Tag Archives: Arcade

Cuphead (PC & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Studio MDHR

Publisher(s) – Studio MDHR

Director(s) – Chad & Jared Moldenhauer

Producer(s) – Maria & Ryan Moldenhauer

One of the most highly anticipated games of 2017, following it’s initial showcasing at E3 four year prior, Cuphead is a traditional side scrolling run and gun game with an eye-catching and unique conceptual design and gameplay that is as challenging as it is satisfying. I first sampled this game at Play Manchester 2017 shortly after it’s release, and realized thought while it is indeed very challenging, it’s also a great deal of fun, and one of the better indie experiences of last year.

Graphics – 10/10

The game adopts the visuals style of the golden age of American animation of the early 1900s, having been influenced by classic cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop among many others. The games visual style was the most noteworthy aspect of it when it was first showcased, and arguably still is. Although the game’s play style is extremely enjoyable beyond it’s visuals, I believe it’s still the game’s finest point. Though plenty of games based on cartoon animation have since come and gone, few games have ever looked as compelling as Cuphead does.

Gameplay – 8/10

As stated, the game revolves around players running and gunning through a selection of side scrolling levels, but the most prevalent feature in the gameplay is the numerous boss fights throughout, which for the most part, are extremely well handled, and come with a fair amount of challenge to match. I had an extremely difficult time trying to pick a favourite boss fight in Cuphead because each one of them is memorable in it’s own right. But in the end, I decided to pick out Grim Matchstick as being my favourite, as for me, it provided the best blend of both challenge and individual conceptual design. Other outstanding boss fights in this in my opinion included Dr. Kahl’s Robot, Djimmi the Great, Ribby & Croaks and Cali Maria.

Controls – 10/10

With every intentionally difficult game I review, I always look at the controls with a greater sense of importance than other games, because control schemes in these kinds of games in my personal opinion are largely hit and miss, and can greatly affect the sense of challenge the game has to offer. For example, the original Mega Man was intentionally difficult, and as most players who have played it will testify, it is a particularly challenging game. But I personally found there to be some issues with the controls; especially in Guts Man’s stage where there is precision platforming required. Thankfully, however, Cuphead does not have these issues. If mistakes are made, it will be down to the player’s individual skill, which is the way it should be.

Lifespan – 6/10

The biggest gripe I have with the game is in its lifespan. The game, dependent on player skill of course, can take there around 6 hours to complete to 100%, which for the amount of time it took to finish, seemed somewhat uneven to me personally. I can’t deduct too many points from it in this aspect, however, for two reasons. It lasts longer than most classic games of it’s kind, and the development time was clearly put into getting every other aspect of the game right. It would have been nice to have a few more side scrolling levels added to balance out the amount of boss fights, but nevertheless, it’s a somewhat reasonably long game, and for the time players will spend playing it, they will thoroughly enjoy it for what it is.

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story follows the titular character Cuphead and is friend Mugman, who against the advice of their master, The Elder Kettle, wander off far from their home, and come across a casino. They find themselves on a winning streak at the craps table when they are suddenly interrupted by the Devil, who raises the stakes. If they win one more roll, the pair will get all the loot in his casino. But if they lose, they must forfeit their souls. Cuphead agreed, but rolls a snake eyes, and after pleading for their lives, the Devil makes Cuphead and Mugman a deal; if the pair can claim the souls of numerous runaway debtors for the Devil, he may consider pardoning them. The game’s story is simple in structure, but fairly unique in concept at the same time. It even has multiple endings, given the player’s choice. It’s the story, as well as it’s visual design, that make it clear that this game was quite simply a labour of love.

Originality – 8/10

The Moldenhauers created this game based on their own experiences of watching classics Disney and Fleischer cartoons in their youth, and in Chad Moldenhauer’s own words, sought to mimic the more subversive and surrealist elements of the classic cartoonists of the day. And subversive and surreal are some of the best words that I can possibly use to describe this game. It was enough to raise a great deal of eyebrows at E3 2014 with it’s own unique conceptual design, and it has since impressed a great deal of gamers since it’s release, including me.

Overall, Cuphead is a visually stunning and delightfully challenging game with a lot to offer both veteran gamers with an appreciation for their routes, and for newer generation gamers, who may be curious about experiencing some of the beginnings of video game design. Though it took an unusually long time to be released following it’s initial showcasing, it turned out to be more than worth the wait, and it comes highly recommended from me.

