Tag Archives: PS Vita

Titan Souls (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Android)

Developer(s) – Acid Nerve

Publisher(s) – Devolver Digital

Designer(s) – Mark Foster & Andrew Gleeson

Programmer – Mark Foster

Drawing influence from some of the most critically acclaimed gaming franchises of all time such as Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls, and being met with critical acclaim itself following it’s release in 2015, Titan Souls is a top-down adventure game, similar in gameplay style to A Link to the Past, but with much of the same difficulty as Dark Souls. After playing this game for the first time at Play Manchester 2015, I was somewhat sceptical going back into it in an attempt to complete it, since I’d only played the first part prior, and was massively under the impression that things were only going to get insufferably harder after that point. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game is nowhere near as inaccessible as I feared that it would be, and ended up enjoying it very much.

Graphics – 10/10

Rendered in 16-bit graphics reminiscent of the fourth generation of gaming, the game looks even better than some of the classic titles of that era. Aside from the in-game world looking vibrant, colourful and extremely unique in terms of conceptual design, in both it’s setting and boss characters, the attention to detail regarding the environment, such as shadows in the forests, footprints in the snow and splashes in the water make it extremely enjoyable to take in whilst playing. In addition, due to elements put in such as overgrowing moss on buildings and snow mounts in the colder regions, very little about the in-game world looks replicated like what was typical of games of earlier gaming eras; it’s similar to how each cave in Skyrim was uniquely designed in comparison to how they were designed in Oblivion.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

The objective of the game is to seek out and kill a series of titans situated throughout the land, similar in many ways to Shadow of the Colossus. The player’s only weapon is a single arrow from a bow, which can be telepathically summoned back to the player upon firing, which is where the game’s intense level of challenge comes in. Players need to be able to move and dodge enemy attacks efficiently as much as they to be accurate in placing their attacks. The game can be made to look intimidating in terms of challenge, but speaking as a gamer that considers games like Dark Souls and the original Mega Man and Castlevania titles to be overly inaccessible, I didn’t find it to be unforgiving. Players will need to persevere, since death will happen more than once, especially as the player dies in one hit, but the satisfaction to be had after completing the game makes it more than worthwhile to play. Harder than completing the game is fulfilling the additional criteria during boss fights needed to unlock certain achievement within it; for example, knocking out all of the mountain titan’s teeth before killing it.

Controls – 10/10

Thankfully, there are no issues with the game’s control scheme whatsoever. It came as an especially big relief to me, as I’ve found that many challenging games, most notably in earlier eras of gaming like Castlevania and Mega Man, have suffered from having problems with the controls, which can be an unnecessary annoyance while playing. If a game demands that players need to be on top of their game to complete it, then the developers need to be on top theirs while creating it, I feel. Otherwise, it can largely contradict the point of making a game that hard at all.

Lifespan – 7/10

One playthrough of Titan Souls, depending how often the player gets themselves killed while playing, can be made to last roughly 5 to 6 hours. However, there is some replayability to be had if players want to truly master the game, and do everything there is to do in it, making for a experience lasting around 15 to 20 hours overall. I think with the size of the world the developers incorporated, they could have added a few more side quests to contribute to the game’s longevity, but regardless, the game does last a respectable amount of time for those willing to put as much time in it as possible.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of the game follows a nameless traveler armed with a bow and single arrow, on a quest to defeat all the titans throughout the land, in order to harness the power of the titan souls, and realize a great truth and power. What bugs me about the story more than anything is that there is too much left unexplained in my opinion. There’s nothing with a level of ambiguity when it comes to a story, for example if it ends on an interesting cliff-hanger, or if there are certain aspects of characters or plot twists that are left open to debate. But since there does seem to be some kind of mythology attached to this game, I would have liked to find out a lot more about it. Shadow of the Colossus’s plot was somewhat similar, but there was more depth to it than there is in this game, making the players care more about what would be going on, or what would happen to the characters. But where Titan Souls is concerned, I was left wanting in this aspect; at least until a sequel may be developed.

Originality – 7/10

Though Titan Souls may not be the first game to do many of the things that it does by any stretch of the imagination, they are all done with it’s own unique twist which will make gamers, especially seasoned players of retro games, appreciate it to a great extent. It’s open to players both looking for a wondrous sense of nostalgia, as well as younger gamers looking to explore into how gaming used to be, but at the same time, being in for a different kind of experience to what was typically available to gamers back in the days of the Super NES and Mega Drive.

