fumble.

Unless you’re dead inside then once you’ve gotten past the “OMG IT LOOKS SOOOOOO CUTE” phase of playing Yoshi, then everything seems fine. Early levels are easy, getting you to grips with the egg mechanic. Working exactly the same as previous games, collecting eggs (or turning enemies into them) then throwing as the curser moves on its own from top to bottom. Sadly the game doesn’t really evolve much as you work your way through the six worlds.

Differences as you progress are only really visual. Yes, all the platformer trademarks are here from ice to fire and the wool visual style really brings them to life, it’s just not particularly interesting. Early levels are incredibly easy, and while the majority of the challenge comes from the amount of collectibles in each level it would be nice to find an additional challenge in reaching the label’s end. It doesn’t help that the levels themselves are far too long. Some are double the size you’d expect to find in other platformers and maybe I’m just impatient, but I’d much prefer a short, but memorable level than a long, padded out one.

As I write this I’m struggling to think of moments that really stood out and I only completed the game a couple of days ago. Aside from the final stage that brings a unique, exploration aspect to the game it’s all so forgettable.

That aside, have I mentioned how beautiful the game looks? More than just an artistic choice, it’s quite clever how it interacts with the environment. Using Yoshi’s tongue to unravel blocks and enemies, yarn eggs to reveal platforms and just the way Yoshi himself transforms his body, from running really fast (legs turning to wheels as he trundles on) to completely unravelling as he catapults himself to the next world. Quite frankly it’s one of the best looking games I’ve seen, not bad for a game on the least powerful console.

The game does try to use its yarn aesthetic to really play around with each level. From enemies firing buttons at you to Yoshi transforming into a variety of vehicles during some rather fun mini levels. It feels like a game that was built around its graphical style. And while obviously graphics aren’t the most important factor in a game, if Woolly World didn’t have this style then it would really have nothing to fall back on.

A bit harsh maybe, as during the final levels it does pick up slightly with some good boss fights and a unique last stage where you’re left wondering where this challenge was earlier. And with five flowers, five pieces of yarn and stamps scattered across every level there is plenty here to keep you occupied but whether you actually want to go through the hassle is another thing entirely.

As it stands, unless you’re a die-hard Nintendo fanatic who will snap up anything put out for the system then you’re going to be left cold with Yoshi’s latest adventure.

Until Dawn Review

I think the main reason for my surprise is that games that are coined “interactive movies” are always a little short on the gameplay side, and the element of choice that you are presented is nothing more than an illusion. You may be able to change some things in the middle, but there’s very little that impacts the final act. And David Cage’s last attempt (Beyond: Two Souls) may have solidified people’s opinions that the realm of movies and games should never cross paths.

Until Dawn is different. Coined the “Butterfly Effect system”, every choice, no matter how small can have disastrous consequences for your group of teens. After a tragedy a year earlier, the same group of friends return to a secluded cabin high in the snowy mountains where, as you’d expect, things go a little wrong. And how wrong things go depends on your actions.

Will you run or hide? Go left or right? Take the shortcut or the safer route? And when you come to that age old horror cliché of choosing to examine the noise you just heard or forget about it, you’ll hate yourself for doing the exact same, dumb thing all horror characters do.

All of this wouldn’t work if the game wasn’t scary, but it is, very much so. While it does rely on the jump scares a little too much rather than the slow building of tension, it does those jump scares very well. Many times I found myself swearing at the TV as characters jump out of the shadows. It also has its fair share of gore and bone crunching brutality, but it never lingers on it in a torture porn sort of way.

The performances of all the lead actors also help in building this terrifying world. Headlined by Hayden Panettiere, each character feels like your traditional horror cliché, but they have enough depth to make them believable. For instance, Matt (played hilariously by the un-teen looking Brett Dalton from Agents of SHIELD) is initially portrayed as your standard jock archetype, only (thanks in part to your conversation decisions) he’s not just the jokey idiot you initially think he is. Though maybe he is if you choose to play him as such!

Although you are presented with choices, the standard walk around the environment sections are fairly linear. There are small areas you can explore to find clues, but you’re largely ferried from one scene to the next with the obvious deviations being on what choices you make.

In that sense, if you aren’t sold on these types of interactive movie like video games then there’s very little here that would change your mind. Gameplay is limited, and action scenes are perpetuated with QTE sections that, to be honest, are actually some of the best. Mainly because they’re quite easy to fail. Appearing on screen for only a limited amount of time they feel harder than the likes you would see in, say, a David Cage game.

In fact, everything here is better than you’d find in a David Cage game, those games being Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls if you’re unaware. Acting feels more natural, there’s no shower scene that feels out of place and unnecessary (just a bath section that doesn’t feel like it lingers in any dodgy way) and most of all the story makes sense. The Heavy Rain twist completely broke the game if you thought about it and the Beyond: Two Souls plotline was incredibly disjointed and completely lost its way when you reached the mid-point. I’m not saying Until Dawn doesn’t have its weird moments, but everything at least feels connected and belongs in the same story.

Until Dawn can also be a really good looking game in places, especially seeing as it began life as a PS3 title. The environments are all suitably atmospheric with some wonderful lighting and audio that adds to the fear. There are a few downsides though with the framerate at times suffering a little. Characters facial expressions also go from amazing to downright creepy, and not in the way the game intended.

Coming in at the 6-7 hour mark, it’s not a long game for those who want a lengthy experience. That said, this is the perfect length for a game of this type. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, and with a number of trophies dedicated to specific choices you will probably want to replay the game a second time. I certainly will. Once I’ve recovered from certain character deaths that is.

When we come to the end of the year and everyone is thinking of what the biggest surprise was, Until Dawn may very well be at the top of my list. I was already intrigued by it, but I couldn’t imagine enjoying it as much as I have done. A few slight issues here and there don’t dampen what is one of the better, more original horror titles out there. If horror is your thing then you have no excuse not to buy it.

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 4 – Escape Plan Bravo Review

Continuing Rhys and Fiona’s hunt for the Gortys pieces (and in turn leading them to a vault), and again all being recounted in flashbacks to their masked captor, this episode plays out almost like a heist movie. The Gortys piece being located deep inside a Hyperion space station. Obviously, in space and under heavy guard. Requiring a rather brilliant planning sequence where everything goes off without a hitch. Obviously, the real heist won’t be as lucky.

