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Musynx – A Retrospective review

“‘PM Studios have recently ported over their mobile success story Musynx to the Nintendo Switch. Acttll Inc. has published an engrossing rhythm game with 50 original tracks from online artists and more to come via downloadable content (DLC).

Musynx is very much a no-nonsense title for the genre it belongs to, with no unlock mechanics and no form of career mode. The main menu is one big list of tracks to play through which range from dubstep to anime-inspired quirkiness. The English in the menu system could have been better translated as certain features are not very clear.

All Your Tracks Are Belong To Us

For example, players can choose from a 4K or 6K mode. I was scared to choose an option in case my Switch screen exploded, however common sense later intervened and stated that the ‘K’ stands for keys. In Musynx, players can choose to play tracks with either 4 keys or 6 keys surprisingly. Whilst the 4K option is accessible on first impressions, 6K is for transient beings that have no need to rely on sight, sound nor smell.

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“Crystal clear sky highways”

To help ease players in, Musynx offers tools to help players get to grips with the gameplay such as adjustable note speed. This feature does not slow the track down, it just adjusts the rate of the notes approaching on the screen to help players hit the more intense note patterns. The game also features an easy and hard mode, which the latter is designed for T-100 models and above.

Hopefully No Dragonforce

The aesthetic of the levels is in the same vein as other household rhythm games such as ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘Rock Band’. Players are at the foot of a note highway and are required to hit buttons that correspond to the lane the next note is on, readers know the drill.

What this writer loves about Musynx is that every highway has been created specifically for the genre the track falls into as well as note choices being crafted for said tracks. For example, dubstep style tracks will have a digital, almost Tron style highway.

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“I wish I was as happy as this highway looks…”

You Must Learn Control

Players also have access to a couple of different control options. The touch screen controls have stuck around for Musynx console release which one prefers. It is almost like playing a very limited keyboard with zero-touch feedback; it is the most accessible choice for sure. The other option is using the joy con or pro controller buttons which can be re-mapped. For the 4K option, one found that using the shoulder buttons for the outer lanes worked best for hand to eye coordination.

Musynx is well presented, bar the aforementioned translation issues. Each track is listed in a scrollable menu which lists a difficulty level, artist and track title along with some odd artwork. Seriously, it looks like a Google images job, but that does not matter. Smooth frame rates were enjoyed in both docked and handheld mode throughout, which is more crucial in Rhythm games than other genres. Lanes and highways are clearly dressed up as they should be, it’s very obvious what players should be doing and when.

The crown jewel for this reviewer is the Musynx soundtrack,  which features 50 different online artists from across the pond and back. It is a great platform for these musicians and the passion is felt in most tracks. One can almost feel like these songs were crafted specifically for better gameplay.

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“Great game, but kind of looks like a media player skin”V

Verdict:

Presentation: 6
Graphics: 5
Gameplay: 8
Sound: 8

Overall Score: 6.8/10

Musynx is a no-nonsense highway rhythm title with totally original content. Whilst some tracks might not be everyone cup of tea, the challenge of the higher level tracks will keep players engaged.

Formats: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) PlayStation 4, PS Vita and iOS
Price: £26.99 (eShop)
Publisher: Acttll inc.
Developer: PMStudios Inc.
Release Date: 19/06/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 3+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Iro Hero: A Retrospective review

Developer ‘Artax Games’ have brought the late 80’s/early 90’s coin ops experience to players’ homes in ‘Iro Hero’. The title is an unforgiving take on arcade classics such as ‘Galaga’ and ‘Ikaruga’ with some gameplay mechanics such as vertical scrolling levels and unlimited ammo. But unfortunately, Iro Hero misses some necessary ones.

Players find themselves in the protagonists Iro spaceship. Without ruining too much of the plot, an alien race has taught earthlings how to harness electricity from within the human anatomy. The plot thickens akin to the ‘Matrix’ franchise by literally farming less fortunate humans.

Negative or Positive?

Iro has the ability to change the polarity of his inner electricity, this plot point is used to back-up the red and blue colour shifts in the protagonist’s ships and ammo. This mechanic is used offensively to damage the opposing coloured ships.  As players go through levels, various pickups are available to increase ammo radius etc., but not much else.

Iro Hero 2
“We Better Bounce Iro”

Iro hero is its own worst enemy in not providing challenging checkpoints throughout levels or any guidance throughout to overcome the games nine levels. It sounds typical of a modern gamer to complain about difficulty, but one believes there is engaging difficulty and just plain old unfair difficulty. Imagine a platforming title with ledges spaced just a little too far apart for players to land an effective jump.

Holding On to the Past

Adding to this, gamers of today and yesteryear might not have the patience to tackle just a daunting undertaking. Yes, arcade games in the same vein are also very challenging however they also provided checkpoints and certain abilities to combat level fatigue. The levels themselves are simply too long, almost like listening to your grand-parents bang on about the price of butter in your local supermarket.

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“Well, this just got super cerial!”

Enemies follow variating attack patterns and try to save the games levels long haul approach, but even that does not escape the un-needed length of Iro Hero’s vertical scrolling moments. The sides of the level are used for character interaction; however, players might find themselves ignoring plot points just to ensure their toil isn’t in vein.

Skip, Skip, Skip to the Game!

If this reviewer is being honest, the narrative is a passive affair. From the opening screen and throughout Iro Hero, players are greeted with blocks of text in an awkward font. Unfortunately, this approach simply reverses what the plot is trying to achieve. Although it has potential, for a title such as this, it is not necessary to have a thick undercurrent of character drive.

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“It Don’t matter if you’re Red or Blue…”

The presentation of Iro Hero also follows in its fore father’s footsteps; a coin-ops style pixel art is utilized in all its crisp arcade cabinet glory. All special effects and attacks are animated in the same fashion bringing a nice sense of authenticity to Iro Hero. Whilst the graphics are presented in high resolutions, with substantially more detail than early 90’s titles, it still feels like it could live in a cabinet somewhere in a dusty storage locker.

Iro Hero’s soundtrack is a synth/bit chip experience that tries to move away from the well-trodden pixel art and bit chip sound marriage. Whilst it sounds great, it is not something I’ll be actively looking to listen to again but it serves its purpose. Sound effects are also in the same vein.

Verdict:

Presentation: 6.9
Graphics: 7.9
Gameplay: 5
Sound: 6.5

Overall Score: 6.6/10

Iro Hero sets out to take players back to the golden age of arcade/coin ops gaming. And whilst the effort is obvious, its execution is one of missed opportunities and polish. Iro Hero looks the part but does not deliver quite as well as it should.

Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Release Date: 22/06/2018
Price: £11.69 (eShop)
Publisher: EastAsiaSoft
Developer: Artex Games
Pegi Rating: 7+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Mario Tennis Aces: A Retrospective review

The long friendship between developer ‘Camelot’ and publisher ‘Nintendo’ has blossomed once again with ‘Mario Tennis Aces’. Unlike its ill received ‘Wii U’ outing, Nintendo and Camelot have managed to return an ace with this title; with the reintroduction of a well fleshed out story mode, online and offline multiplayer and thankfully a separate mode for motion controls. Sorry, the idea of extensive movement whilst playing games doth butter no parsnips for this reviewer.

From booting Mario Tennis Aces up for the first time, players are thrown straight into a handful of training levels as well as being treated to the utterly batty story line. Despite being a bit of a stretch by Nintendo’s standards, players will not or should not be going into a Mario Tennis title expecting a rich plot. The end result is doing a good job of holding up the single player experience and provides motivation for Mario and Coach Toad to wonder around for a while.

I’m going on an Adventure!

Adventure mode is structured in a typical Mario / DK fashion with fixed pathways and levels circled off. Whilst players might be tempted to avoid the excursions and get on with the story, one found the practice areas quite useful. Mario Tennis Aces single player mode is designed to make players better and more engrossed with the new mechanics on display, with practice levels helping to make the most of this.

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“How’s this for Bananas DK!?”

So for example, just before a boss fight there might be another path leading players to a practice area. The character looking after said practice area may have a new racket to add to your collection or show you a new skill in exchange for completing a mini game or task. Mini games can range from rally challenges to target practice and more. Not only can these areas give you the upper hand, they allow players to practice without feeling the fatigue of level grinding.

Speaking of level grinding, adventure mode does have an auto leveling up system which is nice and simple. Over time Mario’s Speed, Strength and more improve and the results are noticeable on the court. This reviewer’s one gripe about adventure mode is losing a match and having to go through the same scripts over and over. However at the start of the match the script can be skipped. Come on Camelot, this writer is terrible at the game!

Unlimited Powaahhhhh!

Whilst in matches, Mario has a circular energy meter around his portrait which builds up energy over time to perform newly designed moves. These new special moves have replaced the Mario Kart style power ups in previous games. One thought a quick list would do the trick:

  • Zone ShotOnce the power meter is at least 1/3 charged, players can perform a Zone Shot which allows a super fast hit to any area of the court
  • Zone BlockZone Blocks have to be extremely well timed in order to block a Zone Shot and to not damage or break rackets.
  • Zone SpeedUsed to slow town time in order to catch up with Zone or Special shots to hit back, again have to be well timed to avoid racket damage
  • DodgeA flip move designed to quickly get from one end of the court to the other, brilliant for trick shot returns.
  • Special ShotA similar move to Zone Shot but with more power required a full power meter or an ultimate power shot.

What a Racket!

The addition of new special moves comes with another addition, deteriorating rackets. During matches only, Zone and Special shots can cause your racket to receive damage, ultimately breaking it. This also introduces the knock out mechanic, no racket no win. A simple addition which adds tension to matches, especially boss battles.

Speaking of boss battles, they are very well done and often come with a free complimentary warm up level beforehand which are sometimes harder than the bosses themselves. Readers, please play the game and tell me all about the ‘Reflection’ room. The rage quit fairy was practically tap dancing on my Switch screen. Again with most Mario games, bosses can be a challenge but hold achievable wins by simply paying attention to their attack patterns. P.S. they all love tennis.

Nintendo, Step away from the Motion Controls!

Mario Tennis Aces has gone back to the drawing board and decided to have a mid life crisis and mess with the idea of tennis. As I’m sure my readers and Nintendo fans aren’t expecting a basic and realistic tennis simulation, Marion Tennis Aces does everything it can to keep the tennis formula fresh. From ‘Piranha Plants’ firing balls or fireballs from the net posts to explosive ‘Mecha-Goombas’ having a stroll along the court, this title certainly turns up the heat and demands fast reactions and a build up of muscle memory.

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“So Baby Piranha plays Tennis now, Unbelieafable!”

Swing mode is where Camelot has boxed up and thrown the motion control aspects of the game, which is quite frankly amazing. Motion gaming is not for everyone and it is great that Camelot have catered to this. Upon first trail, one did not feel like the powerhouse of tech, that is Nintendo’s Joy Cons, were fully realised. Camelot has literally replaced a button press with a swing and that’s it. But again, that is also fine. One believes Nintendo fans are truly over the motion gaming fad by now!

Multiple Multiplayer Options

Players’ can choose to take the fight to their friends with offline split screen or via online tournaments. Online tournaments are all ranked matches with simple and competitive rules. This is all accessed by the free play option on the main menu. Players can host a lobby for their fellow Switch friends to join, from there an array of options appear; from AI, difficulty, court playlists, court options and more.

Online players join a tournament which runs quite smoothly. The matchmaking was quick and no noticeable lag was present in the few matches I played (lost).  Each character also has his or her own stat build ups, for example Yoshi is speed focused whilst Bowser is the king of power shots.

Smooth Running

Graphically, Mario Tennis Aces is lovingly polished from top to bottom. If the Nintendo’s seal of quality still held any water, this title would have one. No frame rate drops, runs smoothly in handheld and docked mode with nice HD textures on environments and characters to boot. The menu system is simple, sharp and fast. Mario Tennis Aces just wants players engaged in the action as quick as possible.

All of the trademark sound effects are back in Mario Tennis Aces, with original voice talent acting for the whole cast. In true Mario tradition, the voice cast only say a word or two to help set the tone of the script. The sound effects are sharp and well balanced, not once did I hear a noise and have to question its source. The OST is also typical of Mario spin off series fashion; it’s catchy, upbeat and safe for the ears. Whilst one won’t be looking for a soundtrack CD anytime soon, it’s not a bad one either.

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“Pow!”

Verdict:

Graphics and Presentation: 4.5

Gameplay: 4.5

Sound: 4

Overall Score: 4.3/5

Mario Tennis Aces is a return to form for the franchise. Whilst one or two points could be improved upon, this is a fun game to play in both single-player and multi-player flavours. This writer is happy to say that Camelot and Nintendo have produced another brilliant title in the 2018 Nintendo Switch line-up.

Formats: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed),
Price: £49.99 (eShop)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot
Release Date: 22/06/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 3+

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Mother Russia Bleeds review – Double Russian

From the visceral minds of ‘le Cartel Studio’ comes the drug-addled alternate U.S.S.R. blood bath that is ‘Mother Russia Bleeds’. Whilst a plot has been established and we all have fond memories of hashing out ‘T.M.N.T.’ and ‘Streets of Rage’, is Mother Russia Bleeds simply worth your time?

Well, yes and no. Mother Russia Bleeds is a homage to all the great side scrolling beat em ups of past generations (Especially the early ’90s), but with all the good point come the bad also. Yes, players will encounter larger than life bosses, various enemies and have a health/power mechanic that involves draining half used drugs from opponents which is great.

Here, I made it from firmenting Potatoes…

However, Mother Russia Bleeds doesn’t go out of its way to fix and genre-specific faults such as lining up perfectly with antagonists to land a punch. Nor does it attempt anything to improve the formula such as combos or skill trees. Perhaps its the general consensus of such a title that it doesn’t need these features, but Reggie disagrees.

With the side-scrolling beat ’em up genre having a repetitive nature, it would make sense to try and cure the itch here by including mechanics that have served titles well since the golden age of Arcade Cabinets. Mother Russia Bleeds plays its cards close to its chest in this regard, which is a disappointment but at the same time is exactly what the developers seemed to be aiming for.

16 Bits of Mutant Beating

A CRT effect is included as standard which is a pretty good way to get players nostalgia engines fired up. This also compliments the 16-Bit textures well and allows Mother Russia Bleeds some ’90s street (of Rage) credibility. Animations look smooth given the deliberate frame drop to again match its legacy idols which add to the presentational polish of Mother Russia Bleeds.

Sound effects are hard-hitting and quite brash which frames the games overall need for bloodsport nicely, although the OST for levels often suffers from what I like to call ‘Bit-Chip Note farting’. Imagine a constant Guitar solo, on repeat in Midi and you’re more or less there. The main issue with this is not having any form of gravitas for boss battles and sticky situations.

Verdict:

Presentation: 8
Graphics: 7.5
Gameplay:6.5
Sound: 6

Overall Score: 7

Mother Russia Bleeds is more or less a carbon copy of most titles that have come and gone before it and plays it safe within its genre-specific guidelines. That being said, it’s still a good title and one that shouldn’t disappoint side scrolling beat em up enthusiasts.

It ticks all the boxes in this regard, however, it would have been nice to see a risk being taking here and there such as the comedic plot points and misadventure of ‘Shaq Fu’ or the MKII sprite / Metal offering of ‘Raging Justice’. For most, drugged up angry Russians should do just fine though.

Format: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC
Price: £13.49 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: le Cartel
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 15/11/18

Review Copy Provided by Publisher.

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Hyper Jam review – Party Combat

After my recent deluge of short and admittedly basic Indie games, Bit Dragon have unleashed arena
brawler ‘Hyper Jam’ upon us gamers. A genre that can be a blast with friends. But the game does have
to be in a condition that would tempt people in, and hopefully to part with money. Have ‘Bit Dragon’
done enough to capture the attention and imagination? Or would Smash Bros be a more preferable
choice? Let’s find out.

With a selection of brawlers each distinctly unique from one another, and arenas carefully soaked in neon glow, Hyper Jam has a cool aesthetic that sets it apart from the cartoon feel of Smash Bros and feels a bit more grown up. Arenas aren’t just side viewed platforms, they are 3D levels that are slightly bigger than the screen you play on.

Spawn me Something Nice!

Weapons spawn in randomly, perks can be obtained between matches to give you an edge, and these depend on how well, or badly you perform during the previous battle. It’s a simple formula that works incredibly well, and with 4 people duking it out against each other, it descends into utter chaos as you scrap through to the final slither of health hoping for a win, only to find that your now nemesis has punched or shot you off the edge of the arena to your demise.

This is what party games are all about. Forming an alliance, or turning on friends to test just how much you think of each other. Not that any friendships were lost during the review, but it was rather fun nonetheless.

Gameplay and controls are smooth and tight with no questions to be asked from this reviewer, and when its kept simple as Hyper Jam is, you can’t argue that it’s a game to pick up and play at a moments notice. That how it’s meant o be for this genre especially, and it works perfectly as far as my humble opinion stands.

Having a Blast

Legging it away from someone who’s trying to shoot a grenade at you while your fists won’t do brings out the laughs as you frantically search for some way to even the odds and return fire. Perks that allow fire damage to be applied or health regeneration go a long way to turning the tides of the next round.

To say I’ve had a fantastic time with Hyper Jam and the chaotic nature of the action is a testament to how much time and effort Bit Dragon have put into the game to make it run smoothly, and functioning so it balances out each battle. Characters are cosmetic and there’s no advantages to be had by choosing one over another.

It’s down to player skill to survive and complete the round as victor and claim them precious bragging rights on game night with your friends. That’s where it is, and we all know it. Pulling out a victory over your best buddies is always a satisfying experience, and Hyper Jam brought that to the table.

Cross Platform CO-OP

Aside from playing up to 4-player in local play, there also an option for cross-platform play with online play, giving you the chance to not only face off against your friends in the comfort of your own home but total strangers too. What a time to be alive in that people playing on other consoles can now face your wrath. Or it could well be the other way around.

Would I recommend Hyper Jam? Well if you’ve been paying attention to this review, then you’ll be fully aware that I’ve hyped the game up, and I in no way apologise for the pun included, and I could happily play this some more with friends or strangers. I love the park system, the customisation that’s available when arranging a match beforehand, and this keeps the game balanced so those who are finding it easy will get the last choice of perks between each round, allowing those who lack skills to pick the best of the bunch for themselves.

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8

Overall Score: 8

To wrap up, Hyper Jam is an excellent battle brawling game with a modest selection of weapons to choose from, and perks to find. With AI bots it’s not all that fun, but with real people to square off against, Hyper Jam quickly becomes a fun game to play. Will it stand the test of time? Well, that remains to be seen, as it needs the right people to find it.

Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC
Price: ££12.49.(Microsoft Store)
Developer: Bit Dragon
Publisher: Bit Dragon
Release Date: 12/02/2019
PEGI Rating: 16+


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Mental Health in Gaming: ‘Amber’

Welcome to the first part in Reggie Reviews interview series ‘Mental Health in Gaming’. This series will focus on interviews from gamers across the globe sharing their struggles with Mental Illness and how gaming helped them overcome or manage it. This writers first interviewee is a lady called Amber.

At just 13 years old she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. With a poor support network and unhelpful mental examinations at the hands of the NHS, Amber turned to the MMO Phenomenon ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘The Elder Scrolls’ series to escape and seek out her online family:

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Thanks very much for being the first interviewee for ‘Mental health in Gaming’ Amber. Firstly, could you just confirm your mental health status?

“I was diagnosed with Bipolar when I was 13 years old, I still suffer with it now. My condition isn’t as extreme as it was in my teens, but it still lingers.”

And was this diagnosed by a medical professional before finding solace in gaming?

“No, gaming has always provided me with a good outlet and allowed me to vent”

OK, thanks for being so open and honest. Mental illness is still very hard to talk about openly in 2018. But awareness is growing. Amber, do you believe that the appropriate triggers for mental health are being targeted by the world’s media right NOW?

“Yes and No. I feel that the world understands more about mental health than it did when I was 13. The introduction of ‘Mental Health First Aiders” in my workplace to help the relevant people is a great move, so much so I became one. But at the same time, I feel there is somewhat of a glorification of mental health conditions which is being felt by younger generations today.

Teenagers subjection to Social Media at such an early age is allowing them access to increasingly negative ‘trends’. For example, when I was a young teenager it was considered ‘cool’ to self-harm, go figure. I believe that today it’s considered admirable to have a declining stability in a teens mental health. This kind of behavior just makes it harder for people with real problems to reach out and get help!”

Some good points, this is such a grey area in discussions and forums all over the world. However, official bodies such as the World Health Organization should have 100% concrete evidence in regards to a disease or disorder before classifying it as I’m sure you’ll agree?

“Yeah, I totally agree. I think that there are people out there who are genuinely struggling with day to day life and are being pigeon holed. This isn’t their fault and they are getting the wrong help whilst gaining an unnecessary negative stereotype”

The-Elder-Scrolls-III-Morrowind-Good-kicking

I’m glad we’re on the same page. So Amber, I’ve waffled on enough. In your own words, please tell readers all over the world the challenges you have faced and how gaming help you overcome these obstacles?

“For me, I feel that depression can be overly diagnosed and isn’t necessarily the cause of some people’s problems. Chemical level can decline which is a cause, but from my experience it’s a sign that something needs to change in life. Medication can help, however, finding a way to medicate life can also help. I managed to do with gaming. I’ve never had a large network of friends and the ones I do have are busy with their careers as I am or having kids.

Gaming helps me overcome depression and my condition by making new friends and escaping to another world, escaping my mind for a while. Constantly maintaining a work / life balance can be an amazing gift and a burden at the same time. I think that point applies to the majority of us, not just those who have an official mental health diagnosis.

One of my lowest lows was the loss of someone very close to me. My family didn’t provide much support during that time, so I turned to my online family and friends on ‘World of Warcraft’. The guild I was a member of helped me through this horrible darkness I was in. I also find that the people I connect with online over a given gaming platform have a lot in common with myself. This makes finding comfort and solace with new people a mutual experience that’s easy and beneficial to both parties.”

Wow, I would just like to state to all my readers that this is a 100% genuine individual who has agreed to be part of Reggie Reviews dive into mental health in gaming. Thank you so much for sharing such a dark and sensitive time in your life.

As i’m sure you are already aware, younger gamers are getting a bad rap from Schools, Government officials and even their own parents regarding their gaming habits. Amber, how did your family help you cope and manage at the time? And also did they attempt to understand why you used gaming as a coping mechanism?

“In all honesty, I was quite a self-sufficient child and teenager. As well as that, gaming didn’t seem to have such a stigma attached to it. It wasn’t an illness that needed to be monitored or restricted. When I had School, I was in bed early. If I had somewhere to be, I’d be there.

It seems to me that kids in 2018 lack that self-discipline and values towards everyday life, somewhere along the line that has been lost I guess. This probably won’t be the most popular opinion, but I believe parents that blame games for their own child’s lack of responsibility are in fact being irresponsible themselves and putting their inadequate parenting skills on display

Amber, if you had the power to change anything in regards to how mental health in gaming is dealt with in the public eye?

“I Would love to see gaming become part of some form of cognitive therapy or treatment used to battle depression and anxiety. Obviously, this won’t be a valid approach for non-gamers but lays another foundation for a positive outcome for gamers and their mental health battles. Maybe if more positive gaming solutions came to light in the public eye such as this, people might start to relieve the gaming industry of this false stigma.”

Thanks to Amber for levelling up and appearing on Reggie Reviews ‘Mental Health in Gaming’

Want to tell your story? Hit up Reggie on the contacts page!

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Farm Together review – Crop it.

There’s a lot of games centred around farming available to gamers these days, form Real Farm, to ‘Farming Simulator’ and even ‘Farmville’ for Facebook users. Always a relaxing way to game, unlike the real world counterpart, as being a farmer is hard work and involves long hours. Thankfully, the kind folks over at ‘Milkstone’ have made it even easier for us farming fanatics and brought us the undeniably cute ‘Farm Together’.

One thing to note is that it does have a passing resemblance to Farmville in several aspects, but that’s not always a bad thing. Farm Ville was indeed fun and addictive. Anyway, onto the basics. Farm Together allows up to 16 people to play together on a single farm, but as of writing, there have been server issues preventing online connectivity. It briefly worked before the release date, so thankfully I can confirm that it worked well and allowed exploration of other farm builds and even helping out as a farm hand depending on permissions granted by the owner. F

Farming is also the key to world peace…

Addicted to Farming…

To say I have spent an unhealthy amount of time on the game would be a massive understatement, as I can’t seem to pry myself away from it. There’s always work that needs to be done, and more so if you have unlocked more areas of your farm and have plenty of trees, crops, fish and animals to tend too. Milkstone have found what makes a game addictive, and boy have they nailed it.

Heyyyy Heyyy I wanna be a Rock Star (Farmer)

The chance to unlock something new each time I gained a new level kept me coming back for more each and every time. Not only do you get to do the above, but the fruits, nuts, fish, flowers etc that you harvest can be sold at stalls relative to the items you harvest. This, in turn, gives you diamonds that you can spend on select items from the shop or save towards buying new land to expand your growing empire. Each animal, tree or crop takes time to reach maturity before you can reap the rewards, but even though the wait can be up to 2 days away, it’s worth waiting for as the longer the wait, the better the rewards tend to be.

Like a Pig In Mud!

As a game, it’s up there as one of the most enjoyable experiences so far on Xbox One, and that’s down to several reasons. First, it’s so easy to pick up and play, you won’t have any difficulty in getting to grips with the controls and soon enough you’ll b ploughing fields, harvesting crops and caring for your animals with the greatest of ease.

Secondly, you will find this game so relaxing that stress just disappears the moment you start playing, and that’s in huge part to the soundtrack which I could sit and listen to for half an hour without a second thought. Third, there is just so much to unlock to improve various areas as you advance, it just hooks you and reels you in.

Put a slice of ham in a DVD player to watch a short film about Pigs….

