Review

Bombslinger - Nintendo Switch Review

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A REVIEW BY MIKE DAVIES

Bombslinger is the latest game by Mode4 and while being available through Steam's Early Access program for a couple of years now, the game launches proper on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch today. We'll be taking a look at the Switch version of the game for this review.

Personally, I'm not into story-driven games these days, so you could say Bombslinger is a perfect match for me with it's firm emphasis on multi-player. The game does however have a story-mode and luckily for me, it's a welcoming and fast-paced affair that follows a straight-forward storyline with a nice quick intro before throwing you into battle. Now let's get on with hog-killin' time. 

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You play as a poncho wearing bombslinger in a Bomberman / Smash TV style'd game. One glance of Bombslinger and you'll more than likely be familiar with the gameplay mechanics, but there's much more to the game than successful bomb placement and you'll need to have your wits about you if you hope to succeed. The aim of the game is to defeat all enemies within each room and in doing so different areas will open up for you to choose your path to the next randomly generated room. Along the way you'll come across bonus rooms with locked chests within, requiring a key to open. A final room will pit you against the boss for that stage. 

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Along the way you'll encounter a bunch of different enemies to take down, while gaining coins for doing so. This will then enable you to explore shops that are located around the different rooms and inside you can purchase weapons and power-ups, you'll also gain the ability to select new power-ups with the use of XP that is accumulated throughout the game. All sounds easy right? Drop a few bombs, gain some power-ups, then learn the bosses movement patterns and 'bomb's your uncle'? In practise, the answer is No, this game is hard – well, at least for me. Upon dying you'll be taken back to the very start of the game, and while you do have a couple of lives that are indicated by hearts, it's only the most precise and experienced players that will get to experience all that the Single-Player game of Bombslinger has to offer. 

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However, as previously mentioned, Bombslinger offers a robust selection of multi-player modes for up to 4-players, this will be the game mode I think most players will relate too, and it's what the Switch is perfect for. You can check out our video below to see the multi-player in action!

So, Bombslinger...is it a bombing good time?  

I'm a little torn. On one hand we have the steep difficulty curve of the single-player mode, this is mainly due to the fact that you can't continue from where you left off but then the game is also about progressing and levelling-up while gaining new abilities, so this does help alleviate some of the game's difficulty level if you stick at it. On the other hand we have the pickup and play aspect of the game, with very quick loading times across all game modes, the fantastic presentation, decent music and the hectic but fun multiplayer mode.

-Mike

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If Bombslinger sounds like your bag, then you can pick it up from the Nintendo eShop for £10.79.

The game is also available across Europe and other territories including the US:

eShop US Bombslinger US $11.99 

ASSAULT GUNNERS HD PS4 REVIEW

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PRESS RELEASE:

STORY

It’s the Year 208X, Mars is in the process of terraformation with an expected timeline of 300 years till completion. Back on Earth a great war erupts and millions of migrants look to Mars to flee their home. The Planet Remodelling Project is accelerated with the aid of ANTS, a completely robotic automated system. Migrants build large dome-shaped colonies in regions with now stable climates and rush to construct cities within them to sustain the flow of refugees.

Time passes and the World Federation has set up military colonies on Deimos and Phobos, and the dwarf-planet Ceres is being moved to Mars’ orbit to help create an ocean for the planet. One day, communication is suddenly lost with the surface of Mars, a peace keeping force called DAT whom are currently training on Deimos are sent to investigate...

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FEATURES

Key Features:

• 35 full-length battle-heavy campaign missions

• Pit your skills against waves of enemies in a horde gameplay mode known as 'Inferno Mode'

• Over 100 mech-customisation possibilities for yourself and your allies

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ASSAULT GUNNERS HD - A REVIEW FOR PS4 BY TOM PARRY:

 

GAMEPLAY

Take your team, consisting of 3 other MECHS, into battle against wave upon wave of mechanical enemies. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal, each of which can be selected with one of the four controller face buttons.

The D-pad takes care of issuing your squad with orders, should you want your teammates to Attack, Standby, Defend or Hold Position.

Once defeated the enemies usually leave behind Development Points (to be used to upgrade your MECHS) and various recovery items.

Mission Objectives shake up the routine of blasting, these can range from securing all the points on a map to completing a mission under a certain time limit. Achieve the objective and it’s onto the next Mission.

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REVIEW

Do you like MECHS? Do you like shooting stuff? If you answered yes to those two questions then you‘re probably the target audience for this game. Assault Gunners HD is a port of a PSVITA game that was released exclusively in Japan back in 2012, it’s taken 6 years for it to land on our shores and the question is, was it worth the wait?

Before going into this game, it’s best to lower your expectations. However, it mostly succeeds to deliver what it promises, namely plenty of missions, lots of blasting action and a large dose of customisation. 

First impressions aren’t great, the game manages to look blander than bland and the first few training missions don’t do much to persuade you that there’s much fun to be had here.

At first the gameplay appears to follow a similar template to the Dynasty Warriors series, only with Robots instead of the usual Japanese feudal heroes you may be used to in a game like this. Unfortunately destroying your enemies isn’t a particularly satisfying affair, you have a choice of which weapons you want to use to deal out the damage but I found myself sticking with the powerful homing missiles for the most part. Although, the flurry of rockets is reasonably exciting to behold at first, the enemies sadly just seem to disappear in a rather lacklustre way once taken out.

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There’s a hint of some sort of strategy element to the gameplay, however for the early missions you don’t need to think too much about that, later however, as missions get steadily more difficult I couldn’t help thinking that I was missing the strategic edge that seemed to be needed to successfully complete the objectives.

I never quite got a handle on managing my units effectively and the parts I’d developed to customise my MECH and those of my team, didn’t seem to helping my progress. I tried in vain to to make proper progress in the game, perhaps I’m meant to fail the same mission over and over again for the sake of collecting more points and eventually levelling up enough to achieve the objective? I never quite worked out what I was doing wrong.

At least customising the MECHS is fun, despite their generic design at the beginning of the game you can unlock some cool alternative parts and at least make them aesthetically pleasing enough.

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CONCLUSION

At first I thought I was going to really dislike this game, after all it doesn’t give the best first impressions but as I began to progress in the game and discovered the fun customisation options, I really felt that I was starting to get into it, zooming around blasting stuff was fun for a while, but I was soon faced with the realisation that the core gameplay just couldn’t hold my attention. The game eludes to having some sort of depth but this was either hidden deep behind the barrage of stats and numbers that the levelling up system throws at you, or Assault Gunners HD is just simply not the deep technical gaming experience it seems to be eluding to.

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Unfortunately Assault Gunners HD doesn’t just suffer in the gameplay department. It’s story is nonsensical, it’s graphics are below par and the controls could be a little more intuitive, although not terrible by any means. The game’s music is is also instantly forgettable and while it does contain some spirited Japanese voice acting, none of it is subtitled.

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This isn’t a bad game, you can have some fun with it, it’s just incredibly average in nearly every way. At least it’s reasonably priced at £7.99 for the basic game and £9.79 with some extra missions. If you like Dynasty Warriors type games and have a love of MECHS you may get a fair amount of enjoyment from of this game, especially when you factor in the customisation side of things, just don’t expect too much. Overall it’s just tough to recommend this over the ton of other more polished and enjoyable games available on PSN for the same money.

- TOM PARRY

OUT NOW: PS4 EU: https://store.playstation.com/#!/cid=...

PS4 NA: https://store.playstation.com/#!/cid=...

PC: http://store.steampowered.com/app/751...

ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION is out now on both PlayStation®4 and PC with three purchase options available.

ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION (Standalone Game) - £7.19, €9.99 or $9.99*

ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION EXTRA PACK (DLC) - £3.99, €4.99 or $4.99*

ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION COMPLETE SET (Standalone Game + DLC) - £9.29, €11.99 or $11.99*

*Prices may vary depending on region

IMMORTAL REDNECK XBOX ONE REVIEW

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A REVIEW FOR XBOX ONE BY NEIL KENNY

You know that bit in Top Gear (before Joey joined) when they would have to complete a task by creating something? Memorable examples being the sea going cars and the hovercraft... well this game is a bit like that. So imagine that Jeremy, James and Richard have created a game; but their total game-playing experience is limited to Duke Nukem, Serious Sam, with a dash of Rogue and the single exposure to Gauntlet Legacy. Now you’re thinking that, this is just my way of being polite, since their endeavours rarely worked out for the best... well no - this is actually rather good.