The trademark humour is still present and once again, like the last episode, does a better job than in the first couple. Gortys is still as endearing as ever and Episode 4 continues the trend of having one of the best opening credits scenes not just in Telltale Games history, but all games. It’s really that good with an amazing song choice that gels with the on screen comedy perfectly.

A good mix of action and storytelling, there is however one slight comedic mishap. There’s a running gag involving Hyperion workers using their fingers as fake guns, which in turn leads to a ridiculously long QTE sequence that is supposed to be funny but just ends up falling flat. Probably because Gortys and Loaderbot aren’t involved, the two robotic sidekicks being at the forefront of all the best gags. There’s also a little bit of sadness mixed in with a change in tone that could’ve felt out of place, but really works with the scene it’s placed in.

If there’s one way Telltale is to be praised for their recent output it’s that they’re finally getting to grips with console hardware in a way they haven’t before. It looks great with none of that hideous slowdown as it transitioned scenes like in previous games. Which is a blessing for a game like Borderlands where the action is prominent, if it loses the smoothness during those scenes then the game would quickly fall apart.

As the penultimate episode, Escape Plan Bravo mostly succeeds at setting the stage for the finale. But as has been the case for a lot of the series, as someone who has tried the vast majority of Telltale’s recent output, fatigue has started to set in.

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos Review

That said, it is deeper than you may think, the combat does have a lot of different elements to it, making it far from than just a mash the buttons type of game (though there is plenty of that too). With four characters that can be switched on the fly and with each carrying two weapons there are plenty of combo opportunities. And although I say its “deeper than you may think”, bear in mind my thoughts of what the series is were rock bottom. So it’s still not exactly the high tier of action games.

On top of your usual attacks, as the ridiculous story progresses you’ll also get the opportunity to transform into, well, to be honest it’s something for the furries out there. As a meter fills a click of the LS and RS causes your character to now grow animal like qualities (yes, even a tail). Don’t worry though, if it’s not to your liking you can still change the outfits at the main menu with new costumes being unlocked as you progress.

I think the main problem is the action for the most part is just hammering the same combo over and over again. This despite being able to purchase a good amount of different combos in the store. Playing on the Normal difficulty there were a few moments where I had to switch characters as they were about to die, but for large stretches it didn’t require much in the way of skill.

Like Dynasty Warriors, a bunch of mindless zombies come rushing at you, and while there is some variety in the enemy types (particularly later on) they don’t really require much thought. There are, at times, patterns to memorise, but once you’ve got that down it’s just a simple dodge and attack, rinse, repeat. That is until you reach the final section of the game where the difficulty ramps up exponentially as you’re forced, for pretty much the first time, to spend the points earned to acquire new weapons, items and combos.

Unfortunately the enemies are just mindless idiots. Most action sequences in the game require you to dispatch everyone before you can move onto the next section. And unless you’re close up to them they won’t bother coming to attack, with the last enemy usually just hanging out in the corner waiting for you to kill him. Or more often than not stuck on the geometry. Yes, they are zombies so mindlessness is pretty much par for the course, but I still expected them to come after me and not wait for me to trigger them once I come into contact. The game is very low budget in that regard, which also comes across in the graphics department. Graphically it very much lives up to its b-movie stylings. There are very basic character models and environments, at a glance you could easily mistake it for a last gen game.

But unlike say an Earth Defence Force, it’s neither funny nor entertaining. The story is just nonsense, which I honestly can’t remember unless I look at the Wikipedia page, and the voice acting is excruciating. Cut scenes either portrayed with in-game graphics or comic book style panels can thankfully be skipped so you can quickly get back to the action.

With numerous items to be bought, a story mode that’s perhaps the right length for what the game is, and having to manage characters and weapons (which degrade over time) it’s clear that there is a lot of thought gone into Onechanbara. It’s just a lot of content that’s begging for a better game.

Life is Strange: Episode 4 – Dark Room Review

Leaving on a rather big cliffhanger where Max’s messing with past events has created a horrific butterfly effect for her friend Chloe, we re-join her as she pieces together what happened to her friend. It’s the first heart wrenching moment in an episode full of them.

Indeed, this is a tough episode to get through. Unlike previous episodes it’s not because choices are difficult (they’re a lot more standard than they have been in the past), it’s because the story takes some rather dark turns, especially as you reach the stunning conclusion.

And as great as this episode is, it’s slightly worrying that maybe the developers won’t be able to tie everything together. Maybe this is the pessimist inside talking, but when it comes to choice driven games, sometimes the choices don’t have as much a meaningful outcome as you may want. Instead everything comes crashing together as you discover you were on a straight line all along with choice being nothing more than an illusion.

And then there’s the impending apocalypse. The tornado, beached whales and eclipse of previous episodes are now joined by another sign that something’s not quite right. While it’s an intriguing mystery, it doesn’t seem like anyone cares as much about this strange phenomena as our two main cast members. There is an “end of the world” style party featured, but you’d think there’d be more chaos in the streets. Maybe even a few more news stories?

As has always been something I’ve praised with this series are the use of puzzles, and this episode doesn’t disappoint either. There is a tedious moment about halfway through where you’re forced to rewind the same conversation over and over again because you chose the wrong option, but that’s all really. The rest are great, with some that have a couple of ways of reaching the same outcome. Usually involving either using your brain or smashing something with a large object. I mostly chose the latter.

The same problems are present however, particularly when it comes to the, at times, cringe inducing dialogue. Chloe again dropping ridiculously outdated pop culture references that elicited a grown from myself. It’s a major strength of the story that I was able to forgive her annoyances when the real huge moments in the story occurred. The episode is titled “Dark Room”, yet even I was surprised at quite how dark it went. The actress behind Chloe really being able to showcase some acting chops here.

Life is Strange continues rolling to what I hope will be an epic conclusion. The pieces are certainly in place, whether Dontnod are able to fit them together is still up in the air. As it stands though, this has been one of the biggest surprises of the year and I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

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?

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.

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.

Rogue Legacy Review

You’ve probably already heard of Rogue Legacy. Available on other platforms, it’s finally making its debut on the Xbox One. And it’s still very, very hard.

Seriously, you’re going to die. A lot. Then you’re going to start all over again. And yet, you’re always going to come back for more. It’s the addictive brilliance of Rogue Legacy that will get its hooks into you and not let go.

A platformer/roguelike, you control a chosen character and must venture through a randomly generated castle, defeating enemies, bosses and avoiding traps. Before you eventually end up dead. Did I mention it’s very hard?

