Tag Archives: Racing

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

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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

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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

Wipeout (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Psygnosis

Publisher(s) – Psygnosis

Director – John White

Producer – Dominic Mallinson

Released early on in the shelf life of the original PlayStation, and developed with the likes of both Super Mario Kart and F-Zero in mind, the original Wipeout was world apart from most games that Psygnosis had developed prior, such as Barbarian and Bloodwych, and offered exactly the kind of gaming experience that Sony needed at the time. Aside from 3D platformers and RPGs, which were gaining mainstream popularity at the time, racing games remained fairly popular, although the genre would be saturated with a number of licensed games (some of which developed by Psygnosis themselves), but Wipeout took elements from both the kart racing genre and the anti-gravity racing genre, and combined them to make something very different and fascinating indeed.

Graphics – 8/10

Wipeout takes place in a futuristic imagining of our own world, with the game set in places like Canada, Germany and Japan, and includes a lot of varied and wonderfully designed courses and intricate track designs. Not only did this game do an exceptional job of showing off what the original PlayStation was capable of in it’s early years, but I think the graphics also still hold up to this day, despite one or two glitches that can found in most of the tracks namely Canada. Ship designs would go on to become more diverse in future games, but I think they made a decent impression with even the few ships players have at their disposal to start the game off with.

Gameplay – 7/10

As the perfect marriage between two Nintendo classics, Mario Kart and F-Zero, Wipeout is as enjoyable as it is both challenging and exhilarating. I think one reason why it can be viewed as more of a challenge than Mario Kart games is because the player always has to climb from last place to first to win each race, unlike Mario Kart, whereby if the player starts from whichever position they finished in. It’s also a lot more of a challenge to hit opponents with certain projectiles I find, since Mario Kart 64 was very forgiving of how much time players had to hit someone even with a green shell at close range.

Controls – 7/10

Since this was the first game in the series, it was always going to be a question of trial and error in terms of controls; especially since the PlayStation controller, since it lacked the analogue stick at this point. It’s initial absence didn’t cause as much of a problem in this game as it did in many early 3D platformers available early on in the PlayStation’s shelf life, such as Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and Bubsy 3D, but making certain turns can be seen as an unnecessary hassle at times, and it would take a few instalments for the developers eventually got it fully perfected.

Originality – 10/10

Although this game took influence from not only numerous Nintendo games, but from many other different things, such as the culture and music which was most popular during the mid 90s, but the game also went to boost the popularity of its respective influences, such as underground techno music, and as I said before, offered an experience unique to the PlayStation console that may not have been conceived other wise. Crash Team Racing did eventually come along as a challenger to the popularity of Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing, but Wipeout would go on to evolve in different ways to the aforementioned examples, even across the lifespan of the original PlayStation alone.

Happii

Happii

To summarize, Wipeout is a must-have for anyone with either a PlayStation or PlayStation 3, and is a classic experience that still holds up to this day. Players may encounter issues with the game’s physics and control scheme, but by no mans do these factor make the game unplayable.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very good)

San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (PC, Arcade, Nintendo 64 & PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Atari Games, Midway Games & Climax

Publisher(s) – Atari Games & Midway Games

Designer – Ed Logg

Originally released as an arcade game back in 1996, San Francisco Rush was a generic racing game similar to the likes of Gran Turismo and Ridge Racer, that especially at the time, could never measure up to the quality of the many kart racing games that had already been released. Although I do have to say as a prerequisite that I spent a fair bit of time playing this game when I was growing up, I look back at it now and think that it scarcely hold up.

Graphics – 5/10

The best thing I can say about the game’s visuals is that they were pretty advanced for the time, and a lot of the textural details that were incorporated were very well handled. The problem is that because it is part of a genre that has bore witness to many shovel ware titles, even since the days of the Atari, it as never going to stand out among the others to any certain extent; not to mention that there are glitches galore. It may be pretty advanced for the time, but for the most part, extremely unpolished.

Gameplay – 3/10

The game consists of eight selectable vehicles and four selectable tracks depending on selected difficulty, and simply race across for either the best time or first position. Otherwise, there isn’t much else to it. Since it was originally designed as a pay to play arcade cabinet, there is a very limited amount of options in terms of variety, and consequently, it turns out to be even worse on consoles. Disappointingly, the only other option available to players is the facility to change their car’s colour.

Controls – 4/10

The main issue I have with the game’s control scheme is that turning corners, no matter how sharp or straight they may be, can feel like a chore for the most part. To make matters worse, certain turns were added to certain tracks that are almost impossible to try to traverse without crashing and having to reset the player’s own position.