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THE PLOT

The redneck of the title is a tourist who ends up dead after an accident and is handily reincarnated next to a series of pyramids which have to be tackled - using assorted weaponry. So all pretty standard then.

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MENUS AND CONTROLS

Controls are smooth and can be redefined although the initial arrangement is fine enough. The targeting reticule changes to match the equipment ordinance and various ammo/health refills are earned as you play. It’s all quite jolly with a pleasant front end as well but that does lead me into the first couple of things that do annoy. Iconography can be tricky to read, even on a really really big screen (technical term). The same can be said of the map. This functions quite well but the legend/key is a little small for quick reference.

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THE GAME

After playing the tutorial the game starts; however I would have preferred that the tutorial also covered the gameplay as well since it can be awkward to fathom exactly what is going on with a certain degree of confidence. The redneck angle is ultimately just there for the comedy aspect but the Egyptian theming is however a corner stone of the game design and looks good. The game is played as a series of interconnecting multilevel rooms with special staircases joining up the internal levels. As you reach the apex you face the boss at the top of the pyramid. All the foes have their own attack styles and some are spawned from generators. Hidden chests can be found and scrolls acquired to present random perks (although not all are good for you).

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The internal pyramid structure is created randomly each play though using standard rooms; these rooms once entered cannot be left until they have been cleared (usually of foes). Each room is consistent so that each time you encounter it you can reuse any strategies that you have formed. A cleared room can be re-entered without penalty which is handy since the random nature of the levels will create many routes – some of which will be dead ends. Also any dropped weaponry can be retrieved if needed.

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SKILL TREE

You have little to no chance of completing the game on your first or even 51st attempt. To get somewhere you have to upgrade your stats using gold obtained from your previous play. As upgrades are purchased, further branches are made open to you. Purchased upgrades can be further enhanced with more gold; this has to be done in order for certain branches to be made accessible. However as you progress bigger and bigger amounts have to be handed over in order to unlock the full tree. As you progress other characters can be unlocked on the skill tree - each with slightly different strengths. One annoying feature is that by re-entering the pyramid, your gold is set to zero so you cannot save up for upgrades and if you try to manage your gold in order to get the most for your money you’ll discover that the unit prices will change as you make each purchase; so usually spoiling any carefully crafted plan.

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CONCLUSION

The controls are good and targeting is very accommodating, even when you are moving at speed.Graphically, the game walks the fine line between detail, character and recognition very well, although the iconography can be hard to read on the maps until you get used to it. Credit must be given to the music, which is very good and not invasive. As per usual with modern download games you are dropped in at the deep end. So, even games with relatively straightforward goals and objectives require a lot of play in order to get a good understanding of the mechanics (assuming you have a rounded gaming experience of course). It would have been nice if the game had a gameplay tutorial; even if it was an old fashioned attract screen that you used to find on arcade games.

IMMORTAL REDNECK DEVELOPED BY CREMAGAMES AND IS AVAILABLE NOW AS A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FOR XBOX ONE (£15.99), PS4 (£15.99) AND PC (£14.95) WITH A SWITCH VERSION TO FOLLOW.

http://www.cremagames.com/

Teslagrad Nintendo Switch Review

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Teslagrad Powered by Nintendo Switch

Teslagrad by Rain Games was first shown in 2013 and since then its become available on a whole host of formats over the years, and now the Nintendo Switch.

December the 7th marks the release of the Nintendo Switch version but is it worth another visit?

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You control a young boy who's found himself being chased by the Kings guards, ultimately forcing you into the surrounding area of the Teslagrad Tower and within. The game itself doesn't showcase what you're doing or even where to go, apart from slight hints but that's what makes this puzzle-platformer such a joy to play.

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Throughout the game you'll gain new abilities that will help you explore and solve at first, confusing and 'how do I do this?' puzzles but without instructions. As a handheld version the concept really does work, pickup, play and continue where you left off. This is what makes the game fun to play and enjoyable.

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Switching to docked mode and replacing the joy-con remotes with a pro controller will help you out in the later levels, some parts get very tricky as you're ability to change power-ups and precise movements are key but Teslagrad feels at home on the Nintendo Switch.

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The hand-drawn environments and art style of Teslagrad, along with it's what appear to be mind bending puzzles transform onto the Switch perfectly. Addition of the handheld mode on the Switch, this is the best version of Teslagrad.

CHINFAI Nintendo Switch Pro Controller Grip Skin Review

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I recently picked up a Nintendo Switch and for me, it was natural to also buy Nintendo's Pro controller. Having played with the Switch Joy-con controllers and its grip that makes it feel more like a standard controller, I still needed something that was more comfortable from the beginning.

This brings me to CHIN FAI Nintendo Switch Pro Controller Grip. I wanted some kind skin to help protect and keep my controller having that 'new' feel. 

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The product came nicely packaged, instead of a lose rubber jacket in a zip-up bag that I've come across before and the contents include 4 different designs of replacement thumb stick grips.

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As you can see from the photos the skin fits perfectly onto the Switch Pro controller and doesn't get in the way of the functions of the buttons, sometimes you find skins slightly overlap  the buttons or even worse, interfere with the analogue sticks when rotating them but the CHIN FAI grip has been grafted to fit. The grip doesn't have any baggy sections of any kind and fits like a grove with no movement.

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The CHINFAI Pro controller grip can be brought from Amazon for £8.99

Rive: Ultimate Edition – Nintendo Switch Review

This is a multiformat twin-stick shooter now making its debut on the Nintendo Switch.

OK first some basics – I’m using the Nintendo Switch in hand held mode and despite the Switch having a new Copilot mode it will be played solo.

Initial impressions…

So after installing the game data and the appropriate button presses its game on. After a very brief spacey bit it was platform shooter time and the first thing that came to mind was the NES Sunsoft game Master Blaster. However unlike the almost sedate nature of that title this 6-legged vehicle is faced with apocalyptic levels of incoming foes and their ordinance.

The usual rules apply; one stick for movement the other for firing and the other buttons for jump, scanning, secondary weapon selection and firing.

Downed enemies bring forth bits of scrap which act as a form of currency for upgrades. These upgrades either grant permanent enhancements or limited secondary weapon availability.

So its shoot stuff, collect the spoils, trade and repeat. A novel addition is the scan which turns the weapon into a means of examining the surroundings and triggering doors or hacking equipment for your own use.

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So what’s it like…

Visually everything is nicely done and the game has an entertaining self-aware narrative taking place. Progress is marked with checkpoints which prove really useful since this is a challenging game despite what it says on the start screen (you can initially select between normal and hard - no easy mode here). I had opted for normal – but this isn’t the normal for feint hearted.

This game pulls no punches and you learn to progress the hard way. Certain areas despite their intensity provide a challenge but periodically you’ll be presented with additional trials. These can be in the form of direct danger from an advanced adversary or an environmental obstacle to overcome, but quite often it’s usually both.

Thankfully the checkpoint positions are usually fairly placed so plunging you back into the action close to where you met your waterloo.

As you progress additional game modes are unlocked (Missions, Challenges and Battle Arenas) so providing a diversion from the main game.

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Final thoughts…

I’ve yet to try it in docked mode but I’m hopeful a larger screen could present a slight edge when the attack waves become intense. 
This is a nice solid title featuring robust gameplay and professional music and visuals. It is hard at times due to the intensity of the gameplay but it can be overcome with practise.

RIVE: Ultimate Edition coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch™ November 17th! Two Tribes’ metal wrecking, robot hacking shooter RIVE will be better than ever on Nintendo Switch. Check out http://www.rivethegame.com for more!