Score

49.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Huey Games

Following on from Play Manchester 2016, one game that has continued to impress gaming audiences since I first laid eyes on it is Hyper Sentinel; an arcade shoot ‘em up inspired by 2nd and 3rd generation classics such as Defender, Cybernoid and Uridium. Showcased at many expos, and being the subject of a recently successful Kickstarter campaign, the popularity of the game has been on the rise, and is set for full release later on this year on multiple platforms. Curious to find out more, I’ve conducted a Q&A with the game’s creative director and CEO of Huey Games, Robert Hewson, and the game’s principal developer, founder of Four5Six Pixel Jonathan Port. Here’s what they had to say about Hyper Sentinel:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

Jon: The most obvious visual influence is to Uridium, the twist and flip manouevre has never really been used since, so I thought it would be fun to have that in. In terms of gameplay, major influences are Defender for its frantic action and speed, Tornado Low Level (ZX Spectrum) which you could sweep back the plane wings to speed boost. I loved Cybernoid and its dramatic explosions, so there is definitely some influence there.  More recently Resogun, I like the way the enemies surround and suffocate you if you don’t keep on top.

What has the developmental process been like?

Jon: Development has gone very smoothly. I’ll often implement some features and then let Huey Games take a look. We’ll then go through a short iterative design cycle until the feature feels right. Using this process, some features make it in, and some get left out. It’s about making a game that feels consistent throughout.  To get such close design feedback from a publisher, but still have the freedom to create your own game has been an absolute pleasure.

Rob: It has been a genuine pleasure to work with Jon on the iterative process of enhancing and polishing the game. We seem to be on the same wavelength the whole time, I don’t think we’ve disagreed on any of the feedback we’ve given and it is always a delight to get a new build and see all the little touches Jon has added.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Rob: We are on track for an early summer release now that the Kickstarter has passed its funding goal. Of course, there is still a week left on the campaign so we are hoping to hit a few more stretch goals too! You can check out the campaign at www.hypersentinel.com.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Rob: I think there was a moment after we’d been through a few rounds of iterative improvement when the boost and the dodge abilities came together, and the compelling loop of the gameplay was suddenly brought to life. After that, tweaking the way the enemies behave, the way the power-ups spawn and all those little details so that they work elegantly with those core mechanics, that is when we began to realise we’d found the fun, which is always the best moment!

 

Jon: Seeing people play your game at an expo and come away thrilled to have played it. When you are so close to the development of a game you never really know until you stand away and just let people play it on their own. It’s a scary moment as you take your game to its first public showing, but to see people really enjoying your own game is a special moment.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Jon: Hyper Sentinel was originally developed on an Apple centric platform. In order to get the game out to a wider audience we needed to move the code base to an engine that could target multiple platforms. The move to the Unity engine was the greatest technical undertaking. Most of the code has been re-written entirely from scratch to get the best out of that environment. We could have gone down the route of a quick code port, but we decided early on that we should do this right to make the best game possible.

Has your father Andrew had any input into the game?

Rob: Not so much. He attended the first meeting with Jon and could instantly see the potential of the game, but he is taking more of a back seat these days. His wealth of experience is there to tap into when we need it, but that is mostly on the business side.

What impact has your father had on your career as a developer in general?

Rob: I don’t think he really pushed me to pursue a career in the games industry, if anything he was a sobering influence because he knew first hand just how difficult it could be. However, there is no doubt that being surrounded by games from an early age – climbing through the shelves in the Hewson warehouse, attending trade shows, collecting posters and stickers – it clearly left its mark. I remember drawing the Hewson logo and dreaming up game ideas with my friends, so I caught the bug early. By the time I actually got into the industry dad had already left, and although I probably talked to him about it on occasion he considered it a closed chapter in his life. Until I convinced him to write his book, that is.

How well has the game been received so far?

Rob: It has been exceptional. Everybody who plays the game seems to enjoy and appreciate it. One of the most exciting things to see is that it is not just older retro gaming fans who love it, we had loads of kids coming back time and again to play it at the shows we have attended, which is a pleasure to witness.

Jon: The greatest thrill is to see people genuinely excited to play the game. Hyper Sentinel is a hi-score game at its heart, and its great to see people putting in so much time to stay on top of the score leaderboard! 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Rob: So far we can confirm Steam, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android and Amazon platforms. Hopefully we can add even more to the list soon.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Rob: Figure out what the hook is for your game, the thing which makes it stand out from the crowd, and polish, polish, polish. Once you’ve finished polishing, polish some more. When you think you can’t polish any further, get some feedback, realise you were wrong and carry on polishing.

Jon: Did Rob say polish? If there is one thing I have learnt from Huey Games it is that a great game doesn’t happen instantly, it’s a process of building over and over from a simple core concept. For aspiring indie developers the most important thing is to finish your game, and that takes an awful lot of hard work and time. If you know you have a great game, just keep going until you get it into people’s hands. 

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Rob: The game has its own website at www.hypersentinel.com (which currently goes directly to the Kickstarter while the campaign is live) and you can visit our company page at www.hueygames.com

Do you have anything else to add?

Rob: Thank you for having us and a massive thank you to everybody who has supported us along the way!

 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both Robert and Jonathan for agreeing to our Q&A session to say congratulations on the successful Kickstarter campaign Hyper Sentinel has had, and to wish them best luck with the game upon release. From what I played at Manchester, Hyper Sentinel seems like a particularly enthralling game, a compelling homage to the 80s classics the developers drew inspiration from, and I can’t wait to play the finished article.