As each of your chosen heroes succumbs to the dangers of the castle, it’s then passed on to their heir. You get to choose a character, each coming with specific traits and weaknesses. Some characters end up with dwarfism or gigantism, others can have blurry vision making it difficult to spot incoming attacks. There are less visual ones, such as magic being replenished with each item destroyed, or simply being able to take more damage. It’s probably Rogue Legacy’s most unique trait.

Each time you die though it’s not the end of the world. Money you gain remains, so you’re able to build up your base with new abilities, increased health and new weapons and armour. It does make the first few hours a bit of a grind, but once you gain enough experience and money you’ll be making slow and steady progress to each boss. Luckily, once the boss is defeated they stay dead, so not everything resets with every death. There’s also a way (once bought) that can lock the castle down, so it stays the same. You will earn less coins in the castle though, but it’s a good way of easily retrying a boss battle instead of trekking through the castle again due to teleporters that are located outside the boss room.

The random nature of the castle makes everything feel different each time you play. I guess, because it is! Although certain areas are always located in a specific direction, each room is randomly generated. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and only come across a few enemies or hazards, others can be best described as bullet hell.

Rushing through the rooms is the best way to get yourself killed. Slow and steady is the best way to approach each area, because while it’s devilishly difficult, if you die then you’ve really only got yourself to blame. Enemies always have a set pattern and it’s about learning how to approach each situation that will get you through the game. It’s wonderfully designed. And it controls perfectly.

The only major issue with the game is the opening couple of hours. Those with short attention spans may find themselves getting stuck early on and abandoning the game, which would be a shame. The start is all about grinding for better equipment and abilities before you can finally push for that first boss room.

As a game where the developers have stated it was inspired by Dark Souls, it’s safe to say Rogue Legacy won’t be for everyone. It’s a game where you are continuously pummelled into the ground until you get better or give up. Those that persevere though will be greatly rewarded.

Life is Strange: Episode 3 – Chaos Theory Review

Continuing the story of Max, the last episode ended not only with that moment, but also a rather ominous eclipse. Following this, Max and best friend Chloe are ramping up their investigation into the disappearance of Rachel Amber aided by Max’s time rewind powers. Her power allowing her to rewind time to specific points, changing the outcome of certain events, and if you choose, changing a particular dialogue path you went down.

Back during my review of the first episode I mentioned that if you actually stop to think about it then the time travel mechanic makes zero sense. Well, that’s sort of back with a vengeance in episode 3 as the puzzles you encounter actually integrate these logic breaking moments into the solution.  For instance, being able to pick up items, rewind time and then still have them in your inventory is actually used to solve a puzzle. Something that I did by accident because it doesn’t make any sense!

Most mind bending of all is the fact that as you rewind time Max is stationary as everything else moves around you, which I also mentioned in my episode 1 review. Something I was finally able to accept in episode 2, but is again brought to the forefront in episode 3 as this unique mechanic is used to get into a locked room. And again, it took me a while to figure this out as years of time travel movies and video games has hammered into me that this isn’t how time travel is supposed to work.

On the plus side though, puzzles! Seeing as Telltale Games are moving further and further away from actual gameplay into more interactive fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with that) it’s good to see that a developer can meld puzzles and story together in this way. And it’s all done with quite a lot of style. Of course, if you’re reading this then chances are you’ve already played (and hopefully) enjoyed the first two episodes. The almost drawing like art aesthetic is quite brilliant, and almost made me look past the, at times, poor lip syncing when characters speak.

The first few scenes of Chaos Theory aren’t the strongest, a few character moments that don’t say anything new and feel very much like treading water before the big moments occur. And the love it or hate it dialogue is back with a vengeance. Chloe once again the wise cracking sidekick who sounds like she just dropped out of a badly written teen flick. Whenever she refers to her step father as “step douche” it makes me violently want to strangle something. Shame because she’s an interesting character when she’s speaking like a human being.

Despite the slow, pondering start, the pace soon picks up as new powers are discovered and difficult decisions are made. Decisions still managing to never be black and white, providing a great balancing act where every choice could have positive or negative repercussions. And just like all good episodic games, the cliffhanger ending is enough to bring me back to see exactly what it all means.

While Chaos Theory may not hit the highs of episode 2, it does carry on its tale of loss and mystery with aplomb. A few pacing issues aside, episode 3 manages to further cement Life is Strange as an episodic title that could end up on a few game of the year lists at the end of the year.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood Review

The Old Blood does get off to a little bit of a ropey start mind. After a short cut scene explaining the mission, you’re soon captured and thrown in jail. Then it’s forced stealth time!

With nothing but a pipe for defence it’s time to sneak around, taking out hulking, mechanical Nazis where one misstep can result in you getting shot to pieces. It’s a dreadful start to the game and may even put some people off. The best thing about The New Order was the way it integrated stealth, but didn’t require it. Get seen and it’s time to grab your weapons and go in all guns blazing. Something that’s almost impossible in the opening situation our hero B.J Blazkowicz finds himself in. These giant robot Nazis are able to shred you to pieces easily, and if you haven’t already dispatched one and taken their gun then it feels like it’s literally impossible.

Manage to make your way through this however and the gameplay that made The New Order such a surprise soon appears. The game almost feeling like it’s split into combat arenas. As you progress you’ll come to areas with enemies patrolling. It’s always advisable to use stealth initially, as there are a couple of enemies that call in reinforcements if you get spotted. Unlike the first section, get spotted and you can fall back on the shoot everything that moves tactic. Sometimes it’s actually more enjoyable, because the weapons are just a delight.

The shooting feels so tight and responsive that when stealth fails you won’t bemoan your clumsiness, you’ll just shrug, grab your machine gun and kill everyone. With The Old Blood there are some new weapons to play with, such as a pipe that can create some gruesome looking melee kills, bolt action rifle and a new type of shotgun.

As for new enemy types, there are a number of tougher ones you’ll face. One type in particular ventures a little closer into spoiler territory. Although these were shown briefly in trailers, I won’t go into too much detail in case you want to go in pure. Let me just say, they add a different dynamic to how you approach the combat.

With a whole host of new additions it’s understandable why this has been positioned almost as a whole new game. There are challenge arenas that are unlocked as you play through the game and there’s even sections where B.J can go to sleep and you end up playing Wolfenstein 3D, albeit with The Old Blood’s protagonist model.