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In summation, Titan Souls is a gaming experience well worth delving into. It’s challenging without being accessible, it’s visuals are marvellous to behold, and though it may be lacking somewhat in story, it provides an ample amount in what matters most; immersing gameplay.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SteamWorld Heist (3DS, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One & iOS)

Developer(s) – Image & Form Games

Publisher(s) – Image & Form Games

The Third game to be released in Image & Form’s SteamWorld universe following SteamWorld Tower Defence and SteamWorld Dig, SteamWorld Heist takes the series in yet another bold new direction in terms of gameplay, concept and story. Like the other two SteamWorld games before it, I found this game to be wonderfully varied, excelling in conceptual design and enjoyable to the last hour of gameplay. But due to the heightened longevity and replay value this game has in comparison with SteamWorld Dig, It is most definitely the best game in the SteamWorld series to date.

Graphics – 9/10

Despite the fact that SteamWorld Heist still incorporates some elements from the first two games, that the franchise has been taken to outer space in this instalment provides a new dimension in terms of visuals, so to speak. The steampunk influence found in the two previous games is much more prevalent, but at the same time, the overall conceptual design seems completely different in a way that works flawlessly. Character design is wonderfully diverse, and whilst it’s easy to come to the conclusion that individual levels seem like carbon copies of each other, it still does wonderfully well to deviate away from the deep caves and American west settings of the first two games. The soundtrack is also fantastic to listen to through; the majority of which being composed by the band Steam Powered Giraffe, and has since encouraged me to listen to more of their work, which I’ve found extremely enjoyable in itself.

Gameplay – 8/10

Providing a complete departure from any other gameplay formula found in the SteamWorld series, SteamWorld Heist is a 2D side scrolling turn-based RPG that plays out unlike any other game made in any similar vein. It is insanely addictive, as well as having a great sense of satisfaction to experience whilst playing it in devising as many clever strategies as possible to suit every enemy in every given situation in combat. Over the last few years, I have found a great deal of games that have incorporated both turn-based and real-time combat that I have been greatly let down by. But in this game, it works better than most others; if not, any other.

Controls – 10/10

Another problem that seems to crop up with many RPGs to incorporate both turn-based and real-time combat is that the controls tend to suffer drastically. But in this game, the controls are perfect; no unnecessary complications arise, and overcoming the challenge of aiming as accurately as possible with short-range weapons, and managing to land a hit, adds even more of a sense of satisfaction whilst playing.

Lifespan – 6/10

Despite the fact that I was ultimately left wanting more in terms of longevity out of this title. I was pleasantly surprised to see how long it can truly be made to last. When I’d collected all 45 stars in the first area, I was left thinking I’d completed the game at that point, only to find that there was another stage to follow it up, and more stages in addition. Overall, including the DLC package, the game can be made to last at least 20 hours, which whilst is much longer than many mainstream releases, falls short of the average lifespan of a turn-based RPG. It was still an improvement on the lifespan of SteamWorld Dig, and I can’t help but commend the developers for this.

Storyline – 7/10

A distant sequel to SteamWorld Dig, the cowbots are now living an existence of slavery and oppression following the destruction of the Earth, and civilization has become an eternal struggle for survival. The plot follows Captain Piper, who attempts to recruit a team of mercenaries for hire to embark on a space adventure throughout the universe. Whilst the main plot may sound simplistic in scope, the story is kept fresh throughout with the incorporation of character development in each of Piper’s mercenaries as the adventure goes on, and clever humour thrown in for good measure.

Originality – 10/10

To put it simply, this game plays out not only like no other SteamWorld game before it, but unlike any other game in general. It incorporates a blend of turn-based and real-time combat that for once works flawlessly, and proves that indie developers can demonstrate as much initiative and excellence in gameplay innovation as any mainstream developer out there. I was extremely impressed with this title, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what direction Image and Form take in the next instalment within this wonderful gaming mythos.