Play Manchester 2016

The beginning of October marked the fifth year of the Play Manchester gaming expo held at Event City venue. With it’s usual and varied blend of retro gaming cabinets, upcoming indie titles on display, and a wider array of new upcoming mainstream releases than last year’s proceedings, Play Manchester 2016 was even more exciting and diverse than in 2015, and just are star-studded in addition with a special panel present that I shall be covering further in the article. First, I perused the various indie games that were on show at the event, and I was impressed with the amount of range of different gameplay ideas and conceptual designs that the new up and coming developers had to showcase.

Snake Pass

snake-pass

The first indie game I came across was a 3D platformer unlike any other. Developed by Sumo Digital, Snake Pass is a game in which the player controls a snake in order to slither around a series of levels and hunting collectible items throughout. Players must learn to take full advantage of the game’s insanely unique control mechanics to reach high places, overcome imposing obstacles and puzzles, and leave no stone unturned, as there are plenty of items to collect through each level, it seemed. What impressed me most about this game, in addition to it’s impressive-looking visuals, was the game’s style of play. With a completely different take on getting around levels and uncovering secrets, it plays out like no other 3D platformer I’ve ever come across. The developer also explained to me various ways that players could choose to play the game, ranging from emphasis on speed, elegance or thoroughness. I personally believe if the developers plan to integrate this idea into the game further, it would most probably add even more replayability to it, but in the state that it was in at the time, it still impressed me very much.

http://www.sumo-digital.com/snakepass/#

@SumoDigitalLtd

Dragon Bros

dragon-bros

Having discovered a greater fondness for side scrolling shooters since I first started blogging, having played more games like Contra and Metal Slug, I was also particularly amazed by another indie game made largely in the same vein, but with a very interesting twist on conceptual design. Dragon Bros, developed by the aptly named Space Lizard Studios, the game is insanely action-packed, filled with breathtaking pixel art and seemed a lot more accessible than the like of Contra; especially the first three games in the series. For me, Dragon Bros was my pick for the best indie title on display at this year’s proceedings; it was the most fun and addictive game, as well as the most interesting in terms of conceptual design. Though comparisons can be drawn between it and Bubble Bobble, since the main characters are two dragons coloured both green and blue, it takes place in a much different kind of world reminiscent of science fiction rather than the cutesy fantasy settings of the former.

http://spacelizardstudio.com/work/dragon-bros/

@SpaceLizardSt

Mao Mao Castle

img_0475

Another game on display I become insanely addicted to, and have been playing frequently ever since the show, is Mao Mao Castle. Created by Asobi Tech, the game is an on-rail free-to-play browser game requiring the player to take advantage of various different mechanics to rack up as many points as possible to attain the highest score possible. The story centres around a cat with supernatural abilities trying to find a way home to a levitating castle in the skies. Reminiscent of the 8-BIT era, it takes influence in terms of conceptual design largely from the varied works of Studio Ghibli; made even more obvious by the fact that the developers had a plushy of the Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro perched on top of the projector used to display the game. Usually the game is controlled using a PC mouse, but the version on display at the show used motion controls, and plushies were up for grabs for anyone who could rack up exceptionally high scores. I managed to win one of the three available plushies, and have been racking up higher scores ever since. I highly recommend this game, as it excels in gameplay above even many mainstream releases, as well as it stands out amongst indie games. The link to play is below:

http://aso.bi/maomao/

Unbox

unbox

Another 3D platformer with a difference came in form of Unbox developed by Prospect Games. The player must customize and control their own box-shaped character, and have a wide range of different gameplay modes to choose from, include four-way multiplayer competitive modes, challenge modes, an adventure mode, and even a kart-racing mode; all of which can played to unlock new outfits for their box character, and to attain a wide range of collectibles like in Snake Pass, or most 3D platformers meeting industry standards. Just as unique as the former, it provides an extremely different take on the genre compared to games such as Super Mario 64, Jak & Daxter and Banjo-Kazooie, but also coming with possibly an even greater amount of variety in gameplay and potentially more replayability. Though it may not be as revolutionary as any of the aforementioned titles were at the time of their respective releases, it’s certainly an evolutionary title, and did stand out os one of the better games on display at the event.

http://www.unboxgame.com/

@ProspectGames

Sub Level Zero

sub-level-zero

Another one of my favourite games on display at this year’s Play Manchester was Sub Level Zero; a lovingly crafted Roguelike shooter reminiscent of the classic game Descent developed some of it’s devout fans at Sigtrap Games. Procedurally generated, and with a map system heavily influenced by the Metroid Prime series, which I found to be particularly impressive, as well as surprisingly easy to interface with, Sub Level Zero also has a heavy influence on player character development, with upgrades for grabs, as well as a wide variety of different weapons to use during combat. In lieu of Roguelike tradition, it also offers a fair bit of legitimate challenge, like the likes of Rogue Legacy and Ziggurat. One of many games in display taking advantage of Virtual Reality Headset technology, this game also did extremely well to further alleviate what scepticisms I previously had with the idea back when I first tried the Oculus Rift last year at Play Blackpool. I found that it was a great deal of fun with the addition of VR technology, and made me believe to a greater extent that the concept will be able take off in time.