Morphite Xbox One Review

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Totally in the dark on this game; so the style and type of gameplay I’d been tasked with reviewing was a complete mystery. So wasting no time I redeemed the review key via the Xbox store and waited as what was a relatively small file downloaded.

Initial impressions.

Starting off aboard a space station our heroine, Myrah Kale, is sent on a sort of coming of age/first steps type mission. Despite it clearly not being a point and click adventure, this was the immediate first impression. Most likely due to the linear series of events that then followed.

After a short while just following the story prompts which are acting as a tutorial of sorts. The game’s play mechanic started to show through. In short explore, collect, redeem/trade and repeat as required.

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The art style is described as ‘Stylized Low-Poly Look’ which seems fitting enough. Some commentators have described it as being similar to Astroneer – which is a reasonable enough statement to make although Astroneer uses a wider range of colours and effects for the art style/environment that it is using.

The music is also worth a mention. The game uses a series of musical cues and mood pieces that play during certain moments acting more as a sound scape than a soundtrack. Like the art style these are very distinctive and helps to give it a sense of place that’s very unique.

So back to the game; having gained a mentor and a feline flying robot (called Kitcat) I completed the firing tutorial and left the space station on-board my own spacecraft. The navigation of which is via a galaxy/solar system type maps. Up to this point everything was first person but inside the ship the view is locked down.

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Between you and the destination there are traders and other space stations. Essentially these provide the obvious trading opportunities and in the case with space station upgrade possibilities. Of course there is also the possibility of combat. This takes the appearance of using one of the gun emplacements as seen on-board the Millennium Falcon (or for seasoned players ‘Star Raiders’ through a porthole). This played well enough although I had to change the control scheme from directional to ‘pilot’ like in style by inverting the vertical input – always nice when control options are provided but I do wish there was a way to know which was the default option.

Now the first of a couple of pointers that may prove to be beneficial.

Upgrades generally require materials and currency (the delightfully named ‘chunks’). Two types of materials has been the norm so far for upgrades and the coloured bar to the right of the material names is a pictorial representation of the amount you’re carrying (if any) vs the amount required. Since you see all the possible upgrade slots at each venue despite what’s actually available it is a little confusing at first when the on screen requirements are all blank. However the exchange of materials and funds soon becomes a major plank of the game design. Upgrades exist for yourself, equipment and your ship with upgrade areas specialising in one of the three branches.

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Planetside

Now the main thrust of the game is the planet surfaces and it is this that has drawn the strongest comparison to the look of Astroneer and the gameplay of No man’s Sky. As per the Astroneer the No Man’s Sky reference is not quite right either – yes both feature planet surface exploration but the landscape in Morphite is smaller and more valley like in layout thus leading to a precise objective. The reduced colours and geometry is pleasing on the eye with the only drawbacks being that some features such as tunnel entrances can literally disappear when they are the same colour as the surroundings.

Planetary exploration is accessed from orbit via a pod like thing that also acts as a restock point for your weapon and maybe a checkpoint – I say maybe since it’s all a bit confusing. I’ve relied on the checkpoint system only for it to ‘not-save-your-progress’ this forcing me to chase the same amphibian several times.

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As I progressed the gameplay did start to coalesce so you can then adopt a playstyle to maximise your playing experience and in game rewards. The game is essentially an exploration based; by scanning flora and fauna on planets you gain readings of their biology that act as tradable items and gateways to enhancements. Other minerals/currency can be acquired via the good old fashioned Zelda approach of smashing stuff or in our instance - shooting it.

Now another playing pointer. You will depend heavily on two items from your roster; the scanner which scans things and you gun with which you can shoot them afterwards. Initially to select between the two required you to pull up a menu and select between them. This was really unwieldy. After all scanning and shooting are the two things you do all the time and rapid selection was pretty much mandatory. Later on I discovered that the D-pad was used to bring up and zoom in/out on a map (up/down) however undocumented was the fact that left/right cycled through your items as well. This turned out to be a mixed blessing since the act of operating the map also moves the held item along. Initially I thought was my inexperience in changing the map but alas having the map up does affect the item being held. The map alas has its own issues. Normally it hangs in the upper right of the screen but is very faint. The version you call up occupies the majority of the screen and is more opaque. So as you move around it does obscure a lot of the scenery and cannot be adjusted. Not only does it make seeing thing difficult as you move but you cannot use anything you’re carrying so no scanning or shooting allowed. Another issue is that the map is rendered as per the height you’re currently at; so instead of seeing the shapes of the valley or caves you can instead get a slice of the world where the terrain has narrowed or even no longer exists at this vertical point.

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As already mentioned you progress by exploration and essentially scanning everything. Like all games of this ilk your equipment is compromised at the start and upgrading via exploring is paramount. That does mean that some of the wildlife you see is practically impossible to scan (flies for example). There is a log to let you catch up on the creatures scanned but there appears to be no way of knowing if you’ve scanned all those on a particular planet (they do visually take on a slightly different on-screen appearance). Some lifeforms appear more than once with different preceding adjectives to differentiate between them. This may be down to some sort of seeding system but I noticed at least one whose name of Lakeshits seems a little unfortunate (or maybe I’m breaking the word up incorrectly…).

At this point I should come clean and point out that I haven’t completed the main game yet. In my defence I have literally gone off and done my own thing. Something that this game allows you to do -without question. There is a story and objectives (and a very handy quest screen to keep up to date of what you should be doing) that lead to planetary structures with platform/switch type obstacle courses and the unveiling of a story point (the not at all mythical Morphite!).

The conclusion

This is proving a tricky title to review. There is a lot to admire in this game and they have tried to make it as approachable as possible. Admittedly some of the areas are a little empty and the electronic music (more of an atmospheric audio experience) and graphics can grate if the game is played excessively. However in smaller doses the open ended exploration and easy going nature of this title makes this a game to fall back on, especially since death doesn’t really penalise you – just puts you back to the last checkpoint (maybe).

 “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?”

You can find out even more details on Morphite on Crescent Moon Games website, while following the developers Blowfish Studios and We're Five Games.

Morphite is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Steam, Nintendo Switch and iOS. 

 

Graceful Explosion Machine PS4 Review

To summarize G.E.M (which is one hell of a great acronym by the way) would be to say it’s a side-scrolling shooter, played out in a continuously scrolling environment where the goal is to take down the on-screen enemies before they take you down. This however would be selling G.E.M short as it does this with a finesse you don’t always see in games of this genre.

At first, I thought a good comparison would be Fantasy Zone, a Sega classic with a similar gameplay style, in reality G.E.M probably has more in common with the Arcade classic Defender, albeit functioning on a completely different level.

The layers of strategy at play here, coupled with precise and responsive controls result in nothing short of pure Arcade-style gameplay bliss.

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Rather than just doing away with your enemies with just a simple laser, G.E.M provides you with a range of different offensive options and depending on the situation, or enemy type, you’ll want to vary your strategy accordingly.

Weaker enemies can be done away with quickly just by using the standard laser. If they swarm you however there is no need to despair, as you have your Energy Sword, which can provide a swift swipe around the vicinity of your ship to keep the marauders at bay. A stronger foe giving you trouble from afar? Fear not, as you can always rely on your Sniper Beam to take them out from a safe distance. There’s also a barrage of missiles at your disposal, if things get a little too hairy.

In the midst of battle be mindful however, as your standard laser can be prone to overheating if you get a little too trigger happy, in which case, be sure to switch to another weapon in your arsenal to keep providing the firepower, if you have enough gems to power the weapon that is. As an enemy is destroyed it will leave behind a yellow gem, once collected these will provide the fuel for your additional weapons. This is where G.E.M’s strategic side comes into play.

Another tool which goes hand in hand with gem collecting is the ‘dash’ move. While dashing your ship becomes invulnerable and you can easily dash through waves of enemies in order to create distance between you and them or just simply to collect those precious yellow gems that have been dispersed from fallen foes. When your special weapons have run out of juice, collecting these gems is imperative.

When I worked out how to balance these different aspects everything about G.E.M fell into place and I began to ‘feel’ the game as opposed to having to spend too much time ‘thinking’ and thinking is a luxury you simply won’t have when challenged with the amount of on screen enemies G.E.M delights in throwing at you after you’ve enjoyed the honeymoon period provided by the game’s first few stages.