One aspect that I feel was a perfect addition, is the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Now you may think that this is just a cosmetic addition to the game, but you’d be wrong. The seasons play an important part as to when crops can be planted and harvested. The same applies to trees too.

Next Season on Farm Togehter…

A season lasts approximately 15 minutes, meaning if you’re on for long enough you will get to see several seasons roll past allowing you to manage your crops and plan ahead for any missions you may have available to you.

Speaking of missions, these are quite simple truth be told. Someone requires X amount of produce from crops or animals of some type, and it’s up to the gamer to provide these amounts. Once you have secured the full amounts, the rewards of experience and pink medals are yours.

Gunna make me some fine soup with with Pumpkin, ya dig?

So, you’re wondering what these pink medals are for? Well, it’s another form of currency along with coins and diamonds. Only these tend to be for the rarer objects within the game. Most notably sprinklers that automatically water your crops and be one vital for when you’re not about to tend to the farm yourself.

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 6
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 9

Overall Score: 7/10

To wrap up this review, Farm Together is one of the most enjoyable titles to grace the ID Xbox program so far, with its delightful visuals and relaxing soundtrack. The one issue I found aside grim the connectivity issue which a patch will fix soon, is the low render distance. It does shock me just how bad it is, and I’ve no idea why it’s like this. I play games and not make them, so I have no idea why it’s as low as it is. The price may surprise some of you, and that’s perfectly normal in the age of entitlement, but for what you pay compared to what you get back, well, let’s just say it will be worth every penny and then some.

Platforms: Xbox One(reviewed), PlayStation 4, Steam & Nintendo Switch
Developer: Milkstone
Publisher: Milkstone
Price: £16.74/$19.99/€19.99 (Microsoft Store)
Release Date: 18/01/2019

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The History of eSports

I (Sir Reginald) started to think “I used to love LAN parties”. Then one thought to himself “How did competitive gaming become a multi-million £/$ industry?” With this in mind, one decided to find out. And in all honesty eSports fans, one learnt some surprising facts!

The First video game Competition.

The founders award for competitive gaming goes to Stanford University. On 19th October 1972, the well-respected arena of knowledge was also the Arena to the first ‘Spacewar!’ tournament. Students were formally invited to the “Intergalactic Spacewar! Olympics” for a first place prize of a year’s ‘Rolling Stone’ subscription.

Tomohiro Nishikado’s legendary hit ‘Space Invaders’ was next up to receive the competitive gaming bug in The ‘Space Invaders Championship’in 1980. The first of its kind, Atari received 10,000 players across the U.S. trying to gain the highest score. This event is credited by the gaming industry as being the event that made competitive Gaming a hobby.

“Space Invaders Championship”

Grab a Pen Walt!

In the summer of the same year, a high score record company named ‘Twin Galaxies’ was founded by Walter Day. Twin Galaxies went on to become a big contributor in promoting its records through publications such as ‘The Guinness World Book of Records’. Three years later in 1983, the same company founded the U.S. National Video Game Team. The team went on to run the ‘Video Game Masters Tournament’ for Guinness and also Sponsor the ‘North American Video Game Challenge Tournament’.

As gaming tournaments profiles began to rise, key U.S. magazines such as ‘Life’ and ‘Time’ began to give coverage. eSports were even televised during the 80’s on shows such as ‘Starcade’, ‘That’s Incredible’ and the BBC’s ‘First Class’ as part of their Gameshow content.

“BBC’s First Class. Image resized to Match TV Sets at the time…”

The Dawn of Online Video Games

Finally, a year one was born in. In 1988 an open source (free) game hit PC’s called ‘Netrek’, this shooter/strategy MS DOS based game is considered the First Online Sports Game. In fact, ‘Wired magazine’ credited it for just that in 1993. Netrek was the first online game to utilize meta data to seek open game servers, and to think one was happy with a good old fashioned LAN party years later!

What would this article be without mentioning the ‘Nintendo World Championships’ in 1990 for the NES and in 1994 for the SNES which was renamed ‘Nintendo Power fest 94’. The finals were hosted in Universal Studios California and San Diego respectively. The original Championships is known for its elusive World Championship NES Cartridge featuring remixed NES game levels utilized for competitive play. This single cartridge is the single most valuable game in the history of gaming. With nine gray cartridges produced for finalists of the tournament, one recorded sale of said cartridge went for a mind blowing $100,088 on eBay in 2014. It was also reported that GameStop offered $1.25 trade in when the winner had completed it.

“The Illusive World Championship Grey Cartridge”

Remember Rentals?

The now defunct ‘Blockbuster Video’ held its own line of World Game Championships which was Co-Hosted by ‘GamePro’ magazines. Remember Magazines? Participants from the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia and Chile were able to apply.

For this writer and for many more gaming enthusiasts knocking around their 30’s, some of the biggest tournaments were formed in the 90’s and one still continues today. These include Quake-con, Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) and the Professional Gamers League (PGL).

British and Australian television was also a great advocate of early eSports. These shows included the legendary ‘Games Master’ and ‘Bad Influence!’ In the UK, ‘A*mazing’ in Australia and the Canadian game show ‘Video and Arcade top 10’

“Quake Con 1996. Zero yellowing, Zero Hairstyle”

Gaming’s eSports Wall

The competitive gaming scene mostly went underground in the 2000’s, with games like Counter-Strike and Super Smash Bros. Melee receiving community developed mods to support the cause. Obscenely, games developers and publishers didn’t believe in the meta-game and longevity built within their titles.

Putting this into perspective, there were 10 official gaming tournaments in 2000. The eSports Boom wouldn’t trigger until 2010. A total of 260 big tournaments were held. During this period however some major players within the eSports industry today were formed:

  • World Cyber Games
  • Intel Extreme Masters
  • Major League Gaming

2006 saw the formation of the ‘G7 Teams Federation’. The goal of the organization was to increase stability in the eSports world, particularly in standardizing player transfers and working with leagues and organizations. Although only lasting until 2009, this Federations founding members include some of the biggest teams in eSports right now:

  • 4Kings
  • Fnatic
  • Made in Brazil
  • Mousesports
  • NiP
  • SK-Gaming
  • Team 3D
“Full roster of G7 Members”

The Great eSports Boom.

The 2000s however was a great time for Television coverage, mostly in South Korea with StarCraft and Warcraft III tournaments. However other European countries and the U.S. tried their hand at broadcasting but ceased after two or three years on air. 2011 saw the formation of Twitch, the online broadcasting service built for gamers. ‘Twitch’s’ toddler years were a whirlwind of success with 12 billion minutes of video content watched in 2013, mostly from Broadcasts of ‘League of Legends’ and ‘DOTA 2.’

Nintendo finally warmed to the idea of eSports in 2014 by hosting the ‘Wii Games’ in summer 2010 which had 400,000 contestants. They later held a Smash Bros. For Wii U competitive tournament at E3 2014 which was streamed on Twitch. 343 Industries also made the move into eSports in 2014 with the ‘Halo championship Series’ with a prize pool of $50,000

“The pinnacle of modern eSports, ESL”

One of the biggest names today within the eSports industry is the ‘Electronic Sports League’ or ‘ESL’. Their origins began with an online only gaming league and an accompanying magazine. It also briefly rented out servers for various competitions.

With ESL annual productions more than doubling between 2012 to 2014, 2015 saw the 74% stake purchase from MTG (Modern Times Group)from ESL’s parent company ‘Turtle Entertainment’ for a blowout $86 million. ESL have participated in many ground breaking events from ‘eSports in cinema’ to recently hosting the first DOTA 2 Grand finals on British soil. They even have an Anti-Doping Policy to ensure fair play.

Some perspective.

Putting it simply, the eSports industry is growing year on year. As a parting fact, the first eSports Arena was built in 2015 in Santa Ana, California. This year has seen the completion of Luxor Las Vegas eSports Arena on the Las Vegas Strip with additional Arenas planned for the decade ahead. And let’s not forget in 2017 the Olympics Games recognized eSports as a valid sport with eSports being presented as an exhibition event at the 2018 ‘Asian Games’ as a lead-in to the 2022 games.

eSports is here to stay readers, and the competition is building year on year!

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Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa review – Detective Peek-at-You

Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa is a curious visual novel that’s also publisher PQube’s first foray in in game development.

After choosing either a male or female protagonist, you’re thrown into the life of a transfer student with minimal knowledge of your new higher-education institution; Fujisawa Academy. From the off you’ve formed a pact with a fox demon giving you the power to draw the truth out of any filthy liar you can fixate on. By playing a match-three game. Because why not?

School Daze

On entering the academy, you’re promptly assigned a tour guide, the super energetic Nanami Kagura. It’s quickly apparent that Nanami’s got an agenda and you know what? It’s far more interesting then boring old classes.

Nanami is part of the two-person strong Occult Research Club who rabidly follow their self-assigned mission; to discover the truth behind the academy’s seven mysteries; The White Wolf, The Library of Wisdom, The Wandering Gentleman, The Clock Tower Angel, The Curse of Mikoto, The Principal of Fujisawa Academy and The Future-Reflecting Mirror. It’s not long before you’re recruited to the Occult Club’s ranks and roped in to the faux-detective job. What follows is mostly you and Nanami going around grilling annoyed students about tales they’ve never taken very seriously, quickly earning you a reputation as being as nuts as Nanami, who appears to have an unhealthy obsession with The Curse of Mikoto, in particular.

The protagonist isn’t the focus here, merely acting as a vessel; an avatar to get you involved. Kotodama is more about everyone else; their backstories, their secrets and, well, their underwear for some reason, but I’ll get to that.†

I’ll get my Koto

Each of the little urban tales has a person and a single chapter linked to it. All hold enough intrigue and a few of the early chapters lead to some interesting revelations, beginning with the topic of animal cruelty. Uncovering these mysteries during your first playthrough is really just a matter of going through the motions and leaving the Occult Research Club thinking (or acting like, as the case may be) they’ve solved the riddles.

However, after making my way through a portion of the game and getting a feel for everyone’s secretive nature, it was very obvious that, in true visual novel tradition, most of your time is going to be spent on finding alternative paths through the story which uncover the more interesting beats.

Once you’ve gone through the fairly gruelling trial and error process of working out the next event trigger (I’ll save you some time here; make sure you check your phone frequently), the twists and turns come out in full-force and there are some genuinely compelling developments as you make your way through to the ‘true’ ending.

The protagonist’s demon buddy isn’t visible to other humans (unless they chose to materialise), as such Mon-chan gives a pop-in commentary to keep steering the narrative; referencing newly uncovered revelations during secondary playthroughs and the like.

During your investigations into the 7 mysteries, you’re going to run into the occasional stone wall; a character who doesn’t want to fess up. Once you and Mon-chan have sniffed out a secret, it’s time to turn it up a gear and draw on demonic powers to activate… a match-three mini-game. That’s right.

Go, Go, Gadget Balls

As Mon-chan explains, you’ll need to remove the layers of deceit using your imagination before your mental truth serum like activate. Rather than imagining peeling an onion, or adopting the victim-searing Jeremy Kyle technique, your teenage protag, naturally, has to imagine taking clothes away. They don’t gender discriminate; they just strip any of those suckers down. Points for not messing about, I guess.

Mechanically it’s a match-three game. You hit a sphere and it jumps to the top row, pushing that column down by one. Match the coloured spheres in horizontal or vertical lines of three or more in a bid to keep your target ‘happy’. Aside from the odd minor powerup like dynamite that clears entire lines or character specific spheres that provide bigger scores, there’s a basic function in which you either excite your fantasy embodiment of your chosen liar or royally p’ them off; granting more turns if successful. There’s not much else to it; it’s functional, if one-dimensional, though entertaining enough in its short bursts.

Following certain dialogue trees or visiting certain areas at the right moment during core story gameplay can undercover key words and phrases which are logged in your demon-spawn Word Book, add to sphere colour-specific experience points. Once a level is gained, the subject colour of sphere is powered up. It’s an addition that’s hardly noticed but does nothing to detract anything either, at least offering as a reminder that you’ve uncovered an alternative dialogue line.

Options are up the to usual VN standard, offering the chance to skip text you’ve come across before and quick save features. The in-game equivalent to Twitter (the brilliantly named ‘Quacker’) offers another line of enquiry but my one gripe is that, when triggering certain events, you’re often expected to read a message that pop ups on Quacker, however, the text-skipping features dives straight past these indiscriminately, stopping only for actual dialogue options.

Ani-makeup

The clean and bold anime artwork has a nice chunky, professional sheen and, for what is a very exaggerated look by definition, gives off some really interesting expressions, keeping you guessing about intentions. I mean, yes, ‘anime character is hiding something’ scenarios will always be obvious by design; that’s the nature of the beast, but the emotive and colourful visual characterisations are well-realised here. The musical score is silky smooth and damn catchy, and the full Japanese voice cast do an awesome job of capturing the tone. Major plot twists aside, Kotodama, on paper is very much a cookie-cutter VN product, however, it’s clearly a labour of love, with a refined, polished presentation, quirky writing and fantastic tone. While the match-three game serves as a decent short-term distraction, Kotodama doesn’t offer a lot that hasn’t been done before from a design and structure standpoint.

How then, have PQube managed to make the game feel unique? To me it’s a mystery, but one I thoroughly enjoyed throughout. Perhaps it’s the delivery of a focussed delight that gets everything it sets out to do just right.

Verdict:

Graphics: 9
Presentation: 9
Sound:
9
Gameplay: 8

Overall Score: 9/10

With a competitive price, this streamlined visual novel ticks all the right boxes for genre fans. It’s short and not entirely original, but frankly, I don’t give a dama.

Format: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Price: £19.99
Publisher: PQube Ltd
Developer: PQube Ltd, Art Co. Ltd
Age Rating: PEGI 12

Release Date: 31/05/19

Review copy provided by publisher

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Warhammer Chaosbane review – Diablo Nights…

One thing that most gamers can agree on is the variety of genres ‘Games Workshop IP’ enjoy year after year. From Strategy to FPS, ‘Warhammer’ is next in line for a gaming makeover in isometric ARPG ‘Warhammer: Chaosbane’.

Whilst I enjoyed my ‘High Elf Mage’ playthrough of Chaosbane, it doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table either. Isometric ARPGS have a hard time standing out from each other at the best of times due to zoomed out camera angles, leaving little for the eye in terms of character and smaller textures.

Mimicry is the best form of Flattery…

Chaosbane lazily relies on past inspirations as benchmarks for its menu systems and level layout. For all intents and purposes, Chaosbane is essentially a Warhammer expansion to ‘Diablo III’ save for magic and attack mapping. The best example would be the circular inventory screen, it is nearly a carbon copy.

Inspirations aside, Chaosbane is a lot of fun to get stuck into. My High Elf’s spells provided a range of attack distances and benefits, although an electric orb attack which can be controlled by moving around the R stick just felt awkward and unnecessary. All other attacks felt natural for the genre, this was further enhanced by being able to re-map attacks. For example, a low-cost lightning attack with a huge radius would be better suited to RB or RT in order to free up the face buttons for close range enemies.

In terms of the level design, Chaosbane is again in pursuit of Diablo glory. Whilst I can’t really make a complaint about the layout, Chaosbane does lack variety after around 4 hours. This isn’t just down to scenery and level design, but creature design also. As much fun as it is beating down 70+ types of Nurgle and Chaos hordes in one sitting, it would have been great to see a more varied utilisation of the Warhammer rogues gallery and its factions.

Do you mean Presentational or Audio Performance?

Frame rate drops can become a bit of an issue when multiple enemies and atmospheric effects get dropped into the mix, which for an Isometric ARPG running on a current-gen console is not acceptable. It’s clear that optimisation was a subject best served for the PC master race.

The voice acting is typical of the genre, wooden and complete with an array of select cheeses. As in sure every ‘Forgotten Realms’ veteran will agree, the majority of Chaosbanes audience would have read the dialogue and skipped the majority of it anyway. It would have been nice to see the development team pay a bit more time and effort into making the old world feel more authentic and gritty (Which Games Workshop are doing a great job of doing at the moment).

On the flip side, the Diablo style still image parchment cutscenes are well read and come across strikingly well. The OST is a typical overly glorified fantasy fanfare which congratulates players for just triumphs as remembering to breathe. The sound effects hold up to the title which is great news, and during dungeon crawls the OST pulls it’s socks up and does its job. Int’ Milk Brilliant?

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 6
Gameplay: 8
Sound: 6.5

Overall Score: 6.9 / 10

Warhammer: Chaosbane is certainly not a bad game, it’s just an uninspired one. Whilst isometric ARPG fans can grab their fix from better products such as Diablo 3 for half the price, Chaosbane is still worth a playthrough. It was fun whilst it lasted, but I highly doubt I’ll be jumping back into Chaosbane anytime soon.

Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC
Price: £52.99 (Microsoft Store)
Publisher: Big Ben Interactive
Developer: Eko Software
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 04/06/19

Review copy provided by publisher

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Black Paradox review – Bullet Hell Fire

Side scrolling shoot’em ups have fallen by the wayside in recent years, as the genre has declined in popularity in favour of open world games, battle Royale and even crafting games, so it’s refreshing to see publisher ‘Digerati’ bringing us ‘Black Paradox’ through the ‘ID@Xbox’ program.

A retro-inspired, 80’s throwback with a hint of neon dressing and a cheesy announcer for the boss battles with foes such as the ‘Insane Brothers’. It sounds good, and there’s only one way to find out if it is, and that’s by reading on.

My first impression after loading the game to the main menu, is just how quintessentially 80’s the game looked, just as ‘Far Cry: Blood Dragon‘ does. It’s an unmistakable visual, and one that I can safely say put a smile on my face. I love retro, and if done right, can be a pleasure to experience.

A Far Cry from It’s Genre?

Thankfully, Black Paradox falls into this category well and provides a thoroughly enjoyable experience as you hunt down each bounty the game has to offer you. Saying that it’s more than your typical side-scrolling shooter, Black Paradox is also a rogue-lite game.

So once you die, you get to start all over from the beginning again. Any skills you’ve saved up to buy are kept thankfully, and you can continue to grind out cash to buy better and improved upgrades to make your subsequent runs a little bit easier.

Gameplay is kept as simple as possible. A button to shoot, another to switch weapons, one more to pick up new weapons and your triggers to activate a special mode whereby a replica of your ship appears to unleash a barrage of firepower against your foes.

Choose Your Weapon!

The selection of weapons, while I’m on the subject, is varied enough, and can make all the difference if you pick one of the better weapons up early on. A corrosive shot can make quick work of asteroids and enemies alike, resulting in The gameplay quickly dispersing and resulting in a clear path for you to pass safely by.

Another reference to the iconic ’80s is the fact that your ship flying through space isn’t actually a ship at all, but what closely resembles a DeLorean that navigates the vacuum of space with its doors raised. Yes, that’s right. The doors are open. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I am quite certain that space is not only a vacuum but also rather cold. Perhaps the devs know this and are just being rather silly, or maybe they don’t know. I’ll go with the former here just to be on the safe side.

Sounds Good!

The soundtrack really struck me as one of the best points of the game, without wanting to sound like I’m bashing other aspects, of course, the game is great fun to play but the audio was fun to listen to while blasting away the enemies.

The whole package is genuinely fun and well put together, offering longevity and excellent replay value which for fans of the genre is appealing as it means the initial outlay of money will feel worth it. The difficulty is a little tough at first, but given that upgrades will start to be affordable after a few good runs, the chance at progressing further increases the more you upgrade your health, attack power and the like. I guess you could call it a sense of pride and accomplishment for all of your hard work.

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 7
Gameplay: 8
Sound: 8

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10

As a whole package, Black Paradox has on offer all you could want from an Indie game in the genre. It’s fun to play, simple controls to learn, a retro-neon aesthetic and a synth-based soundtrack which to blast away with. Worth a purchase for fans, and even those curious. There’s far worse out there and you could do with keeping an eye out for Black Paradox.

Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch
Price: £12.49 (Microsoft Store)
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: Fantastico Studio
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 03/05/19

Review copy provided by publisher


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E3 Predictions – The Reggie Reviews View

While the relevance of LA’s annual E3 Expo in the modern gaming sphere is up for debate, there’s no question that each year provides many memorable moments; both fun and cringe alike.

Following EA’s usual lacklustre pre-E3 display (bar the excellent looking combat of the new Star Wars game), and a very shouty Greg Miller, we’re ready to dive into what’s potentially going to be a massive year. Especially for Microsoft.

We’ve been dodging spoilers and rumours for the last couple of days, so if everything’s already leaked and we’re completely wrong then just have a laugh at our expense, by all means.

Mike’s Predictions / Microsoft

Let’s start big. The new Xbox. It’s going to happen, right? Everything appears to be pointing to there being more than one new machine. Personally, I don’t think we’ll see anything of Microsoft’s more budget level offering at this time; they’ll want to impress.

What I’m expecting, amidst the buzz words, is the reveal of a discrete Navi-based beast of a GPU with an SSD to equivalent to recently teased PlayStation solution, a massive leap in CPU speed and some customised architecture trickery that will, as always, push more juice out of what’s come without a price or release date. Yes, we’re getting a spec sheet, a nod to some kind of bespoke ray-tracing solution and some nonsense about 8K. But I also expect we won’t see the sort of generational leap in raw pixel-pushing we’ve become accustomed to, more likely we’ll have greater gains in efficiency and stability; less pop-in, denser open works, coping with the load of advanced physics engines, faster loading and the like.

The One X and PS4 Pro managed 4K solutions with some excellent workarounds for the lack of horsepower to support, less so in case of the Pro given the X’s greater capacity, but with devs on high-end PCs still working out the best method of delivering ultra-style settings at 4K 60fps without needing absolute bleeding edge tech, it’s going to be interesting to see how much focus will going into pixel-pushing and (maybe) software-driven ray-tracing.

So, what about the name? Code names don’t stick so Anaconda’s out. I’m going for The Xboxer. Not because I think it will be called that but because I wanted to play a little game where I see if I can come up with a worse name than whatever dumb name they’ve landed on this time.

Microsoft don’t want to repeat the One reveal and it feels like all three of the big players are a bit more clued in these days. With that in mind, I expect we’ll see the majority of the show dedicated to games. The reveal of new studios and new acquisitions are certainly possible, especially when we consider they’re planning on revealing so many games in a single conference. We’ll have Halo, we’ll have a Forza, maybe Fable (etc.), but there’s so much room here that the door’s wide open for anything. It’s a bit early to expect any imminent releases from their newer studios given most have only been released from previous projects fairly recently. That said, release of the new hardware could be any time in 2020 (though I doubt as late as 2021) and we may see plenty of cross-generational releases. Diversity in genres is what I hope for and, with the talent they’ve brought onboard, it’s a very realistic proposition. Will we also see a play for more Japanese support a la early 360 era? Probably not but one can hope. Here’s where it gets interesting though; I’ve been pondering just how they intend to tackle the Stadia claims of high-end gaming on a relatively modest connection. xCloud, through Microsoft’s Azure datacentres, may look to emulate a similar model as an option but what if they’ve got a different idea?

What I’d like to see, if we’re forced into this dystopian game streaming era, is a hybrid of streaming and local processing. With the clout of the new hardware managing a stable experience and the cloud taking on the Crackdown 3 idea of advanced physics and elements not possible on the console, but, you know, more successfully. If a game is streamed, why not pre-load everything you possibly can locally. How about offering a complete game but exclusive graphical features only enabled by being connected to xCloud?

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe a full Stadia/PS Now option will be pushed to as many devices as possible on an advanced Game Pass subscription service and what if the rumoured Nintendo/Xbox Live mashup is indeed more than just achievements on Cuphead? Either way, for a new high-end gaming experience (you know the sort, multiplayer shooter running at 4K/60hz with 1,000 players and no compromises), the local and cloud combo could offer the perfect middle-ground without the requirement of a Virgin Media connection on crack. If it’s possible, of course…

Mike’s Predictions / Nintendo

I have high hopes for something surprising from Animal Crossing. The fear is we get an up-resed New Leaf. However, I don’t see it. It’s likely been in the oven for a very long time and, if I had to hazard a guess, I think Nintendo will double down on the multiplayer side.  I want bustling towns, the ability to create your own business in other people’s cities, perhaps a massive interactive playground full of mini-games, like a shared theme park to travel to that acts as a hub to other people’s towns. I’m spit-balling but there has to be something more than the iterative approach they’ve traditionally taken. Who am I kidding? Everyone will buy it either way. As will I. 

On the port side, we may finally see Super Mario 3D World. I’d imagine it’s long been ready to drop but they’re waiting for an opportune moment. With their line-up already looking healthy for this year, I’d expect an early 2020 release to be on the cards. Personally, I also want to see Xenoblade Chronicles X make the jump from Wii U. As a beloved gem with a beautiful open world and fantastic mech design, there should be a bigger audience waiting to jump in on Switch.

Super Mario Maker’s getting another theme. It has to. But what? My money’s on Sunshine. Alright, not really, but how cool would that be? The 3D World theme shows nothing’s off the table. I’d say the 3DS’s Super Mario 3D Land has enough of an identity to make for a decent option.

Is it time for Odyssey or Mario Kart 8 to see another expansion? Let’s see those F-Zero tracks expand into a full-blown Mario Kart side game. Add Captain Falcon and there’s your new F-Zero.

Pokémon Sword & Shield should get a Treehouse segment, but I guarantee it will be a case of watching someone run along a single route for hour without giving anything away we haven’t seen in the trailer.

Blowout and release date for Link’s Awakening but nothing on anything else Zelda. However, if they were to show something, I’m hoping for a collection of all the handheld games. Smash DLC confirmed to appear and we defintely see Cadance of Hyrule and possibly with a mic-drop out now moment.

My son reckons SNES games added to the online service. I say that makes far too much sense for the big N. He also dropped in the idea of adding the double cherries into the 3D World theme on Mario Maker. Sounds mad but sure, why not?

My wife’s utterly convinced that there will be a WarioWare collection, that far exceeds the last 3DS game (WarioWare Ultimate, if you will). Mind you, she says that before every Direct.