http://www.sigtrapgames.com/sublevelzero/

@SIGTRAPgames

Hyper Sentinel

hyper-sentinel

The last indie title I tried out was another space-based shooter reminiscent of the arcade classic Defender. Hyper Sentinel, developed by Ian Hewson, son of industry legend Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants who appeared on a panel at last year’s Play Blackpool show, it centres on not only shooting down various enemies that appear on-screen, but also collecting power-ups and defeating a boss at each level; normally in the form of a giant spaceship, somewhat reminiscent of Bosconian. Though it may not have been the most unique title on display at the event, with it’s influences blatantly obvious, it does o well to stand out from the game of it’s inspiration in terms of conceptual design, and was also quite fun to play too. It certainly presents as much of a challenge as the arcade classic, and is a must-try for any fan of the arcade era.

http://www.hypersentinel.com/

@HewsonJoystick

Tekken 7: First Impressions

tekken-7

One of many different upcoming AAA titles that were available to try out at Play Manchester this year was Tekken 7. After being sorely disappointed by the previous game, with it’s less than impressive conceptual design, many characters coming across as far too generic, and it’s almost impossible difficulty level at times, I was quite relieved to see how much the seventh game improved on the sixth in every aspect. I was also impressed to see how fluently it plays out in comparison to even the original trilogy of Tekken games, with moves being much easier and less frustrating to pull off. Also, like what Capcom have done with the advent of Street Fighter V, and what NetherRealm studios did with Mortal Kombat X, the developers have seemed to branch out conceptually in terms of character design, but in a way that still makes the game feel like it belongs to the series without them being too generic in design. Akuma from Street Fighter is also a welcome addition following relatively recent crossovers between the two series’. It also makes me excited for what additional characters Capcom may decide to add for when they will inevitably update Street Fighter V.

WWE 2K17: First Impressions

wwe-2k17

The main attraction on show in terms of AAA releases however, as officially announced by Paul Heyman of the WWE, was WWE 2K17. Boasting new wrestlers, a new submission system and the inclusion of Goldberg on pre-order, it marks the fourth WWE released since the publishing rights were acquired by 2K Games, and features all the usual gameplay modes synonymous with WWE games, such as the Triple Threat match, Fatal 4 Way, Royal Rumble and of course, the career mode; as well as the facility to create wrestlers. It is without a doubt the best looking WWE game ever developed, but in terms of gameplay, it did take me a little bit of getting used to; especially since I haven’t played a WWE game since the sixth generation, about the time when I grew out of it as a kid. Regardless, especially after getting used to the submission system, and being able to thoroughly enjoy the game for what it is, I was pretty satisfied with how the newer developers have managed gameplay in comparison to classic WWE games like War Zone, Attitude and Wrestlemania 2000. Though the Attitude era remains my favourite time of the company’s history, it was good to see how the WWE video game formula has been worked upon and handled in a way that works extremely well after so long.

The Tomb Raider Panel

img_0447

In terms of guest speakers, however, the main attraction was the assembly of and talk with many of the developers of the original Tomb Raider from Core Design to commemorate the franchise’s 20-year anniversary; many of the panel not having seen each other in as many years. The panel consisted of Jeremy Heath-Smith, the game’s executive producer and co-founder of Core Design, Natalie Cook, who was the original character model for Lara Croft, Richard Morton, who was the lead game, level and environment designer for every game up to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Gavin Rummery, who was the lead programmer for Angel of Darkness, Heather Gibson, another level designer for the first two games, Andy Sandham, who designed levels and wrote the scripts for the third game, as well as The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: Chronicles, Murti Schofield, who wrote the story of Angel of Darkness, Nathan McCree, who composed the original soundtrack for the first two games, and finally Stuart Atkinson, who worked as an artist on the second game. The panel were also to be joined by former Eidos Interactive CEO and industry legend Ian Livingstone, but he unfortunately had to pull out due to ill health. Regardless, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Mr. Livingstone a full recovery.

The panel proceeded to provide an in-depth analysis of how and why Lara Croft was designed the way she was, and how the games themselves were designed the way they were and in what manner, and how both Lara Croft and Tomb Raider gradually went from a unique video gaming idea into a cultural phenomenon, and how it has managed to have such a profound effect on the industry as it has. Questioned were also raised by the audience concerning the reboot of the Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics, and also about the degree of influence Naughty Dog took from Tomb Raider to develop their own Uncharted series. The team responded quite sternly in their answer to the Uncharted question in particular, commenting how many of the various gameplay features were heavily inspired by Tomb Raider, and the long-time Tomb Raider fans in the audience responded fittingly with an astonishing round of applause. Though I may personally prefer Uncharted to Tomb Raider, mostly due to the better start that Uncharted had in terms of controls, credit is due where it is due, and the team deserve props for helping to pioneer one of the most memorable video game series of all time, and so there response was justified in my opinion. Uncharted may have homed the great gameplay concept, but Tomb Raider established it, and has contributed a great deal to the popularity that gaming garnishes today. Especially with the recent release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PlayStation 4, the talk with the panel was an appropriate reflection on where Tomb Raider has gone, where it is going now, and where it could go in the future. It was extremely exciting to sit in on an extremely insightful presentation, and the made 2016’s Play Expo proceedings all the better for it.