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There are 4 worlds in total with 9 stages in each world, which will keep you busy for quite some time, with a new world opening up upon completing a predefined number of stages. The game’s difficulty curve is welcoming to players not familiar with this type of game and coupled with its eye catching visual style, G.E.M is a very inviting experience for casual players. While I played the PS4 version, I can see the game being a great fit for the Switch audience in-particular and also one that works well in short bursts making it well suited for a portable platform, however I wouldn’t like to play it on a screen any smaller than that of the Switch due to the size of the objects on screen and the frantic nature of the gameplay.

The game also boasts a ranking system and gives you the option to upload your score to a leaderboard at the end of each stage. The ranking system will give you a rating based on several performance criteria, such as time completed, combos acquired and also reward you for the style you’ve displayed during the battle. It’s a great extra incentive for giving stages another go especially since your skills will develop the more you play.

My first impression of this game was of a well-executed arcade style shooter with it’s own unique ideas, I initially saw it as nothing more than good simple fun but felt is was lacking that must-play factor. The more I played however, the more I appreciated the subtleties of the gameplay and quickly found myself entering a state where I became enveloped in the action, suddenly I could take down the waves of enemies with Grace and Purpose, knowing exactly what to do in often hectic the situations. It was at this point everything ‘clicked’, I’d become hooked and found it very difficult to stop playing.

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For those who try this game once and walk away thinking ‘that was good…but, something is lacking’, I’d urge you to stick with it a little longer, take the time to learn the mechanics of the game and before long you’ll really appreciate what a blissful experience Graceful Explosion Machine really is and how it is one of the best examples of Pure Gameplay around at the moment on any system.

In summery, Graceful Explosion Machine is a finely tuned and addictive beast of game, if you enjoy shooters, especially those with a strategic edge then this game is a must-have. I’d also say even if you’re new to the genre, G.E.M is just a great Arcade style experience where the more you play, the more you’ll ultimately get out of the experience and like any great arcade game you may just have a hard time deciding when it’s time stop playing…

Graceful Explosion Machine for the Playstation 4 was provided to us for an honest review and is available now, as is a Nintendo Switch and PC version of the game. For more information on the game and and where to buy it from, head over here.

- Tom Parry

Death Squared Nintendo Switch Review

You will die a lot. Those five words neatly explain what will happen when you play Death Squared.
Want more? - For the most part you will be entirely responsible…


However you’re here for the complete package; So Death Squared is firstly a puzzle game and secondly a test on how well you can keep calm under pressure and not shout at each other*.


Now sidestepping the plot for a moment I’ll attempt to explain the basics of the game.


There are cubes that you control. In single player there are two (red and blue) whilst in multiplayer there are four (add a yellow and green to the mix).
So the number of players varies from 1, 2 or 4. The play environment is composed of tiles with various properties and a few other ‘toys (?)’ whose actions are in response to switches or to the movement of specific player cubes.

The basis of the game is to move these coloured cubes from their starting positions to their respective goals (denoted with a matching coloured circle).
And with that simple premise be prepared for torture.


Initially the levels are a little pedestrian. The linear routes helping to focus your attention on the obstacles you face. As the levels go by the game starts to introduce features and what can only be called ‘tricks’ that are designed to foil your progress. Part of the game’s design is that you’re expected to die since some of the traps when released are unavoidable; that surprisingly doesn’t mean it’s unfair, just designed to give you a good rubbing just when you think that you’re home and dry.

Later levels open out the playfield which actually does provide a different challenge. You are now faced with the question of which way shall I go (?) and is that tempting switch part of the test or a lure to extract another fatality. The deaths you experience are totalled for each level and there is no limit to the number of lives, you just restart the level after your demise. The challenge is in solving the puzzle and remembering the solution as you negotiate the ‘dance’ that you perform with the bots to ensure their survival.


At this point I’m going to veer away from the play mechanics and look at presentation. The cubes are ‘in fact’ A.I. bots and inhabit a series of test chambers. In game the inter-level sequences are characterized with audio of David, a slacker employee, and Iris his A.I. companion discussing life, the universe and well everything A.I. bot related. 
All this does sound very Portalesque but is very well done and sets the context for the puzzles whilst giving the player a continuing narrative (and confession time I have no idea what happens at the end – I’ve yet to finish the thing).

In fact the presentation of the whole package is of a high standard with a consistent look and feel. Apart from the colour, the bots are identifiable by an increasing number of lights giving them all ‘faces’ with an additional light on the top to show which bot you’re controlling. This brings up another point about the control system. Each of the Switches controllers operate one of the Bots and can also operate one additional bot when required. So in single player each stick operates its own Bot (a note to Neon owners here – the Bot colours are OPPOSITE to the controller colours) whilst in Multiplayer you may be required to control an extra Bot by holding down the shoulder button).

As you progress the levels unlock and you can revisit completed levels at any time. There is also a series of extremely hard levels (The Vault) for both single and multiplayer that are unlocked after you complete the respective sections. As I’ve not managed to complete the game yet I cannot comment on the difficulty of the bonus levels. So what lies beyond in unknown so I’ve no idea if you’d consider them a reward or a curse.

So the all-important round up. Is it any good?


Well yes it is but don’t wander in thinking that it will be easy or a quick game. It is a challenge and one that will keep you busy for quite a while.
Now if you excuse me I’ve some A.I. Bots that I’ve got to lead to their early death.

*Multiplayer only feature (shouting at the game is available in both single and multiplayer modes)

Death Squared for the Nintendo Switch was provided to us for an honest review. More information can be found and where to buy the game from, here.

- Neil Kenny

AntLion Audio ModMic 5 The Mic your Headset Needs

Totally modular, ModMic 5 delivers performance and flexibility all in one. With two mics on a single boom, ingenious cable design, mute module, and included cable wraps, choices abound.

Modmic 5 by Antlion Audio is a microphone that you can connect to you're existing headset. The best headphones don't always come with a microphone and those that do, offer a basic mic for your expensive headset.

Opening my parcel I was greeted with the ModMic 5, an Antlion USB Soundcard adapter and a Y audio adapter for use with gaming consoles.

The contents are as followered; ModMic 5, mute switch, 1meter and 2meter audio cables, carrying case, 2 base clips with extra adhesives, foam pop filter, 2meter cable wrap and 10 cable clips.

Connecting the microphone to your headset is straight forward, an adhesive pad is stuck to the headset that holds the magnetic clasp. The bond between the ModMic and clasp is tough enough to hold the mic in position but you'll also be able to take it off for storage or changing to another headset with ease.

To sort the cable management issue, Antlion has provided two different approaches; First is cable clips, which I'm impressed by. The clip itself has two sides, a big and a little clip, fitting the headset and microphone cable perfectly. Secondly is a braided cable that wraps around both wires, a little tricky and time needed to setup but works well if you don't intend to swap the ModMic to something else.

Two additional products that can be bought are the USB sound card adapter and the Y adapter for consoles, so depending on the setup the ModMic 5 can be used on a verity of situations. I'll be continuing to test and use the ModMic 5 in different ways and will be reporting back here and over on our YouTube channel.

While I don't have a presenter's voice, you can hear the crisp and clarity of the ModMic 5 and proves with the right mic, you don't need to be a professional to sound like one.

The ModMic 5 can be bought for $69.95 from Amazon or £64.99 from OverClockers within the UK. A list of other outlets can be found here.

If you have any questions then please let me know in the comments below.

ModMic 5 was provided by Antion Audio for test / review purposes

DOGOS Review (PS4)

DOGOS

A review by Tom Parry

 

I have never played a game like Dogos, I’ve played similar things but never an overhead shooter with the kind of explorative freedom that this game has, and for the most part it’s a rather impressive and enjoyable game.

