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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II - Playstation 4 Review

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Just a few months after The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel was released on PS4, the sequel has now had the remastered PS4 treatment setting us up for the much-anticipated release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III this fall.

Trails of Cold Steel II is a great addition to the franchise which continues to build on the original, it continues straight after the events of the first game which makes playing it a necessity. The story begins with a mission to reunite all you beloved classmates. With such a huge mass of characters and even more being added it’s easy for cast members to fade into the background, however this game manages to not only keep all the characters involved in the story, but to continue to build their character arcs and bonds throughout the game whilst tying all the components of the story into a neat little bow by the end of the game.

The overall heart and soul of the Trials games remains true with cold steel II with some very welcome additions (except the snowboard minigame, I am terrible at that).

So what are these additions? The sequel offers much more freedom as you are no longer tied to the academy as your base of operations and you are not forced to have a set party for your assignments, instead allowing you to handpick your party before disembarking on story elements.

You begin the story at level 40 with all crafts being carried over from the first game, initially I thought this would be an issue as it wouldn’t allow for character growth, however I was pleasantly mistaken as each character learns new crafts as well as upgraded versions of previous crafts. With the level increase comes an increase in difficulty, making using tactics during battle all the more important.

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The battle system still maintains the combat link system but this has been expanded with the ability to now overdrive with your link partner allowing you to take 3 turns there and then, this can completely change the tide of battle. This feature is only available once you have searched out and completed the trial chests for the relative characters which features defeating some difficult enemies.

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The battles with Valimar are very much still rock,paper,scissors but a new element has been added with your party members linking up with the ashen knight to take part in the battle too.

There is a slight issue with the framerate at times when the battles get a little bit hectic, but overall The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is a solid addition to the franchise and is Falcom continue to build on this for Cold Steel III, I for one will be pretty pumped for its release.

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Find out more!

Mega Retron HD from Hyperkin - Unboxing and Mini-Review!

Anyone curious about Hyperkin's Mega Retron HD console may want to check out this vid, join Tom as he unboxes and tries out the console for himself.

The Mega Retron HD is the latest in Hyperkin's range of HD 'Clone' systems that endeavour to produce the same gameplay experience as you remember from the original console through the use of original cartridges and clone hardware but out-putting to HD as well as composite.

Supa Retron HD from Hyperkin - Unboxing and Mini-Review!

Anyone curious about Hyperkin's Supa Retron HD console may want to check out this vid, join Tom as he unboxes and tries out the console for himself.

The Supa Retron HD is one of many Super Nintendo 'Clone' systems that endeavour to produce the same gameplay experience as you remember from the original console through using original cartridges and clone hardware.

The Supa Retron HD even outputs in HD so your old games can look as good as possible on your fancy new HD screens, as the name suggests ;)

BETWEEN THE STARS - Prologue Demo - STEAM REVIEW (PC)

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A REVIEW BY IAN CHANDLER

Between the Stars is a Kickstarter game which has just received full funding and is due for release in Q1 2019 by Isolated Games. They have released a long playable demo called Prologue which is what I'll be reviewing here. BTS is a single player spaceship action game with management elements and is the latest in a long line of games of this type, going way back to Elite in the 8-bit era.

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You play a starship captain of the Interstellar Republic as you hop about the galaxy in a variety ships, shooting space pirates, managing your crew and carrying out various missions along the way. The graphics are pretty but being as it's space there's often not a lot to look at. The music is well done too and I didn't notice it repeating even though it did. Voice work on the whole is good and the ships handle pretty well. There's no controller support (at least on this demo) but it doesn't take long to get used to the basics.

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The missions follow the basic routine of flying where you need to go, maybe shooting a few enemy ships, then docking at your objective. Once you arrive the game turns into a text adventure, with a dialogue box giving a description, ie "You have entered a large room, do you want to go left or right" and the choices available are listed below. This was a bit strange at first and I wondered if I had flown through a time warp to the 1980s. There's not even any spoken dialogue, it is strictly old school. Once you finish the mini adventure section (which usually only takes a couple of minutes) you are back flying about again.