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In summation, SteamWorld Heist is a wonderfully addictive and satisfying gaming experience that I highly recommend. Despite the fact that I believe it could have been made to last much longer, what there is to do throughout is enjoyable to the very last hour, and certainly stands out to me as the best indie title of 2016 so far.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

The Unfinished Swan (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Giant Sparrow, SCE Santa Monica Studios & Armature Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Ian Dallas

Producer – Max Geiger

First released in 2012, around the time when the idea of art in video games was perpetuated with other releases such as Journey, The Unfinished Swan went on to garnish critical acclaim as well as two BAFTA awards, for gaming innovation and best debut game. Unfortunately, I was less lukewarm to this title than many others were, and whilst it does have its unique aspects, I certainly don’t think it was enough to warrant a BAFTA award.

Graphics – 6/10

Many may argue that the visuals of the game are rather unique, and provide something that most gamers won’t have been used to at the time; but from my point of view, that couldn’t be far from the truth. Not only has the general art style been replicated many times since Frank Miller’s Sin City (indeed, it’s the same style I incorporate in many of my own paintings for Frame Over), but it wasn’t even the first time that this style had been used in video game development. There was Madworld before this title, which also continued the influx of cel-shaded visuals in gaming, which started out with Jet Set Radio. Nevertheless, they aren’t terrible graphics, and there are very few glitches to further mar them down.

Gameplay – 3/10

I couldn’t help but feel throughout playing that the developers decided to prioritise aspects such as visuals and story ahead of gameplay, since the core concept may be fairly unique, but in the long term, provide next to no entertainment value. The object of the game is to solve puzzles and bypass obstacles by shooting ink to reveal hidden locations, and to also collect balloons along the way to buy in-game items. It seemed like it could have developed into something bigger as it progressed, but by the third level, I found myself deeply bored by the entire experience.

Controls – 9/10

As it is essentially a first-person shooting game, the control scheme plays out fairly simply; even more so than the average shooter, since there less control mechanics to have to worry about. The only gripe I have with it is that the movement speed is somewhat slower than other FPS games, which can make the game drag on more than it most probably should have done.

Lifespan – 4/10

Completing each level, as well as collecting all the balloons within each level, will take under 10 hours; despite the fact that the game does have that small amount of replayability. However, I think it was just as well that the game lasted that little time, since the game’s total lifespan outlasted my own personal interested in the game itself. It was a sure sign that developers at any kind of level can end up prioritising all the wrong aspects ahead of the one that truly counts.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game takes influence of many different children’s books, and merges them into a fairly interesting and fully cohesive concept. It follows a boy called Monroe, who is pursuing an incomplete swan, which has escaped from a painting. The most interesting element of it is in the back-story, which can be discovered as the player progresses through the game. Though it does seem to play out like a children’s story for the most part, there are certain elements, which make the story take on a much darker tone, going against the seemingly calm and tranquil atmosphere of the game and the soundtrack accompanying it all.

Originality – 6/10

The gameplay mechanics of using ink as a projectile weapon to uncover hidden objects and areas are definitely the most unique thing about it. However, I was left thinking that they could have been put to so much better use in order to keep the entire game as interesting as possible. There could have been much more added to each level for players to do. The lack of enemies throughout alone is enough to keep avid gamers from playing this title for any extended amount of time in my opinion.

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Overall, The Unfinished Swan, though with fairly unique gameplay mechanics, was not entertaining enough for me to be able to praise it as many other reviewers have done since its release. The influx of indie games to come throughout the next few years following this game would yield more and better titles, but along with Journey, it started out with too much emphasis on visuals and story as opposed to entertaining gameplay.

Score

35/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

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)

SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (3DS, Wii U, PC, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Image & Form

Publisher(s) – Various

Project Leader – Olle Hakansson

Somewhat similar to Terraria, SteamWorld Dig is a 2D platformer centering round the concept of mining and improving equipment. Though it isn’t quite as varied or as satisfying as the former, I still found it to be a fairly enjoyable game for how little time it unfortunately lasts.

Graphics – 7/10

In terms of both conceptual design and visual diversity, there is something fairly unique in this game. It’s set in an old Western town whereby it’s inhabitants are robots. It would have been interesting to see that concept explored a little bit more than it was, but that could be saved for a sequel potentially. As players delve deeper into the underground caves, there are also different setting present as well as different enemies and so on. My favourite aspect of this game in terms of visuals and sound, however, is the extremely effective use of lighting throughout, and how the game’s soundtrack adds to its atmosphere flawlessly.