You are Desmond and your task is to wipe-out the evil alien Zeetnuk forces through a series of 14 objective based missions. The nature of these missions, at their core, involve shooting everything in sight in your rather nimble spacecraft. You have various weapons at your disposal, ranging from a laser to take down airborne enemies to various bombing weapons to take down ground targets. You also gain access to some more powerful Special weapons, such as Homing Missiles and the super powerful Mega Bomb, a personal favourite.

Your foes, The Zeetnuk, are resourceful sorts and you’ll find yourself having to take down their various small spacecraft and more deadly heavier airborne forces as well as ground targets including tanks, boats and some particularly vicious gun turrets who take great pleasure in harassing you with homing missiles.

This may all be sounding rather familiar but what makes Dogos unique is that the game isn’t on-rails (at least for the most part, but we’ll come to that later). The player has the freedom to explore a rather large terrain and can call on a map to find their next objective. Most of the time, especially at the beginning of the game your waypoints are clearly marked on the map so it’s just a case of flying to the next objective although later on, especially in the last 3 missions a little more exploration must be done to find your next objective, Dogos does a great job of never letting the player get too lost either with some friendly level design.

The mission objectives in Dogos vary, but for the most part involve bombing the Neetnuk’s nefarious facilities, usually taking down shield generators or reactors in order to eventually take down a bigger foe. Some of the larger foes in the game include a large battleship and an armoured, heavily weaponised train.

Movement is a twin-stick affair; the left stick is your throttle while the right stick turns your ship. This works well in practice and allows you to easily weave your way around the enemy’s hail of laser fire with ease.

As the game progresses it introduces some rather tricky obstacles, such as beam doors, which flash on and off giving you a small opportunity to fly through, only to be faced with a series of even trickier barriers. There’s plenty of this close quarters beam dodging, which can be frustrating at times, especially as you manage the ships momentum (it never stops dead when you want it too). However, you will gain improved control of your ship as you play, rewarding practice and patience, and while Dogos may seem harsh in places, it is always fair. It’s certainly an accessible game and frequent checkpoints really help levitate the game’s more frustrating challenges.

Dogos occasionally shakes things up with high speed ‘on-rails’ sections where you have to pilot your craft through a dangerous series of canyons or tight corridors, sometimes while bombarded by various other obstacles that appear in your path. These sections are few and far between and while they give the game a much needed sense of speed (a boost button would be a nice to have), they are sometimes frustrating and often feel unnecessary. Later forced on-rails sections seem to delight in throwing obstacles in front of you with little notice, giving the player a fraction of a second to react. With a bit of patience, you’ll make it through these sections but they can be frustrating and the sudden change of pace can also be a little jarring.

There is no doubt that the core shooting mechanics of Dogos are very enjoyable though and there’s a variety of weapons to unlock too as you progress in the game. These can give you a nice tactical advantage in places. Once you get the ‘Spitfire’ laser and Cluster Bombs though, you have a winning combination.

The game even attempts at having a narrative that can be followed by listening to Desmond narrate his Diary between levels, it’s a rather simple story with little depth or deep explanation but what it succeeds in doing is giving the player a motive for destroying the game’s hordes of enemies.

Desmond sounds like a man who has little hope and his narration is delivered in a suitably appropriate manner. It’s a nice little touch, as is the dialogue Desmond has with his ally, Europa during the game’s missions, which peppers the game with a touch of humanity. Having said that these sections could be better implemented and cut scenes would greatly enhance the proceedings.

As mentioned previously, the game is spread across 14 levels, which include a good variety of locales, from the distinct desert canyons of the first couple of levels, to volcanic caves, tropical stormy seas then eventually into the inner workings of a Zeetnuk spacecraft where you take down the game’s final boss.

The game doesn’t really excel in boss battles sadly though and there’s a feeling that it could do with a few more, at least a little more variety would be nice (you fight the rather underwhelming ‘Goliath’ a total of three times during the games final missions). What is here though is satisfying enough, plenty of projectile dodging ensues but the bosses do have a bad habit of overstaying their welcome and occasionally go on for what feels like an age. A life bar would be a welcome addition for sure.

Worthy of note are the game’s graphics, this is a nice looking game for sure, not only from a graphical standpoint but from a design standpoint also. All the vehicles in the game have their own distinct personalities and everything on screen is very easy on the eyes.

The game’s colour palette is refreshingly bright and while the graphics are certainly of this generation they also have a retro throwback feel, provoking nostalgic memories of the bygone Amiga era.

Musically Dogos is rather underwhelming, the game has a limited soundtrack comprising of a handful of tracks that are re-used far too frequently and often don’t represent the fast paced nature of what’s going on in the game most of the time. A more dynamic soundtrack would help elevate the game’s atmosphere immensely. While some of the tracks are fairly enjoyable to listen to they don’t change up enough when needed and sadly, Dogos ends up feeling flat in the music department for the most part.

In summary, Dogos does a lot of things very well. It has great graphics, satisfying finely tuned controls and nice level design but falls flat in other areas like sound, variety and overall presentation and wow-factor. The frustrating thing about Dogos is it’s almost all there, just the pieces aren’t meshing together as well as they could be, with a few more varied mission objectives, a more dynamic soundtrack, better boss battles and overall greater coherence and polished presentation Dogos would certainly be 'Top Dog'. As it stands though Dogos is a solidly crafted shooter which offers up a refreshing change of pace when compared to other games of its ilk.

I strongly recommend that you give Dogos a go. It provides a rewarding, unique and accessible shooting experience that has some nice challenge, it’s a good length too, providing about 6 hours gameplay to complete the main story and then an incentive to play though the levels again to complete extra challenges.

What I really hope is that enough people try this game to encourage a sequel, as I feel it wouldn’t take a lot more to make this game a top drawer title.

DOGOS is available NOW (Sept 6) for download on PS4 and from Sept 7. for download on XBOXONE and STEAM platforms.

Condemned - Review

A Blast from the past Process. Today we look back at an old classic.

Sega and Warner Brother Interactive present a Monolith Productions game, Condemned: Criminal Origins.

Originally produced for Xbox 360 in 2005, this game has been available on Steam for a while. The graphics are a little dated but we are going to see if it still packs a scare.  

The game opens with a death investigation with two FBI agents. I play as Agent Thomas.  

Evidence is gathered at the crime scene. The crime having been committed by a serial killer called - The Matchmaker. He is known for killing women and setting them in a scene with mannequins. 

It becomes apparent that the homicide suspect is still in the building. The game is a bit like 'CSI'. It is the player's responsibility to check the ammo in the gun as there is no on screen prompt. If you forget to do this, you can resort to kicking encountered enemies.

Over the introduction the player is gradually introduced to various abilities. Glimpses of the past hint at what has happened. Early in the game the player looses the firearm and instead has to resort to using found weapons, pipes, wood etc. This gives a unique feel as the majority of games allow you to carry a whole bag full of weapons and found items.

The game is more about counter attacking rather than going in with weapons swinging. You need to counter the enemy moves in order to take them down. Even during the combat sections, there is still investigation to be done with the characters wide array of gadgets and tools. The environment is suitable scary with rats scuttling in the shadows. The only way to obtain health is to smash open first aid lockers found at various points in the game, although are hard to come by so keeping healthy could become a struggle.

Secrets can be found off the beaten track and finding these unlocks achievements. Only one item can be carried at any time and so making the choice between gun, fire axe or other weapon is important. As in real life, the different weapons have different effects. The Taser is a good weapon for bringing down enemy characters temporarily.

At the end of each chapter, the game gives you a breakdown of your favourite weapon, how accurate you have been and what secrets you have found. Meaning people who want to 100% the game can try and improve their detective technique before moving on to the next stage of the game. I managed a fairly abysmal 40% accuracy on my first walkthrough.

Chapter two sees FBI Agent Ethan Thomas awakening in a new setting and suffering from strange hallucinations. An old friend of his fathers informs him that the death of his colleagues last night is thought to be of his doing after the killer used his gun. Ethan proceeds to go on the run, leaving his apartment as the police begin to knock on the door. Ethan flees into the subway and though abandoned buildings.

Moving through a variety of settings makes the game feel realistic. Even running, Ethan does not move overly fast as you try and find somewhere safe to go. Ethan holds on to his phone as he still has some friends back at base.