It’s no surprise that it pays homage to its roots (posters from the original game and even a Doom character toy can be seen), because deep down the game as a whole feels very old fashioned. There’s none of the hide behind cover until all the red blood disappears from the screen. This game is all about armour and health packs. Although it does recharge up to intervals (25%, 50% etc), it does mean you’re a lot more conscious about your health situation. Firefights at times descending into panic as you’re foraging for whatever health, armour and bullets you can grab from the battlefield.

If for some reason you never opted for The New Order then this could be the perfect introduction. Opening chapter aside, The Old Blood is just as good as its predecessor with excellent combat, nice visuals and an intriguing story. Then when you’re finished, buy The New Order as well, because it’s great.

Mortal Kombat X Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready, Player One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time Review

Following on from the events of episode one, it sees Max further trying to get to grips with her newfound power, now with the help of her rekindled friendship with Chloe. As the episode progresses it appears to show that the constant use of time manipulation may be starting to take its toll on the body and mind of Max.

Everything I loved about the first episode is thankfully present. The indie movie aesthetic is here, complete with excellent music choices and art style, and the continuing story of Max is an interesting one.

However, what I hated also makes a most unwelcome return. I’ve come to the conclusion that my main issue with the time travel mechanic (that it doesn’t make sense if you stop and think about it) will never change. As I already said in the previous episode’s review, if you hold LT then time rewinds around you with the exception of Max who stops in a stationary place, something that the game plays fast and loose with. Though in the games defense the puzzles rely on it working this way, as with each rewind, items you collect stay with you.

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The other issue being the faux-teen dialogue and lip syncing. It reminded me of Juno, a movie I despise with a passion, it so desperately wanting to capture that snappy Joss Whedon feel, but fails quite badly. When certain characters are talking normally (usually the adults) it’s fine, but when the teenage characters are interacting (Chloe and the school bullies being prime examples) it becomes cringe inducing in a lot of areas.

But, and it’s a massive but, after recently playing Tales of the Borderlands, this game has one thing going for it, actual gameplay. A little harsh maybe, but I feel like in these two episodes I’ve controlled the main character more than the entirety of The Walking Dead Season Two. During the initial scene you get to walk around your dorm, interact with other characters, and if you so choose, use your time travel powers to save someone from getting hit in the head with toilet paper.

And this is the first area, there are a few other places you’ll end up. And if you so choose you can walk around, interact with everything around you and soak in the sights before triggering the next story beat. And when the story moments are triggered, be prepared to make some tough decisions.

Honestly until the game’s, quite incredible, conclusion I had no idea there were so many choices that I unwittingly made along the way. Some events I completely missed, though whether these will play much of an impact on the story unfolding is unknown at this point.

There’s one slight gameplay blemish where you’re forced to walk around and hunt for some bottles to use as target practice, an unnecessary diversion that reeks of extending the games playtime. But other than that, in a world where these types of games are putting storytelling ahead of gameplay, it’s great that something has managed to hit the right balance between both.

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It’s hard to go into too much detail with these types of games, but the ending is one of the most impactful I’ve yet encountered with these episodic games. So good in fact that it was this huge moment where something clicked in my brain and I was able to forgive all the games faults.  And like all good “choice driven” games, although you can rewind time and select the other options, nothing is ever black and white. It makes each choice matter and you will be staring at the choices for a long time before selection.

To use a television analogy, if episode one was the pilot, then episode two is the second season. A shaky beginning giving way to a great follow up as it finally gets to grips with its mechanics and characters. I have no idea where the story will go from here, and that’s what makes it all so exciting.

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 2 – Atlas Mugged Review

With a three month gap since the last episode, you’d be forgiven for forgetting Tales from the Borderlands existed. While a great debut, the Borderlands lore doesn’t have the enticing nature of a Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Understandable, those examples are two multimedia properties with millions of fans around the world, and the Borderlands universe gets a mixed response to say the least.

It would be a shame if this gets ignored because of the license attached, because it is the best bit of Borderlands fiction written thus far, unsurprising really when it’s coming from the ever reliable Telltale Games.

Like episode one, Atlas Mugged features the two main characters Rhys and Fiona telling their tale to a man who has them imprisoned. Naturally as the characters are telling the story, certain things get embellished. Such as Fiona managing all sorts of motorbike acrobatics, something that Rhys is quick to draw attention to. It’s the interaction between these two characters that made the first episode so enjoyable. Now the second episode has a new player in the form of Handsome Jack.

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At the end of episode one, we were left with the appearance of the ghostly Handsome Jack and with him come the best moments of this episode. While the previous episode tried, and ultimately failed, to bring the comedy chops, Atlas Mugged fares a little better. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but the dialogue between Rhys and Handsome Jack is enjoyable and well written.

Again, this episode flips player control between Rhys and Fiona so naturally it’s not long before the characters find themselves split up again after another great action sequence; Tales from the Borderlands is continuing to be the series to show off Telltale’s action set pieces. While action beats in their previous games were usually slow, methodical affairs, here it’s akin to a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. And they’re seamless too.

The game is technically impressive, it looks great, the framerate is impressive and transitions between scenes no longer have that horrible choppiness (something which in the past was always a problem with Telltale’s console output).

One thing that has always been my pet gripe with the latter day adventures of Telltale was the almost complete eradication of the puzzle element. The first season of The Walking Dead was the last time I feel like I had to think about what to do, everything since then has just been storytelling with puzzle solving pushed out of the picture completely.

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There’s one moment in this episode where it’s like they wanted to give the player a puzzle to solve, but panicked halfway through, leaving it in such a way that it can be solved by just clicking on things. While I’m not looking for obtuse Grim Fandango-style puzzles, something which challenges the brain a little would be most welcome. It’s especially bizarre because the game actually has an inventory. You pick up things, they go in your inventory, yet this affects nothing. You can’t combine items or do anything fancy with them. It makes me question what the point is.

Aside from that pet peeve of mine, from a storytelling perspective the game does go from strength to strength and you’re always wondering what situation led to Rhys and Fiona telling this crazy tale to their captor. Another character from the Borderlands fiction makes his debut and it’s a welcome one. And like all good episodic games, it leaves it on such a good cliffhanger (and decision) that you will be back to see what happens next.

At this point in time, Telltale have a formula and whether you like it or not they are sticking to it. While again, this is a solid entry in their impressive library of products, I can’t help but ask myself, how much longer can they do this before it becomes stale?

Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype Review

A classic styled scrolling shmup, Soldner-X2 feels very much like an also ran. A decent game, that unfortunately brings nothing new to the table, it’s like playing a long lost game from fifteen years ago – fancy visuals aside.