Mike’s Predictions / The Rest

Atlus: hear me. Give us some Shin Megami Tensei V footage. I’ll take anything. Oh, and a port of Tokyo Mirage Sessions while you’re at it. Hell, if I’m just asking for whatever I want, I might as well throw in a MegaTen collection.

Avengers will disappoint. There, I said it. Why? Because I really hope it’s more than a create-a-hero game-as-a-service with a side-mission quality to its single-player portion, a freemium-at-full-price pricing model with a gachapon storyline and, by saying this, anything more will keep me happy. Either way, Squeenix, bring FFVII.

Watch Dogs: Brexit Bants will have the likeness of Farage but female and named Nigella Fromage.

Elder Scrolls 6 won’t appear but development on Starfield will have progressed more than people are expecting, and they’ll drop a release date. Skyrim: Tiddlywinks will release during the show. Fallout 76 will have… actually I don’t care. The Fallout 5 logo will flash up on the screen for 2.45 seconds.

Devolver Digital will have the titles with the best-looking gameplay, while both amusing and confusing everyone in equal measure.

CD Projekt Red will drop Cyberpunk into the next gen Xbox mix. That’s happening.

Sony spies will dropdown from the roof and steal the prototype Xbox, only to realise AMD duped them and sold them the exact same ‘bespoke’ chips. It’s going to be great.

Reggie’s Turn

In true Reggie fashion, here are some of the titles I’m looking forward to seeing more of at this year’s E3 festivities (although all three major platforms aren’t present with conferences this year, with Sony bailing out).

Reggie’s Predictions / Bethesda

OK, Bethesda has had a rough 12 months with Fallout 76 and PR credibility going down the Arthur Blisser, but any industry insider or gamer would be a fool to write off the behemoth comprised of so many legendary studios, save BethSoft themselves.

A dead cert for me would be a full reveal of Starfield and confirmation of its next gen status. We’ve been promised the ‘Elder Scrolls experience in space’. Remaining calm is not an option!

Other givens would be DOOM Eternal being pushed massively, followed by a flood of info for Rage 2 expansions. I would love to see ES: Blades and ES: Legends get a dated Switch release, Legends is such a solid twin lane card game that it made me miss my train stop. Multiple times. As much as it saddens my heart, I don’t think we’re going to hear much about ES6. Or, if we do, it will be a title featuring a short cinematic that hypes the title’s new mechanics. With Todd Howard stating he wishes to make ES6 playable for at least a decade, let’s hope its not another decade until we get some concrete info!

Reggie’s Predictions / Microsoft

Xbox have had a whole generation to lick their wounds and think about how they’re going to kick things off with a bang next gen. As Mike so elliquently put, we will be seeing the new Xbox this week. Great, but what about the Box we have collecting dust this generation?

For me, I think we will see titles such as Halo: Infinity making use of cross play and backwards compatibility. I think Infinity will push the Xbox branding on PC and console. Furthermore, I think it will release for current and next gen! Bring out the base game on Xbox One, then patch it for next gen consoles with higher res textures blah blah blah.

Gears 5 will have a massive presence, and I couldn’t give a toss. It’s never resonated with me, and Epic broke my heart when they turned their backs on Unreal in favour of the Gears IP back in the day. Get in the sea.

Reggie’s Predictions / Nintendo

Jeez, well Nintendo are killing it since the release of the Nintendo Switch. We’ve seen the majority of our favourite IP released, confirmed or teased in the last couple of year. It’s a wonderful time to be a Nintendo fan.

Rather than any big reveals, I think Nintendo will be busy demoing Pokémon Sword and Shield along with Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Maker 2. Furthermore, any big reveals will probably end up being a flash up on the screen with a relevant developer, more or less stating “yeah, just decided Mother 3 is available now” or “Metroid Prime 4 is still a steaming Mr Whippy, please understand”.

Reggie’s Predictions / The Rest

Personally, I want to know what Netflix are doing there. Are we going to see some form of Stadia type gaming offering? Or are they simply taking on a slew of gaming IP for their home brew series’ or films? Speaking of Stadia, Destiny 2 and Xenoverse 2 isn’t going to push a new console. Perhaps we’ll see some more console exclusives in the vein of Baldurs Gate 3? Who knows!

Bar all of the above, I really want something mind blowing. Maybe the imminent release of FF7 Remake will cut the mustard? Either way, this is defiantly an E3 gamers will not want to miss!

Will Time – Predictions & Desires

What you may discover during my moment in the spotlight will be my leaning more towards the latter portion of my chosen header. However, what are predictions, but a list of future events we desire to happen so much that we convince ourselves of their inevitability? So, behold: my E3 predictions.

Will’s Predictions / Microsoft

Throughout the late 90s, the 3D stealth genre reigned as king. This was due in no small part to the fact that it was much easier to achieve both great performances and breath-taking visuals on the primitive systems of the era compared to its more explosive-laden contemporaries.

To my unending sorrow, these halcyon days seem like a lifetime ago, or maybe that was because I was born in ’97. Regardless, disappointments like Metal Gear Solid V and Splinter Cell: Blacklist have left me hankering for more of that sweet, sweet stealth of yesteryear.

While it may be too late for Metal Gear, there is still the possibility of a glorious resurrection for Splinter Cell. A full decade has come and gone since Solid Snake received his fittingly emotional send off. This treatment is long overdue for everyone’s favourite distinguished grey: Sam Fisher.

Furthermore, the sumptuous icing on this irresistibly delectable cake would be to bring this series, best played on Xbox, laid lovingly back into Microsoft’s exclusive hands. Since the day of its creation PlayStation has dominated the war of exclusivity. The time has come for Xbox to level the playing field.

Of course, I have come to terms with the fact that this may not happen. Therefore, I have but one other great desire: the appointment of a spiritual successor. This immersive genre laced with skilful gameplay and equally thought-provoking narrative heft cannot be allowed to perish.

Will’s Predictions / Nintendo

Character Action titles like Devil May Cry make up some of my all-time favourite games. Although Bayonetta offers a more streamlined version of the combat featured in DMC, its copious amounts of charm and flare make it an experience worth playing, replaying, and playing all over again.

It has been five long years since the titular, not-so-wicked witch has graced us gamers with her presence. All that we have had to keep us occupied since then was an undeniably alluring teaser for the forthcoming numbered entry. While my appetited is thoroughly wetted, this is not enough.

Capcom’s absolutely seminal Devil May Cry V reminded us earlier this year that Japan is the master of melee-based action, and the market for character action is as strong as ever. So, this year’s E3 is the perfect place for Platinum’s Umbran beauty to again seize the stage that she owns.

Diving deep into the specifics of what I would like to see, they are as follows: the same, series stable combat with some new features and a little more polish; a simpler yet effecting narrative that seeks to satisfyingly conclude the saga.

Should my wildest dreams come true, we shall be set for an angelic experience that is totally witchin’. Let’s rock, baby!

Will’s Predictions / The Rest

The time has come for me to conclude my own saga in a way that may be perplexing to some.

Although I am yet to hold the Timesplitters series in as high a regard as the remainder of the gaming population, I very much enjoyed the swansong release of the UK’s own Free Radical Design: Second Sight. For those who have just let slip a rather quizzical noise, allow me to educate you.

Have you always dreamed of living vicariously through a completely mobile Professor X? Well, Second Sight permits you to do just that. A stealth action game, with emphasis on the stealth, Second Sight sees players evading their foes by way of multiple, varying telekinetic abilities.

Not nearly enough people have heard of this game. Therefore, with THQ Nordic holding the rights to it, a remake is surely in order. Although I do not expect any trailers, any announcement will be more than sufficient for the time being.

Due to the sheer scale of E3, the smaller projects are unjustly overshadowed. Let us all band together to put a stop to that, shall we?

Hit us up on Twitter @Reggie_Reviews / @ReggieBoySmooth / @2DMike3D / @WillDoubleJ

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Reggies Love Affair with The Legend Of Zelda Series

The Legend of Zelda series has been a very unhealthy obsession of mine since I was around twelve years old. From collectors editions, limited edition consoles, actual ‘Master Swords’ and more, Link is truly a love interest and my romantic Achilles heel.

This Article was originally posted in August 2018, but the love is still deep!

My first memories of the series start with going round to my friend’s house to play then-new Smash Bros. I fell In love with that title there and then, I kept picking the green chap with blonde hair as he had a cool jump attack. His name was Link. When I asked my friend who he was, my ignorance was a source of piss-takes for the rest of the day. How dare I be a Pokémon fanatic without knowing the rest of Nintendo’s 1st party IPs right?

Simple, elegant box-art for a groundbreaking adventure

So I borrowed another friend’s N64 and a copy of Ocarina of Time. THAT is when my love affair started with the Legend of Zelda franchise. Memories of looking through magazine comments pages for hints and tips, hearing rumours of friends of how to get the master sword from the start of the game, that one kid in school whose Dad apparently worked for Nintendo, the list goes on.

Open-World Pioneer

At the time, Ocarina of Time was the closest the gaming world had come to open-world gaming on a console. Although the majority of the story was still on rails there was time travel options and little side quests to take care off for extra heart pieces. The series to this day Is coming in at roughly 98.12 million units, so it’s kind of a big deal. So here goes another journey through gaming nostalgia and time, this is my love affair with the Legend of Zelda series.

Ocarina and Majoras mask came and went, and so did the N64. Next up was the GameCube, Nintendo’s last effort to keep up with the competition in terms of sales and third-party content. Although it wasn’t the most successful console it did have a loved pad and a solid library of first-party content. When Windwaker was announced the gaming world was in an uproar with the cell shaded style the series had taken on. This design choice proved to be one of the most popular style choices in the franchises history post-launch and even spawned 3 spin-offs on Nintendo’s handhelds of the time to great success. (Fan bases, go figure!)

Next-Level 3D

For those who played Windwaker will agree, this was very much Ocarina of Time for the next gen. It didn’t really venture far from the tried and tested formula of Ocarina like Majoras Mask did. We had a musical item that helped you access areas, change the time of day etc. just like the Ocarina and most of Links weapons returned. The only mega difference was the sailing mechanic which has never gone down great with fans, however, I feel this is an improvement over Ocarina. It actually made travel interesting. It was Also nice to see Nintendo have a bit of fun with their IP by putting a light-hearted spin on the series (and cheese, Nintendo loves getting out its cheese board).

Even the soundtrack is legendary and well received, I’ve lost count of how many covers of the Dragons Roost Island theme I’ve heard. Much like other loved franchises like Star Wars, fans need to understand that franchises need to evolve and take risks just like they did in their infancy. This is what makes a gaming franchise in my opinion. So many great memories of Windwaker, such as jumping out of my skin at the re-deads and going under the oceans to see old Hyrule for the first time since Ocarina. Amazing game and has stood the test of time, the HD remaster can be grabbed for £12-£15 these days on Wii U.

Return to Hyrule via Warhammer (AKA the Nerd’s Quest)

So after the hype for Windwaker died down I began ignoring the franchise for a while, started playing Warhammer, got into playing the guitar and playing with bands. It would be until the launch of the Nintendo Wii when the LoZ piqued my interest once again with Twilight Princess.

For me, Twilight Princess was one of the few examples of Nintendo giving into its Zelda fan base and creating a realistic looking Zelda title. Especially with the official announcement that this going to be the last realistic Zelda title. Much like Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess saw a dual release on Wii and GameCube. However, hardly any GameCube units were sold, which means today it’ll cost you around £50 for a copy! It seemed like the whole world was caught up In the launch hype of the Nintendo Wii. Whilst the spec of the console was very similar to that of the GameCube, it featured motion controls which became that popular Sony and Microsoft attempted to enter the motion gaming market with Move and Kinect. Both kind of just flopped…

World in Motion

So Twilight Princess featured some motion controls for when Link is finishing, fighting and so on. It was a very basic motion system that just required a wiggle of the remote mostly. But at the time that was good enough; you could control Link with your movements.

Twilight Princess saw a new mechanic of Link turning into a wolf whenever he entered the realm of Twilight which saw a new angle on game-play. However, the angle was still the same. Get the key item from a dungeon, find the master sword, reck the bad guy. Although the gameplay was solid, sold well and again stood the test of time with an HD remaster on Wii U, Twilight Princess was a very smart and brave move by Nintendo.

They gave fans what they wanted, the fans then turned around and thought the whole experience was a bit flat and uninventive. Haven’t heard a fan base moan about the franchise half as much except for valid points, which brings me to Skyward Sword.

Skyward Sword was a technical achievement for the now dying Wii platform in Graphical fidelity/style and use of Motion+ Remotes. As we now know in the LoZ timeline, Skyward Sword was the very first adventure of Link and the origin of the Master Sword. This was set to be a smash hit, but the problem was that the formula by this point was a bit worn out. Cracks were showing In Twilight Princess.

Legend of Zelda

Whilst the motion + controllers features were a cool addition and incredibly accurate, Link was constantly running around with a raised arm and they were no option to just fight enemies traditionally. This force-feeding of Motion controls at a time when the industry was over the craze didn’t really go down as good as It deserved. Personally, I just couldn’t be bothered to swing my arms around, which is the feedback from a lot of gamers. I play games to wind down and relax, not to fuck about waving a remote about.

A New Depth

Meanwhile, on the flourishing 3DS, we saw 2 remakes of the N64 classics Ocarina of time and Majoras Mask as well as an original title Link Between Worlds, the direct sequel to Link to the Past. The remasters were amazing and were welcomed by the fan base, I wouldn’t dream of playing the classic copies anymore due to ageing quite poorly. The 3DS remasters saw better character models, clearer visuals, textures and small adjustments to the mechanics. This writer would recommend these and all Zelda remasters over their originals.

A Link between worlds saw a return to LoZ routes with a top-down world, a sweet new mechanic where you can move into walls as a painting to navigate the in-game world and dungeons, an alternative landscape, rental of essential in-game items for different dungeons and a great effort at level building and visual design. This felt good, Nintendo released the franchise from its shackles. This paved the way for what is practically the invention of the wheel for the Zeldaverse, Breath of the Wild.

How Do They Keep Breaking New Ground?!

On 3rd March 17, we saw the simultaneous release of the groundbreaking Breath of the Wildon Wii U and Switch. This game completely broke the mould of the 3D Zelda game. The team openly admitted that they were inspired by games such as Skyrim and went with it, however, this was also a return to the franchise routes. Those of you that have played the original TLoZon NES will understand that this too was an open world of sorts on a much smaller scale. The developers wanted to once again instil this essence of adventure and wonder into the game. It’s actually ridiculous what you can do in this game. Climb 99% of surfaces, explore every crevice, hundreds of breakable weapons to collect and more.

Everything about TLoZ has been re-imagined to keep the essence of the franchise there. For example, there are 4 main dungeons in the divine beasts and 120 shrines which contain mini-dungeons. The mini-dungeons are the replacement of heart pieces; restoring heart or a stamina gauge fill. The ways the player can destroy monsters and approach situations are limited only by your imagination. One only has to search YouTube for Breath of the Wild hacks to find people making floating logs that carry you into Hyrule’s atmosphere or shrine glitches to find creative shortcuts that players have invented.

Also removed from the series are traditional stores and items, a cooking system is now in place to create a meal for health /stamina refills and stat boosts. You can still find traders and the odd shop selling special ingredients, arrows and on occasion armour, but the best way to find items is to go out into the Wild and hunt it out. To help with navigating this expansive world is your ‘shieka slate’ which has magical powers for magnetism, kinesis, bombs etc. which are a nice addition. Voice actors are now set up for main characters also, but not link of course.

DLC Done Right

Even DLC packs have dropped expanding the story and adding to existing lore of the game. This along with all the other changes in the game has given this game legendary status. Breath of the Wild is one of the only coveted games to receive multiple full score marks by multiple outlets. There isn’t a bad word to be said about this game. And the trend is set to continue, which is great. We are at a point in time where virtual consoles are present to bring back all our old titles onto one console affordably. Want a more traditional Zelda experience? Go play it!

Now that Breath of the Wild is officially over we now look to the next title in the franchise. We don’t know what that will be yet, but I have no doubt it will build on Breath of the Wild success and once again show us how much Nintendo love their IP. Not more than me though, hence the article!

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Crimson Keep review – Jazz Hands

I love a good rogue-lite game, and there are some notable titles in the genre that I’ve enjoyed in the past, such as ‘City of Brass’ and ‘Immortal Redneck’.

So when I heard about ‘Crimson Keep’ I jumped at the chance to cover it. It’s right up my street, and that’s where my excitement ended. Sometimes you get let down in life, and you just have to deal with it and move on. This is one of those times.

From the get-go, you will notice the graphics and just how poor they are. Not the worst, but not a million miles away. Animations look like they were rushed, you are literally just a pair of floating hands wandering through a generic underground cavern.

About that Gameplay…

Weapons look pitiful, to say the least. My eyes have been offended and that’s just the start. Nevermind, gameplay over graphics is my mantra and I have always stuck by it. What else does Crimson Keep have to offer me?

Dwelling in the dank and dark depths are various enemies that seem to be able to attack you from a great distance, quickly draining your health and leaving you a lifeless husk on the floor. Thankfully this doesn’t equate to a real-life scenario for you, and you can quickly reload and try once more if you really fancy having another attempt.

Combatting Mediaocrity

Combat really does suffer with an inconsistent hit box for both enemies and player alike, which make it a chore to play almost immediately, quickly removing any desire to play for a great length of time. The more I played, the more I realised just how little effort has gone into creating a living and breathing environment for any would be adventurer to explore.

It all looks the same, and inevitably you will get lost along the way. Even a simple map would have helped with navigating the tunnels. As it is, the constant aimless wandering around in search of the exit will no doubt bring frustration to a head and make repeated playthroughs less appealing.

What Was The Point Again?

Crimson Keep had promise, of that I’m sure. Had there been a longer period of development time, better ideas and implementation of said ideas, and just more work involved, I’m certain that it could well have been a much better game.

It feels unfinished, look unfinished and plays unfinished. A crying shame personally, and as I stated earlier, I really enjoy games of the genre as they can keep you coming back for more, yet Crimson Keep is likely to remain hidden away among better, more enjoyable titles stored on my HDD and quickly become forgotten about.

Verdict:

Graphics: 5
Presentation: 4
Gameplay: 4
Sound: 3

Overall Score: 4/ 10

Crimson Deep is a game that falls short of expectations, with practically every area of the game in desperate need of attention and works to bring it up to scratch. The developers shouldn’t take it to heart though and would benefit from taking a step back from their game, look at how other titles work and what makes them successful and fun to play, then work at integrating these ideas into Crimson Keep.

Should they consider any future updates or another rogue-lite experience further on down the line? As it stands, I can’t justify suggestions of purchase to anyone, unless of course they just don’t believe me and want to take a bash at the game themselves.

Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Steam
Price: £14.99 (Microsoft Store)
Publisher: Merge Games
Developer: Team Crimson
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 06/03/19

Review copy provided by publisher

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review – Let’s go Banana’s!

Given that this games reviewer is a big Nintendo fan, like many other gamers, one overlooked the latest instalment in the ‘Donkey Kong’ franchise when it originally launched on the ‘Wii U’.

‘Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze’ sets platforming standards high with a great polish. ‘DK‘ and Crew have to fight off yet another invasion of comically mutated animals to defend the many islands they protect.

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“Donkey Kong would be Donkey Rich selling all of these Bananas!”

The King Kong of Platforming

A lot of mechanics make a return from previous instalments, such as DK’s rolling and ground pounding moves. ‘Diddy’, ‘Dixie’ and ‘Cranky Kong’ all return to help DK fend off this aforementioned invasion by breaking out of barrels scattered all over Tropical Freeze’s levels and world. Each character has their own abilities and skills which one won’t ruin for his readers, but they are well placed and can help out massively in a pinch.

In fact, the level designs in general are brilliant. ‘Retro Studios’ have done an amazing job at making sure those tight jumps and enemy movements gel together to create a rewarding gaming experience. Levels turn multi-dimensional once again thanks to DK’s barrel cannons which shoot him all over the place. This is a brilliant mechanic for finding hidden areas or items; by simply adjusting the direction of the barrel when the game allows. However, Tropical Freeze can sometimes be daunting.

Time to Get Good, or get Funky

Difficulty levels can often spike or endure at a higher level which could put busier or less talented players off. Enter ‘Funky Kong’. The inclusion of Funky Kong makes Tropical Freeze much more accessible as well as playable for short bursts of play and casual players. Funky Kong has extra hearts, the ability to breathe underwater and more. He is the perfect character for younger and casual players to play as. He also has his own ‘Funky Mode’ which is perfect for players who want a ‘middle of the road’ experience. This modifies certain features for DK such as heart counts, enemies turning into items and the amount of items usable for a level etc.

The normal mode is fairly challenging but not impossible. Players may find boss battles taking a few lives to get through. One found it best practice to load up on life balloons whenever Funky Kong’s shop makes an appearance. Successful stage runs are dependent on well-timed moves and above all, patience. This writer found it very tempting to ‘Speed Run’ levels, but in order to achieve this kind of platforming zen it is important to know the levels you want to run. In other words, don’t run before you can walk.

donkey-kong-country-tropical-freeze-switch-screenshot-07

“DK, now with ‘That Awkward Uncle’ mode”

DK and Friends in true HD

The presentation of the title overall has been brushed up from its Wii U outing. In docked mode players can expect a 1080p resolution with some updated textures that pop that little bit more. In handheld mode we see something similar to the Wii U release in native 720p.

Speaking realistically, the game pops in both modes. It is much better to see docked mode resolutions as an added bonus. Tropical Freeze on the move is a treat in itself. Cut scenes are also lovingly retendered with a subtle soft filter to add to the feeling of a purely innocent platforming bonanza. Bless DK, he just wants his bananas.

900x

“Unfortunately, DK’s attempt at ‘Bullet Time’ fail”V

The soundtrack is a catchy and typically upbeat Nintendo platforming effort. Whilst one won’t be humming along on the train home, it does its purpose in providing environment specific sounds which keep players engaged. Sound effects also pack a punch. Given that players are predominantly controlling an over-sized ape sporting a tie, sound effects are very well balanced and exaggerated only when necessary. For example, the thuds that can be heard during DK’s ground slams can be felt through a TV in docked mode/.

Verdict:

Presentation: 8
Graphics: 9
Gameplay: 8
Sound: 7

Overall Score: 8/10

This reviewer could not spot any drops in frame rate and found this to be a very smooth experience. Retro Studios have done a brilliant job of porting this to the next generation Nintendo console. Whilst the Wii U is being robbed of its exclusive IP, that is now in the past. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze feels right at home on the Switch, and this writer would not have it any other way.

Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Nintendo Wii
Release Date: 04/05/2018
Price:£49.99 (eShop)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios
PEGI Rating: 3+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Monster Slayers review – Slaying, Not Hunting

Deck-building card battler Monster Slayers brings RPG-style gameplay elements to a rogue-like. And, of course, we all love a good skill tree.

The straight mash-up of rouge-like and card battling has been around for a while now, but while I’m familiar with both sub-genres, I’ve never had the pleasure of testing this mix out myself. And you know, cards, deckbuilding, permadeath goes hand-in-hand, right? Well, yes, it really does. Following in footsteps of the likes of Slay the Spire, developer Nerdook Productions deals its fast-paced batter onto the Switch.

As soon as you’re thrown out of the game’s title screen, it’s a click away from getting started; no long story, no cutscenes, just a little background piece and it’s onwards to choosing from one of the initial eight classes.

Quickdraw

So, what’s the actually card game like then? Quick, simple and deep. There are four card types to build your deck with; the red damage-dealing attack cards as the no nonsense, guns blazing types; the yellow support cards which deal unavoidable damage or a range of assists, such as raising action points (AP) or magic points (MP), blue magic cards for the magics and; green interrupt cards which are automatically deployed from your hand at opportune moments.

Cards have a cost based on AP, MP or, depending on class-type, health draining. Picked the Dragon class? Reap the benefits of free elemental attacks but lose the ability to don your hard-earned equipment. Using a Rogue class? Keep the cycle rolling with a passive AP bonus. It’s a flexible system and one that I found thrilling to experiment with. For me, the most enjoyable strategies came from gradually building AP through weak attacks, then rifling through large combos of cards in a single turn. Battles are snappy and short, and the pace matches just about every aspect of the game, from the map navigation to the deckbuilding.

Each victory adds experience points which directly contribute to the deck-building element of the game; each time you level up you are offered a choice of one out of a randomised set of upgrades. This could be gaining a new card, upgrading a card (most cards allow two upgrades, generally for higher output at a greater AP/MP cost), finding an item, gaining gold (to be spent on similar upgrades or health restoration and the like) or deleting a card to allow a great chance of drawing what you need. The number of cards drawn per turn will also increase as you level up.

Your deck and experience gains are contained within a single run, that is to say, all the levels you accumulate will be reset and your deck dies with you once you face defeat. Fear not, as your legacy remains, as does your gear.

I’m Gonna Live Forever

You gain fame, you die. You die, you gain fame. You pass the torch to the next slayer and so goes the circle of rogue-like.

As your fame increases, so do your options. When you move up from the rank of Keith Duffy towards Ed Sheeran tier your upgrade points will skyrocket. Fame in Monster Slayers is your cumulative, persistent progress marker; an experience level which, upon gaining a rank, unlocks an upgrade point. Some skills come with multiple options, of which you can swap out at will. Once per save you can completely reshuffle your skills, resetting your choices while maintaining your rank. This gave me the chance to undo all the random experimental skills I picked in favour of a more reasoned approach.

Skills are mixed between class-specific and general. You might gain an extra AP at the beginning of each battle, unlock a specific elemental attack for your mage or add a skill to your choice of companion. There’s plenty to chose from and these frequent, tangible rewards helps continued playthroughs feel equally exhilarating. Also, like any good rogue-like, equipment is key and, like fame, is persistent, allowing you to bring your skills and equipment build to each new character.