A slight bug in the game play as a character I encounter manages to walk through a wall in order to attack me. This was a one off incident during our time playing the game. Ethan manages to get hold of another gun, hinting that there will be an occasion coming up where he needs to use it.

Exploring the environment is made all the more challenging as enemies turn off the lights and use the environment to their advantage. During the game play it did feel a bit like I was going around in circles, but there was enough to keep me interested. Some backtracking is required to collect the required items, however, there always seems to be a weapon close to hand when the need for combat arises.

The sound files in the game are realistic and certainly enhance the game play.

At some points in the game it is tricky to know what you should be doing, but the game will lead you in the right direction. It proves a little challenging to investigate and attack enemies at the same time. If anything, I'd like more of the investigation and less of the combat.

Although enjoyable to play, it does feel a little drawn out at times. For an eleven year old game it still holds up today with both action and scares. For anyone who wants to live the life of an FBI agent on the run, this game will be right up your alley!

 

 

The Final Take

An offering from Hush Interactive which describes itself as dark footage, first-person horror. This is right up my street as you may have already figured out from my previous horror themed reviews. At 54p in the Steam Sale (price correct as of 24.8.16) it would be a crime not to give it a whirl.

From the title screen the found footage style is apparent from the interference and scan lines making you want to fiddle with the tracking on the VCR. This takes me back to many a time trying to get my old copy of Return of the Jedi working and also invokes films such as Paranormal Activity. Xbox controller or keyboard can be used to play through the game.

Eerie noises and sound affects echo out from the loading screen, this is a good start!

The game consists of four chapters, each admittedly quite short, but this is a bargain basement priced game and sometimes it is nice to complete a game in one sitting rather than battling with it for weeks!

Chapter 1 - The Interview. Starting out with a voice recording, it hints at many a horror film. The character hears about a job at an old nursing home and wanting to make her father proud, she sets out.

Moving from this introduction screen, we are now exploring the new place of work through a distorted 80's camcorder. The game looks like you are playing a found footage film; shaky and poor quality. While this makes it difficult to see what is happening, the very fact you cant see what is happening, is indeed what makes the game scary.

Similar to Outlast, you view the game through a video camera, the only light being that of your  mobile phone. Walking around the environment you can find notes and recordings for additional fluff and story. The entire game has that camcorder grain like you are watching a VHS recording. Seems unusual that the character has a modern phone, but an old VCR camcorder. Maybe I'm overthinking things as this certainly doesn't detract from the game itself.

The game has some spooky concepts. Entering a ward in the hospital it is slightly unnerving to find the beds filled with inanimate mannequins. This is escalated when you start seeing apparitions!

The sounds are weird, almost verging on a low rhythmic chant at times.

No form of map does make it a bit unnerving and certainly more realistic. This was a good touch. So many branching corridors indicates there is lots to explore.

Random notes on the door are freaky and give some context to the exploration.

Interacting with one door, uncovered a puzzle which needed to be solved before the door unlocked and allowed me to proceed. I wasn't expecting any puzzles within the game, so this was a nice little touch to break up wandering around in the dark holding my breath! I was looking forward to more puzzles as the game progressed, however, this was the only one.

You can run in the game, however, the character puts down her light while doing this making it more difficult to see what is happening. Do you want speed or light... that is the question?!

What really adds to the atmosphere of the game however, are the audio recordings that you stumble across where you hear about events that have transpired and gives your exploration in this first chapter some context.  

After running from a freaky shadow figure (who is naturally crawling along the floor in homage to The Ring), we get to Chapter Two: Down Memory Lane. The second chapter is played though the eyes of another character.

What is a nice touch here is that the character doesn't initially see through their own eyes, but instead through the camcorder viewfinder. This does leave a lot of eerie dark space around the screen. The character can switch between camcorder and flashlight.... without giving too much away, different things can be seen using different pieces of technology. A great touch!

This second level has a very quiet music, the main sound being a repetitive noise, not at all unsettling! (At least that is what I am telling myself!!) As it gets louder, you know that soon death will be your friend! I think if I were to reply, I would do so with headphones as feel this would make the game more atmospheric.

In terms of graphics, the rooms are very 'samey'. This makes it confusing in terms of remembering where you need to go and where you have already been. This adds another level of frustration.

Chapter Three: Deep Below returns to the character we met in Chapter One. Some of the voice acting is not the greatest, however, this can be forgiven given due to the cost of the game. Chapter 2 was a nice concept, but not as good; try and get through it. The female character is more unsettling, and strangely, more enjoyable to play. Some backtracking involved once you've found certain triggers to unlock escape routes, but not excessively so. As soon as getting back into the swing of things with this character, the chapter ended, making this the shortest chapter in the game.

Chapter Four: A Dark Past. The same character. Not quite sure why this couldn't have been merged with Chapter Three. Chapter Four has the same goal of collecting things as chapter two. Not quite so interesting the second time around, especially as I can now see everything again being able to use phone (light) and camcorder at the same time. Finding photos in series of very similar rooms, is neither fun nor scary.

In summary, the game cost me 54p for 30 minutes of entertainment and I can't grumble at that. It is a good hint at what Hush Interactive may be able to produce in the future, however, focussing more on the scares and less on the running around and collecting things and this game would have scored higher in my opinion. It started with a good concept, but it ran out of steam becoming a bit too samey near the end. My final thoughts after completing the end of the game was it was boring in comparison to the promise the first half showed.

The Final Take is available on Steam and currently on offer for 54p. (Normal price £1.59).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Deserve - A Review

This is the first game by TGA Company who have been lucky enough to get the game through the Steam Greenlight process. You Deserve is a first person horror game where you play as Amy Cooper, a teenager who's found herself stuck and lost within  an unknown world. 

After watching the trailer for this game, the Blast Process team were very excited to play thisas we are big fans of the horror genre. We went into this game knowing nothing about it bar what we had seen in the trailer, and this alone had made us excited to try out something new.

Have you ever felt lost? Have you ever been to sleep and not known if you've woke up? The game begins by setting an air of mystery. Waking up, standing above a chair with rope on the floors leads me to think I was previously tied there. The character believes they are asleep, but everything feels so real.

The tutorial sections are nicely displayed on the walls in game as you go past something that you might need to know.

There is light atmospheric noise in the background, but the lack of music gives the game an eerie feel. This is nice to see as often a sound track can detract from the horror. The lack of music makes this feel all the more real.

From the start there are spooky moments such as a red handprint mysteriously appearing on a painting.

This starts as a puzzle game with needing to find hidden objects to proceed to the next area. The developers have paced the game well with not too much backtracking involved.

Early into the game we are given evidence of an unhappy child who has been bullied at school in the form of letters from parents to the headmasters, and psychological reports. This immediately suggests that it may have been the player that was doing the bullying. This is a bold move as this is a subject not often discussed within games.

The save points within the game are good. A visual indicator used for showing the save areas is nicely done in an unobtrusive way. The game saves automatically without the need for interaction bar walking through the display of shimmering particles.

It isn't long into the game play before the first spooky happening occurs. You wouldn't think that a loan teddy sitting on the floor would be described as creepy, but this game certainly makes it appear as such.

Many weird things happen at an early stage in the game. It draws you in and makes you want to find out more and keep playing.

The animations and textures are very good and make great use of the unity engine. The game makes you aware that you are not alone without fully showing you what or who is sharing the space in which you are exploring.

The puzzles are interesting without being too obscure. Unexpected jump scares are well timed, enough to keep you interested but not too much to make them stale.

The speed the character moves has a nice suspenseful walk, however, can run when needed with no penalty, such as a stamina bar, when you want to quickly investigate branching paths.

The lighting is very well done with atmospheric shadows being cast around the environment.

The first puzzle I experienced some difficulty with involved trying to move boxes in a slowly flooding room. Unfortunately the game didn't give a clear indication about what to do here, however, with some careful investigation of the room we managed to find the required item and progressed with the game after a mere 3 deaths!

Each new location that is entered continues to have a creepy feel. From early in the game the locations are varied with the same level of detail being given to each.