Overall, Play Manchester 2016 was a thrilling experience, and would like to take the opportunity to thank the organisers at Replay Events for the making it the best event it could possibly be, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them next year.

 

Pierhead Arcade: First Impressions

pierhead-arcade

As a bonus, before I headed out to Manchester, Mechabit Games, a Liverpool-based developer, also invited me to try out the latest game they have been working on. Mechabit, who developed the RTS game Kaiju Panic, which was on display at Play Manchester 2015, and won my personal choice for best indie game of that year (shameless plug is shameless), have been working on a virtual reality game called Pierhead Arcade; a collection of interactive fairground games based in a virtual reality amusement arcade. After only having limited experience with VR gaming beforehand, I saw as an excellent opportunity to finally get hands on with the technology involved, so to speak. I wasn’t disappointed.

As I outlined in my Play Blackpool 2015 article, ever since I first heard about plans from of the industry incorporating virtual reality into gaming, I had a great deal of scepticism following the ill-fated release of such platforms as the Nintendo Virtual Boy, and early examples of motion controls before the Wii, such as the Nintendo Power Glove. Since first trying it, and going on to briefly trying it again at different expos, my scepticisms were gradually becoming all the lesser, as I slowly learned to understand how it could work if problems I would encounter would be fixed, such as blurry screens etc, and if there was adequate developer support for these platforms. But now after having seen games such as Battle Zone, and then having seen how much indie developers are beginning to support the platform along with mainstream developers, I now believe this may very well could be a future of gaming that could establish itself as here to stay; provided that developer support will continue, as what is looking increasingly likely, since the technology was on display at other major gaming expos this year, such as E3, Gamescom and EGX.

Pierhead Arcade itself not only takes advantage of this potentially successful technology, but presents players with an astonishing amount of variety, with games like Whack-A-Mole, Shuffleboard, Binary Dash and Skeeball to name but a few. The objective is to earn as many tickets as possible that can be cashed in for prizes, much like in most amusement arcades. There are also a couple of extras in the game, such as a claw machine, and a reception desk with various toys that can be played with, such as building blocks. Overall, the variety is staggering, and the game will make for hours of fun. I may do a full review of this game in the future, I would recommend that VR gamers try it out. Following up Kaiju Panic was always going to be a challenge for Mechabit in my opinion, but with this title, I’d say they’ve done a particularly good job of doing so.

In summation, I would like to again thank the organisers at Replay Events for providing me, as well as countless gamers across the country, with truly memorable experiences at the various Play Expo events this year, and I hope that you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

X-Type+ (Wii U)

Developer(s) – PhobosLab

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Starting out as a simple browser game developed by the proprietors of the site PhobosLab.com, I was at first surprised to find a game like X-Type+ appear on the Wii U Virtual Console. But after playing it, and seeing just how addictive it can become, I found myself increasingly less surprised by it’s inclusion. After all, Nintendo know a good game when they see one.

Graphics – 5/10

One of the less strong points of this game however, despite its addictiveness, is the fact that the visuals are almost non-existent. Even though this is an arcade game at its core, there have been many games release like it that have implemented much more breathtaking and interesting visuals than this. Essentially, all it encompasses is a blank background, and ship after ship that looks exactly the same. Though it may have started out as a browser game, I think even under those circumstances better visuals could have been implemented.

Gameplay – 10/10

The objective of X-Type+ is simple; destroy each ship that appears on screen, and rack up the highest score possible; all the while dodging bullet after bullet and rocket after rocket thrown at you. Like such games as Galaga and Gradius, it is incredibly addictive, and will compel players to play again and again in order to simply improve their high score and post it on either the website or the Wii U score board.

Controls – 10/10

The best way to play this game is to use a third-party Wii U controller. I found that with either the GamePad, or on the original website, the control scheme is not so easy to cope with, and poses a number of problems. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of using a keyboard to control PC games that aren’t simulators, and the GamePad also poses the same problem of the hands cramping up that I’d previously experienced whilst playing through Hyrule Warriors.

Originality – 4/10

The worst thing about this game, however, is how little it stands out compared to the likes of Galaga and Gradius. As I said, the visuals are almost non-existent, and do little to differentiate this game from other of its kind, and unlike many other recent games released within this particular genre, such as Titan Attacks, there are no new elements introduced, such as upgrades or experience points etc.