Gameplay – 7/10

Throughout, this game is pretty satisfying to play. There is a fair amount of incentive on offer for those who are willing to complete it too 100%, and attain every upgrade and ability. But I can’t help but feel that some kind of endless mode could have been added to it. One such idea I have that would make a possible sequel is that the player would have to use what minerals the mine from the underground to build and maintain a town or community.

Controls – 10/10

As a 2D side scrolling game, there shouldn’t really have been any issues with the game’s controls, and so there are none, thankfully. It incorporates a very simple gameplay concept, and therefore, a very simple control scheme, and though it does little to innovate the genre, what it does do had been handled properly.

Lifespan – 5/10

SteamWorld Dig can be made to last about 6 and a half hours in all, and as I alluded to earlier, I don’t think it lasts anywhere near as long as a game of either it’s magnitude or potential would permit it to. Like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, I believe there are a plethora of ideas that the developers of this game could incorporate to make a possible sequel to top it; all of these ideas coming together to make for a bigger and better gaming experience.

Storyline – 6/10

The story revolves around a robot called Rusty, who has come to a small mining town named Tumbleton after receiving a mining deed from his long-lost uncle. How the story develops doesn’t make for a terrible narrative in my opinion, and it is interesting to see which way it goes. But my gripes with it is that it is pretty hard to relate or empathize with the character of Rusty, since he is a character of only a few words, and would most probably have worked better as either a silent protagonist, or with much more dialogue than what its present. Though I won’t give away what happens at the end, how the story finishes would also suggest to me that a sequel should be merely set on some kind of basic premise, as opposed to having a story containing a beginning, middle and end.

Originality – 6/10

I think despite how much it differs from other video games, both visually and conceptually, I still found myself thinking of a plethora of different ideas and elements that the developers could have incorporated to make this game as good as it had the potential to be. There was the ideas I had about it having an endless mode and a much different and meaningful in-game objective, but there could also be elements like a much bigger open world attached to it, and even more incentive and variety in gameplay to make it as entertaining as possible.

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However, despite the various qualms I had with it, SteamWorld Dig was a good enough game to hold my interest for at least those few hours. It’s certainly one of the better indie games I’ve played, and there is indeed potential for the developers to take the series to new heights.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

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)

Proteus (PC, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Curve Studios

Designer(s) – Ed Key & David Kanaga

Recently made free to play to PlayStation Plus subscribers, Proteus is a game, which simply has players waling around an open world and not doing much of anything else. To me, it is an awful wretched game, whereby it’s biggest and most interesting talking point is in its development history; like many other games of its kind. Originally, Proteus was intended to be an RPG in the same ilk as Skyrim or Oblivion, but when the developers realized the extent of the work, which would have to been put into it to make that happen, they instead decided to make a game, which was in their own words “non-traditional and non-violent”. Even Sony insisted that more content be added to the final product before they ported it to PlayStation consoles, but the lead developer, Ed Key, admitted that he and the creators never attempted to steer the direction of the development of these features, adding only a minor facility to the PlayStation Vita port of the game. To me, Ed Key has made Proteus sound like the most half-hearted video game ever developed, and it was certainly made apparent to me whilst playing.

Graphics – 6/10

One of few aspects I can give at least a small amount of credit for is it’s visual style. The scenery is makes heavy use of pixel art, and makes for a few things in the game to marvel at; though not a lot. There have been many more indie games that I have played and reviewed this year that have stood out to a much greater extent than this; games like Don’t Starve and Chronicles of a Dark Lord. There was much more thought put into the visual concepts of those two games than there was in this, and by that token alone, make this game pale in comparison; although the soundtrack to this game is also pretty relaxing and well done as well.

Gameplay – 0/10

As I stated before, Proteus is a game whereby there are no objectives or things to do, but to walk around a randomly generated in-game open world. I’m all for open worlds in video gaming, but not empty ones void of things to do. It’s because of this that I even hesitate to call Proteus a video game. Some people have gone so far as to label it an anti-game, which many actually consider to be controversial, but to the people who have coined that term, I say good call. The game makes for no entertainment as well as no replay value, and it’s a wonder to me why the developers ever bothered to release it at all.