Originality – 0/10

Not only does this game not stand out in terms of visuals, as I pointed out earlier, but there is actually considerably less variety in this game than there was even in other games of it’s kind around at the time. Later on, games such as Gran Turismo would be released, which would blow games like this out of the water, but for the time being, it was either Mario Kart, which was infinitely more fun, or a generic racer. To me, nothing has really changed since then, since I care very little for modern generic racers that are released even today, such as Forza or Driver, but for me, this game definitely began my distaste for the genre.

To summarize, the biggest redeeming quality of San Francisco Rush is not in its gameplay or visuals, but in the pretty funny music that plays whilst players register their high score. It’s the only element present, which works to differentiate it from other generic racing games, and in all honesty, it was most probably the only thing keeping me at the table like a bad gambler when I was a kid.

Score

12/40

3/10 (Bad)

Race the Sun (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Flippfly

First appearing as a Kickstarter project, and having a budget of merely $20,000 attached to it, Race the sun is an endless runner game with a strong element of the Star Fox series attached to it, but like it, providing gamers with infinite replayability and a decent amount of challenge. Though I did find a couple of faults with the title, I did also find it to be pretty entertaining, and I would recommend it to any fan of the series looking for a new test.

Graphics – 7/10

For the small budget that this game had attached to it, the visuals were fairly well handled, and the limited textural detail allows for it to run pretty smoothly on consoles, with a sharp 60 fps frame rate. The best looking element in the game is the sunset in the distance throughout each run of the game. It’s vibrant and captivating as well as pretty realistic. The biggest complaint I have is that not much more time seems to have spent by the developers thinking a little bit more about the conceptual design of the game, since the surrounding scenery is largely bland for the most part.

Gameplay – 8/10

Though the main objective is to simply last as long in each run as possible, whilst collecting power-ups on the way to keep the sun from setting, along with items collected to increase the high score and maximum points multiplier, each run is kept fresh by giving players side missions, involving the fulfilment of certain criteria, which in turn, unlocks upgrades for the player’s ship, such as increased magnetic attraction to items or sharper turning. Despite repetition, the game has the ability to keep players entertained for an extraordinarily long time, and become extremely satisfying once the player has mastered the game’s basic mechanics.

Controls – 10/10

At first, I did think that the turning mechanics were far too stiff, and that such a drawback was largely unnecessary. But once I acquired the turn upgrade, and when I realized that it was all part of the challenge, I quickly changed my perception o the game overall. There are no other issues with the controls to address, and is a huge part of why it can become so incredibly satisfying to play.

Originality – 6/10

The worst aspect of the game is how little it is able to stand out among even games of its own genre. With Star Fox for example, there are quite a lot of cultural references in its conceptual design, which were inspired largely by Japanese mythology. But with Race the Sun, the only cultural references that can be found are in the various different taglines that appear before the start of each run; one of which being “do a barrel roll”, referencing Star Fox itself. The gameplay does have a little bit of originality about it, but its easy to put this down to the developer’s limited budget, and them wanted to concentrate mostly on gameplay, which I am in favour of, so I don’t think it should lose out on too much many points in this category.

Happii

Happii

Overall, despite it’s lack of conceptual design, Race the Sun is pretty fun and addictive game to play. To me, it is a fairly good example of how a developer’s imagination can play a bigger role in a video game than however much it may have cost to make it.

Score

31/40

7.5/10 (Good)

Micro Machines (PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – Infogrames Sheffield House

Publisher(s) – Atari

Designer – Sean Millard

Producer – Sean Millard

Released in 2002, and heavily based on the same mechanics as the earlier games in the franchise for the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive, Micro Machines went on to receive mostly negative reviews from critics; most notably IGN, who gave it a mere 4.0. That was one of very few reviews I found on this game, since it has gone on to become fairly obscure since it’s release. However, speaking as a fan of the classic fourth generation games based on the license, I didn’t find a great deal wrong with this instalment, and I would recommend it to any fan of the isometric racing genre, as well as the art racing genre for several reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

Firstly, the visuals are pretty impressive for an early PlayStation 2 game. I struggled to find very many glitches, and the conceptual design is fairly diverse, as well as being very reminiscent of the classic games. Taking place across a wide array of different kinds of tracks to fit in with what vehicles the player may be using at that time, be that an off-road truck, a speedboat or a sports car, to me, it doesn’t fail to impress in this respect. The character roster is also as quirky and as interesting in this game as in any other game in the series. While some of the characters may be loosely based on past racers in the game franchise, for the most part, things are kept very fresh.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

Like in previous instalments, the gameplay is also fairly varied, containing multiple different modes, such as championship mode, practice mode, time trial mode and an exhibition mode. There is about as much substance in this title as an early Mario Kart game, but would have inevitably had a hard time competing against competition back in the day, since there were many other kart games around at that time to overshadow it. I think it could have done with a little more substance in order to make it stand out more than what it did, but still there is enough to do in it to keep players entertained for a fair bit of time.