A little harsh maybe, because it’s still an enjoyable game (especially once the difficulty picked up). What starts off as a light challenge will soon turn into bullet hell towards the end, but once you reach that point the game ends. Well, kind of.

You see, throughout the levels by destroying enemies you’ll sometimes find keys, collecting these unlocks the latter levels. It’s a good way of adding longevity to what would otherwise be a short experience, but I would’ve personally preferred a greater variety of levels. There is some additional DLC that you can get if you buy the bundle on the PS Store, which is a little cheeky of them. They’re good levels mind, and do give the game’s story, (which is rather pointless to say the least), a conclusion.

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Additionally there are also leaderboards for the high score fanatics. This on top of challenges that get unlocked in the main game (such as completing specific levels without losing a ship).

From a gameplay perspective Soldner-x2 doesn’t do anything new, but what it does, it does rather well. With a good range of pick ups and weapons, an interesting combo mechanic and clever enemy design it’s a game I certainly found entertaining.

Enemies come in all shapes and size, a giant robot that bears a strong resemblance to one of the bosses from Starfox 64 is the first one you encounter, then it gets even crazier as you get deeper into the game. Bosses each have a weakness (usually indicated by something glowing), other than that there’s not much in the way of tactics. Just shoot till everything blows up, dodging all the bullets as you go. And sometimes dodging environmental hazards.

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The first level shoves you straight into an asteroid field forcing you to burrow your way through a seemingly endless amount of floating rocks, one of the later ones set on an ice planet has you dodging giant icicles. And there’s also the floating airship you have to navigate, because it’s a shmup, so obviously there’s a floating airship level. Graphically the backgrounds all look nice and sharp, though it’s the enemy ships and explosions that really showcase the game’s style.

The main tactical element will come in the variety of power ups and the combo metre. Rings that looked like they escaped from Sonic The Hedgehog will appear once enemies are destroyed, collecting them will keep your combo meter fully charged. Then there are the power ups, which collecting makes your currently selected weapon more powerful. The main issue with this is, despite having three weapons to cycle through, it’s the standard one that you’ll use most of the time. There’s another that almost acts like a shotgun and another that fires lasers in all directions, but really you’ll just concentrate on charging up the one and forgetting the others even exist.

There’s not a lot else to say really, Soldner-X 2 feels far more at home on the Vita than on a console and if you’re craving some shmup action then you could do a lot worse.

DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition Review

While the trend of re-releasing last gen games on new hardware isn’t always a welcome one, I do like that DmC is now available in “Definitive” form. It’s a game that sales wise did okay, but they weren’t the figures that Capcom were hoping for. Unfortunately with bigger, more powerful hardware, the AAA game has to sell a ridiculous amount of copies to just break even.

So, is this the definitive version of the game? Well, yes and no. On the plus side it has all the DLC that came out, from alternate costumes to new modes. On the downside, technically there are a few issues, some of which I can’t remember being in the original release. Graphically it still looks good (not The Last of Us good), but a decent upgrade. There were however a few performance issues that soured it a little.

During the first boss cut scene the game actually froze for a couple of seconds before the “loading” message appearing, which did break up the flow a little. A few overlapping audio issues occurred during a later level (Dante somehow managing to speak over himself) and weirdest of all, moments where it seemed like the camera was getting caught on the environment. Almost as if the skybox wasn’t quite big enough, so as I jumped forward in the air the camera refused to follow before snapping back behind Dante once I landed. So there are some technical quibbles I have, thankfully the core experience is still as good now as it was two years ago.

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Controlling Dante is a joy. What starts off with a few combos and a sword quickly turns into a deep and rewarding system with plenty of ways to dispatch the demon hordes. With angel and demon weapons, as well as your trusty sword and guns, you’ll soon be juggling everything in your path, getting an SSS rank along the way. Although, it may be my lack of skill since, but I’m finding it a lot more difficult to hit that top rating than I was originally, which makes me think it’s been tweaked slightly for this version.

What really got the most mixed reaction (aside from Dante’s new look) was the story, and new attitude of our hero. Somewhat baffling to me, as I never saw old-school Dante as having much of a character. Anyway, new Dante is certainly your typical angst ridden protagonist, but he does have somewhat of an arc as the story progresses. From not caring about anything to wanting to protect the world, the story here I feel is more interesting than people gave it credit for.

The story also helps set the stage for some excellent levels and boss fights. From ruined streets to a crazy, demon infested nightclub. Limbo (the world that exists in parallel to the real one and Dante is able to travel to) allows the art and design team to really go crazy with the environments. Floating platforms, upside down towers and the like are all commonplace. Then there are the bosses, giant, scene stealing creatures, or in one case, a holographic head. And with plenty of hidden items, upgrades and harder difficulties, replay value is surprisingly high for such a single player experience.

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As already said, the definitive edition contains all the DLC that came out. While some are cosmetic (old Devil May Cry costumes for instance), others have a lot more meat to them. The Bloody Palace (unlocked upon completion of the main game) is essentially an arena mode where you have to beat wave after wave of enemies.

The other big piece of DLC included is Vergil’s Downfall. Set after the events of the main game, it’s a nice add-on, however it almost feels like it was made on the cheap. The cut scene quality takes a drastic nosedive as what were superb in the main story are now reduced to low rent motion comics.

At its base, the core DmC gameplay has also been tweaked with the amount of damage certain moves do reduced, alterations to the parry system, and this is on top of a new Turbo mode (which speeds up the game by 20%) and new difficulties. It’s clear that Ninja Theory have taken on board the criticism and improved the overall experience.

I was slightly sceptical when DmC was announced as the latest in a long line of re-releases on the current crop of hardware, but Ninja Theory have exceeded my expectations. If you have yet to experience the game then this is the perfect time to do so, if you’ve already played through it, then there’s still plenty new here to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Retrospective: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Around the time when it was the hottest thing around, the Wii was always considered a shovelware dumping ground. For every Legend of Zelda, there were a million instantly forgettable party collections. It’s sort of true, but just saying that would be doing the console a huge disservice. Yes, the Wii was home to an awful lot of tat, but by golly it didn’t half produce some classics.

One such game was Super Mario Galaxy 2. Due to the sheer impact it had on video games as a whole, Mario 64 to be frank will never be topped when it comes to 3D Mario games, Mario Galaxy 2 though has come the closest.