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The downside to this is there can be long periods of just getting from A to B which although you can use 'turbo' engines to get there a bit quicker, it can drag the pace of the game down a bit.

The space combat is quite fun, and there looks to be a large amount of star systems to explore, upgrades to ships and general Elite-ing about available in the main game when it gets released.

Whilst it is difficult to review an early demo, and of course the main game could be very different, the demo itself is worth downloading if like space-em-ups and have a fancy to relive Level 9-style text adventuring.

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Oh, an important thing to note, you can't save your progress in this demo, so be sure you want to quit when you do!

-Ian

PROS    Lots of gameplay for a demo, good presentation

CONS    Can get repetitive, long periods without action, no Save Game

 

4/5

You can find more out about the game at the official Isolated Games website:

http://www.isolatedgames.com/

Blast Zone! Tournament - Steam Review (PC)

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A REVIEW BY IAN CHANDLER

Do you like Bomberman? Do you like dressing up your in game character in different outfits? Do you like loot boxes? Then you’ll LOVE Blast Zone! Tournament, currently in Early Access on steam, the sequel to Bomb Buddies (unfortunate name?) from Victory Lap Games

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The game starts with bright colourful menus and thumping techno music (though I am old so it could be any one of the millions of thumpy noises them kids listen to these days). Your avatar has the super-deformed big head anime look and has literally billions (10 billion combinations according to the publisher) of outfits, hairstyles etc. so you could spend hours dressing your little bomberperson. Also there are loot boxes you can buy for real money full of outfits and numerous other stuff.

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There are ten game modes such as Free for All, Team Deathmatch, Treasure Mode (coins are sometimes released when bombs go off) and Zombie Mode, which turns any dead players into zombies who can walk through blasts and infect other players. Lots of Power-Ups are available to increase Speed and Bomb Range, as well as Ultimates which offer other abilities like being able to throw or kick bombs across the screen.

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The one player mode has 240 levels divided into 7 zones like Jungle, Pirate Ship and a Disco dance floor. The multiplayer options cover 283 levels across the 7 zones and allows up to 32 online players at the same time. Victory are targetting this as an esport, and like other esports games the PC requirements are minimal, listing only a Pentium with 512Mb graphics needed to run it (though I wonder how well such a machine will handle 32 players  on screen at once) and I had no issues running it at a good speed with my somewhat-overkill Ryzen 7 and GTX1080.

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So, aside from loot boxes, costumes and hundreds of levels, how does it actually PLAY?

Very well in fact, super smooth with bright colourful graphics and a good learning curve so even someone not good at Bomberman in the past can get a good game in. The one player game has a good variety of challenges and is a good way to train you for the multiplayer, which is where the long term fun is to be had. Having a screen full of characters and bombs going off in all directions really is a lot of fun with friends, and the deep customisation and many game modes really reward extended play. It’s not cheap at £15.49, but there is a lot there if you enjoy Bomberman and multiplayer gaming in general.

So, if you liked Bomberman you’ll love it, if you didn’t this won’t change your mind.

- Ian

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Blast Zone! Tournament was provided for an unbiased review, all views expressed are those of BlastProcess.com

You can find more out about the game at the Victory Lap website:

https://victorylapgames.com/

BROTHERS Board Game Review

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'Brothers' is a board game created by Christophe Boelinger with art by Xavier Houssin. It's an abstract strategy type game, featuring a Modular Board with a Tile Placement game mechanic. It's easy to set-up and learn and would be suitable for kids and adults alike.

GAME DESCRIPTION: You and your brother are peaceful farmers... Or at least you were! Your herds are getting too big for the pasture. Outsmart your brother by placing your enclosures so he can’t correctly place his and show him that you’re the one with a head for cattle in the family.

Blast Process were lucky enough to be sent a copy for review but before we get into playing the game it must be unboxed first! So lets lift the lid on 'Brothers' and see what's inside shall we!?

Brothers is a small but perfectly formed package that's built from quality materials and makes for a simple, fun unboxing experience. But, how does the game play? Is it any fun? How easy is it to learn? We answer all those questions in the video below!