Controls – 9/10

As some who played the classic games, and has grown accustomed to the isometric racing formula, it didn’t personally take me a great deal of time to get into it; however, there will inevitably be a camp of people who may be wanting to try this game out that may not be so patient with it, since there haven’t been a great deal of isometric racing games released since, and there wasn’t even that many released in the interim between this game and the Micro Machines games released before it on the original PlayStation. Another grip I had with the controls was the fact that the camera angle can change from third person to isometric depending on which mode the player is playing through, which perpetuates a level of inconsistency on the developer’s part. Otherwise, however, I found the game’s control scheme to offer more of a legitimate challenge than an unnecessary annoyance.

Originality – 7/10

Although the isometric racing formula was nothing new to the industry at the time of this game’s release, few developers have implemented it in racing games, with the majority of them favouring the more commercially acceptable third person view instead. I think that whilst that is totally understandable, I can’t of a reason why this formula wouldn’t be built upon more than what it has been done, since it still provides a fair level of both challenge and entertainment. As long as players were to have patience enough, I think they would get just as much enjoyment out of a game like this as I did, and perhaps it wouldn’t be so easily overlooked in future.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Micro Machines is a very well developed game that is most definitely worthy of more attention than what it was given both at that the time, and what it is given today. It plays out just as well as the classic fourth generation games in the series, and the problems that it does have isn’t enough to make this is bad a gaming experience as many other critics have seen fit to label it as in my opinion.

Score

29.5/40

7/10 (Fair)

Mario Kart: Double Dash (GameCube)

Developers(s) – Nintendo EAD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Kiyoshi Mizuki, Yasuyuki Oyagi, Futoshi Shirai & Daiji Imai

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Tadashi Sugiyama, Shinya Takahashi & Takashi Tezuka

The fourth instalment to the most successful spin-off series in video gaming history, Mario Kart: Double Dash provided gamers with a slightly different take on the kart racing genre, by adding the feature of having two characters to each kart allowing for more weapons to be held at any one given time, and also allowing for online play; though in a much limited capacity to what gamers of this day and age are accustomed to. Unfortunately however, I’ve never though as much of this game as many other entries in the franchise. It would be a choice for me between this and Super Circuit as the two main contenders for “the” worst game in the series, for a number of reasons.

Graphics – 5/10

One reason why I believe this game doesn’t match the quality of most other Mario Kart titles is because the visuals are not the best on the GameCube; either from a graphical or conceptual standpoint. The tracks are some of the worst in the series; even including my all-time least favourite track; Baby Park. Aside from that, it also had most probably the worst incarnation of Rainbow Road in the entire series. There are a select few tracks that stand out, but nowhere on the same levels as the track in entries such as Mario Kart 8, Wii or even 7.

Gameplay – 6/10

For the most part, the game plays out pretty much like any other Mario Kart game, and the addition of a second driver does make for an interesting twist in gameplay, since players can be at a disadvantage if the passenger falls off after taking too many hits from items. The problems are that most of the tracks in the game don’t necessarily make for a particularly gruelling challenge, in lieu of the series’ tradition, and hey also added something else, which has been a recurring thing in other Mario Kart games since, that I have never been a fan of; cannons. In some tracks, there are cannons that transport players from one area of the course to the other, and to me, it’s always been a sign of developers literally cutting corners.

Controls – 10/10

The best thing I can say about this game is that despite the introduction of new mechanics, it stays true to the classic Mario Kart formula, and consequently, there are no complications to address. The only problem that can be even vaguely associated with it is that the sound effects of switching drivers can become relentlessly repetitive.