Happii

Happii

Otherwise, however X-Type+ is an extremely addictive game, and certainly one of the most interesting indie experiences available on the Wii U. Despite it’s flaws, it makes me wonder why Nintendo don’t keep a closer eye out for other indie developers to work with, as opposed to relying primarily on their own IPs to get by.

Score

29/40

7/10 (Fair)

Wreckateer (Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Iron Galaxy Studios

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Studios

Released back in 2012, Wreckateer was one of the few games released exclusively for use with the Xbox 360’s ill-fated Kinect motion sensor peripheral. Providing a fairly unique twist on the premise of Angry Birds, I happen to think it as being better, though not without its flaws.

Graphics – 5/10

Conceptually, the game perpetuates the medieval fantasy archetype, and there’s nothing present to make it stand out visually to any great extent. On a technical level, the graphics are just below the standard of what players would have been useful for the time, which was surprising to me, since Microsoft Studios published the game, and around that time, there was more effort focused on Kinect games than there ever has been since, with the release of games such as Fable: The Journey, and more Xbox 360 games than ever being given some form of compatibility with the sensor; including Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim.

Gameplay – 7/10

The concept of the game is to try and steer cannonballs into castles using the Kinect sensor, and try to decimate each castle in each level as much as possible. There are several different types of cannonball to use, and several different challenges throughout the game. The different types of weapons make for an amount of variety on par with Angry Birds, but in my opinion, it’s a lot more enjoyable, as well as more challenging and rewarding.

Controls – 10/10

In many games to use the Kinect, I’ve had quite a few issues regarding how it works and how difficult it can be to cope with at times, and has since made me extremely sceptical of it; especially against the Wii, which most likely compelled the creation of both the Kinect and PlayStation Move. But Wreckateer is so far the only game I’ve played that makes adequate use of the Kinect and poses no complications in the process.

Originality – 6/10

Although this game was heavily based on an already existing concept made popular by Angry Birds, Wreckateer took it into the realm of 3D, and made a fairly good job of it, whilst also taking advantage of an unconventional control scheme, which is even impressive. So whilst there isn’t a great deal of uniqueness in terms of visual design, there is indeed a fair bit in terms of both gameplay and controls.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Wreckateer is a fairly decent title, and in my opinion, one of which in 2012 that unfortunately, and unfairly fell through the cracks along with the likes of Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja. It may not be the first game to play out the way it pays out, but in my opinion, it’s so far the best.

Score

28/40

7/10 (Fair)

Ultratron (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Xbox One & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Puppy Games

Publisher(s) – Curve Digital

Released on the back of the success of three other arcade-style games, Revenge of the Titans, Droid Assault and Titan Attacks, Ultratron was released earlier this year to much positive critical acclaim, and being ported to a variety of different systems along the way. As far as I’m concerned, it is the best arcade-style game to have been released this year, exceeding the quality of Titan Attacks, and for that matter, every other game I’ve played published by Curve Digital.

Graphics – 8/10

Although the visual style of the game is largely reminiscent of the other three titles Puppy Games have developed, it also has its own specific charm to it in it’s enemy and boss designs as well as various different stage designs as well. There are also more subtle references and allusions to other games they have worked on within this title, such as the colour palettes of each level, as well as other classic 8-BIT games in addition to what games influenced the gameplay, such as Pac-Man and Berzerk.

Gameplay – 9/10

As well as Ultratron being much more addictive than Titan Attacks, it’s also a lot more legitimately challenging without it being to the point of inaccessibility. The bonus levels and the levels whereby enemies are shooting at the player constantly can seem all the more satisfying if they are either accomplished to 100%, or accomplished without the player taking a single hit. Like Titan Attacks and the other titles Puppy Games have developed, the upgrade system is also once again present to give players all the more to play for with each level and to either modify or refine what tactics they use, and how best to approach their own unique style of play.

Controls – 10/10

Though this kind of game had been developed many times before in the past, and as a result, there would have been no errors expected to have been present with the game’s control scheme, I like the different system of using the right analogue stick to shoot rather than a main button on the pad, just like Insomniac Games did with another very similar video game within Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in time called My Blaster Runs Hot. It just makes things far simpler, but without taking any unnecessary risks, and potentially ruining the control scheme altogether.

Originality – 6/10

Ultratron, as well as the other three titles Puppy Games have developed, can only largely be considered a modification of an existing invention, and therefore, it suffers somewhat in terms of uniqueness. Though it comes as much less obvious in it’s visuals than Titan Attacks, I would like to see Puppy Games come up with their very own cohesive concept for a new arcade-style games as opposed to simply attempting to refine something that has been done many times over the last thirty years. Although it has been refreshing to experience them again, they need something more unique to set them apart a bit better in my opinion.