This game actually gave me goose-pimples!

As we continue we see more puzzles that make you think. This pairs well with the scary moments to give a nice balance to the game.

Moving from the school environment we next found ourselves outside. The character is allowed access to move around a vast area which is unlike many games which tie you in to moving a specific route. Walking down dark paths at night is certain to make you jump though!

The scariness of the game certainly intensifies as the game progresses.

The level design is great, everything within a level leading back to each other to close the gaps.

To sum up the game; great graphics, a good level of challenge mixed with free exploration of a new environment, atmospheric sound design all leading to a captivating first offering from TGA Company.

 

You Deserve is out now on Steam for £5.94 on offer until August 26th, be sure to check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penumbra - Overture by Frictional Games

There are things I need of you. Things you may not understand. Please do not make the same mistakes I did...

This is an early offering from Frictional Games released before the popular Amnesia and Soma. The first part of a trilogy.

September 2000 and the story begins. Receiving a letter from my dead father the week after my mother's funeral, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was directed to head to a bank to get a safety deposit box. The request was to destroy all the contents, but curiosity got the better of me and I found myself on a journey following the notes to discover a location in Greenland.

The game begins in a cabin inside a boat that teaches us how to play the game. Standard mouse and keyboard controls are used to navigate the game and interact with most of the items in the environment. The introduction does a good job of teaching controls before hurrying you on your way before the fog descends and the night draws in.

Stepping off the boat the character quickly becomes disorientated and you are challenged to find shelter from the heavy snow. The on screen images are blurred and this creates a good environment as the character clings onto life. Grabbing a nearby rock I smash an opening into an underground vault.  

This was the first challenge in the game. Using a rock to smash the ice from the lock was straightforward, however the challenge arrived when trying to turn the handle. Some smashing later and I was progressing on my way.

Red pulsing around the edge of the screen indicates I am hurt. Continuing to explore my new surroundings I collect anything that could appear useful. I remain uncertain as to what I am about to find.

After using the 'hand' to pull away a bookcase I find a hole in the wall and am soon crawling through a tunnel. Clearing my way to a room I see a hatch... the on screen text saying this is solid... to keep people out...or in!

Heading 100 feet below the ground in the remote arctic wilderness I began to feel scared and isolated from my usual safety nets (parents, friends, emergency services). Everyone who would normally support me is now too far away. I am not sure what to expect down here. Caution and stealth are recommended in order to survive the game. I am pre-warned that light sources will attract whatever is out there...

Moving forwards, a map of the environment indicates there are quite a few rooms / hiding spaces to be explored...

Notes from 1945 are found and can be read but they do not seem to offer much of an insight at this point. Finding out there are weapons and bombs locked away seems to be inviting me to accept this as my next challenge. It also hints towards a strange artefact that was discovered in a previous dig site, circa 1945.

The game is reminiscent of 'The Thing' and no doubt I will find some horrific creature lurking within the darkness. I find myself holding my breath slightly, awaiting the jump I know is out there.

Another note mentions that mind-altering chemicals may be causing high suicide rates in Greenland. The miners have symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia however the local inuits claim that spirits known as 'tuurngait' live in the mountains.

Having freedom to be able to explore and interact with the majority of the environment enables the player to feel like they are in control over what is happening. The music and sound effects add to the dramatic feel of the game. While hidden from creatures, text on the screen further prompts me to stay out of sight. If I am seen, I'm a goner!

Having no weapons makes avoiding creatures the only way forward. The ability to peek around corners allows me to quickly see whether there is anything lurking in my path.

Clues etched into a wooden bookcase indicate further what could be about to happen. The characters thoughts are displayed on screen as I move through the eerie environment and this is a nice touch to add another level of realism.

It transpires that spiders are feeding on the dogs in the maze of tunnels I find myself in. Hearing the characters heartbeat on the audio file is a nice touch for adding to the rising sense of terror.

Our first hour in the world of Penumbra is a tense and intriguing experience and the game promises scares to come. I look forward to delving further into this world and the sequels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion - Review

Warning: This game displays warning message about being scary...

For as long as you remember, legends have been told about the derelict mansion on the mountain. Being a history buff you decide to explore and find out what secrets the mansion holds. . 


The game boots up with Old SNES game music and intro options screen which is a nice touch. It begins with meeting the character of Spooky, who presumably owns the mansion you will play as! The game portrays as a cartoony ‘Doom’ with brick walls and long corridors. The challenge to get through all one thousand rooms begins. 
 
Standard FPS controls are used ‘WASD’ keys and mouse. 
The rooms are randomly generated allowing for multiple different game plays. The first rooms are empty to raise suspense, while the music adds to this; with rumbles in the background and the sound of creaky doors. 
The rooms are mainly the same few corridor shapes. The music certainly makes you feel unnerved. Moving into room 13 and the music changes, the suspense continues. Choices are made by the player as some rooms have multiple doors to exit through. Empty rooms with loan chairs in the corner feel rather ‘Blair Witch’. In addition, a combination of weird pictures and large windows add to the eerie feel. 
Colours change in the room indicating something is about to happen…. Room 25 and still the suspense is growing. 

 


 Room 26 and a pumpkin sprang out from the wall. Looking ridiculously cute, the scary noise and speed at which it moves made me jump! This effect is repeated in a number of rooms, and although I’ve already experienced this ‘jump’ reaction, I continue to be surprised (and squeal like a girl!). The music adding to the suspense and making you feel like something awful is going to happen. 

Another note is found in Room 50 indicating the person who left it feels trapped in a never ending maze of similar rooms. Feeling very thirsty and running out of ink with which to leave these notes... a sense of trepidation overcomes me!! 
Interacting with a cross allows the user to save the game. This makes every 50th room a safe house where you can take a quick breather in which to compose yourself before setting out again.  


Entering a lift, we go down to the next level where the music gets even more spooky. A variety of side rooms are viewed…. some look rather like cells. 
Health and stamina bars in the top corner of the screen are a constant reminder that I am more than likely to meet something… Room 59 leads me into a maze of paths to follow. One wrong step and I will plunge into a bottomless pit!
The messages continue though the game, sounding like the writer is slowly becoming more insane.


Suddenly, a monster appears in the room, it begins to follow me. I run, however, need to be careful to maintain my stamina. Although I am constrained to follow the paths so as not to fall to my death, the creature is not! He slowly floats across any gaps in order to catch up with me. Closed doors do not stop it, he continues. The green slime on the floor slows me down when trying to escape, thus allowing the creature to close the gap.   
As long as you get away from the spooky entity, you will get your health back slowly, however, let it touch you and a few hits will finish you off.

 


Music changes as I enter room 70, continued freaky pictures adorn the room. The rooms are all similar in their design, but as they are small and short it isn’t boring. There is always the threat that something is following you. Computer found in room which gives details about the various specimens housed in the building. It reads as though the building is some form of experiment, using the creatures to examine how the test subjects cope. Guess I am the latest subject.  
One of the specimens shows as an ‘error’. This invokes a feeling of unease as you do not know what to expect. The computers have established I am being tested and the creatures have been placed there to see how I fare. 
Room 89 portrays as a lab with a brain in a glass jar. Seems harmless enough… for now.
Green patches on the floor now become more frequent. This combined with ramped up music gives the feeling of imminent threat. 
Lurking in a room, while I wrote this review, a spectre crept up and savagely killed me!
 


To sum up, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is a fantastic horror experience, even more so due to the fact the game is completely free and can be downloaded from Steam. This will be a game I am sure to revisit, hopefully getting past room 100. Turns out ‘safe rooms’ aren’t that safe after all!

 

The Secret Monster Society - Review

Have you ever wondered where your dreams come from and why you dream the specific things you dream of…? This game begins by introducing the player to a world where monsters create dreams.

 

Playing as the overly happy Blythe Dalrich, hand drawn graphics introduce you to the world of the Secret Monster Society. It is a point and click adventure in the style of the old Lucas Arts Games. The game is fully voice acted with Blythe thinking out loud every step of the way. These thoughts are also displayed as on screen text.