Lifespan – 8/10

Completing each tournament on each class can take up to 5 to 6 hours, but after that, if players have access to the Internet via the GameCube, they can of course indulge in online play, which will add even more to the lifespan; an idea which in all fairness, I am pretty happy to have seen become a stable of the series. There is also a little bit more incentive added in the unlockable characters and unlockable cars; something else that would become a regular feature, much to my delight.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

The Mario Kart series, has never had a story attached to it, and it never should, I don’t think. At this point especially, I believe that trying to add a story to a Mario Kart game would be a pretty bad move on Nintendo’s part, unless they can do it in such a way that it does nothing to hinder gameplay to any kind of extent. It worked particularly well in Diddy Kong Racing, so if Mario Kart were to ever become an open-world kart game, a story may work.

Originality – 3/10

As I’ve reiterated, Double Dash ultimately plays out like most other games in the series; only being much less enjoyable. It does have the one saving grace of having two characters to every one kart, but the cannons throughout a good few of the tracks in this series started off a trend, which I personally would rather have not seen started, making this game original, but for what are in my opinion, the wrong reasons.

Happii

Happii

To summarize, however, although Double Dash makes for a bad Mario Kart game, it doesn’t necessarily make for a bad game in general. It’s much more enjoyable than a fair few other sixth generation games released at the time, and it still beats any other generic racing game out there hands down.

Scores

43/60

7/10 (Fair)

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No 1

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kosuke Yabuki

Producer – Hideki Konno

Boasting new tracks, anti gravity mechanics and of course online multiplayer, Mario Kart 8 has warranted a small boost in Wii U sales over the last two weeks; but for how good this game is, and how good past games for the system have been, I think the Wii U deserved more than a small boost in sales.

Graphics – 9/10

The majority of the new tracks, namely Sunshine Airport, Twisted Mansion, Thwomp Ruins and Cloudtop Cruise among others, are exceptionally brilliant in design, and posthumously make up for the traditional inclusion of some of the more generic ones, such as Mario Kart Stadium and Mario Circuit. The level of detail put into every other track is staggering, making it even more possible than in previous games to get too caught up in the scenery to concentrate on the race. Furthermore, the retro stages are also visually breathtaking; most of which have been re-designed to the point of being seldom recognizable. For example, Grumble Volcano from Mario Kart Wii, a track I’d though to be somewhat generic in the original version, has been given an extremely different feel. Now looking comparable to the land of Mordor, it’s as if Lord of the Rings has taken over for a part of the game, and it’s a massive improvement on the original version.

Gameplay – 9/10

As a veteran Mario Kart player, I already had a very good idea of what I would be getting with the latest instalment. Deceptively unforgiving as normal, Mario Kart 8 present challenge on a particularly large scale; even on 50cc at times. Though I’ve yet to play online, I can already tell that I am in for something particularly testing. In terms of gameplay however, I did find a fault with the implementation of anti gravity segments. I found that whilst the novelty is there, it doesn’t add as much to the table than what I’d anticipated, and doesn’t necessarily add to the challenge either. There are some tracks where it world a bit better than others, but for the most part, it seems a little redundant. But the worst thing about Mario Kart 8, I believe, is the inclusion of coins being part of the item roster. People may say that adds to the challenge, but in my opinion, that can add quite a bit of unnecessary frustration for when players are in front and need something to defend themselves with. It my be in homage to the original game, but there’s a good reason why they were removed. However, despite these two faults, this game is still exceptionally fun to play.

Controls – 10/10

Tailored to play using a variety of different means, I can say that there are no problems with the game’s control scheme. I did have concerns that the controls would suffer because of the anti gravity feature, but Nintendo have handled it flawlessly, and players can virtually skip from Mario Kart Wii to Mario Kart 8 without skipping a beat. There are two changes to playing the game with the Wii remote, but that doesn’t take any time at all to get used to.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

It will take about half an hour to play through each tournament, and there are the traditional four classes to complete each tournament on, so that should take about 16 hours overall. But after that, there’s the online play to immerse players, which will make for hours upon hours of entertainment. As a racing game, there is no fixed lifespan, simply making for a game that can be picked up and played without much worry of making conventional progress beyond the grand prix mode.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

The Mario Kart franchise has never needed a story attached to it, and there was no reason why they would start now. Maybe in the future a sort could be implemented to make an instalment play out more like Diddy Kong Racing ass opposed to staying in lieu of tradition in order to mix things up, but lack of story is nothing that Mario Kart 8 should lose marks for, in my opinion.