In a lot of ways, this game is a rarity. When it comes to the main series each follow up would always bring a new mechanic to the series, whether it be Yoshi (in Super Mario World) to Fludd (from Mario Sunshine), Galaxy 2 felt more like an update. A somewhat dirty word today where “update” can sometimes be misconstrued as “cheap cash grab”, but Nintendo doesn’t do that. Maybe “refinement” would be a better word.

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With new, more interesting, planets to explore, Galaxy 2 is a more interesting game than its predecessor. New power ups to use, the appearance of Yoshi and the ability to control Luigi on certain levels, the better Mario brother (yeah, I said it!). It’s jam packed with platforming goodness.

From the opening story section you’re thrust onto Starship Mario, a spaceship that looks like Mario’s head, it’s from this hub you can interact with other characters you’ve picked up on your adventure, who usually just spout useless tips that you would’ve figured out half an hour ago. Other than that it’s just a quick break between levels before going to the world map and travelling to whichever level you choose, most of which have multiple stars to collect. This on top of the medals, and at certain times, prankster comets will arrive at certain levels completely changing the rules of said stage.

Just thinking about how this game was designed makes my mind do somersaults. It’s not often I sit and stare at the screen and admire how much time, effort and skill went into creating each of these levels. The new powers ups are far from random, the levels were created around them.

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The bee suit, able to hover for a specific time creates some excellent platforming sections, where touching water automatically turns you back to regular Mario. The drill is able to burrow deep into each planet, one specific level having you figure out where to drill in order to reach the top of the tower. Then there’s Yoshi and all his special powers.

There’s the blue fruit which allows Yoshi to float up into the air, then there’s the red hot chilli, eating which causes the green dinosaur to run at pace, in turn allowing him to run up walls, or even on water as one of the more open worlds demonstrates. Indeed, whereas latter day Marios negate exploration in favour of a more point A to B design. Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a good mixture of both.

There are planets where it’s a fairly straightforward path to the finish, others where you’re fairly free to explore, which usually involve collecting pieces of a star. Both are equally fantastic. The way Mario moves around the planets can be disorientating at first, particularly the more circular planetoids where running around upside down is commonplace, but soon you’ll get used to the inertia, jumping around and flying between planets with ease.

There’s no such thing as the perfect game, but it’s hard to come up with any issues with Mario Galaxy 2, aside from maybe the main hub. Starship Mario is perhaps lacking its own identity and character the way Peach’s Castle in Mario 64 did. There is a reason it’s largely considered as the game of the generation for many, and despite being in SD it looks great, once again showing that Nintendo’s art style can easily surpass hardware limitations. The way Mario blasts off from each planet, with the camera perfectly positioned to view the level looks stunning.

Mario Galaxy 2 is Nintendo on the top of their game; graphics, gameplay and audio all coming together to form a near perfect whole. And as good as Mario 3D World is, Mario Galaxy 2 is nigh on perfection. Who knows how Nintendo will be able to top this. But if anybody can do it, Nintendo can.

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round Review

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is split between being a full release and a free to play fighting game (dubbed Core Fighters), the PSN store is full of tat for both, and finding which is for your specific version is almost impossible. I’m reviewing the full (and I use that term loosely) retail release, so as I went on the store I saw the sub-menu (“FOR FULL VERSION”). Okay I thought, so this must be for me. Nope, what I saw were characters I already had, so I guess what they meant was “Characters that will bump your game up to the full version”?

It’s so badly mismanaged it almost feels like a parody of what the future of DLC is going to be. Only it’s real, this is a real thing that has happened and it’s a little gross. Quite frankly if you buy any of the costumes on the store then you’re responsible for funding this dark future that we find ourselves hurtling toward. Once the rage subsided, I was finally able to play the game, which you’ll be pleased to know, is really, really good.

Dead or Alive has always got a bad rep for being the “fighting game with the boobies”, which might be accurate, but a little unfair. Okay, with an option in the menus for “Breast Motion” (the options either being “natural” or more hilariously, “DOA”) and the skimpy costumes, it doesn’t exactly help itself. But look past that and there is a solid, deep and rewarding fighter in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round

It’s a game where anyone can pick it up, hammer buttons and get some fun out of it, but putting in the time reaps the rewards. With an incredibly challenging counter system (almost demanding you memorise everyone’s combos) and some of the best designed (and interactive) stages, there’s more than just titillation when it comes to DOA. Going one on one with an opponent, each being down to a sliver of health, and countering that final blow giving yourself the victory is a proper fist pumping moment, especially when that person is sitting right next to you.

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Already hosting an impressive roster of characters from past DOA games, and even some Virtua Fighter alumni, Last Round also adds another new character to the mix, the schoolgirl Honoka. This as well as returning DOA1 boss character Raidou, who is now playable. This definitely feels like a celebration of all past games in the series and the final chapter (or Last Round!) is the fifth iteration.

It, as expected, also boosts the graphical performance slightly. It’s not pushing the PS4 exactly, but there are some nice stage effects and each character model getting covered in dirt and sweat (steady now) is a neat touch.

It’s really a shame that a few bugs have made it through. My first time playing I completed the Arcade Mode only to then be stuck on the Results screen with no way to escape other than resetting the console, this has a happened a few times, also becoming stuck when it was attempting to find a game online. This is on top of the numerous issues that Xbox One owners are finding, such as saves being deleted and the game not even showing up for download.

The online mode was a little shaky to begin with, which at the time of writing is finally starting to settle. Although finding a ranked game is nigh on impossible, lobbies do seem to be working and the “Throwdown” portion (allowing you to accept an incoming challenge when playing single player) is currently the best way of getting a ranked match. Once you do get into a game, providing it’s a solid connection, then it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Particularly if you get a group of friends together in a lobby for a classic “Winner Stays On” scenario.

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Last Round is certainly not shy of content. There’s a lot of single player modes to plough through with single fights, tags, survival mode and a number of different training modes. There’s also a Story Mode, which tries (and ultimately fails) to tell a convincing story out of this madness.

It’s a number of cut scenes interspersed with single round fights which feel like they’re over just as soon as they begin. Hilariously, the PS4 stream functionality is blocked when playing Story Mode, as if Tecmo Koei didn’t want anyone to spoil this award winning tale they’re telling. In a post Injustice/Mortal Kombat world, the excuse of “fighting games don’t do story modes” doesn’t quite fly anymore.