Controls – 4/10

Though there aren’t a great deal of faults with the game’s control scheme, the fact of the matter is there wasn’t a lot for the developers to get wrong, as the game makes use of only a few buttons on the controller. Aside from the movement being pretty stiff, the fact that there’s nothing to do in the game warrants little use for most buttons, which certainly by today’s standards is embarrassing.

Lifespan – 2/10

To complete the game’s one arbitrary objective of changing through seasons in quick succession before the credits role will take about 40 minutes. But beyond that, the game will only last about as long as player’s interest, which shouldn’t be any longer. My own personal interest didn’t even last long enough for me to want to finish it. The game can be finished multiple times in quick succession, but I only consider that t be part of the problem.

Storyline – 0/10

Not only does this game not have any kind of narrative attached to it, but there’s nothing in the way of a basic premise either. Nor did I find any kind of abstract or elaborate story elements open to any kind of interpretation whatsoever. It’s a shame that developers couldn’t even be bothered to add some kind of premise to the game to make it even vaguely more interesting than it turned out to be.

Originality – 0/10

This game is also in no way, shape or form unique. Though the developers called this a non-traditional game, it doesn’t establish any warranted new video game traditions or break any boundaries of any kind. It lacks everything that a gamer would want in a game, and introduces nothing new that a gamer may want to see in one.

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In summation, Proteus is a catastrophic excuse of a piece of software that shouldn’t really be considered a video game; easily the worst game I’ve played this year so far. Even by the lead developer’s own admission, it’s a title that turned out to be less than what he initially wanted it to be. So in effect, it’s unfinished work, and credit should never be given for incomplete work.

Score

12/60

2/10 (Terrible)

Oddworld: New N’ Tasty! (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Just Add Water

Publisher(s) – Oddworld Inhabitants

Director(s) – Stewart Gilray & Lorne Lanning

Back round when the original PlayStation was first release, and in competition with the likes of the Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn and the Atari Jaguar, the traditional 2D side scrolling style of gameplay was being fazed out fast to make way for 3D open-world games, which were taking precedent equally as fast. In spit of this, however, there were a handful of games released in the 2D side scrolling genre throughout the fifth generation, including Yoshi’s Story, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the first games in the Oddworld series; Abe’s Odyssey and Abe’s Exodus. Oddworld: New N’ Tasty basically takes Abe’s Odyssey, and gives it a fresh coat of paint as well as a slightly different perspective on gameplay, making the scenery seem less linear in turn. The gameplay stays completely true to the great amount of variety the original had to offer, and I would thoroughly recommend the remake.

Graphics – 8/10

As I said, aside from being given a complete makeover in terms of visuals, the game also seems a lot more visually diverse than the original incarnation of Abe’s Odyssey, with backdrops being a lot more visible than the latter, and with the inevitable inclusion of enhanced details in form of more in-depth textures (particularly on Abe and his race, the Mudokens), and more effective use of the contrasts between light and darkness, which in turn add even more to the game’s already dark and gritty atmosphere.

Gameplay – 8/10

Differing from the many different 2D side scrollers released both during the fifth generation, and of today, New N’ Tasty stayed true to not only the intense puzzle solving element, but also to the significance of the game’s one side quest; to rescue as many of the other Mudokens as possible, or kill as many as possible to unlock either one of multiple endings; one of the first games I ever played to have ever included multiple endings as well as elements of the 2.5D side scrolling genre.

Controls – 10/10

Unlike many other video games released early in the PlayStation’s shelf life, there were next to no issues with the control scheme, and there are even less in New N’ Tasty. Though it may not seem as impressive in comparison to the original game, I’m thankful that no new issues have arisen, and that the developers haven’t made any silly mistakes.

Lifespan – 6/10

Unfortunately, however, the lifespan remains around the same as the original game, clocking up at about 3 to 4 hours. Though this isn’t unforgivable, and fairly long for a game of it’s kind, I think it would have been a plus for the developers to have added a little bit more in terms of gameplay. In my opinion, the ideal solution would have been to bundle Abe’s Odyssey and Abe’s Exodus, complete with the same huge lick of paint, but nevertheless, it is an entertaining game for the time it lasts.