Originality – 5/10

A lack of uniqueness on the other hand, is something I think that the game should lose marks on. On one hand, its wonderful how the developers have designed the latest tracks, and how they’ve painstakingly re-mastered old tracks for the retro tournaments. But on the other hand, I was sorely disappointed by how under-whelming the anti gravity feature is; bearing in mind that it has been one of the game’s main selling points for the longest time. Also, I found that the character roster is a little bit generic compared to others in the series. I think the inclusion of Bowser’s minions may have been a mistake, as I can think of many more standout Mario characters than them, who could have been included instead.

Deliirious

Deliirious

Overall, however, I think Mario Kart is a particularly impressive game with all the fun and challenge of a traditional game in the franchise, and makes for one of the best gaming experiences of 2014 so far. I would have advocated people buy the Wii U over the Xbox One before the release of this game, but I think this game warrants for a lot more units to be sold.

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great)

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – Polyphony Digital

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Designer – Kazunori Yamauchi

Released on the back of immense success on the original PlayStation with the first and second instalment, Gran Turismo 3 had a lot of hype to live up to pending release, and was able to do so in spectacular fashion; even gaining a score of 39/40 from Japan’s Famitsu, becoming only the eighth game in the publication’s history at that time to receive this honour. Though I do have to say as a prerequisite that I spent a lot of time playing this game when I was a kid, the more I’ve grown up, the more I’ve started to see this game as being more generic than what it’s initial reviews probably suggested; despite the fact I still enjoy playing it to this day.

Graphics – 10/10

Though it is very easy to look upon this game nowadays and see largely outdated and inferior experience to what is normally portrayed in racing games these days, especially if you belong to a younger generation of gamers, at the time, a video game that looked as good as this back in 2001 was nothing short of phenomenal. I remember not only did it blow me away at the time, but it also made me extremely excited for what games could expect to see later on in the shelf life of the PlayStation 2. We all though the Dreamcast was something else compared to the like of the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation, but it was games like this that helped Sony to take gaming visuals to the next level, so to speak. Aside from that, the game also has quite an impressive soundtrack, featuring songs from bands such as Feeder and Ash.

Gameplay – 7/10

Very much like Driveclub for example, I find this title to be enjoyable enough to play and hold my attention for a fair few hours. As far as most see it, it’s simply a carbon copy of the first two Gran Turismo games, but made bigger and better; perhaps the most effective strategy to employ whilst developing a video game sequel. There’s nothing wrong with giving players more of what they already like and in greater quantities, and it made the third game just as good as it’s predecessors; arguably better.

Controls – 10/10

For me personally, this was the first game I played that incorporated a fair control scheme in a conventional racing game, and one that also made it feel like an authentic racing experience reminiscent of real-life competitive rally sports. Before that, the likes of Destruction Derby and TOCA Race Drivers were games that I couldn’t get to grips with at all. I even have trouble with Formula One games as it is, which is why I was baffled to get as good a time as I did when I tried out an actual F1 simulator at Play Blackpool.

Originality – 2/10

The only way in which this game innovated in any capacity is indeed in it’s visuals, which whilst exemplary at the time, would go on to be outdated relatively quickly; especially as both Need for Speed and Project Gotham launched shortly after it, and blew it out of the water in terms of graphical advancement. But aside from this, the game is in essence the same as every other racing game to have come before, and to come after, and these especially these days, it’s far too difficult to be able to differentiate between them all in positive ways in my opinion.

Happii

Happii

However, to summarize, Gran Turismo 3, is again regardless not a terrible game, and is still quite enjoyable to play, and I would recommend it to anyone who may be a fan of the generic racing game regardless. Racing games remind of Alan Partridge’s theory of how if there may be too much of something, another way of looking at it could be that people like it, so more of it should be made. Gran Turismo was certainly a catalyst for this theory to be put in play throughout the 2000s in gaming, and the third game was one of many that managed to impress at the time.

Score

29/40

7/10 (Fair)

F-Zero (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto

Artist – Takaya Imamura

One of the two original launch titles for the Super Nintendo in Japan, F-Zero was proved to be one of the most influential titles on the system, being one of the first to incorporate Mode-7 graphics to allow for 3D rendering. Though Super Mario Kart would arrive a year later and eclipse the popularity of this game, it is not without it’s merits, and has remained a cult classic to many gamers.

Graphics – 8/10

Aside from the visuals being particularly advanced for the time, it also has a surprising amount of conceptual diversity, with each of the fifteen courses in the game containing their own colour schemes, scenery and style, and even soundtracks; some of which are extremely catchy. Debatably, it’s even a lot more diverse than Super Mario Kart was, but I disagree with this, since not only are there more characters to compete as, but like Super Mario Kart, there are also a lot recycled elements in each course despite standing out from one another. I Think both Shigeru Miyamoto and Takaya Imamura would really shine together creatively during their collaborative work on the Star Fox series.