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In summation, despite it’s moderate lack of originality, Ultratron is certainly one of the better indie gaming experiences released this year, as well as the best game of its ilk to come out in 2015. It’s addictive and fun as well as being able to provide a fair challenging, and any fan of old-school gaming should certainly give it a try.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Titan Attacks (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Puppy Games

Titan Attacks is an arcade shooter extremely similar to Space Invaders, which involves the simple concept of shooting down oncoming waves of aliens and advancing through the many stages of the game. Although it’s a fairly fun game to play, I thought there are many other aspects, which left me wanting. I couldn’t help but compare it to Space Invaders, as at times, I didn’t know if I was playing that or Titan Attacks.

Graphics – 5.5/10

Not only does it play out almost identically to Space Invaders, but it also looks almost identical to Space Invaders. The character sprites are very similar, and in a way, I think the ship the player controls throughout the game is very similar to the one found in the arcade classic too. I thought the most standout and stunning visual aspect of this game was the scenery and the pretty wide variety of colour palettes used throughout each of the five stages. They can positively add to the feeling of nostalgia, but every other visual aspect in the game would suggest to me that there wasn’t a great deal of effort or thought put into the game’s overall visual concept.

Gameplay – 7/10

I’m happy to at least say that this game is a fairly fun one. It’s pretty enjoyable to play, and the most original aspect of this game also happens to be the most satisfying in my opinion. Players have the option to spend in-game currency accumulated in each level on upgrades to the ship, such as improved weapons and shield maintenance. That aspect at least adds something, which didn’t come with the original Space Invaders, and it makes for an overall moderately exciting gaming experience.

Controls – 10/10

As expected, there are no problems with this games control scheme. Just like the best arcade games of the 70’s and 80’s, player progression relies heavily on skill. I’m pleased to see that the developers of this game at least seemingly designed it with that rule firmly in mind.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

It will take less than an hour to progress through each of the game’s five different stages, but once this is complete, it then becomes a survival-endless scenario. Players must follow the simple and age-old video gaming objective of repeating the game at progressively harder difficulties in order to gain the highest score possible. This is the kind of game that can simply be played at player’s leisure without the worry of making in-game progress in the sense that most younger gamers are familiar with nowadays, and there’s nothing wrong with a game like that if it’s done right; and it has been done right in this case.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Again, as with every great arcade game back in the first and second generations of gaming, there is no highly developed story to Titan Attacks, but only a basic premise; to stop an alien invasion. There never needs to be a particularly deep story in an arcade game, as an attempt at which could possibly ruin it, since they’re solely about gameplay.

Originality – 3/10

The only things that make this title unique to Space Invaders are the diversity in setting designs and the ship upgrade facilities; but there’s not much in this game to differentiate it from others past Space Invaders unfortunately. Even adding that small RPG element has been a trope used in some other recent indie arcade games like Dead Nation and Mercenary Kings.

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In summary, although Titan Attacks seems like nothing more than a heavy modification of an existing idea on the surface, it is still fun to play, and it doesn’t lose marks for getting some other aspects right too. Those things for me are enough to even save it from being considered an average game, in my opinion.

Score

45/60

7/10 (Fair)

Tekken 2 (PlayStation & Arcade)

Developer(s) – Namco

Publisher(s) – Namco

Director – Masamichi Abe

Producer – Hajime Nakatani

Making significant improvements over the original game, Tekken 2 was a best-seller in the UK in particular, but is also often regarded by most critics to be one of the greatest fighting games of all time; including me. Back around the time of it’s release, I spent a lot of time playing this game, since not only was there more to do and unlock than in the first, but it also seemed a lot more accessible.

Graphics – 7/10

The first of many enhancements made by the developers with the second game was in the graphics; most notably, the increased diversity in both level and character design. In many ways, it reminds me of the transition from Mortal Kombat II to III; only in this case, there was less for the developers to worry about, since there were considerably less palette-swapped characters in the original Tekken than in Mortal Kombat II. But regardless, they still managed to branch out in very different artistic directions in the way Midway did with Mortal Kombat III.

Gameplay – 8/10

As well as there being new modes added to keep things fresh compared to other fighting games of the time, there are seven more characters to unlock than in the first, with the introduction of a few new faces, as well as the classics. But with new characters also came new move sets for players to become accustomed to overtime, which in itself added more variety to the game than before. Though many of the move sets are simply recycled for all of the secret characters to use, unlocking them still felt particularly rewarding.

Controls – 10/10

I’ve always found it impressive how seamlessly fighting games made the transition from 2D to 3D throughout the fifth generation of gaming. The first Tekken had a particularly impressive control scheme, which presented no complications whatsoever. But the second game perfected this formula, as combat and movement was made a lot more fluent and even easier to cope with; which to me, is most probably the reason why the second game is a lot more accessible than the first by proxy.

Originality – 7/10

The developers also did relatively well to differentiate the Tekken franchise from other games in the genre; especially considering the fact that the franchise was not originally intended to be a fighting game at all. It was one of the first to establish a stable storyline, as well as being one of the first to include 2D backdrops in 3D environments, which is still one of my favourite forms of graphical rendering to this very day. The second game built greatly upon what had already been accomplished with the first game, making it one of the most standout titles of the fifth generation in my opinion.