Despite being the most complete DOA package it’s a shame that so many bugs have crept through to the final product. There’s a great fighting game here, that with maybe a little care and attention would’ve been essential. As it stands though, this is simply a nice stop gap before Street Fighter’s imminent arrival.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart Review

Neptune steps aside from her main character role, with Noire stepping into the front. After an incident in Gamarket robbing all the CPU characters of their powers, all the characters must join forces in order to get to the bottom of it, unifying the land in the process. Unfortunately, it’s the plot and characters that put a serious dampener on the game’s quality.

As with the main series, Hyperdevotion parodies a lot of elements from video games. Whether it be in your face references to your standard video game tropes to people in your party that resemble other game characters. And while it amusing having a female spy go under a cardboard box as you active her special attack, with a better writer and dialogue maybe this could actually be more amusing than it is.

As this time around the game is an SRPG, then there’s no longer wandering the field, instead it’s all done through the main hub. The standard options are all here, with a lot of the elements from previous Neptunia games making a return. This being the ability to create items and discs with the materials obtained on the battlefield. Discs being the most interesting as combining idea chips, then equipping the resulting chips gives the chosen character a boost, whether it be increasing the odds of a critical hit or reducing damage from certain enemies.

Once you’re all set then it’s straight to the mission menu where you can either choose a side or story mission. With the story missions you’re first ‘treated’ to a cut scene which while nice looking, the 2D art is bright and vibrant with slight movement given to each character, the words coming out of their mouths are at times excruciating. Video game references about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face and whiny pre-teen sounding voices are quite painful to listen to. They may have been bearable if the story was actually interesting, only it isn’t, far from it. Going from one scene to the next barely feels connected, while the main mystery (which is supposed to be the hook) couldn’t muster any enthusiasm from me at all. Make it past these parts (or skip them if you can’t take it anymore) then you’re onto the actual fighting, which is where the game actually starts to impress.

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Standard SRPG rules apply, you move your characters around the battlefield followed by your opponents, watching out for hazards along the way. These hazards can be everything from electrified floors to conveyer belts that send your characters into another hazard. There’s a lot of tactical nuance needed to progress in the game, attacking enemies from behind does more damage, with the same rule applying to Noire and co, with elevated attacks also being harder hitting. Traversing the maps also comes with just as much of a challenge as beating enemies.

Some characters are able to jump up to ledges higher than others, but for those that can’t there are boxes that can be lifted and thrown into place. Sometimes it’s required, others it provides an alternate path to attack from.

Mission structure itself can also be varied, although the basic hit stuff till they all fall down is the crux, there are varied other objectives that need to be completed, such as collecting a number of items on the battlefield or completing the mission in a set number of moves. With a quick save state it also lends itself far more to pick up and play fun than the mainline RPG series.

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There’s a base core here that is great fun, with some really nice chibi looking graphics (including an excellent opening CG cut scene) and plenty of strategy, it’s just a shame that this core is buried deep below half naked anime girls and an awful story. Something I’m pretty sure I’ve said about every Idea Factory developed game I’ve ever reviewed. Maybe I’m not the right audience for it, but scenes of heads being buried into breasts and the Solid Snake-a-like character sneaking into the shower to peak aren’t my cup of tea. Maybe they would be if there was actual humour involved, or wit, or good writing/acting. None of these apply though, sadly.

That aside, from a gameplay perspective it’s a decent first foray into the world of SRPG’s, it’s just bogged down by poor characters and story.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review

Maybe it’s because I was expecting Ocarina of Time 2, but I never truly appreciated Majora’s Mask back in 2000. Despite repurposing a lot of the assets, it felt wildly different, mainly in tone.

Set in the new land of Termina, Link has three days to stop the Skull Kid from causing the moon to come crashing down. The three days are able to be restarted Groundhog Day style thanks to Link’s trusty Ocarina. Doing so though will lose certain items and even dungeon progress. And that’s really the aspect that can be a turnoff for some.

The time limit can be harsh, that is unless you know of the inverted Song of Time, a song that doesn’t actually have to be learnt at any point in the story. Just play the Song of Time backwards and you’re able to slow down the passage of time. And trust me when I say it’s pretty much required, unless you want an ungodly amount of stress.

On my initial N64 play through, I hadn’t learnt of this song till quite late in the story, now that I’m aware of it from the start the whole experience became much more manageable. It almost felt like cheating, but the Zelda series has been about exploration, and when you’re constantly looking at the clock, the ability to soak in the atmosphere almost gets lost. And boy do you want to get sucked into this crazy world.

Majora’s Mask is the most dark and weird world ever seen in the Zelda series. Right from the start you’re greeted to the moon with its evil face looking down on Termina, inching closer and closer as each day passes by, until the final day when the world is literally shaking. You witness characters over these three days going about their busy lives, seemingly oblivious (or in denial) that in three days they’ll all perish. Conversing with certain characters can trigger side quests that are handily recorded in your Bombers Notebook (a feature that wasn’t in the original). This is a living, breathing world that hasn’t been seen before or since in the Zelda universe.

It’s this constant sense of foreboding that is really Majora’s Mask’s greatest accomplishment. On the first day the soundtrack is lively and vibrant, and on the third it gets given a dark underlying score. “Dark” looks to be word of the day when it comes to this review, it’s not exactly survival horror dark, but for a series that has largely been in the realm of family entertainment, it’s a definite change of style and direction.

The world of Termina itself does feel smaller than the Hyrule of Ocarina of Time, unsurprising when you consider the game was developed in a year, compared to the three that OOT took. The size difference though is merely cosmetic. Hyrule Field in OOT was vast, and just riding Epona across from one end to the other was one of the highlights of that generation. In comparison, Majora’s Mask feels a lot tighter. The world may be smaller, but the amount of content crammed into this small space makes it feel massive.

The central area Clock Town is full of life and quests, then going through one of the exits places you onto Termina Field, again it may be smaller than its OOT equivalent, but graphically it looks so much sharper with plenty of detail and obstacles to overcome. Then there are the many areas that Termina Field connects, from the swamps to the high Goron mountains. It’s a glorious world to get lost in.

While the basics haven’t really evolved a great deal from Ocarina of Time (hit things with swords, explore dungeons, solve puzzles), the new mask mechanic adds its own flavour. There are a huge number of masks to be found, most are just obtained by completing sidequests and don’t really affect the gameplay as such, whereas a few of them allow Link to transform into a Zora, Goron or Deku Scrub. Each one comes with the unique traits specific to that species, such as the Goron’s roll attack and the Zora’s ability to swim underwater. Naturally with each transformation, certain characters treat you differently, apparently Clock Town not getting many Goron visitors, such was their shock at encountering one.