As you can probably tell, we enjoyed the game a lot, it was simple to set up, easy to learn but delivered a strategic and fun experience. The Blast Process Team are happy to report that we give 'Brothers' a massive thumbs up!

- Tom

You can find out more about the game here: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2...

Also head on over to the Ankama website for more great games: https://www.ankama.com/en

#KILLALLZOMBIES - Steam Review (PC)

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A REVIEW BY IAN CHANDLER

#killallzombies by Beatshapers is a twin stick shooter that retails for the not-unreasonable £3.99 on Steam, and is also available for PS4, X-Box One, and even the much-neglected PS Vita. The Steam version was the one tested here.

The action takes place on a three-quarters overhead view arena with a hexagonal floor which you can scroll about a screen-width in all directions, and plays like a modern-day version of that 90’s arcade classic Smash TV. (showing my age again here….)

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There are 3 Game Modes. Survival which is to kill as many as you as can before they get you, Vault Defence which gives you a base to defend, and Co-Operative which means 2 players can play on the same screen, although you share the one health bar. Hmmm….

Common to all modes, the game eases you in with a simple handgun and a few undead to run around and shoot. If you get very close you can do melee kills but be careful as your energy bar can go down very quickly if you linger amongst the rotting hordes…

After a certain number of undead are killed, you get to select a power up from a selection of 4, which change randomly each time. There are over a hundred of these, certainly too many to list here, but include poison shots, extra time, improved melee damage or smart bomb equivalents that just kill everything. You also get power ups like Health or other weapons that appear randomly on the screen.

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Later levels introduce turrets of spinning spiked poles, vehicles dropping from the sky (the floor flashes red briefly before they appear) falling meteors and even flying saucers.

One of the big selling points Beatshapers are touting is its Twitch streaming interactivity, which enables spectators to issue voice commands which affect the gameplay, by changing player’s stats, spawning more or less zombies or even flip the screen to a different perspective. There is a cool down timer though so at least you can’t be spammed.

I will confess to not testing these features, as there seemed to be a lot of issues getting the stream to work properly. This may well have been due to my connection and you may have more luck.

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The minimum specs for this are low so you could pretty much run it on a potato, but even though I am running it on a Ryzen 7 and GTX1080, there was slowdown when a lot of zombies were on screen at once on later levels which seemed odd. I did all the relevant checks and even re-installed the game but there were still these occasional issues which was unfortunate.

And that is basically it. Run around, shoot, repeat. This is definitely a far better 2 player experience, as both you can run about laughing and killing zombies in a variety of gruesome ways, whilst trying not to blow each up. As a Single player game the shallowness of the gameplay is revealed, and means it’s best played in small doses.

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Taken in that way, there’s fun to be had here, even though the occasional glitches and overall lack of polish knock a few points off. Still, for less than the price of a Big Mac meal you get a fun little shooter that fans of the genre will enjoy.

- Ian

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To learn more about the game, head over to the Beatshapers website:

http://www.beatshapers.com/zombies/

#KILLALLZOMBIES was provided by Beatshapers for an unbiased review, all views expressed are those of BlastProcess.com.

Creepy Road - Steam Review (PC)

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A REVIEW BY IAN CHANDLER

Creepy Road from Groovy Milk and Grab Games is the latest Metal Slug-a-like on Steam for £9.99. The soundtrack is also available for £1.27.

The story goes that grizzled trucker Flint Trucker is on his way home when a crazed circus bear runs out in front of him, causing his truck to crash. The only way for Flint to get home is to walk through the woods, gunning down all in sight, whilst trying to work out what’s driving every creature he meets homicidal.

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The art style Is really nice, with excellent use of colour, and the soundtrack compliments what’s going on very well. There are a few repetitive speech samples which play throughout but you generally end up ignoring these after a while.