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To summarize, Tekken 2 went leaps and bounds ahead of it’s predecessor, and still remains a very entertaining experience, which I would recommend to any fan of the fighting genre who may not have played it yet. As well as it being one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played, it’s also my favourite in the Tekken franchise overall.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Super Stardust Ultra (PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Housemarque

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Harri Tikkanen

Producer – Ivan Davies

Conceived by the same team who developed both Resogun and Dead Nation, Housemarque, Super Stardust was another arcade shoot ‘em up similar to Resogun, but with arguably more variety in gameplay, as well as an endless mode thrown in for good measure. Personally, I think both this game and Resogun are as good as each other for various reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

The conceptual design of the game was fairly well done, and technically brilliant for what hardware was available at the time. The drawback it has when compared with Resogun is that there isn’t as much customisation as there is in the former. For example, it isn’t possible for players to build their own ships. However, each level has the same degree of variety, and helps it to stand out among not only Resogun, but many other arcade indie titles too.

Gameplay – 9/10

Like many others, I believe that Super Stardust does indeed have much more variety than Resogun, with not only more game modes, but with players having to adapt to different styles of play by using different weapons for different situations. There are also not many arcade games in general that have been able to accomplish this to as great an extent as this game does, which is something to be greatly commended, as even some of the greatest arcade games could end up feeling repetitive after a while.

Controls – 10/10

As a gaming formula having been long-since perfected, despite it taking place on a very different kind of stage than in many other arcade games, there would have been major issues if Housemarque messed it up, and inevitable criticisms from old-school gamers and negative comparisons drawn between it, and almost other classic arcade games of the first and second generations. Thankfully, however, Housemarque got it spot on, and there are no complications with the game’s control scheme.

Originality – 6/10

The capacity in which this games stands out as best as it can, much like Resogun, is in comparison with every mainstream AAA title that is being released today. At the moment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to develop an original indie title, and its re-release on the PlayStation 4 may seem finite to those who may not have played it beforehand when it was released on PlayStation 3 back in 2012. Back then, the game was a breath of fresh air, so by that logic, its no reason for it to lose out on too many points in my opinion.

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Overall, Super Stardust Ultra is an extremely worthwhile game, and one of Housemarque’s better efforts. The Finnish development company have made waves throughout the eighth generation of gaming, but arguably, it was this game that allowed them to begin their ascendance.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Resogun (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Housemarque & Climax Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Programmer – Harry Krueger

Producer – Ian Pickles

Launching alongside the PlayStation 4, Resogun offered a much more traditional video game experience, and something that I don’t think a lot of gamers introduced to gaming during the last two generations, would have expected. To me, it provided a breath of fresh air, and highlighted that Sony were bent on bringing a great variety of games to the PlayStation 4.

Graphics – 8/10

Aside from it containing a very decent amount of variety in level design, especially for an arcade game, the attention to graphical detail throughout is utterly mind-blowing. It was after I played both this and Killzone: Shadow Fall that I realized just how much potential the PlayStation 4 had in terms of visual excellence; indeed, they showed off early on that the PlayStation 4 has a 10% better graphics engine than the Xbox One. The things that I would criticize about the game’s visuals, however, is the lack of variety in enemy design, and indeed, even two of the five bosses in the game look extremely similar, but such have been traditions of arcade gaming throughout the years.

Gameplay – 8/10

Playing out very much like many classic arcade games synonymous with the first and second generation of gaming, this title is immensely enjoyable to play and again, moderately varied for an arcade game in this respect too. Aside from having to destroy everything in site, there are things such as the multiplier to think about to gain the highest score possible, as well as saving all the humans throughout each stage too. At first, and to this day, I found it extremely humbling of Sony to take gaming back to basics with this title upon the release of the PlayStation 4. It showed that they weren’t deaf to gamer opinion, and they wanted to bring as much variety to the table as possible in order to appeal to as wide a range of gamers a possible.

Controls – 10/10

As another formula having been long-since perfected, and enough games in the genre to create an entire library out of, there would have been major problems if Housemarque couldn’t have gotten this right, and inevitable criticisms from old-school gamers and negative comparisons drawn between Resogun and every other classic arcade game in existence. Thankfully, however, Housemarque got it spot on, and there are no complications with the game’s control scheme.

Originality – 6/10

The game does have a little bit of flare about it, and it certainly can be differentiated from the majority of many AAA mainstream titles of today. However, compared to most games of it’s genre, there isn’t much to differentiate it from, and many similarities can be drawn between Resogun and the likes of Space Invaders, Galaxian, Bosconian, Galaga etc. But by no means does any of that render the game unplayable.

In summation, Re

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Resogun was a welcome change of pace to what most gamers at this point were used to, and still more or less are, and provided a very different gaming experience to many newer gamers, and a great sense of nostalgia for older gamers looking to try new systems. Since it is now free on the PlayStation Network, I would highly recommend anyone with a modern PlayStation console to download a copy and play it to their heart’s content.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)