More than just a remake, it’s surprising how much care and attention to detail has gone into this 3D iteration. While other companies would just quickly throw it out as a quick cash grab, Nintendo and co-developers Grezzo have finely tuned it to the handheld format. Saving is now a lot more straightforward, the touch screen use for the inventory is brilliantly handled and it just looks so damn good.

Initially you may think to yourself that it looks just as good as on the N64, of course your mind can play tricks on you when you think back to the graphical power of yesteryears games. Only by going back and looking at the original N64 version can you see how much better it looks. The horrible, trademark N64 blur is eradicated and there’s even some new animations to gawp at. This is the sort of remaster that other companies should aspire to.

It may have taken fifteen years, but I’ve finally decided to embrace Majora’s Mask for what it is. A weird and wonderful game that tried to take the Zelda series in a brave and unusual direction. Hopefully others who were put off by the time mechanic all those years ago are willing to try it again and hopefully, much like myself, they too will finally learn to love it.

Life is Strange: Episode 1 – Chrysalis Review

To be honest, any episodic game in a post Walking Dead world is going to be compared, especially when said game is all about story and examining every item in the environment. That’s not to say Life is Strange doesn’t bring its own ideas to the table.

Its main twist is the use of time travel. Playing as Max, a socially awkward photography nerd, after witnessing someone getting shot in the toilets of Blackwell Academy (where she’s studying) she discovers she has the ability to turn back time. Rewinding time causes everything to move backwards around Max as she stands still. Only the game is very loose with its rules of time travel. For the majority of the game Max stands still as has already been said, yet the first time she discovers her power she’s also moved back in time to the classroom. To be honest though, surely that’s how it should work. I mean, if everyone is moving back in time with the exception of Max then wouldn’t it break certain moments, like interacting with people? Whatever, my brain is now hurting, time travel is a hard thing to get right whether it’s in a movie or game.

In its defence though, the puzzles rely on the game being fast and loose with the time travel laws. One early encounter has you attempting to move the school bully from the dorm steps, to do so requires some use of time rewinding and altering the environment slightly to reach your goal. While situations like this are required to progress the story, others are almost like side quests, such as warning a girl before she gets hit by a football.

The time mechanic is also used to alter choices you might make along the way. Not happy with the outcome of a decision? Then simply rewind and choose the other option. While this may seem like it’s easy to choose the “good” option, pretty much all the dialogue choices aren’t simply black and white. A lot of them, whatever choice you make feels like it has just as much a negative reaction as the other. Time will tell if these choices affect the story in any meaningful way.

There’s actually a surprisingly lot of stuff to find and interact with in the world, some of which just produce little throwaway pieces of dialogue, others feel like you’re actually getting to know the characters a bit more. This is more apparent with the many photos you’ll find, photography being a key pillar in the game world.

What is really striking about Life is Strange right from the beginning is the art style. Graphically, the first two areas aren’t anything special, but then you reach the games climax (it is only a few hours long), jaws will drop. What’s most impressive is the almost, indie movie like aesthetic. Right from the opening, after leaving the classroom Alex pops in some headphones, the noise from the corridor drowns out and music just envelops the scene as the opening credits begin. Then when you’re looking at various objects in the world all options appear like they’re drawn on with pencil. Even with graphics that might not wow, Life is Strange goes to show that with a good art style you can make it stand out from the crowd.

The acting and dialogue fares a little worse. Performances aren’t bad, but are pretty mediocre and the dialogue teen speak jumps between good and excruciating. While the interaction between Max and her former best friend is mostly decent (awkward David Cage dance scene aside), the occasional lines of “epic win” and the like creep in. It at times feels like adults writing for teens whose only research was watching Juno.

If you treat this is like a pilot for a new TV series, then Life is Strange can be considered a success. While the vast majority of episode 1 plays out like an extended tutorial, it does end with a great cliffhanger that ensures my return for the second episode.

Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

Before I put the disc in I thought to myself, “hang on, what exactly happened in Bayonetta?” I then blankly stared into space for a minute trying to remember and coming up blank. Because as amazing as Bayonetta was, the plot was absolute bobbins. And somehow, in trying to tell it in a coherent fashion, Bloody Fate comes off looking worse.

The movie does try to welcome you into this weird world with an opening monologue telling of the battle between angels and the umbra witches. The angels trying to obtain two eyes which in turn will resurrect Jubileus who is going to destroy the world, or something like that. Our hero Bayonetta is awakened after 500 years and is on a quest to regain her lost memories by killing everything with her magical hair powers. Like I said, it’s all a bit baffling, but like the game the movie is really a showcase for the action.

The Bayonetta: Bloody Fate trailer

The opening action scene from the movie is similar in tone to the game, only now it’s taking place in a church as opposed to a cemetery. Despite being an adaptation of the first game, there are a few slight differences like this scattered throughout, none of which affect much. It almost feels like they had to change something so they could add their own stamp to it, but did so little it almost becomes pointless.

What isn’t different though are the voices. All the games voice cast return to lend their talents and jumping straight to this shortly after completing Bayonetta 2 made it all feel official.

While the action sequences are spectacular and really hold the movie together, the problem is that’s really the only thing it has going for it. So much so that while watching all I wanted to do was turn the Wii U on and play the actual game and that’s a massive problem. As excellent as the fight scene between Bayonetta and Jeanne is, I remember it being just as fantastic when I had a controller in my hand.

What Bloody Fate does double down on is the rather gratuitous shots of Bayonetta in various stages of undress. As her hair acts as her weapon (and is also her outfit) it means with every use of it, it comes off, until it’s only covering the more intimate parts of her body. There’s also a bath scene (because it’s an anime), where the camera lingers for a little too long as the hapless Luka stands there gawping.

It’s hard to know who they’re aiming for with Bloody Fate. As it’s a straight up adaptation of the first game there’s very little here that people who’ve played the game wouldn’t have already seen. And if you’re just looking for a good anime action movie then you’ll be left confused by the indecipherable plot. I could only just about follow it because the game was still fresh in my memory.

With some thought the director/writers could’ve come up with a more unique and interesting story set apart from the games, but unfortunately what we get is a rather underwhelming re-tread of the first game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play the real thing.


Spy Chameleon Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retrospective: Mega Man X3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MovieStyle: Need for Speed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trine: Enchanted Edition Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MovieStyle: Alone in the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tales From The Borderlands: Episode One – Zer0 Sum Review

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

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

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

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

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

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