Storyline – 8/10

The majority of the original game’s surrealism stemmed from it’s different and unusual cast of characters, premise and story. In New N’ Tasty, it is retold with all of it’s wonderful weirdness kept intact. It follows the story of Abe, a member of a humanoid-amphibian race called the Mudoken, who is a slave alongside his fellow people at the biggest meat processing plant in all of Oddworld; Rupture Farms. One night, when Abe is working late, he stumbles upon a board meeting, highlighting how the company’s profits are plummeting, and executives pondering the solution. Abe is horrified to learn of Rupture Farms’ plan to use Mudoken meat in the production of their latest product; New N’ Tasty. Abe immediately resolves to escape Rupture Farms, while in the process, saving as many of his people as possible. With multiple endings, and plenty of twists and turns throughout, it is indeed one of the most unique stories ever told in a game, and stands out among a plethora of others.

Originality – 8/10

Although many 2D side scrollers had been developed, and the be-all and end-all of such is considered to this day to be Super Mario Bros (and rightfully so), the Oddworld series delivered a new perspective on the formula, so to speak, and New N’ Tasty expands on that new perspective. It gives me hope for the future, since I believe there is quite a lot that could be done with the characters and gameplay premise, but this game (then and now) is an excellent starting point in my opinion.

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Overall, Oddworld: New N’ Tasty does an excellent job of bringing Abe’s Odyssey to a new audience, and is hopefully a sign that the series will continue past this point. It’s been languishing in video game obscurity for far too long in my opinion, and hopefully this formula cane improved on for a possible sequel and beyond.

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Mercenary Kings (PC, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Tribute Games

Publisher(s) – Tribute Games

Artist – Paul Robertson

Being described as a mash-up between Metal Slug and Monster Hunter, Mercenary Kinds is an indie 2D side scrolling shoot ‘em up, which has a mild RPG element to it, in the form of collecting items to upgrade weapons and equipment. Out of all the indie games released on PlayStation 4, this is one that I would highly recommend above many others.

Graphics – 8/10

Hearkening back to the 16-bit era of such consoles as the Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive, the game also takes place in a setting very reminiscent of the hormone-charged action films of the 1980s, such as Rambo and Predator. Conceptually, it also stands out quite a lot thanks to the many wonderfully weird, and at times downright amusing enemy designs present, such as that of flying pig heads and hostile radishes. One of the bosses is also extremely reminiscent of the mech that Ripley uses to take out the queen in another 80s film; Aliens.

Gameplay – 7/10

The objective of Mercenary Kings is relatively simple, but with a pretty interesting twist; complete set missions throughout Metroidvania-style environments, whilst also collecting resources and items with which to periodically improve your equipment, whilst earning money from completing missions for even more new gear. It is as addictive as it sounds, and whilst people have compared this game to Monster Hunter, it’s a lot more accessible, and by proxy better, in my opinion.

Controls – 10/10

As yet another 2D side scroller, a common gameplay formula among indie developers, there should have been no excuse for this game to have had any issues, since the formula has been long since perfect, and so there isn’t, thankfully. Even for veteran fans of the genre, it’s actually quite challenging to master the various enemy patterns, and progress accordingly.

Lifespan – 4/10

I found that the biggest drawback to this game, however, is that the main storyline only clocks up about 3 to 4 hours, which for what is essentially a Metroidvania game, is pretty disappointing. Rogue Legacy for example, could be made to last considerably longer, given how long it would take to acquire each upgrade and unlockable, and how much of a legitimate challenge it was up to the third playthrough, but I think the same could have been done with this title as well, but alas, it hadn’t been.

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows King, the most skilled mercenary on Earth, who is sent of Mandragora Island to rescue engineer Dr. James Neil, who has been taken hostage by a villain named Claw and his gang of terrorists, and thereby also save Neil’s research into how mandrakes can be used as a means of bio-regeneration. As far as stories go, it’s about as cliché as any other story associated with the likes of Rambo and The Expendables trilogy, but in my opinion, it is able to hold player’s interest for it’s duration.

Originality – 7/10

Like Valiant Hearts, this is yet another title to have been released to defy the tropes and conventions associated with most army-based video games. Though it clearly has been influenced by the Contra series, it’s been a while since a game like this had been released, and given how engaging and different it is compared with many other 2D side scrollers, I believe a sequel is in order.