Gameplay – 7/10

Going beyond most conventional racing games of the time, the original F-Zero would become known for its surprising level of challenge, and fast-paced racing. Like Super Mario Kart, there exist different tournaments for gamers to compete in, usually consisting of four tracks. There are no weapons to use whilst on the road, but nonetheless, the game still provides an extremely exhilarating experience unlike most others on the system.

Controls – 10/10

For one of the first games to use the graphic-rendering techniques it did, it’s actually quite impressive how the control scheme was handled, and would become a massive influence on future franchises, such as Wipeout. The L and R triggers could be used to strafe from side to side rather than simply having the players use the d-pad to turn and skid in different directions. This, in turn, allowed for the creation of some of the many different basic structures of certain tracks, such as Mute City II.

Originality – 8/10

Racing game had already been established as a prominent genre at this point, and it was only natural that Nintendo wanted to capitalize on this ever-evolving style of play, but what has made Nintendo’s approach to this so special is that they’ve never shied away from trying new concepts and ideas. It’s been seen in all of the Mario Kart games since, but it was first seen in F-Zero. This wasn’t the first game to play out the way it does, as Pole Position came many years before it, but it did it at a much faster and challenging pace.

Happii

Happii

Overall, F-Zero to this day remains a must-have for anyone with either the original console, access to the Virtual Console. It went on to have a huge impact on many future racing games and spawn two sequels, and whist in more recent years has merely made appearances in other Nintendo series’ (the most recent of which being Mario Kart 8), the original game has earned its rightfully place in the industry’s history.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Driveclub (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Evolution Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Paul Rustchynsky

Originally intended to be a launch title for the PlayStation 4 back in 2013, Driveclub suffered from a yearlong delay until it was finally released in the holiday season of 2014, and was met with mostly positive reviews from critics. Criticisms were levied against the game’s alleged lack of replay value, but after playing it myself, It was obvious to me that the true problem with it wasn’t it’s lack of gameplay, but it’s lack of originality.

Graphics – 10/10

Like most game made in the exact same vein, the graphics on a technological standpoint are nigh on flawless. The cars and the scenery have all been painstakingly rendered to bring the game to the eighth generation on PlayStation 4. It certainly does well to show off the extra 10% of graphical rendering power the PlayStation 4 has over the Xbox One. Normally, I would also look at the conceptual side of a game’s visuals, but it would mean nothing, since the developers set out to make it look as realistic as possible as opposed to going for wonderfully weird or outlandish designs; even despite the game inherent lack of uniqueness.

Gameplay – 7/10

That inherent lack of uniqueness mostly stems from the game’s style of play, which by in large is the same as every other realistic racing game; only with this title, the developers looked to bring a sense of social interaction to the table by having multiplayer revolve around co-operation as much as competition. Somewhat like Forza, there is a small RPG element to it, in that experience points are earned in order to unlock more cars as well as more tournaments. However, it’s lack of exceptionality doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game; it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary. A small advantage this game has over other racing games, however, is that unlike Forza, there aren’t any arrows across the road put in place for the most part, to hold the player’s hand constantly.

Controls – 10/10

With countless racing games released across the sixth and seventh generation, there would have been some particularly serious problems if the control scheme wasn’t anything short of perfect; especially compared to it’s closest competitors. It could be argued that this in turn would add to it’s level of banality, since there were a fair few game like this across the seventh generation that introduced a few unique mechanics, such as Blur, but having it this way is certainly preferable to the developers taking a needless risk, and possibly ruining the game completely.

Originality – 2/10

Since this was originally going to be a launch title, and further judging by many other launch titles released across the eighth generation of gaming, I think it should have been expected that this game was unlikely to stand out to any great extent. Unfortunately, forgotten (at least temporarily, I hope), are the days of launch titles that would introduce players to gameplay like they had scarcely seen before. I saw with the likes of Knack and Ryse: Son of Rome to name but a few, but this title cemented this for me; even if it didn’t end up being a launch title itself in the end.

Happii

Happii

In summation, however, despite what negativity I may have perpetuated with this review, I ended up looking at it in a fairly positive light. I’ve played much worse racing games than Driveclub, and despite its lack of individuality, is a fairly enjoyable racing experience.

Score

29/40

7/10 (Fair)