Each area is represented as a simple map consisting of linked squares. One is visited, the adjacent squares are opened to chose from. Occupying the squares are enemies, potential recruits, merchants and, once sufficient progress is made, the area boss. Your character and your companions are then animated running towards their target in 2D for a short burst and the encounter begins. Do you take the route to the healer and perhaps get the opportunity to thin out your deck, drop one of those weak attack cards that shame your deck and slow you down? Or perhaps take a risk and head to the undead cleric that’s two levels higher than you? That extra experience boost could make the next boss battle a breeze. Naturally these events are procedurally generated so, as per the genre hook, every playthrough is different.

Slay it Like it Is

The point to take here is that there’s no fluff; Monster Slayers just gets on with it, making the wise decision to keep further complications aside for the main attraction: the card battles.

The small volume of looping music tracks wear out quickly, though all fit the fantasy mould closely. The visuals do nothing new, following fantasy art tropes for backgrounds and the aesthetics of all areas continue to remain basic throughout. The chibi character designs themselves have charm and card animations are smooth, though performance does hit a number of notable stutters on Switch. Either way, if you’re here at this point, you’re probably in it for the gameplay, which is where Monster Slayers lands a critical hit every time.

Verdict:

Graphics: 5.5
Presentation: 6.5
Sound: 6

Gameplay: 9

Overall Score: 7/10

If the core deck mechanics and the skill balancing represent the excellence and versitility of the standard 52 cards in a deck, consider the rest of the package to be the Jokers. Just discard them.

Format: Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS Vita
Price: £13.49
Publisher: Digerati
Developer: Nerdook Productions / Stage Clear Studios
Age Rating: PEGI 12

Release Date: 05/04/19

Review copy provided by publisher

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Reggie’s Love Affair With the Pokémon Franchise

For two whole decades, this games writer has poured countless hours into the games, movies and the trading card game (TCG) of the monster battling phenomenon, Pokémon.

*This article is a re-post from July last year, but it’s still true love!*

One’s love grows for Pocket Monsters more now than ever. At nearly 30 with two kids, I still feel no need to hide my love affair.

YES, DEAR READERS, YOUR VERY OWN REGGIE IS PART OF THE ELITE 1ST-GEN CLUB WHO GOT SWEPT UP IN THE HYPE NICE ‘N’ EARLY

First Monster

Where does this writer start with such a journey of wonder, angst and lust!? Probably with one’s first exposure to the series, Pokemon Red and blue! Yes, dear readers, your very own Reggie is part of the elite 1st-Gen club who got swept up in the hype nice ‘n’ early. My bestie got Pokemon Red from an advert in the back of a Nintendo Magazine he had imported from America. That is objectively cool, even now.

In 1999, the Game Boy got its most important franchise debút in Europe; Pokémon Red and Blue. We went bonus on it, Pokedex – 100%, Level 100 team (no cheating) every TM, the lot. My PokéGang also got into competitive battling at school and youth clubs. Reggie even got a Game Boy Printer just for printing off a certificate for completing the Pokédex. This game was my absolute life.

Whilst this was going on, the TCG (distributed by ‘Wizards of the Coast’) and animé (CITV, every morning before school) debúted in our region around the same time; 1998/99. It was everywhere, the card game even got banned in schools because kids weren’t getting any work done. This rogue even started a buying and selling business with a mate in school, we would easily quadruple our dinner money on a daily basis.

Pokémon

Speaking of the trading card game, I started to attend the TCG Pokémon league at the Warner Bros. Store In Manchester becoming a certified coach, smashing out gym badges as well as some promo cards. The best moment of collecting cards back then was bothering my Mum for one more booster pack and pulling a Charizard, tears ran down my fat face. I won’t lie about it. Women didn’t interest me at that point.

Rounding Out a Media Franchise

And then, Pokemon hit the big screen. Pokémon: The First Movie was released on November 10th 1999 and we all went crazy for it! You got promo cards just for going to see it. We saw never-seen-before Pokémon and also featured two fan favourites, Mew and Mewtwo. If you didn’t cry at this film, you have no soul.

Then…. The Neo set of cards started floating around from Japan, we started to see all these new Pokemon. We even learned the Japanese names. Who remembers that git in your school who reckoned he could read Japanese and make moves up? I’m sure every school had one.

Next Generation ‘Mon

The highly anticipated follow-up to Red, Blue and Yellow – Gold and Silver, the 2nd generation of Pokémon saw the light of day. But just in Japan. We struggled through dodgy emulation translations until the UK release in 2001. Almost two years later.

And so the insane cycle of TCG, Anime and Game Boy games started again. And it was an amazing time, due to terrible internet speeds and lack of knowledge it was magazine game guides and word of mouth hints and tips to get by. The 2nd generation of games was a lot more balanced and for that matter bloody massive. Once completing your Johto adventure you could go back to Kanto and revisit the Red, Blue and Yellow days. This is largely because the second generation of Pokémon was meant to be last. Imagine if that was the case.

RUMOURS STARTED TO SWIRL ABOUT AN OFFICIAL 3DS POKÉMON RELEASE, A NEW GENERATION, NEW REGION, NEW MECHANICS SUCH AS MEGA EVOLUTION, ALL-3D MODELS OF POKEMON, IMPROVED ONLINE PLAY AND THE CHANCE TO GRAB BULBASAUR, CHARMANDER AND SQUIRTLE IN-GAME

After that and seeing the unattractive 3rd-generation for Game Boy Advance come through, this Pokémon master just lost interest for a few years. Films and card-sets came and went.

I took a dive in when Diamond and Pearl were released and again with Black and White. But I just got a bit tired of the same formula over and over. Although there were new generations of Pokémon and new mechanics introduced such as abilities, effort values and individual values on top of a rapidly growing metagame, I just needed something fresh.

Then, rumours started to swirl about an official 3DS Pokémon release, a new generation, new region, new mechanics such as mega evolution, all-3D models of Pokemon, improved online play and the chance to grab Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle in-game. So on 12th October 2013, I became a massive Pokémon-nut once again! But this time it was different, I was building a competitive team and researching move-sets, joining online groups and blogs to meet people to complete my Pokédex and try out my team builds. Living on the global trade network looking to fill my Pokédex. These along with gaining hints and tips from around the world took a long time. I racked up nearly 500 hours game time on X and Y. It was a brilliant reboot for the franchise in this writer’s opinion.

Making Up for Lost Time

Remakes of Ruby and Sapphire surfaced on 21st November 2014. For ol’ Reggie, this was a chance to see what plot points and Pokémon I’d missed. It was a great move not playing the originals as this was a fresh new adventure. Along with with Mega and Primal Evolution and a chance to catch every legendary ever via Hoopa’s ‘warp rings’, this was an absolute smash hit. Not to forget the advancements made in EV training from X and Y.

WHAT I DO KNOW IS THAT THIS FRANCHISE HAS ALWAYS ADAPTED TO ITS FANS AND EVOLVED WITH THEM – I CANNOT WAIT FOR MY NEXT ADVENTURE. IT HAD BETTER BETTER HAVE GYMS THOUGH…

The 3rd set of 3DS games were Sun and Moon/ Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (released 18th Nov 16 and 17th Nov 2017 respectively) which really turned the series on its head. This series contains no **real** gyms in place of trials on each island. Although the series also introduced Z-moves which are very cool, the addition of elongated cut scenes and tutorials arguably ruined the pacing of the titles.

However, the storyline is one of the best with Ultra wormholes, Ultra beasts and the diverse legendaries on offer. Not to mention the Alternative Alola forms of gen 1 Pokemon. These are also the most technically advanced games to date, pushing the 3ds system to its limit (A new 2ds is best and frame rates crash during z Moves and multi Pokemon fights.

And with the launch of the 3ds Pokemon games came my renewed addiction to the TCG, in November 2016 The Pokemon Company released the Evolutions set which featured reworked gen 1 Pokemon cards for the current TCG rules. This guy actually traded/ sold all his old cards to build new decks (My Zard deck owns!) So one could play again, It was worth It! The game has completely transformed into different types of trainer cards, EX/GX cards, Prism Cards, Break Cards, the list goes on. The constant evolution of the TCG mechanics makes for compelling strategy and fun deck building. Again, the online community are both lovely and trustworthy.

So we come to a point now where we don’t really know what is around the corner. We are expecting Pokémon for Switch news any day now, but how will that Look? It’s all rumour at the moment including a complete reboot of the franchise, losing the turn-based battle system for a real-time engine, the list goes on. A brilliant model would be the base game with regions already covered in previous games with new additional regions yearly. Open world, compete in leagues, trade in the game with NPCs all over them in the game world etc. But what does this games writer know right?

What I do know is that this franchise has always adapted to its fans and evolved with them – I cannot wait for my next adventure. It had better have gyms though…

Featured

Rage 2 review – A Flourescent​ Wasteland

In a surprise move by ‘iD Software’ and ‘Avalanche Studios’, ‘Bethesda’ revealed ‘Rage 2’ @ ‘E3 2018’ (Or was it Wallmart first?). With a lukewarm reception from critics and the gaming community at large with the IP’s first outing in October 2011, surely this was a calculated risk?

In a surprise move by ‘iD Software’ and ‘Avalanche Studios’, ‘Bethesda’ revealed ‘Rage 2’ @ ‘E3 2018’ (Or was it Wallmart first?). With a lukewarm reception from critics and the gaming community at large with the IP’s first outing in October 2011, surely this was a calculated risk?

Soon it became apparent that iD and Avalanche identified their strengths of Arena FPS gameplay and open-world wasteland backdrops respectively, then channelled said strengths into a great FPS experience. Whilst I’m a massive fan of arena shooters, the ‘Max Max’ style of traversal deserved a final polish.

Rage 2 pits players in a direct sequel to the original Rage with a familiar antagonist rising up once again to control and dictate the way of the wastelands. Players are faced with a variety of skill trees and upgrade menus that are easy enough to navigate and understand but can be daunting on the first inspection.

Are you Paying Cash or Feltrite?

Players can earn either cash (which can be used to upgrade and buy vehicles) or Feltrite (A Crystalised energy source used to upgrade abilities and weapons). Skills systems aside, players can seek out space pods named ‘Arks’ which allow players to unlock ‘Nanotrite’ abilities which are essentially superhuman abilities. Creating vortex’s and high speed dashes are just a taste of what players can unlock with just this mechanic.

Another ability players can utilize in Rage 2 is ‘Overdrive’, iD’s current generation answer to ‘Quad Damage’. By hitting both bumper buttons when available, all of a player’s stats are temporarily increased to make quick work of wasteland grunts.

It’s safe to say that Rage 2 is packed to the rafters with unlockables. With Arks, Ark Chests (which hold rarer loot) also standard chests holding various items hidden around the game world, treasure hunters will be happy for as long as it takes to track them all down (there’s an ability for that too!).

Levels to write home about

The level design in the first instance are very well structured, Rage 2 players can look forward to taking down well-designed outposts/strongholds to wiping out a gang of mutants and the like in abandoned factories and cave systems. It’s clear that this game is indeed a Bethesda title and bears all the necessary hallmarks.

Unfortunately, travelling from one objective to the other is a bit pants. Roads are mapped out for players with the optional neon pink road navigation available if one chooses, but the navigation mechanic lacks the gift of foresight which can often turn into a game of reverse and finding sharp corners.

But why stick to the roads? Surely it’s more fun to go cross country and explore for a while? Well, Rage 2’s settlements and quests, in general, are very spaced out. This leads to boring car rides with the odd raider popping up from the side of the road to give players a dose of rocket lead and the like. I would have sooner settled for a smaller open world with fewer canyons and more traversable terrain to keep gameplay tight and interesting.

Carry On My Pink Haired Wayward Son…

For me, this is the one area where Rage 2 fails massively. The control scheme is well mapped out and is more responsive than a bitch on heat whilst also making great use of the Xbox One controllers HD Rumble feedback. The overall story arc isn’t exactly a massive achievement in storytelling, but let’s face facts. We don’t all go into FPS titles initially for the story, surely? We want to shoot things, we want it to feel good, we want to blow stuff up, get rewarded for it and get a decent 20+ hours of gameplay from it. Rage 2 ticks all of these boxes when it behaves like the arena shooter it so obviously is.

Graphically, the game runs well with no noticeable frame drops on a standard Xbox One model. There seems to be liberal use of Halo: Reach style motion blur, but not to an insane extent. I think all of my readers will agree that with FPS it’s performance over graphical fidelity every time. With that being said, the textures mostly behave and stay mapped bar the odd face texture bugging out from time to time. It wasn’t a lasting issue and it didn’t hinder gameplay or emersion.

The sound engineering in Rage 2 is another job well done, featuring pounding yet crisp weapon effects contrasting against the development teams firm grip on Sci-Fi based attacks and skills. Whilst I’ll always praise DooM for it’s most excellent OST, Rage 2 does come close. the OST for Rage 2 frames the unpredictable rebel wasteland setting perfectly.

Verdict:

Graphics: 8
Presentation:8
Gameplay:7
Sound: 9

Overall Score: 8 / 10

Rage 2 is a brilliant FPS with well-structured skill trees, upgrade systems, various hidden treats which are complemented by a brilliant array of level designs and arena style FPS gameplay mechanics. The travel system can make some parts of the game a chore, but in no way does it stop Rage 2 from being potentially one of the best shooters of the year!

Format: PS4, Xbox One (reviewed), PC
Price: £49.99
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: iD Software / Avalanche Studios
Age Rating: PEGI 18

Release Date: 14/05/19

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning review – A Toast to the Future Kids

After waking up on an unusual island, Haruto Higurashi is shown an unfamiliar world. Being told humanity is down to him and other seven unfamiliar people around him is shocking enough and tough to believe when you’ve been given this information by a cartoon boy and sheep on an old CRT TV that’s not plugged in…

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is a first-person dungeon crawler meets visual novel with Danganronpa DNA, and this survival-mystery-investigation offers the sort twists and turns you’d associate with the aforementioned murderfest. The hook here, however, is that as you play through each of the eight protagonists’ stories, life and death takes on an entirely new meaning. Because everyone’s a human clone.

Illuminate! A Brighter Future! For Humanity!

To these guys, humanity shuffled off this mortal coil seemingly overnight. Looking at the ruins of buildings and mother nature’s influence, it’s clearly not the morning after (the night before) though. Just as fast as the questions come, cryptic answers are thrown back in equal measure, giving rise to even more questions. These are delivered by way of TV clips of Earth’s last remaining show; the messed-up cartoon, Extend TV. Featuring host Mirai, an adorable talking sheep, and young joker, Sho Terashima. These videos act as survival guides for your team, giving out missions that directly aid your survival chances, while also seemingly revelling in the group’s misfortune.

With no means of interaction with anyone linked to the show, the team can only watch, listen and take cues. Mirai’s ‘straight-man’ routine bounces off Sho’s demonic idiocy brilliantly, making light of the squad’s predicament while giving them clues and facts about the state of the world, as well as chillingly intimate knowledge of the protagonists’ personal life.

At the centre of this post-apocalyptic setting, initially at least, is Haruto, the young suicidal journalist. The dude has had a rough time but he’s not about to tell anyone, preferring relative anonymity, especially surrounding his dark secret. I’m over-egging it, much like he does. When revealed, it’s like one of those situations where you get pushed into someone and knock their drink over, yet they get shirty with you rather than direct their anger at the douche that pushed you. Only Haruto’s blaming himself. Silly boy.

Anyway, after controlling Haruto and learning his history, you move on to the next character; one of the mismatched crew consisting of a sadist farmer, a timid florist, a super muscular doctor-in-training, an energetic police officer, a girl with a robot arm, a rich company heiress and a bondage artist, each with their own secrets that will be slowly revealed. This approach was refreshing and allowed me to get into the mindset of other characters, showing they’re more than their outward appearances. While some are better written than others, none were mundane, and many are well-realised.

The tropical Garage Island is the crew’s new home and surviving there isn’t easy. The self-sufficient team have to manage water supplies, build their own lodgings and facilities as well as hunting their own food from the wildlife that inhabits the island. It means having to ensure your team has the requisite expertise through assigning skill points to cook or, say, build a toilet. Spreading these points across your team to reach a particular goal is laborious and was frought with time-sapping indecision on my part. Let me be clear; I love distributing skill points in games and, usually, the more options, the better, however Zankis upgrades contain too many sub-catergories for their relative gains. At times, pouring skill points into a a single skill made me lag behind drastically, requiring a boring grind, with practical gains arriving too slowly. Furthermore, spreading them thin came with equal problems. I accept it’s part of the game’s balance, but it’s simply too slow at times, especially in the early game.

Clone Wars

Being stuck on an island gives rise to interesting narrative opportunities that are tackled in unique ways, mainly due to the pacing of the most important revelations. There’s a sick joy to be found in the despair portrayed in the characters’ reactions to their gradual understanding of their situation, and watching the line blur between comrade and enemy can be fascinating at times. Team dynamics on this journey were always going to be wrought with doubt over motives and Zanki Zero did a stellar job of keeping me guessing and, more importantly, curious. As is often the way of the storytelling in Japanese mystery games, the plot can be weaving one too many threads at any one point, however, the attention level I maintained to this thrillingly layered and obtuse adventure proved worth the investment. Staying alert is paramount, something that can be said for dungeons and combat.

Aside from battles, gameplay is split between exploration, survival mechanics, party balancing, relationship building, base construction and item management. If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.

From the game’s description and the way the party’s stats are displayed, it would be reasonable to expect turn-based battles, but Zanki does away with the idea in favour of an action-based combat system. While I appreciate the attempt to try something different, the execution is a little lacking. Enemies are visible on screen and real-time battles occur seamlessly with all movement tackled in the same way as normal field/dungeon movement. Hitting the attack button causes the highlighted party member to strike, initiating a cool down before the next attack, before which point you can select another member to attack. An auto-cycle option allows for more fluid combat, switching to the next character as soon as your current one has attacked, which also allows for a fast flurry of strikes. A group attack (think Persona’s all-out attack, but less flashy), can be initiated by holding the attack button to charge, allowing you to combine the attacks of two to four members at any given time.

Bar a few variants, that’s pretty much the size of it. Attacks types and proficiency are dependent on multiple factors beyond the character’s basic stats, including the obvious; weaponry, skill points attributed to combat, but additionally the character’s age group and even their relationship to other members also contribute. From the defensive perspective, there’s little else. The side from which you get attacked determines who suffers damage so things can quickly heat up when surrounded by enemies. Boss battles and enemy dynamics are limited by the grid-based layout.

Clone skills, gained from parasitic organsims called Cliones, become a main stay and, without saying too much, your party start to use their unique position and knowledge to augment their talents in some more interesting ways (special moves, heals, buffs but with some added visual flair as well as enivornmental manipulation, such as smashing through walls). Overuse comes with a risk, which means limited use, making these skills feel like a welcome novelty.

Movement across the Zanki’s maps works in typical JRPG first-person dungeon crawler fashion; it’s all tied to a grid, with motion contained in block-by-block steps, and turning done in clean, on-the-spot 90-degree spins. Standard stuff so far. Fortunately, although there’s no escaping the usual copy/paste job in this sort of game; a necessity in environments of this size, each dilapidated area is brimming with clues of what could have happened when an entire civilisation was left behind. Dungeons reveal themselves as the plot progresses in the form of drifting islands surrounding Garage Island. Each dungeon links to the past of one of the characters and a story is revealed by locating all the TVs and watching each episode of the dark, but comical Extend TV. Think Fallout’s Vault Boy cartoons in tone.

Zero Genome Project

Throughout the game, the team faces an unfortunate side-effect of the cloning process. Each new body is finite, much like a normal body, the difference being that clones age, and ultimately die, over the course of days rather than years. In-game, this meant yet another element to manage. Each team member has several life stages, effecting their abilities and appearance. A child, for example, will not have as great a capacity for carrying items, whereas their adult equivalent can bear the extra weight. When descending towards middle-age and the more senior years, you’re facing the prospect of losing a team member and the contents of their bag. Fear not, for death is meaningless when you have a limitless supply of new bodies! Every character has an ‘X-Key’, a mysterious metal object that sits where the belly button once was. If someone dies, one must simply retrieve the X-Key and take it back to base. During dungeon crawling, I found the aging mechanic to be the biggest source of tension and deliberately pushed my luck consistently when wanting to explore the next section of the dungeon. It’s a risk/reward part of the survival cycle that felt tightly-woven into the narrative and works well, with a well-structed UI helping you to keep track of who’s reaching their limit.

Revival of your teammates takes place in the hub area through use of yet another mysterious convention; The Extend Machine, an arcade machine of unknown origin. This machine is missing parts and your main mission to recover these parts in the hopes of improving the cloning process. Points, which are gathered through battle, are spent in the Extend Machine. Options are opened once SCORE points are used to revive your characters. For example, if your character dies of old age, spend enough points and they’ll manage a to hang on to their dentures for a little longer next time. These buffs, known as Shigabane, are gradually built through the unusually short death/revival loop and give extra nuisance to team builds. I found these to be more effective in immediate gains than skills points and I spent time thinking about how to use the mechanic to my advantage, while grinding out the necessary skill points.

The daunting prospect of managing the stress levels of the team, their stamina, their age requirements and their bladders adds to the shopping list of RPG mechanics crammed into Zanki Zero’s survival list. Truth is, these elements aren’t as overbearing as they seem on paper, being a case of ‘one affects the other’ and keeping them all at bay usually means keeping everyone fed, rested and empty-bladdered.

Switching difficulty settings works in the same vein as games like Diablo in that greater rewards and experience are gained through cranking up the challenge. I found myself panicking over losing key development items too much to push beyond the normal difficulty more than a handful of times, though having the option was good when wanting to skip some of the grind. Fortunately grinding isn’t often necessary as most of the key items you need can be found through exploration and boss battles.

Project Mirai

By striking the right visual blend of grimy post-civilisation, where nature’s had its way with the land, and the bright over-saturated tones, Zanki Zero absolutely nails the tone of the narrative and anime charaterisations. Ayako Nakao’s character designs are diverse and memorable, and seeing the different stages of life gradually changing their apppearances is as interesting as it sounds. Credit to the UI designers for managing to control the chaos of a thousand systems. It’s hard to keep track of everything and there could be a few extra shortcuts here and there but it’s a slick and functional untaking, despite the obvious challenges.

There is a lot of text in the game, as can be expected from a story-dense Spike Chunsoft effort, as such, there was a sacrifice in the amount of voice acting. All major story beats are fully voiced, but most lines go with grunts and noises.

Tomomi Ohashi’s elegant, yet frantic soundtrack offers some absolute gems that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in one of the Masafumi Takada masterworks (Danganronpa, No More Heroes, The Silver Case). Having the ability to choose your own tracks as you explore is the icing on this heavy layer-cake.

Verdict:

Graphics: 8
Presentation: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7.5

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Zanki Zero gives player a lot to juggle and at some point, you’re going to drop the ball. That’s by design though and slots neatly into the survival theme. However, a lacklustre combat system and a dull, constant need to shuffle items around your inventory holds the game back from true greatness. If you can deal with that, the rest of the mechanics are fun, and the story is something truly special. The stiff movement and camera control will put off many a player but as long as you’re familiar with the type of game you’re getting into, there’s zero dilemma.

Format: PS4 (Reviewed), PC, PS Vita
Price: £49.99
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Developer: Lancarse
Age Rating: PEGI 16

Release Date: 09/04/19

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Midnight Deluxe review – Average Yet Cheap Thrills

Yet again, Ratalaika Games have another game for us. One of the busiest purveyors of Indie titles in 2018, and I’m sure they don’t have any plan of slowing down just yet. And as is a custom of theirs, it’s a short game that offers very easy achievements/trophies for a low price. So those who hunt, feast your eyes upon Midnight Deluxe.

So, what exactly is this game all about? Well its got platforms and that familiar trope of traps that will kill in one hit. But its not a traditional platform game. In a world of perpetual darkness, the square shaped fairy named Midnight.

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The players goal is to reach the safe zone in each of the games 70 levels which get progressively more challenging the further you get. How you do it though is another thing. Instead of moving Midnight at your will, you need to use your aim and a fire button to catapult our bright fairy friend in the right direction.

A Paupers Challenge

Midnight offers very little in the way of a challenge and instead allows the free flowing nature of progression. Dont get me wrong, there are some levels that are tricky, but none are impossible by any means.

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The package of graphics and soundtrack are pleasing to the senses, giving you a feeling of relaxation as you fly through the levels. Quite literally too. Yes its a short game, one that can be done completed in under a couple of hours.

Probably sooner should you be in it for them achievements/trophies. But given how pretty the game looks in the darkly lit levels, and the low price point, youd be a fool to pass it up.

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Verdict:

Graphics: 8

Presentation: 7 

Sound: 4

Gameplay: 6

Overall Score: 6.3 / 10

There really isnt much else to say about Midnight Deluxe, so Ill wrap it up now. It is cheap to buy, fun to play and offers hunters an easy list that can be unlocked in under an hour, so whats not to like?

Format: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS Vita & Xbox One (reviewed)

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Developer: Petite Games

Price: £4.99

Release Date: 24/10/2018

Pegi Rating: 18+

Review Copy Provided By Publisher

Featured

Go! Manchester: Pokémon Ultra MSS & PC Weekend

When stepping in through the door to the world of competitive Pokémon battles, 20/20 vision was not required to see that this was a welcoming community.

As my eyes registered the sights presented to me in the Vue at Manchester Printworks, I discovered that no one was exempt from joining the fun. Roughly 20 teenagers, students, and children had turned up to indulge in their shared passion. Even the parents who accompanied their children had no interest in removing the smiles from their faces.

On the subject of passion, I had only to take one fleeting glance at any 3DS that sat on the tables arranged in a speed date style to get a feel for how much of it was in that room. Each one was adorned with a custom design – often relating to Pokémon – which demonstrated each participant’s individuality.

On that 18th day of May, my gaming senses identified an overarching feeling of community and comradery. Indeed, this may have something to do with the fact that many of the players present in that room were regulars to the event. As well as this, not many of them are shy to the other tournaments that run throughout this great country.