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In summation, Mercenary Kings is by far one of the best army-based video games I’ve ever played. It may be wanting in terms of story, and may tropes seen in many other video games and films prior, but focus has been primarily put into where it truly matters; the gameplay.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Injustice: Gods Among Us (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, Android & iOS)

Developer(s) – NetherRealm Studios & High Voltage Software

Publisher(s) – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Director – Ed Boon

Producer – Shaun Himmerick

Following on from Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game conceived by Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon, starring a cast of many different characters from DC Comics franchises, including Batman, Superman, The Flash, Aquaman and the Green Lantern. Since its US release back in April 2013, the game has sold almost 1 million copies and received many positive reviews based on its gameplay and level of graphical detail. However, whilst I think it’s not a bad game, I did find it to have drawbacks.

Graphics – 7/10

With this game featuring characters such as Batman and The Joker, I couldn’t help but compare to the Arkham series; and in drawing my comparisons, I found that whilst Injustice does have some detail in its visuals, It doesn’t have anywhere near as much detail as any of the games in the Arkham series. The characters in particular look pretty detailed during fights when they are seen from a certain distance away, but when cutscenes play during the story mode, and when characters can be seen from up close, they just don’t look as detailed to me. In particular, Superman’s facial expressions look less than convincing, and I thought to myself that if most other characters didn’t wear headgear or domino masks, they would all look as substandard as Superman. Although that may seem like a clever technique to some, I can’t help but feel that their facial clothing hides more than just their real identities. However, I can’t fault the diversity in stage design, which was very well thought out, and are pretty intricate for a fighting game in particular.

Gameplay – 7/10

I think Injustice plays out well enough for a fighting game. There are a lot of game modes to unlock throughout, which offer quite a bit of variety, and the RPG-like element of levelling up the player’s profile in order to unlock more things makes the game quite interesting to play. The gripe I had with it is that apart from extra game modes, alternative costumes and concept art, there’s not much more incentive to playing it. Chiefly, I don’t like the fact that there are no hidden characters to unlock, which for me is probably the biggest attraction of playing through a fighting game. Instead, there are 6 additional download-only characters, and the character Darkseid is only exclusive to the iOS port of the game. Even if players are willing to for out extra money to buy the ultimate edition of the game, the additional characters are not unlocked using conventional means, and to me, that just takes a lot of the fun out of it.

Controls – 10/10

As another one of these gameplay formulas, which has been developed on and modified over many years, there should never have been any issues with the controls; and there are none, thankfully. I actually found it particularly interesting to find how characters handle a lot like Mortal Kombat characters. For example, I noticed that Batman handles a lot like Scorpion; The Joker handles similarly to Reptile and the Green Lantern handles very much like Ermac.

Lifespan – 10/10

Although I’d say that it will take only a few hours to play through the main story mode, and experienced fighting game players could probably complete all the additional game modes relatively quickly, the fact of the matter is that Injustice, like any other fighting game, is one of these games that can simply be picked up and played at any time. There’s no worry attached to it, regarding making conventional progress or outlasting a certain lifespan.

Storyline – 4.5/10

Whilst I was playing this game, I could never fully understand what was going on, and I still wouldn’t be able to without the aid of an online synopsis of it. Basically, what happens is that the DC heroes and villains are plunged into an alternative reality, and pit against their alternative counterparts. Aside from it being more open to fans of the DC Universe, making it biased in that respect, I found that events seemed to move along far too quickly, and attention kept shifting from place to and character to character too fast for me to able to think about exactly what was happening. Everything just happens, and with very little explanation.

Originality – 6/10

Whilst I can praise Injustice for its uniqueness in conceptual design and some certain gameplay elements, I believe that it lacks originality in its shortage of gameplay incentive; as with a lot of fighting games, there is normally a lot of hidden characters to be found. Whilst most game don’t have a storyline, which is nigh on impossible to follow, that may make it unique, but in an extremely negative sense.

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So overall, I think the game is fairly enjoyable, but it does indeed have its flaws, and I can’t think of a reason why NetherRealm Studios should expand any further on the concept of the story, as I think even DC fans will have trouble trying to keep up.

Score

44.5/60

7/10 (Fair)