As in old school point and click games, the mouse is used to interact with items and to move around the environment. Items can be easily dragged from inventory to where they are to be used.

From the start, the game tries to be funny, however, quickly becomes a little grating. Jokes and puzzles have been done before, using soap to create an impression of a key to open a locked chest for example.

 

After travelling to school via the toilet, Blythe begins to interact with a range of other characters which is more engaging than the inanimate objects from the introduction. Many of the objects in the environment have eyes (clocks, books, mirrors etc) which would probably appeal to a young audience.

The imagined world of monsters does have a little bit of a whiff of ‘Monsters Inc’ but some of the lore is pretty unique. Early in the game you get the manual for entering dreams, hinting at what is to come.

Human dreams and regulations.

Once inside human dreams, protocol 8972 must be followed. Fight all or any nightmare creatures they encounter, maintain the link between mind and heart and wash hands upon exiting a dream. During an emergency, all persons must escape to the nearest exit point. Anyone under the age of 234 will be banished to the swamp of perpetual hope.  

 

When interacting with other characters, the player is given a choice of possible questions / replies to use via on screen text, thus giving the player ownership of the direction the game will go in.

Blythe has a history of exaggerating experiences, so friends don’t believe him when he explains he saw lights falling from the sky during the introduction of the game. Adults think he is wasting their time and wont indulge this train of thought.

This game has a slow pace and wasn’t a gripping play. Didn’t feel the desire to find out what is going on and was more a forced play.

A wide range of environments are encountered and the graphics for each of these are the same high standard.

From the start of the game there is a fair amount of backtracking to complete additional requests from characters he meets. This is exaggerated due to the slow movement speed of the character. A quicker pace in these early sections would have made the game more enjoyable and it would have felt like you were achieving more.

Music is a little repetitive but does change depending on location so never too long is spent with the same tune.

The voice acted characters are a nice touch for an indie game and did help bring the characters to life.

To sum up, if you have a craving for a point and click adventure definitely give it a look, however, unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit the highs of ‘Monkey Island’. As an introduction to the genre for a younger audience, the vibrant colours and fun characters would certainly appeal and spark curiosity and imagination.

 

The Secret Monster Society: Chapter One is available on steam for £4.95 

This review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel PS4 Review

Courtesy of Marvelous, Nitroplus Blasterz has arrived in Europe! Nitroplus is an All-Girl 2D Fighter from the talented team at Examu, developers of the Arcana Hearts series of fighters which have been gracing our shores for a number of years now.

To tell you the truth the Arcana series hadn’t particulary grabbed me, and my interest in 2D Anime style fighters had been beginning to wain. I could see the potential in the Arcana Hearts series of games but they didn’t do enough to re-ignite my passion for the genre.

So we come to this latest offering and we have the familiar all female ensemble present. The girls here are lifted from various Nitroplus Visual Novels, none of which I’m familiar with, other than the character ‘Saber’ from the Fate/Stay Night series, which I only know because she’s appeared in other fighters I’ve played, and she’s got a big sword, which is cool.

You may or may not be familiar with the characters but what can’t be argued with is the variety which is on offer here. There are 14 playable characters in total (two of which need to be unlocked), including several more who appear as support characters bringing the number up to 32 characters in total.

Each character is very unique and come equipped with swords, guns, demon powers, web-slinging abilities and even cats…

The game brims with personality, the presentation firstly is top notch. The intro sequence sets the tone for the game and is suitably exhilarating and very Japanese, but not generically so, Nitroplus has it’s own unique flavor. The characters are colorful and imaginative and most tastes and playstyles seem well catered for.

The game has several modes on offer including Story, Another Story (which unlocks after you’ve completed Story mode with one character) Score Attack, Training, and various muli-player options. Offline play included of course. There’s also a Gallery where you can view various unlockables, such as artwork.

It’s a fairly robust selection of modes, although I do miss the likes of Team Battles, a staple of Tekken and Soul Calibur, although this is a minor gripe, especially when the gameplay is this good.

If I could compare Nitroplus to anything it would probably be the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, however Nitroplus manages to be more technical and rewarding than the aforementioned series. The gameplay is very tight, very fast and incredibly responsive with an emphasis on air-dashing and combos.

As far as new systems go, Nitroplus has a few. There’s a Blast Attack, which powers up your character for a limited time. An Escape Action button is also present, which allows you to perform evasive maneuvers as well as a Heavy Action button, which allows you push the opponent back. In addition to these you have the regular Super Move meter which gives you access to Super Moves of course, as well as Lethal Blazes, which are this game’s ultimate attacks and are suitably and satisfyingly over the top for the most part. Of course there’s also the support characters who you can pick 2 of and sit comfortably on the L1 and L2 buttons and are available at timed intervals during the fight, there’s a lot of creativity present in the nature of these attacks also.

In practice this all works wonderfully together to deliver one of the most enjoyable fighting experiences I’ve had in quite some time. Matches are fast, explosive affairs which manage to remain tactical at the same time. One of the strengths of the game is it’s accessibility. In a short amount of time the game becomes very familiar and comfortable to play, allowing you to pull of all sorts of crazy moves. A lot of commands will be familiar to anyone with any previous experience of 2D fighters and what’s new here doesn’t take very long to learn.

The game’s difficulty also favours newcomers and feels fair throughout, even when you come across the games final boss, which can be suitably annoying, you always feel it’s possible to beat her and the experience is all the more satisfying for that.

The game however isn’t without it’s problems, although there isn’t really much here to complain about. The game’s levels or fighting arenas aren’t particularly interesting, they’re all static and bland for the most part, a little animation in the backgrounds would have helped to bring them to life more. Perhaps this was a conscious decision on the developers part so not to interfere with the foreground action, but they just come off as a bit lazy in comparison to everything else.

For me ‘Another Story’ mode is a bit of let-down. It’s easier than the regular Story but unlike that mode which is light on the Story part, Another Story is a full on read-a-thon. Sadly I couldn’t really get into the story, perhaps I didn’t give it much of a chance, but it’s confusingly written and may as well of been in Japanese for all I know.

Score Attack is also a slightly strangely named mode for what it is, it’s effectively an Arcade mode, although at first I was expecting it to be more of a survival mode, an option that isn’t available in Nitroplus at all.

These are all minor gripes though, in short Nitroplus is excellent. I say this as a fighting fan who had become disillusioned with the Japanese 2D fighter. They’d become generic to me, the gameplay either wasn’t interesting enough or was full of confusing new mechanics. Nitroplus has won me over with it’s accessibility, it’s great characters and hidden depths of strategy. I’ve honestly had as much fun with this as I have with Street Fighter V, probably more. Nitroplus is also a budget title, with an RRP of around £30 and is certainly more fully featured than it’s competition.

If you’re into fighters, you owe it to yourself to pick up this game. If you’re a newcomer to the genre or just love anything Japanese, I imagine you’ll also come away fulfilled from this title. I have personally discovered an all-time favourite of the genre.

Reviewed by Tom Parry (Toodlebug500)

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is available NOW for both PS3 and PS4 formats.

Unfair Jousting Fair Review

Unfair Jousting Fair is a jousting game that's played at the fair where the game is unfair... unless you know what you're doing.

Developed by Rodaja the game is set at a you guessed it, a fair. Selecting from a verity of characters with plenty of weapons and unlockables to be gained by playing the game.

Controls are very straight forward, left and right keys learn your player forward or back and in turn keeps your players balance, you are jousting on a unicycle after all! Up and down moves the height of your weapon and talking of weapons you'll soon notice that some items aren't your normal choice of objects that are used for a joust.

First player to touch the other player with the end of their weapon wins the round. Easy as that sounds, just by balancing your player alone can win you the round but skilled players will soon get to grips with the mechanics and timing is the key to victory.

If you've already got a Steam box setup in the living room or have the space to have a few friends around the monitor, Unfair Jousting Fair is a hilarious, exciting and oddly enough, addicting game.

Unfair Jousting Fair is currently priced at £3.99 and is available on Windows via Steam.

Checkout a gameplay trailer below and we'll be posting some Let's Play videos over on our YouTube channel!