However, when my presence was announced, even the simple act of a participant striking conversation with me was enough to make me feel like part of the community. Thus, that is the word I wish to use as I recount my time at the Manchester Ultra MSS and PC Weekend: community.

The Main Event – Midseason Showdown

After a slight delay, the main event was underway. A Midseason Showdown (MSS) is a semi-frequent affair. Therefore, it is quite the event. This was evident right from the word go as silence filled the room. Each and every participant displayed unwavering focus and concentration. Needless to say, it was very tense.

This intensity would continue for 4 rounds of best of 3 actions capped at 50 minutes. Once a round had concluded, the participants turned their gazes to the big screen to catch the stats. With each win came a wealth of Championship Points. However, these points are not simply for bragging rights.

As a matter of fact, one of the participants I spoke with Informed me that he was but a few points away from securing the amount necessary to be invited to the World Championships. Certainly, this is something that one of the event organisers, Daniel King, wishes to see in the future.

“Personally, I want to see a strong local scene for my players”, he stated in our brief interview. As well as this, Daniel went on to say that he wished for this local scene to help them “to do better and go on to bigger tournament successes”.

Undoubtedly, this is a man who cares deeply for the players that form the backbone of his community. Daniel has been running these tournaments in Manchester since 2017 which have attracted players from Birmingham, Dublin, London and Aberystwyth.

Before I knew it, all 4 rounds had finished. The best of each division were brought forth to receive their prizes: the Juniors (children), the Seniors (teenagers), the Masters (young adults). What really struck me about the whole presentation was that I could not detect a single hint of jealousy. Instead, I found only respect, just as it should be in any community.  

Process of Elimination – Top Cut

Up until this point in the day, it had all been fun and games since no one was facing the threat of elimination. However, this was all about to change.

As it turned out, all losses accrued during the 4 prior rounds incurred greater consequences than previously believed as only the top 4 players from those battles were granted access to the next stage.

The tension was dialled up to 11 as those who made the Top Cut were paired up and made to do battle once more. Although the best of 3 rule and 50-minute time limit still applied, suffering even a single loss could have meant the difference between securing the top prize and going home relatively empty handed.

50 minutes passed, the first round ended, and two participants were eliminated. However, if this were not tense enough, what came next was guaranteed to get the heart racing.

With the top prize hanging in the balance, the top 2 competitors took their seats. Meanwhile, those who were not so lucky could only watch as the deciding duel was displayed in all of its glory on the big screen. The pressure was on, and both of the successful Pokémon trainers knew this. If it bothered them, they expertly concealed it.

Following a long, gruelling, and close battle, the victor claimed a reward of his own choosing. However, not before displaying respect for his opponent. A respect that was admirably reciprocated.

Being but a mere observer to what was unfolding, I was taken aback by just how much better these e-warriors were at understanding what makes a strong community compared to those in sports that drop the “e”. They treat each other as revered equals and never fail to focus on the positives that arise from a loss such as the knowledge that it supplies them with.  

Double Trouble – Premier Challenge

Although the Midseason Showdown was the star attraction, this should, by no means, take anything away from the thrill of the Premier Challenge (PC).

In fact, these thrills were twofold. Not only was there a shot at redemption for those who had not previously breached the Top Cut, but there was also only one opportunity for victory as the PC operated on best of 1 rules. With a shorter, 20-minute time limit, participants had to employ more effective and efficient strategies.

Other than this, the Midseason Showdown and Premier Challenge play out in mostly the same way. A blessing in disguise as this granted me the necessary time to simply spectate each player and gain a greater understanding of this ever-growing gaming community through my observations.

Most notable among these observations was the players who took their dedication to this craft to the next level, casting a razor-sharp eye on their nemesis’ every move and seeking out any sign of weakness. Once that critical flaw was revealed, they took note of it, using this to assist them in making their one chance for victory the only one they would need.

Fortunately, for the defeated combatants, learning from their mistakes to better themselves as players is all part of the fun. This was reinforced by one of the regulars I spoke to who told me that he attends the event to indulge in the unmitigated joy of doing what he loves while simultaneously learning from the other players who eclipse his skill and experience.

However, it was another sentence that escaped his lips which had the most staying power with me. This being that he believed the tournament to have the power to break down barriers. If this does not say all that needs to be said about gaming and its ability to unite disparate individuals through a mutual interest, then I know not what to add.

Curtain Call

As the Top Cut Elimination Rounds came and went for the second time that evening all that was left for this reporter to do was rest, enjoy the conclusion, and reflect on what had lead up to this moment.

The highly skilled, dedicated and passionate individuals I surrounded myself with had endured at least 8 rounds of Pokémon battling action, all coming away with gleaming smiles.

Those who demonstrated the most admirable of skills on the battlefield were then afforded the opportunity to establish their dominance in a friendly and respectful manner.

Now, that time had come again. However, the crowning of the overall winner was not the focus. Instead, it lay in the fact that everyone was having an unforgettable time together as lovers of Pokémon.

As the old adage claims, it is not about the destination, but rather the journey that brings you there, and that journey will always feel far more rewarding with friends coming along for the ride.

If you wish to participate in the tournament then be sure to follow Daniel King on Twitter @{MCR VGC} PokeM@n. I would like to take this time to thank Daniel King and Niall Crallan for allowing me to attend the tournament and report on it on behalf of Reggie Reviews.

Featured

Reggie Merch review: Unbroken Bonds / Detective Pikachu Case Files and Boosters

Welcome readers to the very first ‘Reggie Merch Review’. Myself and the team @reggie_reviews wants to make sure your ‘To The Point’ content includes some of the latest and greatest Merchandise from your favourite franchises. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick things off than covering the latest ‘Pokémon Trading Card’ sets ‘Detective Pikachu and ‘Unbroken Bonds’, so let’s dive straight in:

For this review, I received a very generous care package from ‘The Pokémon Company‘ and our friends at ‘Hope and Glory PR’ which included the following:

  • Detective Pikachu Case File (Including Detective Pikachu 4 Card Blisters)
  • Charizard GX Case File (Including Detective Pikachu 4 Card Blisters)
  • Greninja GX Case File (Including Detective Pikachu 4 Card Blisters)
  • 2 x Unbroken Bonds Theme Decks (Lightning Loop and Battle Mind)
  • 6 x Unbroken Bonds Booster Packs

Detective Pikachu Case File

This case file is all about Pokémon flagship electric mouse, featuring a promo card that allows players to search the top 4 cards of their deck and place one at the top of said deck. It’s quite a playable card in my opinion and could come in super handy with an extra card pickup.

Buyer will also receive a special (but plastic) Detective Pikachu coin for those who collect them, in addition to a couple of 4 pack Detective Pikachu boosters featuring Pokémon from the movie. Which by the way are all Holo cards.

As usual, The Pokemon Company don’t mess around with their packaging by using a card case file design for it’s packaging. For Pikachu collectors and fans, it’s a must buy!

Charizard GX Case File

Next up is the mighty Charizard, who surprised no-one when it got it’s own Detective Pikachu GX card and Case file. This set is more akin to the normal GX box we’re used to from the trading card game.

As such, it comes with a mix of Detective Pikachu and legacy Sun and Moon boosters, sorry kids, no Unbroken Bonds blisters in this set! In what is the best idea for wall art, Charizard comes with a Giant Pokémon card just in case your eyesight is failing.

Charizard GX features a high-cost yet balanced move-set. ‘Dreadful Flames GX‘ deals 250 damage whilst discarding an energy card from each opponents Pokémon, with the 200 damage dealing ‘Steam Artillery’ as back up. The card also has ‘Raging Destruction’ that allows players to search the top 8 cards for fire energy, a nice little replacement for the ‘Max Elixirs’ from yesteryear!

Mewtwo GX Case File

A Detective Pikachu TCG set would not be complete with the often misunderstood Mewtwo. Psywaving to his haters in style, Mewtwo has his own GX Case File which again features both Detective Pikachu and Legacy Sun and Moon boosters a-kin to the Charizard GX Case File.

Mewtwo hasn’t had the best treatment in the TCG in recent years (I’m looking at you promo EX box!) which is of course just my opinion. However, Mewtwo GX tucks opponents straight into bed with it’s move-set.

Firstly, ‘Psychic Nova GX’ deals 180 damage whilst conveniently preventing damage done by attacks during his opponents next turn. Saving this attack for a tight spot is 100% certain to turn the tide of any match!

Telekinesis avoids any weakness or resistance modifiers and finally, ‘Reigning Pulse’ deals 120 damage and confuses opponents. Like any good psychic deck build, Mewtwo has the power to ruin opponents hard-hitting Pokémon providing he is used at the right moment.

Greninja Case File

Another fan favourite hailing originally from the Kalos region whilst also serving as the final evolution for the regions water-type starter Pokémon, ‘Greninja’ takes the final spot for the ‘Detective Pikachu Case File’ series.

Well, I got that excited opening up the case file set that I forgot to take a picture of the inside of the Greninja GX Case File. Just imagine the Mewtwo GX Case File, but imagin Mewtwo as a Frog who wears his tongue as a scarf…

This set mimics the content of the previous two Case Files which is all fine and dandy, so let’s get into what Greninja GX can do. Firstly, it’s the only Case File GX with an Ability that allows Greninja to come into play providing he is the last card in your card. This is definitely living up to previous Greninja deck building hype considering he’s a stage two card.

As a result of this card’s ability, it only has two attacks which is fine seeing as they cost a combined energy cost of two water and one colourless. ‘Mist Slash’ deals 120 damage and isn’t affected by an opponents Weakness, Resistance or any other effects, nice! It’s GX move ‘Dark Mist’ can return one of the oppositions benched Pokémon to their hand along with all attached cards. Double nice!

Unbroken Bonds Decks

The latest Pokémon TCG set ‘Unbroken Bonds’ has once again given new players a path with the Fire/Psychic ‘Battle Mind’ and Electric ‘Lightning Loop’

Whilst the decks looks quite balanced, I am yet to field test the decks. With that being said, sometimes it’s nice to get together with your fellow trainers and simply play with a deck you know nothing about. Especially myself, with having amazing deck building skills and all…

And no, I’m simply too busy to prove it to anyone I’m afraid…

What about the booster packs?

Don’t worry readers, Papa Reggie has your back! Find out what I managed to grab with my booster opening videos below. More so the Detective Pikachu boosters, there’s some amazing artwork to see:

Lastly, thanks again to the Pokémon Company and Hope and Glory PR for submitting these amazing products for coverage.

Click here and Here to check out these products on Amazon.

Featured

Rage in Peace review – Trolling Hell Fire!

Developer ‘Rolling Glory Jam’ bring us a game about life and mostly death via publisher ‘Toge Productions’ with 2D Platformer ‘Rage in Peace’. Rage in Peace focuses on a protagonist who has received numerous visits by Death himself, but bless Timmy’s little heart, he just wants to die in bed in peace (Hence the title).

The whole theme of death via beheading is a focal point of the whole game, which is thickened out somewhat by a surprisingly well-written plot that challenges players to think about their own lives and moral choices.

Annoying Suprises

Rage in Peace switches from 2D to a pseudo-isometric view dependant on the tasks needed of players at a certain level. Furthermore, Rage in Peace pushes players into a puzzle/memory mechanic that can simply change its mind the moment a player dies (Which will be a lot, get used to that readers!)

In fact, Rage in Peace is more or less trolling it’s players, forcing punters to memorise not only the initial trap but every variant of it. The control system has players back with a precision that has come to be expected in most 2D platformer titles, complete with both standard and double jump options.

The level design in Rage in Peace has already been touched on with it’s endlessly changing traps, but for it rage quitting tendencies, the levels are well designed.

Grim in Disguise

As far as presentation goes, the cartoon aesthetic brings this title away from the gore and grit of other ‘Git Gud’ titles and sets it apart from the latter. The framerate compliments its queer art style brilliantly and works hand in hand with the brilliant precision controls.

However, I felt more like I was bringing a hand made Swiss Army Knife to a Bastard Sword convention. Rage in Peace just doesn’t give players a chance to sport their muscle memory due to a random spike or reach around moment that was randomly added, thus blowing one’s memory banks.

Rage Quit Ahoy!

For the aforementioned rage quitting players, there is something called the ‘GoldFish Mode’ which allows for more forgiving gameplay experiences. Whilst difficulty levels stay mostly the same, players will find more checkpoints including boss battles (Normally these are none existent)

The sound effects are well recorded and are not to be ‘snuffed’ at for a budget Switch title, whilst the OST goes from Heavy Metal chunk to celebratory Disco at a moments notice. The main gameplay is mostly dependant on in-game sound effects, which is a pretty cool way to add tension. Not that Rage in Peace needs it.

Verdict:

Graphics: 8
Presentation: 8
Gameplay: 6
Sound: 7

Overall Score: 7.3 / 10

Rage in Peace isn’t a bad game as such, but it trolls players hard. Whilst one can understand the need for a title having a certain gimmick to set it apart from the crowd, Rage in Peace just seems to raise the stakes whenever it damn well feels like it. It makes for hilarious playthrough videos, but in this reviewers case, not so much a great or memorable gameplay experience.

Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) and Steam
Release Date: 08/11/2018
Price: £10.79 (eShop)
Publisher: Toge Productions
Developer: Rolling Glory Jam
Pegi Rating: 12+

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing review – My Diplomatic Bag

Time to take command of a cool as hell flying ship. You’re the captain, one with a crew itching to get brawling in the arena competition. Get in on this single player first-person spaceship shooter without the space. Also smile, you’re on TV.

Bow To Blood is a fantasy reality show and tournament taking place in massive arenas, complete with an audience and host, in which competitors must challenge each other to earn points in hopes of topping the league table. Each playthrough consists of seven matches, which are split in to two separate events. The first gives you freedom to earn points as you see fit; explore the zone in which you can mine, fight or search for secrets to rack up your score before finding the warp key and scarpering. The second event offers a more focused objective such as exclusively hunting but any damage sustained in the first is event is carried to the second, making you think twice about being too greedy before turning in.

Aim to Please

After the crew gives a short introduction and light-but-well-paced tutorial to get you up to speed, it’s go time. From atop the bridge of this beast of a ship (which is armed to the teeth) movement is controlled with left stick and aiming with the right, in the usual flight/FPS tank control style and speed is adjusted and locked-in with the shoulder buttons rather than controlled on-the-fly, much like many a space/flight-sim. The slow and steady movement of the ship is offset by the freedom of cursor movement and, to keep everything expeditious, a lock-on targeting system is deployed. With the aiming done for you, it’s a breeze to fire through groups of enemy ships or to competently dogfight with your rivals.

With aiming out of the equation and movement slow for the most part, I found my mind free to think about skill selection and ship maintenance. Your on-ship resources can be reshuffled mid-game by balancing the amount of ‘essence charge’ to one of the systems in place. More practically speaking, this means you can determine which of your skills have shorter cooldown times. If you’re facing a heavy hitter that uses some oversized artillery, you might make more use of your shield skill, or for mining samples you may want to weigh resources towards your boost, enabling you nip around the map more efficiently, for example. Your crew can be assigned specific tasks on the ship as well, such as manning a particular turret, all of which is easy to keep track of. These features are built in to a simple-to-use UI and, though initially tough to navigate in the panic of a flight fight, all gelled quickly.

Don’t Vote; it Only Encourages Them

In terms of structure, Bow to Blood has the DNA of a sports title mixed with a game show. Points determine your league position however, after each match there’s a popular vote to determine who, from the bottom two, is to be knocked out. I found this brought an additional dimension to the competitive spirit in itself, but the developers took extra steps to explore the concept even further.

During matches you will bump into opponents tackling the same mission as you, where they will interact with you in some way. They may just say ‘hi’ as they’re just scoping your skills, or perhaps they’ll seek your aid when they’re in a spot of bother. Adding this dynamic really helps build rivalries or comradery giving extra meaning to each victory or loss. Naturally, people remember your antics, be those helpful, impolite or full-pirate, which can be a blessing or curse.

Pathos Ethos, who needs Logos?

On one playthrough, in between matches, as I procrastinated in my fancy ship, I got a phone call from a douchenozzle whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to trash-talk like a 1960s boxer, just to wind people up. Turns out he wanted a bit of a truce but, gains be damned, I wasn’t about to be strong-armed by this chump. Bound to get you fired up, right? Indeed, I couldn’t wait ruin his day. Thing is, next time I’m up for the axe through the voting system, I can count on Cpt. DoNozz and his allies to send me packing.

When selecting responses, a sidebar shows the effect on the other competitors’ perception of you. And it works both ways. A polite chap needed my aid with some pesky ships. I had nothing better to do so thought, why not get on his good side while stealth stealing his points from under his nose. Win-win.

If the characters leaned the same way every playthrough, things would end up thoroughly predictable. The secret sauce for replayability however, is the randomisation of these events; a simple concept that becomes a masterstroke in this context. Adding to the character is your ship’s crew who drop the odd line here and there, perhaps bounce off each other during downtime. These elements don’t affect anything directly beyond control tips, and there’s nothing special about the writing with these two, but it all helps to get the blood of competition flowing. Conversely the writing elsewhere is strong, with character bios adding another charismatic layer.

Shipshape

Performance is steady even if the framerate isn’t high. Image quality is impressive on the Switch’s screen giving the game a polished feel, though anti-aliasing is used sparingly and perhaps a little motion blur could be employed. There are neat touches like your bunk’s wall being adorned with photos of the locations you’ve visited so far alongside voting records. The ship designs are particularly impressive ranging from buccaneering to sci-fi, while the setting itself also falls firmly into the fantasy-meets-sci-fi realm with an almost Borderlands colour/tone style, especially in the rocky areas. The broad selection of stages offer a multi-planetary feel and there are few similarities between layouts too, meaning map rotation helps give each ‘season’ a different flavour.

Though sticking to bot matches is more my bag, I can’t deny Bow to Blood would make for a very interesting online multiplayer experience. Perhaps something for a sequel? This game deserves a sequel. Just saying.

Verdict:

Graphics: 8
Presentation: 8
Sound:
8
Gameplay: 9

Overall Score: 8/10

The AI rivalries affording options to plot betrayals speaks to the devilish manipulator inside us all. Or just me? Either way, this unique blend of genres with pseudo-roleplaying beats will keep the replay value floating and help Bow to Blood negotiate into my pick-up-and-play rotation. I’m glad we could have this talk.

Format: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price: £17.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Tribetoy
Developer: Tribetoy
Age Rating: PEGI 7

Release Date: 03/04/19

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Mental Health in Gaming – ‘Sketch’

Welcome once again readers to Reggie Reviews ‘Mental Health in Gaming’. The purpose of this series is to bring the stories of actual gamers to the public in hopes of diminishing the negative stigma that plagues the overall community. Today, we have a lovely chap called ‘A’ (For privacy reasons) who is an Ex CS:GO semi pro player and a budding streamer. Lets jump straight in:

– Thanks very much for appearing on ‘Mental Health in gaming’, Sketch. Firstly, could you just confirm the type of mental Illness you suffer from?

No problem, I suffer from anxiety and depression, both diagnosed in my early 20s. I was diagnosed with anxiety in university when I was 21 then depression at 23.”

-And was this diagnosed before you noticed that gaming relieved the burden of Anxiety somewhat?

“Sort of, as I’ve become older I’ve become more self-aware of myself and on reflection, now knowing what I do about mental health and my own personal issues with it, I noticed that I would go to games to get away from an endless cycle of bad thoughts. By having something that required my attention and skill, it took me away from my own cyclical negativity that would spiral out of control. Games are great for the days with low mental health because you can get quick wins that lift your spirits.”

-It’s an interesting fact that you were a semi-professional Counter-Strike player, could you tell me about how you managed your anxiety during that period in your life?

“Sure, it’s easy, I didn’t ha. I didn’t really know at that time I had anxiety, but in hindsight the only thing that ever cut through my anxious thoughts was the idea of competing. Obviously, competing at LANs was completely and utterly terrifying at first and getting to those events was a huge challenge, but thanks to great teams and friends, I had confidence in us, myself and it all started to settle once I finally pushed myself to get there.

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Putting my thoughts into strategies and practising my aim endlessly obviously was helpful in regards to competing, but it can get a little unhealthy too, requiring a balance I wasn’t really capable of. Although I still struggled with my anxiety in a lot of ways, CSS was the one exception to it where I seemed to succeed and instead of letting the anxiety hold me back, it pushed me to be better or to make sure I got to events so I didn’t let down my teammates. “

-With your gaming career spent at tournaments and in online lobbies, I’m sure you became close with some of your team. Would you say that these relationships benefited your mental health?

“Massively. I made friends for life with people that still check in, even though we haven’t played together for nearly a decade in some cases. Before you know it, you have this group of people that you rely on – in-game and out-of-game. You go from internal communications, to staying on Ventrilo for longer just to chat and have fun, distracting you and in those moments, it feels like the anxiety has disappeared.”

-It’s so uplifting to hear about such a positive time in your life. Online game chatting services such as Discord and Ventrilo which have communities of their own played a big part too didn’t they?

“Yes, Ventrilo was the one back in the day for CSS, but now it’s almost the same way with Discord. I go from playing with people from esports organisations from my time in the past to university friends, meeting on a Discord server nearly every day when we finish work to play games and talk a bunch of nonsense and stream it. It’s great.”

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-How do you feel about the games industries representation in the public eye?

“I think it is starting to become much more positive, especially from a professional perspective with so many places making fantastic workspaces to have your career. The positive working experience they’re promoting is almost like a sanctuary where a lot of gamers want to go. Positive, uplifting work environments where you can progress as well as have freedom, flexibility and a great work-life balance. This wasn’t always the case, with many acting like other tech companies and burning out, but now there’s movement away from that with more sensible, practical business decisions.

The negative representation about the industry, including the esports industry, all comes from those who do not participate I feel. With their current fascination of ‘gaming disorder’ becoming recognised when in actuality, it’s a symptom of a larger issue if you believe that someone is suffering. Really, why do people do it? To get away from real life or real thoughts and that’s where the focus should be, not the blame being put onto the individuals.

We’ve already established addiction is a disease, including by WHO, so how can gaming be that different? That’s not to say gaming is innocent, there’s a lot of toxicity online which I think can really take down someone in the industry and has been known to happen, but I like to think of something more positive like DrLupo’s streaming community – on the days where he’s open about mental health, he gets supportive messages because he’s created this community where positivity is their key.”

-Finally A, What would you do differently with the representation of gaming and mental health?

“I wish I knew what was best to help, I really do because I would love to improve this if possible. I think perhaps more narrative-based games having characters who have mental health issues so the representation of it makes it more inclusive and also just a little less lonely. Another is more specific to esports but those who are brave enough to share their issues and struggles can change the discourse around mental health and promote support through family, friends, support groups and any other ways that just helps. I think the best is for people to feel that they’re not alone, these thoughts aren’t individual nor are they too powerful for you, you can win – just like you do in games.”

Some brilliant points made by Sketch, he has provided a unique viewpoint on Mental Health from within the eSports industry itself. This writer would say that competitive gaming and community building through online gaming has served A very well. Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed for ‘Mental Health in Gaming’

Sketch can be found on Twitter: @GamesSketch and Twitch: Sketchh

 

Featured

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle: A Retrospective review

‘Arc System Works’ follow up to ‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ (It’s so good!) is the flashy ‘BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’. Cross Tag is more of a spin-off from the mainstay series which incorporates different fan-loved franchises; ‘Atlus’ ‘Persona 4 Arena’, ‘French Breads’ Under Night in Birth’, and ‘Rooster Teeth’s RWBY’.

The end result is a heavy concentration on episodic storylines divided by said franchises in a simplified BlazBlue approach to the legendary fighting system a la ‘FighterZ‘. Whilst the storyline is a loose one, it does do the job of tying the four Franchises together that gives each roster of characters’ equal appearances.

Word Up!

With that being said, still cut scenes with an overemphasis on dialogue can get stale two episodes in. Each episode revolves around the same base plot and often crosses over into other episodes’ battles. Cross Battle does variate the matches by focusing on a different tag match which is closely related to the latter. However, without the weight of customary anime cut scenes one found himself skipping the fan service based dialogue to get to an actual fight.

BBTAG_character_gameplay_screenshot_of_Weiss_Schnee_00001

“You Raise Me Up!”

The addition of an arcade mode would have cured the single player fatigue, however Cross Battle does offer a survival mode and offline vs mode to keep the pace up and to support couch play with friends. Arc System Works have opened up Cross Battle to cater for both returning and new players with the addition of a comprehensive tutorial mode which walks through all special attacks and basic mechanics. With the addition of a simplified control scheme, Cross Battles accessibility is heightened once again for pick up and play mechanics. More so on the Nintendo Switch.

Snappy Matchmaking

Replay value for Cross Battle bears fruit in its online play. Throughout playing this title there were no lag or frame rate issues on a basic 25MB/S home broadband connection. Players have the option of joining a lobby of sorts or simply requesting a match with similar skilled players. This reviewer found the latter to work best for quick match making. Players do not need to worry so much about being wiped out by experienced players too much during online play due to the accessibility of the controls and the sheer amount of characters available in Cross Battles roster.

One found a bit of a meta game forming in gelling different fighters across different franchises. Teaming a ranged fighter with a faster/inside fighter seemed to work best. The rest is down to learning move sets and finding synergy between the two protagonists chosen to fly across the screen. Whilst Cross Tag is often chaotic on-screen, it is still quite easy to decipher what is going on due to original character design and colour co-ordination of character attacks.

Show Me Your Moves

One has banged on about the fighting system in game, but what actually makes it tick? Well every character has access to the following attacks:

  • Character Tag-ins with the press of one button
  • Two normal attacks
  • High attack
  • Assists from partners with one button
BBTAG_character_gameplay_screenshot_of_Platinum_the_Trinity_00001

“Flower Power”

These can be combined to produce various combos that are specific to each character which is very commendable. Off the back of these basic commands, characters can learn to juggle characters’ mid air, recover from attacks quicker, guard and perform reversals. Again, all of these actions are very flashy and are lovingly animated from character to character. This results in a fluid and tight fighting system which has millisecond response times. Very impressive.