The game starts you off with a revolver, which is fine for the smaller enemies like homicidal rabbits and pigs carrying hams, but as you progress you grab better weapons to help take out larger enemies -a favourite being a gun that turns enemies into poop- as well as grenades and molotov cocktails. I found myself mainly using the shotgun as it had the best balance of speed of fire and stopping power, with most enemies taking 2 shots to kill. You can shoot in either direction or straight up, but there is no diagonal fire which was a pain.

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As for the enemies, you’ll be up against bears on unicycles, floating pandas, birds that drop swordfish on you and rednecks with shotguns and flaming torches. And this is the first couple of stages! Whilst the variety of enemies increases as you move through the game, the variety in the game itself doesn’t. You’re basically walking right to left shooting whatever is in front of you. The scenery may change, but the action doesn’t. There was a Boss fight at the end of the third stage, and later in the game there is a flying section which sees you riding a missile, but it’s basically pretty repetitive. There is a life meter for Flint, checkpoints as you go through the game and infinite lives so how far you get will really depend on your patience and how much work you want to put in.

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As one of the loading screens suggests, I played with an Xbox 1 controller, and in later stages of the game I found serious glitches where the game would suddenly have Flint walking in one direction I wasn’t pointing in and firing when I hadn’t pressed a button. This lead to at least one death where it sent Flint straight into a landmine which was frustrating to say the least! I checked everything and the controller was functioning perfectly, so I can only assume this is an in-game glitch which will hopefully be patched, because as it stands, it’s quite game breaking.

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So, what we have here is a gorgeous looking side scrolling shooter that looks like it’s escaped from the App Store, with fairly repetitive gameplay and some serious control issues. Worth a look? Well if you like Metal Slug and want to take a chance on the control issues being ok for you then sure, but perhaps wait for a Steam sale, as at the moment it’s really only fun in quick bursts and when it behaves itself!

- Ian

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To learn more about the game, head over to GroovyMilk's website below:

http://groovymilk.com/

Creepy Road was provided by GroovyMilk for an unbiased review, all views expressed are those of BlastProcess.com.

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 

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

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!

Villains Of The Week #1

Due to the exciting news about the potential film "Murder House", (our favourite horror stars resurrected and being studied for their murderous traits) I'm in the mood to delve into our very own favourite baddies of the video game world.

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 Robotnik

 

As Sonic has soared through the decades with regular game and TV reboots, one thing is for sure, he isn't going anywhere soon. And where Sonic treads, his arch nemesis Robotnik is never far behind (there are a few other Sonic villains but Robotnik is king here.) He has certainly changed with the times, most recently with extra long legs to match Sonic - I am still not a fan of that - but his top heavy wobbling form with his outrageous moustache is one of the most recognisable. He chooses sidekicks even worse than himself, I'm sure he may have caught Sonic at least once properly by now if he'd done the legwork himself, but what can I say? He is a very lazy, pompous villain.  Mad and most definitely bad, Robotnik has been villainous since the 80's, terrorising Sonic and the gang every step of the way. His attempts at humour fall flat, and I love him because of that, with his bumbling form looking ridiculous but bizarrely matching his warped sense of reality. An old school bad guy who always falls guilty of talking too much, resulting in Sonic escaping certain death more than once because of his need to explain himself. He may not be successful but you can't say he isn't stubborn (even if he is easy to beat) and game after he game he resurfaces to try all over again.Yes he loves a tantrum and yes he fails at almost every turn - but I can't help it, he's almost lovable.

He might be a villain - but his failures make us remember him fondly, and I can't see him dissapearing any time soon.

 

Dave says "Some villains simply don't stand the test of time. They may, for a while, prove to be worthwhile adversaries but eventually grow tiresome.bNot so with Sonic's main arch nemesis, the infamous Dr Robotnik! (Or Eggman as he is now being known as). Creator of the badniks, various traps and owner of a flying...egg shaped platform that gains various upgrades just in time to challenge Sonic to boss fights, his looks and personality makes him one of my all time love to hate villains! SEGA keep trying to broaden the Sonic titles by throwing him into various scenarios, but his classic battles against the Doctor prove that sometimes the original baddies are best.
He'll get you eventually, you spikey rodent!"

Over and out! 

Mel