The Persona of BlazBlue…

The level designs are more in the background in Cross Battle, with the standard fighting area being a blank canvas. It was nice to see Cross Battle put so much attention into the variating franchises lore and locations.

Cross Tag is beautifully and uniquely displayed as a living anime, with all sprites and backgrounds having been faithfully created to the characters’ and franchise style. Originally one thought this may clash, but this writer believes that sticking to the source material as close as possible is of upmost importance in a cross over title. It would have been nice to see a couple of variating factors from episode to episode, but it’s a good thing that ARC kept systems to a general consensus. Multiplayer would have been chaos!

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“What the Hell are Those Shoes!?”

All original voice talent has come on board for Cross Battle which comes across very strongly in episode mode. Franchise soundtracks are out in full force as well as a few new additions in the name of Cross Battle. As this writer did not know of a couple of these franchises beforehand it was nice to hear and experience them first hand.

Verdict:

Presentation: 7.5
Graphics: 9
Gameplay: 8
Sound: 8

Overall Score: 8.1/10

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a wonderful amalgamation of popular franchises rolled into one big tag team blow out. Although a couple of extra single player options would have been nice, multi-player holds enough weight to forgive this. This reviewer is impressed with Arc System Works ability to visit other franchises and leave their own mark as well as making their fighting engine accessible to new comers such as myself. Cross Tag is certainly one of 2018’s best fighters without a doubt!

Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Release Date: 22/06/2018
Price: £34.99 (eShop)
Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Pegi Rating: 12+

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Bird Game+ review – Bird Brain

It’s tranquil. Birds chirp, the wind blows. And here we have an on-rails third-person flyer with barrel rolls.

Sporting an interesting monochrome look, Bird Game guides you through three levels of the hunting ground that is nature. Wind is key to everything that moves, creating challenging obstacles of wildlife and plants.

While a gust of wind spins a flower like a windmill and everything gently sways as you dodge oncoming dragonflies to the backdrop of the string-driven serene music, there are early moments of placidity. The difficulty takes a step in a more challenging direction mid-way through, however, but the lack of focus and variety holds Bird Game+ back.

Tough to Swallow

It took me a while to realise there was a health bar across the bottom of the screen as it looked part of the border at a glance. There’s really no focus and no obvious goal while you’re in the game. Checkpoints replenish health and there’s no penalty for death beyond heading back to the checkpoint. It’s a straight A to B run and throughout the first level you may being asking why you’re bothering.

The flowing movement of flight feels right, with the shoulder buttons allowing nifty barrel rolls, Star Fox style. Aside from the directional movement there’s very little to learn. The tutorial section pits you against a rolling log, prompting you to hold the ‘Y’ button in order to spread your wings for a sharper turn, but the margin for error to avoid the log is small for players who have only just picked up the game. It’s infuriating to be shown a mechanic and being made to feel like you’re doing it wrong. A few collectibles used a guidance would have easily alleviated this early problem.

Collectibles are, well I’m not actually sure what they are but they’re there. There’s nothing to tally them up as you collect them and nothing to do with them during or after each run. They’re placed around levels but only occasionally used as means of directing the player, the rest of the time being seemingly randomly scattered, making them feel entirely redundant. Grabbing the collectibles presumably adds to your score but there’s no way to map your progress beyond the timer and checkpoints.

Hitting ZL/ZR enables motion control, which appear to make use of the JoyCon rather than the system itself (I generally use a Hori left JoyCon which is lacking in any of the usual sensors). These controls work well and are responsive, opening Bird Game+ up to the tiniest of curious gamers. That said, using the triggers for enabling motion control mid-game is a bizarre mapping choice at best.

A Sparrow to the Knee

There isn’t much to make the groundwork of the art style’s bold outlines flourish. The giant flowers and branches could have been used to give an overall sense of scale and awe to the environment, but the idea is never fully explored. Fixing the camera in place is likely a gameplay design choice, however a first-person or zoom in/out for the third person viewpoint could have resolved the nagging sense of the world around you being nothing more than a tiny narrow path. You’re a small bird but nothing seems relative in terms of comparably sized insects and animals; there’s a distinct lack of consistency and lack of ambition.

It’s fun to see a game that doesn’t rely on killing things but there’s no direct replacement for that element. There are rings to pass through that give a short speed boost, and doors you need to open by spinning an obtuse handle, but they feel entirely tacked on with no visual or, in many cases, design context. In sections where fish jump out of the water, tapping ‘A’ gobbles them up providing a much-needed speed boost but it’s still too slow. In something like Race The Sun there’s an innate sense of danger due to the speed involved, in on-rails shooters you’re, well shooting. In Bird Game you’re just being. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this design philosophy but the concept simply hasn’t been pushed far enough.

Crowly but Surely

This heavy emphasis on down time early on made for a creeping impatience that left me jittery, felt with the weight of a giant sequoia, especially in instances where I accidently quit the game. Yup, paused it, accidentally quit. You see, L is mapped to quit with no confirmatory yes/no option so it’s easy to hit when picking your Switch back up. A mild annoyance, though one that had to be mentioned.

While the game functions fine, with responsive controls and no slowdown in the busier sections, there’s an irritating single frame drop every few seconds which, once noticed, you can’t help but spot it every time. There’s also a complete pause prior to the boss sections loading in, which initially made me think the game had crashed.

With a lack of new ideas, a sombre pacing with no incentive and a redundant collectible element should spell the end of the road for our spinning aviator, as it mostly nosedives. That is, until you reach the boss battles.

Swan Song

The bosses have bags of character with their animated personalities giving more meaning to the outcome. Getting the boss patterns down is straightforward but it doesn’t make them any less challenging, offering tense and epic struggles. So much is the shift in smart design, such as the wind lines being the tell for which direction the enemy will come from, or with the lack of means of attack, using the environment to win the day, that it feels like a separate game to the levels before them. Wait until you see the frog king and his bombs. These great and memorable fights are clearly what the dev was storing their best ideas for.

In fact, the boss battles are so good that I have no issue recommending the game on the basis that you simply ‘get through’ the first level without expecting anything interesting. It wasn’t fun until I got to the first boss fight, then it was great. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t enough of those boss sections to hold the experience together, and with subsequent levels fluttering in the mediocre range, there’s little more to add. That said, you need only beat each level once to be able to select that level’s respective boss fight directly.

Verdict:

Graphics: 6.5
Presentation: 5.5
Sound:
5
Gameplay: 7.5

Overall Score: 6/10

I will play through this one with my daughter, I think. There’s certain a base appeal to the art direction that a younger audience may enjoy. The boss battles are worth the effort, so I’ll likely challenge them again. This is a bird game alright, minus the plus.

Format: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Price: £8.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Bryan Tabor
Age Rating: PEGI
3
Release Date: 03/05/19

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Aggelos review – A Wonder Monster Boy

With ‘PQubes’ reputable reach exceeding it’s grasp and the help of ‘LookAtMyGame’, developers ‘StoryBird Games’ and ‘WonderBoy Bobi’ have graced Nintendos flagship base with ‘Aggelos’.

In what is essentially a love note to ‘WonderBoy’ / ‘MonsterBoy’ and 80’s / early 90’s platformers, Aggelos is a pixelated 2D action RPG which is presented via the majesty of the platforming genre.

Aggelos doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, nor does it re-invent the aforementioned genres. In an industry that is pile drived by in-depth crafting and skill trees and or mechanics, it’s great to just kick back and play a straight forward RPG Platformer that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Story Time, Kids!

The story is a familiar one also, featuring a standard paladin type protagonist who is entrusted with saving a Kingdom from the terrible plot of the Aggelos antagonist and his many minions. Players must collect a number of elemental powers to ultimately overcome a looming cataclysm and save the innocent King, Princess and there subjects. ‘Legend of Zelda’ much’?

The platformer genre compliments the protagonists skill set, allowing perfectly timed jumps and magical / physical combos to reward players with a sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, some learn-as-you-go spells are necessary for creating platforms and unlocking areas which unlock further plot points and areas.

Each area comes with it’s own town, save points and some NPCs. Players can upgrade Swords, Armour, Buy potions / herbs and the like at the various shops each town offers. Some towns have their own exclusive items which does require backtracking from time to time, however the level design is a job well done and never feels like a chore.

An Easy Grind!

Typical of the genre, enemies will respond as soon as players walk off and back into the desired area, which means farming for gold and magic replenishment (Which is built up by physically hitting enemies) becomes somewhat of a joy.

Aggelos control mapping is also a job well done, allowing for players to invest time into precision movement that boarders rage quitting territory. Never fear readers, these instances never quite get to that point, and once again gives players a sense of accomplishment for finally pulling off a certain feat.

A ‘Bit’ Catchy…

We are all big lovers of a good ‘Bit-Chip’ OST over at Reggie Reviews, and Aggelos is a most entertaining one. Whilst the over world theme is used at every turn bar certain towns and temples, it’s a pleasure to hear and instils that childhood happiness and innocence that i desperately crave as I grow bald and gain an ever increasing circumference.

The presentation of Aggelos is simple, effective yet screams 16-bit class. A menu for inventories and another for Equipables exist for the players ease, yet the load times between gameplay and menu hopping can be a little jarring. IT’s honestly not something I would expect for a low demanding game such as Aggelos. But alas, this is the only complaint I have about it!

Verdict:

Graphics: 8
Presentation: 7
Gameplay: 9
Sound: 7.5

Overall Score: 7.9/10

Aggelos is essentially a WonderBoy / MonsterBoy clone with it’s own plot, creature and level design thrown in for good measure, and it’s bloody brilliant!

From executing perfectly timed magic spells whilst jumping from platform to platform is a wonderfully executed balance of reward and great level design. Whilst certain instances can be a little puzzling, Aggelos is another job well done and another string in PQube and Co’s bow.

Format: Nintendo Switch and PC
Release Date: 24/04/2019
Price: £11.99 (eShop)
Publisher: PQube
Developer: LookAtMyGame
Pegi Rating: 7+

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

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Gaming Disorder, Really?

This writer would like to start with his own troubles with mental illness. Not too long ago one was dealing with a build-up of terrible thoughts about ending my life, struggling to face the simplest of tasks and finding life a struggle in general. All of this eventually came to a head and one became seriously ill for about two months, this writer completely broke down. After being open about the situation, making my network of support and getting a correct diagnosis of Anxiety with the relevant medication, I started to rebuild myself.

This writer would classify himself a gamer from a very early age, about 6 or 7. Gaming is full of brilliant memories of LAN parties, tournaments, sleep overs, marathons and big gaming events. As one got older this went hand in hand with partying and inspiring my artwork and musical ability. As my mental instability developed throughout my 20’s, gaming began to take on a soothing role for me. Post Gaming sessions I was relaxed, vented and ready to take on life’s challenges.

world

“W.H.O. The organisation behind the classification”

Tell it How it is Reggie

This writers’ anxiety came from a number of passing’s and negative life experiences I never dealt with, just blocked out. Once one finally decided to face them all, I had just started to write about games and the industry. It was playing, reviewing and publishing my work that got me though one of the darkest times in my life. It gave me focus and something to work towards, not knowing if it would go anywhere at that point.

Why has this games reviewer just told his readers his life story? Quite simply because my mental health issues were in no way shape or form linked to gaming. But society would class me as a massive nerd/gamer for 2/3 of my life. So does that mean that cases such as these should be scapegoated to the most obvious choice, or should we look a little deeper for the real issue?

Addiction to media in general has been a concern for various movements and countries across the world for as long as history dates. 2500 years in fact going back to ancient Greece. But what proof is there? One decided to have a brief look over studies made within gaming addiction to find out more.

newspaper

“As opposed to brothers falling out over toys or a game of football?”

Opposing Doctors

The first article I came across was a Psychology Today piece by a William R. Klemm PhD. Straight off the Bat, Bill dives straight into the negative impact of violent video games amongst minors and the amount of time spent staring at the TV. Bill then goes into facts pulled out of the air which are backed up by referencing the existence of a gaming detox clinic aptly named ‘Re-START’. Right at the end, one sentence states that non-violent video games can improve mental quickness and other cognitive skills. The article comes complete with a 3 references.

Throughout this article, The Senior Professor of neuroscience boils down gaming addiction to adolescent skinny boys with no self-confidence. The article also places a lot of blame on online gaming. Whilst trying my best to stay unbiased and to gather an understanding of this narrow-minded view point, one made a bullet point of points Bill might have overlooked:

  • What parental styles are on display with these young men?
  • Do any of these chaps suffer from mental illness in general?
  • Were results compared to the populations confirmed who watch hours of TV?
  • Where are the social benefits of online gaming such as clan meets, LAN parties and other gaming events?
  • Was a link between lack of social activity and escapism explored?
  • Were said kids aware of social events that might meet their interests?
  • Has Bill ever played a Video Game?
  • Did Bill wish to punch someone after a good session on Street fighter?

Straight away the cultural bias is rife within professional bodies trying to discover the reasons and validity of gaming addiction. Not once was it mentioned that by merely Stigmatizing these kids as Gamers could be the path to the issue. Like most things in the world, if someone doesn’t understand something they fear it. Whilst one respects the background of Bill, Bill doesn’t actually bring up one valid point during this article.

old school

“About the same logic Dr. Bill”

A More Sensible Approach

Then I found another article, again on Psychology today by a Peter Gray P.h.D. which takes an opposing approach to gaming. Dr Gray wastes no time getting knee deep in the subject of scare-mongering throughout the media of the effects on gaming on young kids. He rationalises tabloid headlines of “Gamers brains Look the same as Heroin Users” by explaining that anything pleasurable produces dopamine in the brain. This is activated by certain pathways, some of these pathways are also used whilst taking Heroin. This one fact has no grounds to suggest that gaming can damage the brain, but instead explains that humans find gaming enjoyable and fun.

In fact, dopamine levels are elevated to the same heights of enjoying a Pepperoni Pizza. Opiates such as Heroin times the resting level of dopamine up to ten times its normal level.  Dr Gray then moves on to state that certain genres and actions in games exercise certain parts of the brain. Repeat stimulation can only lead to growth in those areas according to neuroscientist Marc Palaus and his colleagues.

Rather than write about it, one would just like to give his readers the last paragraph in this article. It’s a cracker:

“The question of whether or not the term “addiction” is useful at all, in relation to anyone’s video gaming, is very much debated by the experts. Currently, the American Psychiatric Association is considering the addition of “Internet Gaming Disorder” (their term for video gaming addiction) into their diagnostic manual.  Research shows that the great majority of video gamers, including those who are heavily immersed in games and spend large amounts of time at them, are at least as healthy psychologically, socially, and physically as are non-gamers.  In fact, in my next post I’ll describe evidence indicating that, on average, they are healthier than non-gamers in all of these respects. But the same research shows that some small percentage of gamers are suffering psychologically in ways that at least are not helped by gaming and maybe are worsened.  That’s the finding that leads the American Psychiatric Association to propose the addition of Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) to their official manual of disorders.”

seratine

“oh the Dad Jokes!”

Mental Health in Gaming

Moving on from the whole disorder argument, let’s take a look at how mental illness is represented in gaming today. Here are some titles that portray a great understanding of mental illness, one’s hope is that these games educate the masses a little on the subject:

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade

Ninja Theories’ masterpiece illustrates what it is like to live with Psychosis via a fictional storyline. Before Hellblade, psychosis was mainly a cop-out motivator for villains instead of exploring their drive a little more. Senua’s quest is to bring her dead lover back from the dead via the gates of hell. The player’s environments, obstacles, challenges and enemies are all a product of Senuas Psychosis. This writer can without a doubt Hellblade educated him on the subject.

That Dragon, Cancer.

cancer

This game received a lot of press at the time of release and performed surprisingly well for an Indie title. That Dragon, Cancer follows two parents coping with a terminal diagnosis of their 12-month old son with the horrible disease. It also covers the wealth of anxiety and depression the couple had to go through and cope with.

The Positives

Often, gaming can provide a medium to tackle such horrific and complex issues. Although extreme examples, gamers worldwide are aware of mental illness and are more open than most about talking about it via various platforms and blogs. To close the article, this writer would like to end with a video.

One thinks that this summarises gamers all over the world. We aren’t a quiet and reclusive bunch who just talk to our devices. We are passionate, creative, approachable and competitive. Readers, don’t ever judge a book by its cover, lets always try to look below the surface before we make such bold claims.

**Please note the following video may contain strong language, it’s an announcement reaction montage after all! **

Featured

Ding Dong XL review – Redefining The One-Trick-Pony

Like Pong but with less to do. And that’s just fine.

Ding Dong XL is an 89p game in which you ding and you dong, all with a single button. That’s not an understatement.

What’s the magic made out of, ding-dong?

Alright, so this is a super simple premise. You hit a button, the ball shoots from a launcher, travelling from one end of the screen to the other in a straight vertical line. The Ball stops in place when it reaches the other launcher, you hit the button again and it travels back. Each time it hits the other side; that’s a point. Your job is to simply time your shot to avoid the horizontally travelling shapes as they pass in increasingly chaotic waves.

There are a few power-ups, namely one to slow time down, one to boost points, one to nuke everything on screen and one to allow you to crash straight through the shapes, adding a little bit of variety.

Chasing the Pink Doughnut…

There’s also a risk/reward chance to rack up scores more quickly by skimming the shapes, which gives you something to concentrate on when you’re in the zone. Cosmetic rewards are unlocked by spending your cumulative points total and there are some fun designs with my personal favourite being the pink doughnut.

Think Geometry Wars in aesthetic style; lots of exploding neon. Everything’s silky smooth and, well, the single button press is responsive enough. All this plays out to the backdrop of a funky little electronic tune that loops.

Dopamine Nights

What makes the game more than your average arcadey mobile tapper? Well, mechanically, nothing. However, Ding Dong XL manages to do a sterling job of pulling the dopamine trigger as you try again and again to top that high score.

Throw in the dual mode where you can either control two at once or pass a JoyCon to someone you can blame your own failures on and you’re on to a winner. I found the combination of the sounds and bright visuals combined with the satisfaction of narrowly missing shapes as you rack up extra points gave me more enjoyment than I expected.

And that’s it. Nothing wrong with that.

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 7
Sound: 7

Gameplay: 7

Overall Score: 7/10

(Value for Money: 11/10)

Format: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, Android, iOS
Price: £0.89 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Nickervision Studios
Developer: Nickervision Studios

Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 22/04/19

Review based on purchased retail build.

Featured

Venture Kid review – Mega Boy

So, before you shout, “it’s Mega Man!”, I’d urge you to reconsider… no, you’re right, it’s Mega Man.

It’s clear as day that Venture Kid, with its punchy chiptune soundtrack and a colourful pixelated look that falls been 8-bit and GBA, is a homage to the Blue Bomber. That doesn’t mean its without its own characteristics.

Man, Oh Man

In Venture Kid’s Classic Mode, our boy Andy is tasked with running and blasting through nine levels to chase down the evil Dr. Teklov. Teklov who’s building a super weapon to preserve peace. Well, that’s what he’s telling everyone from his massive space castle. Andy naturally sees right through this and springs into action.

Andy’s a bit of a plain hero, looking like the type you’d see in a dull 70s show, yet very Mega Man. Our boy’s base look is that of Mega Man without his helmet, if he lost the cool armour and buster. Effectively, Andy is just the ‘Man’. That’s fine, he’s a tough kid.

The spritework’s not the most original or detailed but it captures the era well and enemy designs, while sticking to the standard robotic-animal and humanoid in the main, are varied enough to keep things visually interesting. That said, the enemies stuck with me, proving to be memorable in their own way through competent animation and individual attack patterns.

Action takes place across platforming levels which include the usual moving platforms, treadmills, cogs, close range enemies, projectile firing enemies. It’s all tick-box stuff but Venture Kid’s solid mechanics are underpinned by fantastic level design, particularly in enemy and platform placement.

Bass & Treble, Lacking the Mids

Where Venture Kid differs isn’t in the run and gun platforming, the three-at-at-time burst shooting, the pause-scrolling screens, the predictable boss patterns or the pits and spikes. No, it’s in the flow of its movement. Platforming is super tight, with a stick-to-the-ground approach to landing and a really high jump (especially after unlocking the double-jump power). The jump itself gives a tight command over ascending and descending, reacting with near zero-lag when wanting to shift Andy’s momentum mid-air. This is helped by the general speed of the running, which keeps an ebb and flow to each section. There are no pixel-perfect landing requirements here, a welcome break in the genre, as it keeps the game’s pace consistently high. Exploration is limited, with most sections being linear but there is a secret section within each level containing a treasure. These treasures aren’t difficult to find, and their accompanying hiding places involve little by way of navigation trickery, but all are needed to unlock the final boss.

Venture Kid isn’t anywhere near as difficult as the Blue Bomber’s 8-bit adventures but even though it errs on the easier side, the gameplay promotes a desire to run through as fast as you can. Completing a run happens in a very short time once you know the boss patterns, but the game’s handy stat page keeps track of your fastest times. Additionally, in-game achievements kick in for a number of feats including clean and fast runs. The only drawback is the reliance on an archaic life system that really could do with being removed. It’s a shame that for a game with such great level design, flow and accessibility, the devs felt the need to force players to start over, just for a small handful of errors or when getting to grips with a boss.

Mega Man & Boss

Speaking of bosses, their respective battles are quick with only a couple of patterns to learn each. Design here isn’t as inspired as the level layout, making them less memorable than the game’s inspiration material. Defeating a boss does unlock a new weapon, which has an energy bar. Yes, yes, it’s Mega Man. Like is often the case in some of Capcom’s classic entries, I found myself relying on the standard blaster, more than any of the power-ups except for the double jump or the one for walking on spikes (both of which can be used alongside normal fire). The triggers are on hand for the convenience of switching weapons, so keeping track of your weapon’s energy level is quick and easy.

A number of extras, mostly in the form of energy or health replenishment, can be bought using the game’s plentiful in-game currency, orbs. Orbs are scattered around levels and are dropped by defeated enemies, as are energy and health pickups, but this is Man, so you knew that already.

The Adventure Mode lets you tackle the levels in any order and rounding off the initially available selection is the Survival Mode, which acts as a remix of sorts, jumping from level to level and taking chunks from each. Adding this level of replayability was a masterstroke given that the quality level design still pulls through, even with the random elements. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even an unlockable Boss Rush Mode. I found these modes great to return to, having exhausted my playthrough of the Classic Mode.

Venture Kid is a complete package for a very reasonable price. If you want a break from the Mega Man Collections, or generally find those games too difficult, Venture Kid is a comparative walk in the park. Well, more like a sprint.

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 7
Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall Score: 7.5/10

Format: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, iOS, Android
Price: £8.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Developer: FDG Entertainment/Per Aasland/Even Rusten/Snikkabo
Age Rating: PEGI 7

Release Date: 02/05/19

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Fate/EXTELLA LINK review – Simply Marvelous

Fate is one hell of a series, starting out as a niche eroge visual novel and eventually, thanks to its quality storytelling, spawning a more mainstream version, various light novels, manga series, video game spin-offs, anime and mobile mega-hits.

Taking place after Marvelous’ previous Musou-esque battler, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, Fate/EXTELLA LINK covers the events after the ‘Moon’s Holy Grail War’ (read: big ol’ fight to the death), all under the watchful eye of the creator of the seminal Fate/Stay Night, Kinoko Nasu.

Fate is one hell of a series, starting out as a niche eroge visual novel and eventually, thanks to its quality storytelling, spawning a more mainstream version, various light novels, manga series, video game spin-offs, anime and mobile mega-hits.

Taking place after Marvelous’ previous Musou-esque battler, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, Fate/EXTELLA LINK covers the events after the ‘Moon’s Holy Grail War’ (read: big ol’ fight to the death), all under the watchful eye of the creator of the seminal Fate/Stay Night, Kinoko Nasu.

If you’ve Played The Umbral Star, Skip This Bit… or not, I’m not your Dad

To get you up to speed, the protagonist, originally a student, saw nearly everyone they knew deleted after discovering they were all NPCs in a digital world known as SE.RA.PH. With the Earth nothing more than a dying husk, the remnants of humanity were in a bit of a pickle and decided they were done with boring old flesh bodies. So they uploaded their consciousness. To the moon. Stay with me.

This world, hosted in an ancient supercomputer on the moon, has no use for NPCs once the game has ended and this time round, for those not participating in the Moon’s Holy Grail War, it spelled Ctrl+Alt+Del, end task. Fortunately, our hero turned out to be part of the cool crowd and, as a Master (and Wizard) joined and won the war, thus becoming ruler of the virtual world. Deciding to mess with the order, the prize of the Holy Grail was used to ensure NPCs were no longer slaves to the system and were given full autonomy, breaking the cycle of Holy Grail Wars and removing all other Masters in the process. That’s nice. The now free Servants made factions set about starting another war, so you and your badass Servant, Nero roundly trounced them all, bring order under the one banner… and that’s just the recap.

If you don’t know your Servants from your Sabres or your Casters from your Masters, you stand to feel a little bewildered by the dense lore, but fear not, once it gets going, the plot isn’t difficult to follow.

Shoot The Moon

After choosing an avatar from a binary male or female choice, our hero is quickly thrown into a situation in which, as a Master, they’ve no choice but to use one of their invaluable Command Spells to summon a Servant, the class of which can be selected by the player. Servants, for the uninitiated, are warriors based on history, mythology or literature ranging from the god-like Archer-class Gilgamesh, to the nutjob weirdo Caster-class Gilles De Rais and his command of eldritch monsters. There’s a threat to SE.RA.PH. a mysterious jerk who wants to wreck

Fate/EXTELLA LINK is a third-person hack and slash game that follows many Senran Kagura conventions. It’s a flashy, fast-paced Musou clone filled with energy and a diverse line-up of powerful warriors with crazy techniques and intricate backstories. However, the action is but one half of the mix, with the story, presented in a visual novel format, also being a huge focus.

As in Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, you take direct control of your selected Servant. And once you’re a good way through there’s an overwhelming selection. This time there are a total of twenty-six Servants made up of The Umbral Star’s batch of sixteen, as well as ten all new warriors, all with their own brand of panache. The colourful cast was a joy to flick through and with straightforward tutorial snippets and easy to use, well layout our interface, the down time between fights and story beats was just as involved. Picking you favourite combination of Servant and moveset gives this RPG-like element of character management enough depth without being overbearing. Relationship building aspects are a fairly barebones and shallow, but fun means of increasing the potency of support abilities. It’s not too involved and doesn’t require any huge commitment, but its presence adds only a wafer-thin entry to the list of stuff-to-do.

Moonshine

Character customization is here in spades. Servants have unlockable costumes with some fun designs and unique attack skills can be equipped and changed to suit you preferred fighting style. Mystic Codes are equipable items which add support abilities and are obtained from missions or crafted in the hub area and there are options for passive stat-upgrades underpinned but the usual levelling system. That said, there’s no avoiding the fact that it’s all under the umbrella of the Musou-DNA; alevel of simplicity in actual combat.

Basic attacks are chained together with simple two button combinations. Repeatedly performing a light attack, then adding a heavy attack during the auto-combo leads to a more ending powerful strike or flurry. Much like in Senran Kagura, a quick jump and air-dash lead in to a chained attack can lead to some satisfying and visually arresting plays. Extensions to your combos aren’t unlocked as quickly and sequentially as they were in the last game, however there are more special move options in their place. Holding down a shoulder button gives access to face-button-triggered spells which can feel neatly woven into your attack string when used frequently. Each has a necessary cooldown as these moves make short work of the crowds, especially if you trigger the Moon Drive, which boosts stats for a short period of time. Things get more interesting when throwing in your Servant’s ultimate attack; their regally named Noble Phantasm. After filling your gauge and letting rip, your Noble Phantasm plays out in a short cutscene and the result is often a grandiose display of beams, slashes and explosions.

The combat, while still firmly drawn in the Musou/Senran shade of simplicity never felt quite as repetitive as I had believed it would have at first glance. The reason? Partially my investment in the management of my Servants but also in the sheer speed of combat. Flipping from one side of the room to the other is a breeze but with that feeling of empowerment comes a sense of urgency, leading to generally exciting battles. That’s not to say LINK is immune to the cycle of its simplistic nature, far from it, but it certainly helps.

The mission structures are limited to the usual ‘follow-the-flashing-marker-on-the-mini-map’. The same old tired layout of ‘box after box, take on 1,000 enemies, trigger sub-boss emergence, take out sub-boss, wait for real boss’ pattern wore me down eventually. Things have been remixed in an attempt to add variety but, really, hitting up that Mana Point x before taking down enemy y isn’t the change that was advertised.

Other modes allow the freedom to tackle previously completed missions and there’s a more challenging Extra Battle mode that brings some alternative scenarios to the table. It’s the type of content I’ve come to expect from a game of this mould, but its inclusion can heap on hours of additional playtime. I admittedly usually burn out before getting on to the extras but it’s nice to be able to return to one the plot had been covered.

Light Side of the Moon

The plot is dense, if a touch uninspired, but following the thoughts of your character gives you a decent connection and level of immersion. There are also a couple of routes to take before reaching the True Ending, adding another angle to the narrative. However, what really elevates this package is a decent level of technical performance and, although graphically dated and suffering in image quality on Switch, a brilliant visual design and improved adoption of the stunning art direction. While the areas in overall sandbox structure are linear and limited, there’s always something interesting to look at, even travelling from place to place drags you through a digital tunnel which acts bit of a low-key rollercoaster and the flying fortress that acts as the hub area looks awesome. There’s minimal use of verticality within stages but the fact that there’s any at all helps.

My previous reviews of Dynasty Warriors titles and their spin-offs all generally fell into the same category; I enjoy them immensely but cannot ignore their shortcomings. While the same applies here, the coat of paint offered by the unusual and flamboyant Fate franchise does more than enough to make it stand out as a very different proposition. Whether you prefer the Senran approach or the generally slower Musou approach is really a matter of taste. Fate/Extella LINK for me sits comfortably in the genre’s rotation as a bit of a gem, containing the best of both worlds.

Verdict:

Graphics: 7
Presentation: 9
Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall Score: 8/10

Format: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Price: £44.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: Marvelous Europe
Developer: Marvelous
Age Rating: PEGI 12

Release Date: 22/03/19 (UK eShop)

Review copy provided by publisher

Featured

Difficulty vs Sensory: Autism in Gaming

While reflecting on the “Designing for Disability” study by the YouTube Channel ‘Game Maker’s Toolkit’, created by Mark Brown, a thought struck me. As someone recently diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum, what is routine in video games for most players requires more effort on my part. The same is true of those suffering other disabilities.

For example, those with low sight are unable to detect the subtler visual clues that video games provide. Therefore, their progress may be impeded due to no fault on their part. Additionally, when one suffers from a hearing deficit, relying on audio cues is a no go with poor audio mixing only exacerbating the matter.  

Furthermore, other gamers on the Autism Spectrum can easily become overwhelmed by particularly demanding gaming experiences that deliver various threats en masse.

The time has come to once and for all stub out the phrase “Git Gud”

However, while these players are physically capable of responding to the threats presented to them in a reasonably quick fashion, this is unfortunately not the case for those with motor function complications like Parkinson’s as pointed out by Mark Brown.

So, in combining Mark’s vital research with my own, as well my personal experiences, this study aims to demonstrate how nothing is truly universal: video game difficulty included.

The Visual

As with all visual mediums, the old adage of “show, don’t tell” applies heavily to video games. Therefore, the best games contain a wealth of visual clues that allow players to figure things out for themselves. However, when sight issues plague a player, these subtle clues may go by completely unnoticed.

Figure it out yourself, Boy!

For example, Mark Brown insinuated the difficulties players with colour-blindness experience when attempting to read enemy attacks (2018). This includes those suffering from Protanopia, which affects their perception of reds, who will suffer multiple frustrating deaths in God of War (2018) due to being unable to identify the unblockable nature of red attacks.  

Furthermore, players with low sight will undoubtedly find progression an arduous task. Silent Hill 2 conceals items necessary for progression in among its indistinguishable environments. As a result, those with low sight will most likely pass these by, being unable to separate them from the environment, unintentionally denying themselves access to the rest of the game.

The Aural

A common method implemented by game developers to combat the above issues is to use sound to their advantage. This includes the clang of two colliding swords to inform a player that they have performed a successful parry. While this is of great help to those whose sight has failed them, the same cannot be said of those with auditory impairments.  

An audio cue is always helpful, but poor audio mixing negatively affects this solution for those who rely on sound. To elaborate, if the audio cue is softer than the music, said music will drown out the cue. I agree with Mark Brown’s insinuation that games should let players adjust all volume levels (2018) as this ensures that no player will ever miss a vital cue.

In addition, certain decisions can make progression impossible for deaf players. Mark Brown cited a puzzle in The Witness that ‘requires you to listen out for sounds in the environment’ (2018). I agree with Mark’s statement that this sudden reliance on sound ‘can be a game-ending roadblock’ (2018) as deaf players will be caught out, being justifiably unprepared.  

The Autism Spectrum

Arguably the best game of this generation, DooM (2016) is unfortunately unplayable for some…

As I am on the Autism Spectrum, I find it more difficult to process things compared to those who are not on the Spectrum. For instance, where someone may believe that an NPC has provided them with too little information, I may see it as too much. Therefore, I may have trouble completing certain sections due to a sense of feeling overwhelmed.

Similarly, those on the Spectrum are more prone to sensory overload. Visceral action titles such as Doom (2016) often feature excessively loud music accompanied by dazzling lights. The National Autistic Society suggests that these may cause stress and anxiety in autistic people (2019). This is true as I often avoid titles I deem too stressful or overwhelming.

The Motor

In the situation exemplified above, the inability to react was psychological. However, for those with motor function deficiencies, their inability to react is physical due to the restrictions placed upon their finger mobility. Consequently, the control that these players have over how the events in a game play out is limited to a frustrating degree.

Referring back to the example of action titles, these games frequently require quick reactions. Case in point: Devil May Cry. This series requires constant mobility through jumps and dodges. However, those with finite motor function are not physically able to hit the designated button with the same speed as those with infinite motor function, and so will become used to death.

Furthermore, achieving the skill-based combos that these titles push is not easy for these players. Holding the shoulder button, mashing a face button, and pushing an analogue stick simultaneously is simple for me but, as Mark Brown states, these actions may be ‘difficult, painful, or impossible’ (2018) for those who are motor function impaired.

Conclusion

When one lives with a disability, they perceive everyday tasks differently from those deemed more able in body and mind; the same is true of video game difficulty. Those with perfect sight can pick up on a game’s subtle, visual nuances more easily than those with sight impediments. This does not mean those players are bad at video games.

Those with perfect hearing can use a game’s soundtrack to their advantage more easily than those with hearing impediments. This does not mean those players are bad at video games. Those not on the Autism Spectrum can process on-screen information more easily than those on the Spectrum. This does not mean those players are bad at video games.

Cranky Kong representing an outdated viewpoint, much like his outdated face…

Finally, those who retain full control over their motor function capabilities are able to react much quicker to the aforementioned obstacles than those who are limited in this area. Again, this does not mean those players are bad at video games.

No one individual experiences the world in an identical manner to another, so avoid the phrase “git gud” where simply finishing a game is reason to applaud a certain player for their skill.

Featured

World War Z Review – Hell’s All Full

Despite offering occasional moments of pure, zombie-slaughtering bliss, ‘World War Z’ does not provide blood-thirsty zombie-horror fans with enough to sink their teeth into.

World War Z is very much a game of two halves – the co-op campaign and the multiplayer – but these halves are not created equal. While the multiplayer is the undeniable focus, treating the campaign with greater care and attention would have elevated this title from zombie-horror mediocrity to superiority.

Consequently, this review aims to right this detrimental wrong by analysing the pros and cons of the campaign, such as the unlockable lore and the repetitive mission structure, on an equal field of depth to its multiplayer components.

So, without further ado, the time has come to place all the elements that make up World War Z under close scrutiny and see if the interspersed fun it provides is worth the price of admission

The Campaign

When compared to other, heavily optimised, co-op shooters such as ‘Left 4 Dead’, Saber’s apocalypse survival sim is certainly the fairest of them all. The majority of the textures are of a high resolution with the gritty facial models and blood-soaked environments brimming with detail. As a result, the world feels alive, adding terrifying tangibility to the diegetic threats.

Unfortunately, the believability of the World War Z universe cannot salvage the campaign’s mundane mission structure. Every mission from each of the game’s four episodes consists of reaching a location and defending that location from the ‘Zeke(zombie) hordes before rinsing and repeating. Due to this lack of variation, the gameplay spirals into sleep-inducing tedium.

However, the compelling snippets of unlockable backstory for each of the game’s indistinct cast of characters is worth staying awake for. Upon completion of any mission, with any character, an animated video will accompany that character’s bio, providing further incentive to experiment with character selection.

Saber Interactive should have taken a leaf from this by conducting some experimentation of their own where the music is concerned. Unfortunately, the overuse of pulsating drums which steadily increase in volume and intensity emit nothing but bad vibrations. This tragic lack of variation trans-mutates the game’s musical facets into mere background noise.

Overall, the potential is well and truly there for World War Z’s campaign to be more than a mindless time waster, but this potential is squandered by a lacklustre gameplay experience.

The Multiplayer

Although much of the campaign – which does not support local co-op – has eluded my memory, a couple of World War Z’s multiplayer game modes have not. One notable example is Vaccine Hunt which sees players attempting to attain, and keep hold of, a vaccine that nets their team valuable points. As this revolves around an undead-apocalypse-specific situation, it bestows the game with a modest personality.

However, this is not the only example of the multiplayer feature’s tender embrace of the viral. Should a player meet a grisly end at the mutated hands of a Zeke, they themselves will reanimate as a member of the living dead, motivating that same player to exercise extreme caution from that moment on to avoid being delivered to death’s door by their own spectre.

With immense regret, the praise stops here as the class system in World War Z’s multiplayer has been gnawed right down to the bare bones. For example, there is no custom class system, and there are fewer perks available for each class compared to the campaign. Therefore, it is highly likely that some players will be unable to find a class that suits their unique and specific needs.

Similarly, it appears that stages are selected without any kind of player democracy as I was never once given the impression that battle arenas could be selected and were instead thrust upon me. Since this invisible dice roll is performed by a flawed and unreliable computer system, some players may get to experience their favourite stage less frequently than others.

All in all, the multiplayer half of this mediocre entry into zombie-horror fiction is more memorable than the tacked-on campaign but fails to save the holistic experience.

Verdict:

Presentation: 6
Graphics: 8
Gameplay: 6
Sound: 4

Overall Score: 6/10

World War Z should have provided multiplayer fun on an apocalyptic scale, but is unlikely to leave any lasting effects unlike the virus that catalyses its wafer-thin narrative.

Despite the improvements the multiplayer makes by playing into the hands of its generic foundations, the damage had already been done. Therefore, this mode is more of a fun distraction from the joylessness present in the rest of the game rather than a beacon of hope.

With graphics that are easy on the eye, and engaging backstories for the game’s uninspired characters, one would believe the game’s campaign to be of high quality. Yet, it feels as though it was cobbled together in a single afternoon due to its glaring flaws.

Unfortunately, the zombie-horror sub-genre has remained stagnant for far too long, but there may be hope yet if developers go all out and take a few necessary risks.

Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC
Price: £34.99 (Xbox Live Marketplace)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Saber Interactive
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 16/04/19

Review copy provided by publisher

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Katana Zero review – Yes, That Should Work

Donning your earphones and taking a stroll through the unruly headquarters of some drug-induced thugs, slicing each as assailant as you pass might not sound like the most chilled way to spend an evening. Trust me, it is.

In this 2D high density pixel-art dash ‘n’ slash-‘em-up, you play a lone assassin who quickly earns urban-mythical status as ‘The Dragon’. Taking on missions without much by way of context, you stylishly run or sneak through linear rooms in order to get to your mark and dispatch them, no questions asked. That is unless you feel like talking…

Sencha Venture

Katana Zero’s neo-noir cyberpunk setting attacks your mind in the best possible way; constantly messing with your expectations. Your character’s interactive daily routine consists of your counselling, your mission, drinking herbal tea and falling asleep with the TV on. Beverage preferences aside, it’s the counselling sessions that flirt with the mystery of who you are and why you do what you do, in the initial stages of the game, creating an unusual concoction of entertaining nuggets of narrative, a side of presence and a morsel of backstory. Presence, for your character, is important as the drug you’re being injected with at the end of each session, aptly named Chronos, gives rise to some unconventional effects.

Avoiding spoilers is an absolute necessity for gaining the full impact of Katana Zero’s acid trip of a plot. Not knowing who you are or what you’re doing makes for a clichéd, yet utterly compelling means of guiding you through this turbulent ride. Things start dark and descend from there. The best bit though? The choices. Your perception of time, place and identity is about to undergo some readjustment. Buckle up.

Character interactions take place during gameplay in neat, cinematic set-pieces where the fluidity and quality of the writing draws you into the sword-wielding hitman’s meaningful conversations. The weight of your existential nightmare bleeds into Katana Zero’s dialogue choices. When given the choice to respond to a cue, a bar hits the screen, prompting you to select your next line. The game will often give a harsh/blunt option that is only available for a small portion of the quickly depleting timer, once the timer passes a certain point, other options become available. This creates a stimulating tension by giving you a short window to hit home with the immediate gut reaction or miss the cue in favour of a more thought out and reasoned reply. This role-playing element not only adds interactivity but a firmer connection between the player and the character. Now sip your herbal tea and get some shut-eye before the mission.

After being given a folder with details of your target, you’ll proceed to burn it, Mission Impossible style. Then it kicks off.

It’s in my Blood, Sucker

Each level is set out in sections that generally take around 30 seconds to pass through.  Within the series of rooms, patrolling enemies will be on guard and ready to attack, and my word, their reaction time is good. A successful run involves dispatching everyone quickly and efficiently, however with only a blade and a dodge roll to take on a hail of gunfire you’re not going to have an easy time of it. Take a single hit and you’re dead.

Kick down a door, roll past the first guy, slice him the back, ricochet a bullet off your katana, back into the face of the next dude, then… well, get shot in the face by the other fella stood at the back of the room. It was never going to be easy. Good job there’s a chemical tool in your arsenal, that grants you one hell of an equaliser.

Chronos grants you the ability to manipulate your perception of time and an exceptional precognition ability. Like Dr Strange, Shulk or the Rat from Juni Taisen, Katana Zero’s so-called Dragon can play out the scene ahead before it occurs. In gameplay terms this means that, on death, you rewind to the start of the section. There’s great satisfaction in making a clean, pre-approved run before watching the (skippable) replay of the scene immediately after.

In order to gain the upper hand, you’re able to slow time down to a crawl to enable you to dodge attacks and skilfully slice yourself a path to the end. This bullet-time feature is limited in use but steadily recharges when unused. It’s thrilling to run through a hall way, tap the bullet time button just as you’re about to get shot to give you that little extra reaction time and  quickly plan out how you’re going to reach the next foe, right after you’ve flung the vase from the nearby table between the eyes of the unsuspecting sap who underestimated your top-draw sword skills, then strolling out like nothing happened.

You zig When you Should’ve Zagged, and oops, Junior takes a knock to the Noodle, Comes out with a Shiner the size of a Grapefruit

Movement is tight, the platforming light, which isn’t an issue as you’ll want to spend most of your time on the ground (being mid-air makes you an easy target) and the slashing simple, but satisfying. The accompanying animation is smooth and the games runs without a hitch, allowing the character designs to be appreciated. The pixel work leaves a lasting impression and just fits the general theme.

Katana Zero is a difficult game that promotes a blend of trial-and-error and strategic planning. Enemy movement and reactions are easily mapped but this predictability is offset by the unequivocal split-second punishment that’s coming your way when your timing’s marginally off. At times it feels like an action-platformer, other times a puzzle game in working out the best route. Death is to be welcomed as means of improvement and the incremental gains after each run will allow you to adjust to the game’s attention demands.

All this sounds intense, right? Well the looping, trance-like state that’s brought in part by the electronic soundtrack, coupled with the time-bending mechanics makes everything feel calm. Yes, there’s tension and frustration abound, yet Katana Zero brings that wonderful arm-chair chill time once you’re immersed in the dark settings.

Katana Hero Mode

My one complaint relates to the sudden surge in difficulty that appears approximately mid-way through the game. A later section, which I won’t spoil, has a means of introducing a new mechanic that gives you a powered-up feeling. That’s short-lived as the accompanying levels are ludicrously difficult. A room with four guys isn’t too problematic, depending on the type of enemy, but when the SWAT-style shields are out and everyone seems to own an automatic or wide-spread shotgun, progression quickly grinds to halt. It took a big push to become competent enough to clear these stages but I can imagine a lot of players losing patience with the structure before they reach this point.

With some serious head-mashing, perception-bending, moral questioning and heterogenous (and often twisted) cast, the narrative beats Katana Zero offers hold a lot more than a small section of gameplay footage or trailer can possibly give away. The gameplay is fun, if a touch repetitive in the late game, but the overall package is polished and packed with a good few hours of action. The game is an experience that’s worth a playthrough for anyone. Replayability mileage may vary, even with the story options allowing for a different angle, but with the only drawback being the sudden difficulty spike, there’s far more to love than loathe.

Seriously kids, don’t do drugs.

Verdict:

Graphics: 9
Presentation: 9
Sound: 9

Gameplay : 8

Overall Score: 9/10

Format: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Mac
Price: £13.49
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Askiisoft
Age Rating: PEGI 16

Release Date: 19/04/19

Review copy provided by publisher

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Yoshi’s Crafted World review – A Crafty Platformer

After a crux of delays and release date limbo, Nintendo finally blessed our favourite handheld/console hybrids with quite possibly the most laid back and cosey platformer to date, Yoshi’s Crafted World.

Keeping up with Nintendo’s family-friendly moniker, Crafted world is a forgiving title that simply pops players back to a checkpoint if they fall off a ledge or run out of hearts (OMG those little hearts!). Along with its arts and craft aesthetic, I can’t wait to let my little boy and girl get to know everyone’s favourite Dinosaur (Please don’t start fanboys) on the easier setting, of course, they are 2 and 3 after all!

Fluffy Dinosaurs

All that being said, I wouldn’t want my readers to assume Yoshi’s Crafted World is a nice walk in the park. There are a number of challenging puzzler sections as well as the usual platformer collectables such as hidden red coins, bonuses and the like which keeps the whole experience fresher than the titles sought after smiley flowers.

Speaking of Smiley Flowers, robot gate keepers are placed at the start of each world which require flowers to power themselves up to let Yoshi pass. As Crafted world progresses, players will find simply breezing through courses doesn’t accumulate enough flowers. Enter ‘Poochy Pups’!

Poochy Pups are a new and ridiculously adorable addition to the Yoshi series. After initially meeting the first set of the doggos, players can go back to previously completed levels and find a certain amount of poochy pups on a flippd version of the selected course. Not only does this increase gameplay value, but also a brilliant mechanic when grinding for flowers is concerned!

Eggcelent, I’m Not Yolking Around!

The control layout is nice and simple with face buttons available for Jumping, Eating things and throwing Eggs, of which the latter can also be performed by using the shoulder and trigger buttons on any Switch compatible controller. The D-pad is also compatible with this title which is a nice option given the on the rails platforming experience.

My ovaries finally exploded when I took in the overall aesthetic of the game. Characters are all fussy, chubby and cuddly whilst the in-game world is completely created with craft items such as card, paper, crayons, tin cans etc. In each game world, there are also chances to buy in-game costumes for levels for your chosen Yoshi. These are usually wearable set pieces such as a house or car.

The menus are quite simple and allow players to get into the action straight away. Yoshi’s Crafted World sits at a solid frame rate throughout with no drops or screen blur to compensate for demanding textures. Overall, the performance of Yoshi’s Crafted World cannot be faulted!

Same Old O.G.

What I love the most about Yoshi’s crafted World is the originality and creativity it oozes. For the readers who remember the original Yoshi’s Island for SNES, its beautiful to see Nintendo building on the children’s colouring book/craft aesthetic that made Yoshi titles stand out in the first place. Furthermore, how this doesn’t have some kind of LABO tie-in literally hurts my face. If we don’t see some form of LABO integration with Yoshi’s Crafted World I will click a Nintendo Switch game cartridge. That’s right, I’m super cereal people!

Before my ovaries could recover, I was the victim of another blanket of cuteness when listening to the titles Soundtrack. It’s what we have all come to expect from a Yoshi title with recorder style notes and simple rhythms to convey the simple yet fun nature of the game. I am literally refreshing build-a-bear as im writing this for them to announce a Crafted World Yoshi bear, I guess Bowser will have to do for now.

On a side note, yes I am a single Dad with multiple Build-A-Bears, but I keep them all in my kids’ room so that I am still socially accepted in less accepting circles. However, Bulbasaur gives awesome cuddles so get a dishwasher!

Verdict:

Presentation: 10
Graphics: 10
Gameplay: 10
Sound: 10

Overall Score: 10/10

Whilst Yoshi’s Crafted World doesn’t necessarily break new ground in its field, it builds and improves its own character and formula at every turn. It’s just fun yet relaxing to play and a brilliant introduction into gaming for my readers’ Offsprings, Siblings or in some cases pets. Just don’t keep children as pets, they don’t like it and will put your in a terrible care home in your later years.

Format: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Price: £49.99 (eShop)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Age Rating: PEGI 3

Release Date: 29/03/2019

Review copy provided by publisher

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Giga Wrecker Alt. review – For Game Freaks Everywhere!

It’s always refreshing to see a game studio known for one very successful franchise branching out with a new IP in a completely different genre. Game Freak have proven that they aren’t just a ‘Pokémon’ powerhouse, but are also well versed in the puzzler – platform space with ‘Giga Wrecker Alt.’

Set in a judgement day style post-apocalyptic universe with an intriguing sub-plot, Giga Wrecker Alt follows our cyborg protagonist ‘Reika Rekkijji’ on a quest for answers with a dash of retribution against the feudal robotic alien race, the ‘Ajeet’.

Cyborg – Platformer in Disguise…

Whilst Giga Wrecker Alt. is predominantly a platformer aesthetically, it’s heart lies in challenging puzzle solving that walks the line between satisfaction and rage quitting. These elements are always a challenge but make sure the difficulty wall isn’t towering over players, leading to a satisfying gameplay experience overall.

In the vein of ‘Katamari’, players have the ability to collect debris from fallen enemies into a ball which can be used to overcome Giga Wrecker Alts’ various obstacles. A Level may require players to cut down a platform to access a door switch which requires Reika to manipulate said debris into a sword.

Following this, players may have to turn said debris into a block to allow them to reach the platform they have just cut down. This is the heart of Giga Wrecker Alt. and only becomes more entertaining as more skills and alterations are unlocked. On a side note, gathering a metric F tonne of debris and driving it into a slew of antagonists is very satisfying.

Characters Worth Platforming For

In most platformers, character development takes a back seat in aid of tight platforming mechanics and presentation. Let’s face it, players don’t normally pick up platformers for their multi-layered plots. Whilst Giga Wrecker Alt. doesn’t offer such luxuries, it does offer compelling characters that pull players into the game world and emphasises the tyranny of the Ajeet. Giga also provides players with a quirky robot companion and other characters that provide cheesy humour in parts, which as my readers will know is OK in my book #DadJokes.

Built from the ground up using the Unity Engine, Giga Wrecker Alt feels fresh and has that creative indie vibe whilst being a product of one of the biggest developers in gaming today. Featuring a sprite animation style that could be likened to that of ‘BlazBlue’, Giga Wrecker Alt. pops in both handheld and docked mode. Backgrounds are beautifully designed, much like the Mega Drive ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ titles of old but with dedicated animations for lava streams, robotic contraptions and so forth.

Best Recycling Idea… EVER!

In a refreshing take for a platformer, Giga Wrecker Alt. assigns debris attraction and some skills to shoulder and trigger buttons. This is a brilliant move to free up front facing buttons for other skills players will unlock as the game progresses. Hell, it just feels natural to play. My only concern regarding control schematics is the slight floaty feel to the directional movement and jumping, it takes an hour or so to get used too. Its not something myself or other fans of platforming titles are used to and can be slightly off-putting.

It can be hard for post-apocalyptic/gritty titles to not fall into the standard brown, grey and metal colour coding that plagued the early 2000’s offerings (Looking at you Activision!). Giga Wrecker Alt. does fall into this category to an extent, but breaks the trend by putting an emphasis on brighter shades of white, yellow and electric blues with antagonist character design whilst making them pop with their almost mutant-like appearances.

The soundtrack conveys a spectrum of emotion and goes hand in hand with the plot and aesthetic of the genre. The soundtrack for Giga Wrecker alt. goes from a euphoric electronica whirlwind to a hardcore house beatdown at the flick of a switch, but when warranted. It’s beautifully put together! Giga’s SFX also packs a punch and match the source wonderfully.

Verdict:

Presentation: 10
Graphics: 10
Gameplay: 9
Sound: 9.5

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10

Giga Wrecker Alt. is proof that Game Freak can be successful outside of their much loved Pokémon franchise. Giga is a refreshing take on the platforming genre by introducing intricate yet approachable puzzling elements that keep people engaged. It truly is a privilege to see such a large developer show too much creativity and diversity in an overcrowded platforming space. Whilst I would personally love a slight tune-up of movement and jumping, that is my one criticism of Giga Wrecker Alt.

Format: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
Price: £22.49 (eShop)
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Game Freak 
Age Rating: PEGI 7

Release Date: 02/05/2019

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Planet Rix-13 review – Empty Achievements

The ID Xbox titles that now take up a large part of the storefront on the Microsoft store are a wide mix of quality, difficulties and more. Some games serve as just a quick boost to your total Gamerscore if that’s what you’re really after. Planet Rix-13 falls into the latter category quite comfortably, with every achievement being unlocked within an hour. That being said, does it offer anything of any discernible quality, or is it just a quick boost and that’s it? Let’s carry on and find out.

What Planet Rix-13 is, is a side-scrolling adventure game set on an alien world, leaving the task of leaving in your capable hands. Solve some puzzles, unravel the short background story and deal with potential hazards that will definitely end your life. It’s not a hard game by any means, and even without a guide can be solved through some simple trial and error, removing a vast bulk of the challenge allowing you to unlock them precious achievements.

It’s Basically Basic.

All in all, the visuals, gameplay, sound effects are pretty basic truth be told. However, when you take into consideration the lack of a budget for most of these Indie titles that get released, you can be a bit more lenient towards them than say, EA, Activision and other big names in the industry who have the manpower, time and ability to make a standout game. Anyway, I like Indie games and the quirky nature that they embody with a throwback to old school graphics that as a young boy I was totally accustomed to and didn’t see any problem with.

Once the game has been completed, there is no actual reason to continue playing anymore, as the game world is so small, and offers up nothing new to urge you to attempt to see more of it. Given that it’s a game to boost your total Gamerscore, and nothing more, it makes perfect sense for developers of these Indies to create games such as this. It’s cheap, quick and easy. Especially with a guide. S

A Short Lived Story…

The story while short and sweet, is actually quite an interesting one to follow, and if there had been a bigger budget to allow for a considerably more fleshed out story, then I imagine we would’ve seen something far more immersive than we currently have. For what Planet Rix is, it’s a decent release and one I enjoyed for that hour.

Verdict:
Graphics: 6
Presentation: 6
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 5

Overall: 5.5/10

To wrap up this short review, Planet Rix-13 will appeal to achievement hunting people primarily, and not many others, unless you’re into quirky little ID Xbox games. I for one enjoy them. They offer you something different from the norm and even if it’s just for a short trip from beginning to end, you won’t find anything that strays near the premise of a Triple-A game. Sadly, there’s very little content on show to raise the roof, and many will forget about this by the time they start playing their next game.

Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Switch and PC
Release Date: 16/01/2019
Price: £4.19 (Microsoft Store)
Developer: 9 Eyes Game Studio
Publisher: Sometimes You
PEGI Rating: 12+

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Our World is Ended review – Ultra Climaxblade X-Calibur Ecstasy Z!

Our World Is Ended is the latest in a glorious line of Japanese visual novels to be brought West by publisher PQube. The Switch’s catalogue of the niche Japanese games is growing at an alarming rate and will hopefully match the Vita and 3DS’s superb output as times goes on.

Our protagonist, Reiji-kun immediately starts the game in an experiment. He’s wearing a goofy looking headset in which a smartphone camera feed replaces his usual line of sight. An AR UI is overlaid and, well, augments the world. Sounds cool.

Judgment 7 is the name of game development team formed by Sekai Owari (dev name), where he works on his AR pet project. Owari is a high-level perv with insane programming skills and his laid-back attitude to work allows his close friends and employees to spend their days either living in or spending their bulk of their time in the J7 office. Reiji’s job as part-time director becomes one of an overbearing necessity to drive comradery within the team, at times becoming the shoulder-to-cry-on, confidant or verbal punching bag.

The sci-fi theme of a virtual world mixing with reality is rife in modern anime and gaming but Our World Is Ended veers far closer in tone to the likes of Steins;Gates and Chaos;Head/Child than say, Sword Art Online. There’s certainly a leaning on this theme for its overall narrative but there’s far more on offer here. Though, rather than the darker moods of the former examples, it’s pulled off with a lighter comedy/slice-of-life slant that prevails for the better.

Our World, Amended

Reiji is working part-time for an office programmer, Owari-san, whose verbal instructions are sent to straight to Reiji’s headset. Accompanied by his friend and co-worker, loveable air-head Yuno, Reiji is having to publicly reel off embarrassing voice commands and place himself in some awkward positions, all in the name of technological advancement.

Within this setting, an accidental phenomenon draws the dev team into an impossibly hyper-realistic virtual version of the real world. With quirks. Accordingly, J7 begins an investigation involving creative on-the-fly programming, hacking and an exploration of the New World, leading to a host of interesting revelations.

Explosive colours and high-quality anime artwork fills the screen immediately, making these opening moments drag you straight in to the world-building efforts.

In terms of visuals, Our World Is Ended presents its characters in high detail anime portraits with a kaleidoscope of colour reminiscent of a Studio Trigger anime (think Kiznaiver or SSS Gridman). Each member of Judgement 7 not only has the best elements of the hand-drawn style, but all help pronounce charisma. The colour explosion and calibre of artistry is present in the locations, too. Tokyo’s Asakusa district has been lovingly realised in a brilliant soft tone used throughout the background artwork, offering a sense of ‘home’ with how well the locations fit, which, given the art is closely based on the real place, is understandable.

Don’t believe this is in some way an escape from all the tropes we love (and sometimes not love), they’re all here; the delusional one, the perverted one, the everyman, the air head, the tsundere and so on. However, each has a distinct personality and it’s refreshing to see the extra effort put in to so many different characters. No one feels neglected or under-developed, with each receiving as much of a spotlight as protag, Reiji.

In fact, character development is where Our World is Ended outclasses its peers. Each backstory is written with care and isn’t thrown together haphazardly. You’ll have great difficulty not falling in love with the wacky, often tragic cast of shut-ins and it’s all down to excellent pacing. For example, the cast’s delusional manchild, Iruka No.2, went from obvious to charming to awesome over the course of over several chapters, all while effortlessly bouncing off the rest of the team. When he turns at just the right angle to ensure a sparkle of light appears in the corner of his shades, purely for levity, it’s hard not laugh. Equally, when understanding the thoughts behind his manga-plot outbursts, curiosity leads to intended gravitas.

What’s equally impressive is the relationships between each set of characters. Everyone has their own personal link to one another, and it’s refreshing to explore. You’ll see the harem-in-the-making signs in the early game, but it really isn’t much of a focus until the main plot has sufficiently progressed and the team dynamics have had breathing room.

Our World, Extended

As Judgment 7’s circumstances force them in and out of the New World, the nuances of its rules are gradually revealed before leading into an effective conclusion. As is often the way of things, the journey to get there is what drives enjoyment.

The interactions and scenarios jump between grounded and obscure effortlessly. When one of Judgment 7’s video game characters come to life as a boss within the New World, such as the ‘cute’ bear with an array of comical weaponry and his peculiar set of mini-games; or the Harem King and his shounen manga love hotel floor-by-floor battle (The Harem Holy War), I found myself yearning to see just how each of the group reacted to the situation. Granted, it could be predictable at time, but when the team berate and off-handedly dismiss pretty much any sordid idea Owari dreams up, you’ll feel like joining in.

It’s worth mentioning Sekai Owari is voiced by one of my favourites, Tomokazu Sugita (among many, many other excellent roles he’s Sakata Gintoki!), so Owari gets a free pass. No bias here, I swear. Seriously, though this character fits Sugita-san perfectly. The cast on the whole is on point and brings every character to life, with Eri Kitamura’s performance as hapless butt-of-all-jokes, Asano Hayase, standing out as a particular highlight, with quality moments like Asano’s purposefully tone-deaf singing.

Your minimal gameplay interactions come only in the form of dialogue options and naturally your choices lead to the game’s different endings. Line options are occasionally in the form of moving text (think Danganronpa’s trials but less hands-on) and, if you’re not quick enough off the mark, you’ll default to the last option. Being able to access the backlog of the script is standard fare but being able to jump back to the scene associated with the line is a big boon, especially when making these dialogue choices.

While the soundtrack could have perhaps benefitted from a few additional tracks, the music is classily effective at relying the mood with additional over-the-top sound effects occasionally thrown in for leverage during the more slapstick moments. Every line is voiced in a professional mix rounding off a sound package (shhh).

Our World, Offended

It starts a little slowly and the sigh-inducing ‘perv’ jokes are too frequent for anyone’s tastes by my reckoning, but little-by-little Our World Is Ended edged into something uniquely entertaining, giving me the exact sort of plot I love in a visual novel, wrapped in a stirring team-building narrative. To top it off the anime style illustrations are up there with the best and every design oozes character. This is punctuated with fantastic world-building and an utterly loveable cast. This world is splendid.

Verdict:

Graphics: 9
Presentation: 8.5
Sound: 8

Gameplay (Story & Narrative): 9.5

Overall Score: 9/10

Format: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Price: £39.99
Publisher: PQube
Developer: Red Entertainment
Age Rating: PEGI 16

Release Date: 18/04/19 (Switch, PS4) / 28/05/19 (Steam)

Review copy provided by publisher

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Stuff We Want to Discuss – The (Mostly) Weekly Gaming Round-up (15/04/19-21/04/19)

Here are our thoughts on some of the major gaming news stories from the past week. The selection of references is based entirely on personal interest level. End of. Also; it might not be weekly.

Alright, so I took a couple of weeks out. Sheer neglect. This week, a lot happened.

Let’s manhandle this week’s banandles.

The ‘Next Generation’ PlayStation; Definitely not the ‘PS5’

Wired’s Peter Rubin scored an exclusive interview with PlayStation’s hardware architectural guru, Mark Cerny about what he calls the ‘next generation PlayStation’ (PS5, c’mon).

While it’s no surprise that Sony’s new box will contain an AMD eight-core Ryzen with Zen 2 architecture and Navi-based GPU, there were a few additional bits to consider.

Cerny seemingly put a massive emphasis on their SSD suggesting the inclusion of the faster storage solution would be an absolute game changer based, not only on an incredible spec, but on the customised nature of the component and the bespoke software. A decent SSD certainly makes a difference in a PC build but to get the sort of returns showcased on the new PlayStation hardware (specifically cutting a PS4 Pro Spider-man fast travel segment from 15 seconds to 0.8 seconds in one demo) would take something special.

Now while it’s true SSD prices have been slowly dropping, something with the kind of bandwidth being described here is still firmly in the hundreds of pounds bracket. Unless they’re prepared to take a bigger loss than usual on the hardware, I can’t see the cost coming in at less than £500. And that’s a conservative estimate in my view.

Let’s also bear in mind that we don’t know anything concrete about Navi at this stage and there’s been no indication on CPU clock speed. So, while it’s fun to speculate, speculate is all we can do.

There is some more, expected, good news in that backwards compatibility has been confirmed for the system. Hopefully this will allow the migration of your entire PS4 catalogue but there’s still the question of whether or not a hardware solution is enough to lessen the work for emulating such a vast and diverse catalogue of games. Microsoft have a huge team dedicated to backwards compatibility for Xbox games and, while it was stated Sony are partly basing the PS5 architecture on PS4’s, there’s a generational leap from the Jaguar CPU to consider.

The other eyebrow-raising reveal was that the console will support 8K. In isolation that appears like a very nonsensical marketing statement to throw in. There is very little by way of content that will support 8K any time soon, not to mention a lack of displays, especially in the consumer space. Add to that the questionable gains of upscaling to the resolution (because no console next generation will be able to natively render at 8K) and the fact that 4K is only now becoming the standard in homes and it all sounds a bit wasted. However, let’s not forget, by saying 8K is possible, Cerny is effectively saying HDMI 2.1 will be the standard display output for PS5, meaning 120Hz refresh rates at 4K should be viable… your TV doesn’t support it though, does it?

Interestingly, Digital Foundry took an investigative gaze over a benchmark of a recent AMD Gonzalo build which bears the hallmark of a pre-production PlayStation build. Even if you’re sceptical, it’s definitely worth a watch.

Sony know that Microsoft intend to bring their A game to E3. Perhaps, in Sony’s absence, they felt they had to drop some level of detail to make sure any hype is not trodden on by the new Xbox reveal. Either way, this competition is great for gamers. [via Wired]

Games Confirmed for Castlevania Anniversary Collection

Alongside the already released Arcade Classics Anniversary and the forthcoming Contra Anniversary Collection, Konami will soon release the Castlevania Anniversary Collection as part of their 50th anniversary.

Earlier this week they confirmed the full Castlevania line-up:

Castlevania (NES)
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)
Castlevania the Adventure (Game Boy)

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)
Kid Dracula (NES)
Castlevania II Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy)
Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
Castlevania Bloodlines AKA New Generation / Vampire Killer (Mega Drive)

There are quite a few on this list I’ve never played so, aside from the (excellent) known quantities, this collection holds a lot of interest to me personally, particularly where the series’ handheld history is concerned.

I hate to be that guy but where’s Rondo and where’s Symphony of the Night? Either way; this is still a solid list.

Castlevania Anniversary Collection launches 16 May 2019 on PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC. [via PlayStation Blog]

Capcom Home Arcade… And Some Emulator Questions

Capcom’s joining the mini fight with this glorious piece of kit. A two-player arcade stick that plug straight into your TV.

Releasing 25 October 2019 with the following 16 arcade games:

1944: The Loop Master
Alien vs Predator
Armored Warriors
Capcom Sports Club
Captain Commando
Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness
Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors
Eco Fighters
Final Fight
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Giga Wing
Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
Mega Man: The Power Battle
Progear
Strider
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

The price? An eye-watering £199.99. The hardware looks solid, there’s no doubt this is a premium piece of gear but it’s a difficult sell to anyone beyond the enthusiasts with just 16 games.

Interestingly, the hardware is being produced by Koch Media, rather than Capcom. The emulation comes from FB Alpha, but there’s been some serious questions over the validity of the licencing agreement. FB Alpha is open-source and the licence agreement appears to forbid the use of the engine for commercial profit. Kotaku’s Ethan Gach notes ‘…FB Alpha is based in part on other, older open-source projects, including Final Burn and MAME’ meaning there may be further complications.

We’ll see how this pans out but hopefully a fair conclusion for all parties can be reached. [via Eurogamer & Kotaku]

10 More Games Revealed for the SEGA Mega Drive Mini

The SEGA Mega Drive Mini, with emulation from the awesome team at M2, releases 19.09.19 at the pretty reasonable cost of £69.99. Why do I think it’s reasonable? Check out the updated line-up:

Ecco The Dolphin
Castlevania The New Generation (Bloodlines)
Space Harrier II
Shining Force
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
ToeJam & Earl
Comix Zone
Sonic The Hedgehog
Altered Beast
Gunstar Heroes

Castle of Illusion
World of Illusion
Thunder Force 3
Super Fantasy Zone
Shinobi III
Streets of Rage II
Earthworm Jim
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Contra: Hard Corps
Landstalker

Just give me Quack Shot, SEGA. Do that, and I’m yours. [via Official Mega Drive Mini Site]

Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has a Price… and it’s Kinda Dumb

The widely reported new discless Xbox One S model, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has been formally revealed.

So, what’s the deal? Well you get three inexpensive games in Minecraft, Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 3 (not 4), all of which are notably available on Game Pass. Sound OK?

What about the form factor and HDD? Well, it’s the same. No really.

Alright well the secret sauce is the price, right? Erm, not exactly. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition releases on 07/05/19 at £199.99. That’s right, £199.99.

Here’s a tip for prospective buyers; buy the One S for £184 here (not sponsored, before you ask), buy into Game Pass for £7.99/month and, guess what? You can still by discs if you really want to. [via Xbox]

Ware Wa Nanji, Nanji Wa Ware

Yeah, Joker! And there was some Stage Builder or something, I believe.

Credit to KY Gaming.

That’s your lot for this week, folks! Any news in particular this week that caught your attention? Sound off in the comments or via Twitter (@Reggie_Reviews and @2DMike3D).

References / Sources:
http://megadrivemini.sega.com/
https://blog.us.playstation.com/2019/04/18/revealing-the-entire-castlevania-anniversary-collection-lineup/
https://www.wired.com/story/exclusive-sony-next-gen-console/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU0V5OcHE_4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6MdWcmM9xU
https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-04-16-capcom-takes-on-the-mini-console-craze-with-a-massive-gbp200-stick
https://kotaku.com/the-emulator-in-capcoms-home-arcade-is-stirring-controv-1834156759
https://wayforward.com/news/2019/04/wayforward-and-arc-system-works-announce-river-city-girls/



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BioWare: An Infamous Anthem

I think it’s safe to say that the majority of gamers worldwide have a fond memory that derives from a BioWare title. From my own beloved ‘Knights of the Old Republic’ series to the likes of cult classics ‘Baldur’s Gate’ and ‘Neverwinter Nights’, BioWare have proved time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with in the dice-based role-playing space.

So Many Hours and Eye Baths Were Sacrificed for NeverWinter…

On 11th October 2000, as a result of BioWare’s partnership with Pandemic studios, the infamous Electronic Arts acquired the renowned RPG developer whilst allowing it to retain its own branding. For many, this is when times changed drastically for BioWare (Corp).

2007 saw the release of what many consider the spiritual successor to Knights of the Old Republic in ‘Mass Effect’. The series went on to spawn 2 sequels as I’m sure our readers are aware, BioWare even took on the Sonic IP in ‘Sonic Chronicles: The Dakar Brotherhood’ which would serve as BioWare’s first venture into handheld gaming on the Nintendo DS.

Still The Best BioWare RPG… Just Saying…

+10 Chance of Reshuffling

After various internal reshuffles and merging with Mythic throughout the ’00s, BioWare’s future was looking bright and bold with the Mass Effect IP and the 2009 release of ‘Dragon Age: Origins’. EA created a single Role Playing powerhouse within its own infrastructure.

Following critical acclaim for ‘Mass Effect 2′ (Over 60 awards!), founding members of BioWare Ray Muzaka and Greg Zeschuk left the company in 2012 seeking to retire for the industry altogether. This sad news was followed by the exit and return of IP Creators and key writers for some of BioWare’s now legendary titles.

The UN-Lore Friendly Knight of the old Republic 3, Fight Me!

For me, the release of ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ signalled the fall of not just the Mass Effect IP but also the values and testing that helped BioWare gain such a sterling reputation in previous years in both the PC and Console markets. Similar to Mass Effect 3’s initial release, Andromeda was riddled with massive texture and animation bugs making the title unplayable for most.

The Tragedy of a Generation

That brings me to BioWare’s latest release under the EA whip, Anthem. Needless to say, Anthem had quite a rough launch complete with game breaking and in some cases, console breaking glitches and bugs. I have saved my thoughts about Anthem in order to stay off the band waggon and to experience the title complete with post-launch updates and patches.

Whilst Anthem is by all accounts in a much better state as of today, the idea of flying around in an armoured and weaponised exoskeleton/suit has been tarnished somewhat by the sorry state Anthem was left in for so long post-release. Even the community management team was overwhelmed, asking that fans stop harassing developers and feedback through the appropriate channels.

Anthem Looks Nothing Like This. Well, A Static Image Represents the LAG issues quite well…

I agree with this. No matter what one’s opinion is of any given publisher or developer, a team can only work with the resources and time that’s given to them. It’s no secret that the working life of a developer lacks a great deal of humanity, with infamous ‘crunch times’ lasting for days at a time. When adding in the pressure of studio execs ringing out their staff and hanging them out to try in terms of job security, it’s no wonder such promising AAA titles are released in such a state.

It Should Have Been a Hit!

On paper, Anthem is one of the best games of its generation. Featuring fully customisable suits in a destiny-like shared world and borrowed levelling up system that has proved its success in other titles, it was a no brainer that this was a title to watch. Its flight mechanics were spot on, featuring one stick for movement and another for throttle control just like a dogfighting game should. The third person shooting mechanic worked well, which also allowed for effective hand to hand combat elements and effective use of unlockable skills. All of this tied in nicely with conserving a players ammunition, once players figured out the pattern of course.

Inteceptors Are My Favourite Class Due To Them Representing the Opposites of Myself. Athletic, Swift and Hnady in a Closed Fight…

During my playthrough, it initially took me 5 attempts to get through the opening stages of Anthem due to incorrect player mapping, LAG and server dropouts. It was literally like playing a visual stutter, which after 2 weeks post-launch is just unacceptable.

Once I obtained my first suit however, It was smooth sailing. Matchmaking worked great and it seemed like a strong community was forming. Graphically it bears the EA seal of approval, which is one thing no one can take away from the Developer / Publisher giant. The quality of Anthems SFX and OST rises to meet the bar also, with every jet, empty shell and energy burst feeling quintessentially authentic throughout.

To Conclude…

Whilst I feel BioWare is starting to recover from the post-launch mess of Anthem, fans will only accept so many failed releases before preorder numbers start to drop. Whilst I am a massive Elder Scrolls fan and my previous statement goes against my undying love for Todd Howard (What’s Fallout 76?), BioWare is better than this.

In closing, BioWare clearly isn’t going anywhere. But in a generation where companies like Nintendo are producing consistently amazing first party titles in a variance of genres and Indie developers upping the creative game in the industry, is there really a need or room for developers and publishers to be releasing half baked software on launch anymore?


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League of Evil review – ‘Austin Powers Quote’

Platform games, a genre that I loved way back in the day when two dimensional action was the way forward, before three dimensional games raised the bar with their shenanigans of exploring open worlds. How dare they take away our simplistic yet fun gaming paradise! I jest of course, and with that said, Ratalaika Games are at it once more with League of Evil.

As is the case with Ratalaika published games, theyre targeting simple, fun games for fans of retro aesthetics that wouldnt have seemed out of place if theyd been originally released back in the late 1980s. Pixelated graphics, basic controls, repetitive soundtrack that somehow doesnt grate too much and an end goal that inevitably requires you to defeat the forces of evil. Times were so much simpler back then, what with no vast amount of dialogue, branching story arc and complex skill trees.

D068FF46-488E-4DE2-90CD-CC3473EE3E09

Grrr Evil… Grrr

So, League of Evil is here for review, and its as simple as one level after another where the aim is to the kill the bad guy at the end. Sounds easy enough right? Well, to begin with at least, its an easy game. As you venture deeper into the games 140 levels spanning four chapters and six different worlds, the enemies get trickier and the traps set become more advanced and what you will find, is that you will die. A lot. But with quick load times at hand, its just as simple as pressing the restart button and having yet another go.

Those who enjoy speed running through games will be delighted to find that your time is recorded allowing you to fine tune each run to perfection. Then theres also the fact that each level has a briefcase for you to collect which in turn allows you to fully complete a level. That and achievements and trophy hunters will likely find this game a draw for this reason as its not all that hard in the grand scheme of things.

B3E931F5-1EAA-4517-9BE8-F31C77611271

Easy to Learn Evil Level Editing… Grrr

League of Evil has kept it so simple, that you wont have any troubles getting to grips with it. Its fun, worth the asking price, and even offers a level editor to create your own devious levels. Or easy if youre feeling in a pleasant mood. Totally your choice of course.

4E882657-1731-47A0-BF0C-90DCB53D1D53

Verdict:

Graphics: 7

Presentation: 6

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 9

Overall Score: 7 / 10

With a game like this, its difficult to write up too much without droning on and boring anyone kind enough to read. So Ill keep this short and sweet, and allow you to decide for yourself if its what you want. Which if youre specifically a collector of achievements or trophies, then you will be in your element as there are plenty of easy ones to unlock. Some require full completion of every level in a chapter, but with some perseverance, you will succeed. So, to wrap up, its another fun Indie game, and will provide a good few hours for a low asking price.

Format: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS Vita & Xbox One (reviewed)

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Developer: Woblyware

Price: £4.99

Release Date: 19/09/2018

Pegi Rating: 7+

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

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Deru: The Art of Cooperation review – It’s Black and White

Straight from the hive mind labyrinth developer that is ‘Ink Kit’ comes the delightful ‘Deru: The Art of Cooperation’. With a clean and simple aesthetic, Deru sets out to add to the strong library of puzzle Nindie titles with its CO-OP spin.